From Our Wickedness

Thursday, April 9, 2015, 6:00 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Praise Be Told.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 3 (quoting vv. 11-26 ESV).

By Faith

Peter had just been instrumental of the Lord in the healing of a man who had been lame from birth. “The man jumped to his feet and began to walk.” Then he went with Peter and John into the temple courts, “walking and jumping, and praising God.” Awesome! The people who saw him recognized him as the lame beggar who used to sit at the temple gate, and “they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.”

While he clung to Peter and John, all the people, utterly astounded, ran together to them in the portico called Solomon's. And when Peter saw it he addressed the people: “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And his name—by faith in his name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all.

On the Day of Pentecost, when the followers of Jesus were filled with the Holy Spirit and had supernaturally declared the wonders of God to people in their own languages, the people were amazed and perplexed and wondered what it all meant. So, Peter seized that opportunity to present to them the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here, again, the people had seen a miracle of God, and they were filled with wonder and amazement, and again Peter seized this divine opportunity to share with them the gospel message of salvation from sin.

He let the people (of the nation) of Israel know that it was not by their (his and John’s) own godliness or power that this man was made to walk, but it was by faith in the name of Jesus – the one whom they had crucified. Not only did he remind them that they had crucified one who was a servant of Almighty God, but that they had killed “the author of life,” i.e. their creator, i.e. they had killed God incarnate, who had lived and had walked among them (See John 1). Yet, God the Father raised him from the dead. Praise His Name!

The same is true with regard to our salvation from sin. We are not given the gift of salvation, via Jesus’ shed blood on the cross for our sins, because of anything we did. We can never be good enough. Our own righteousness is as filthy rags. We cannot earn or deserve our salvation. Jesus Christ died for us while we were yet sinners. It is by grace we are saved, through faith, and even the faith to believe is a gift from God, and yet a gift we must appropriate to our own lives (See: Eph. 2:8-10; 4:17-24).

Repent Therefore

“And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ would suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago. Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”

I hear so many people say today, in reference to the Ephesians 2 passage, that God requires nothing of us at all. We just have to “believe.” And, yet, I believe they are lacking in true Biblical understanding of what it means to believe. It is not just some emotional decision we make at an altar, or some prayer we pray and “bam” we have our ticket into heaven, nor is it just some intellectual assent we make to what Jesus did in dying on the cross for our sins and/or to our need to have him save us from our sins. I think it gets confusing for some people because the Ephesians 2 passage says “not of works, lest any man should boast,” but they leave out v. 10 which says, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

If we read Ephesians 2:8-10 as a whole, I believe we will see that there is a difference between us trying to earn our salvation by our own fleshly works, thinking that we deserve to be saved because of how good we are, and us believing in Jesus, in the power and working of the Holy Spirit in our lives, resulting in good works which God prepared in advance for us to do, and thus giving him all the praise, honor and glory for what He has done in and through us, as did the apostles in the healing of the lame beggar.

So, what does it mean to believe? Peter described it for us well here:

Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out…” “You shall listen to him in whatever he tells you.” “God, having raised up his servant, sent him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness.”

And, this is the essence of true faith in Jesus Christ, i.e. that which understands and applies to their lives, in the power and working of the Spirit of God, what Jesus did for us in dying on the cross for our sins. We do so through submission to the cross of Christ. You see, Jesus did not die just so we could escape hell and go to heaven when we die. He died so that the eyes of our hearts would be open, and that we would be turned from the darkness of sin to the light of God’s truth and righteousness, and from the power of Satan over our lives to following after God and his holiness, so that we may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified (purified) by faith in Christ Jesus (See: Ac. 26:16-18).

Jesus said that his sheep listen to him and they follow (obey) him (See: Jn. 10). He said if we want to come after him that we must deny ourselves (our self-life), die daily to sin and self, and follow (obey) him. He said if we hold on to our old lives of living for sin and self we will lose them for eternity, but if we die to sin, we will gain eternal life (See: Lu. 9:23-25). As well, Paul repeated the same message when he said that the way we come to know Christ, according to the truth that is in Jesus, is that we put off our old self, “which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (See Eph. 4:17-24; cf. Gal. 2:20; 1 Pet. 2:24-25; 2 Co. 5:15).

He also said that, with regard to our coming to Christ and dying with him to sin, “We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin – because anyone who has died has been freed from sin” (See: Ro. 6:6-7 NIV84). Regarding what Jesus Christ did for us in dying for our sins, Paul said, “And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature, but according to the Spirit. Those who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on what that nature desires; but those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires… Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God” (See: Ro. 8:3b-5, 8). This takes me to Titus 2:11-14 where it says:

“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.”

John said that if we claim to have fellowship with God yet walk (in lifestyle) in darkness (sin), we lie and we do not live by the truth. He said we know we have come to know God if we obey his commands. “The man who says, ‘I know him,’ but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (See: 1 Jn. 1:6; 2:3-4). As well, if we look at the Greek word which we translate “believes” in John 3:16, we will see that the actual word is “believing,” which is a continuous action verb. In other words, we can’t pray some prayer at an altar and get our “get-out-of-jail free card” and guarantee of heaven when we die if we don’t continue in that faith, and if we go back to living according to the flesh and not according to the Spirit (See: John 8:31-32; Romans 11:17-24; I Co 15:2; Col 1:21-23; II Tim 2:10-13; Hebrews 3:6, 14-15; 2 Pet. 1:5-11; I John 2:24-25).

So, let us walk in the Spirit and no longer according to the flesh, because Jesus died to free us from the control of sin over our lives, and to free us to walk daily in his righteousness. Jesus died so we would no longer live for ourselves, but for him who gave himself up for us (See: 2 Co. 5:15). A true understanding of what it means to believe in Jesus, thus, knows that it means that we die with Christ to sin, we are resurrected with Christ to new life in Christ, and we walk in the Spirit in Christ’s righteousness and holiness. It also understands that true faith is continuous and it endures ‘til the end – all in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Praise Be Told! / An Original Work / December 28, 2013
Based off Various Scriptures

He was pierced for our transgressions.
He was crushed for all our sin.
Our chastisement was upon Him.
By His stripes, we now are healed.

He has witnessed all our trials,
And the sins we choose to wear.
Yet, while we were dead in our sin,
Jesus died, our sins to bear.

He himself bore all of our sins
In His body on a cross,
So that we might die to our sin,
And live for His righteousness.

By faith in the pow’r of Jesus
And His blood shed for our sins,
We can be forgiven our sin,
And have life with God in heav’n.

He will lead us and He’ll guide us
In the way that we should go.
He will comfort and protect us,
Because Jesus, we do know.

Though He disciplines for our good,
He will heal us – Praise be told!
Do not fear, your Lord is with you.
Just have faith in Christ your Lord.