For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people.

Titus 2: 11 

There was this rather simple thought that seemed to be just stuck in my mind when I got up this morning; It is one of those ideas that comes out of the fog of sleep and that begins to take on shape as the brain cells slowly start to warm up to their tasks. It is this, I try too hard to make what is designed to be simple and easily understood really complicated and obscure, and I am not even slightly alone in doing this. Now, I admit that this is something that I do in a lot of areas of my life; I do have an analytical personality, you know; thus, thinking through, over, and all around something is normal. This is different; this gets in the way of something much more important. 

My waking thought for today was this; God makes relationship with Him very simple, I tend to make it truly difficult. The Lord gives me an easily understood message to share with others; I turn it into a graduate-level seminary coarse. God opens His arms to everyone without reservation or hesitation; I create a list of qualifications and set up a screening system for access to Him. God loves all with the absolute love of that elusively perfect Father; I don’t even love myself all that well; even more so, I struggle with loving others. 

Thus, what is it that God has saved me from? He has saved me from the isolation that I would naturally create as my world; He has given me Himself as a gift beyond imagining, and He continually shows me how to live in the completeness of His overwhelming love. All of the thought and the consideration about who God is and of how He works and relates is fine; He created and empowers my mind; yet, the Lord still wants me to stay focused on the simplicity of His truth and on the accessibility of His saving grace. 

There is nothing that I can speak or write; no ritual, rite, or sacrament that I can perform; and none of my actions or works of my hands do anything to bring me or anyone else closer to God if they are not done out of love for Him and if they are not filled with His love for people. The singular thought on my mind this morning is that God graciously loves me, and He wants me to share that love with others without reservation, condition, or hesitation. Christ is much more interested in the relationship, and we can let Him worry about the details later.

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The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Philippians 4: 23

The thing that I needed more than all else was God’s grace, for here I was, interested, even fascinated with God, listening to His word, and hanging out with His people; yet, until I was ready and willing to open my heart to Him and surrender control to His Spirit, I was as lost and as dead as any person who had never come near to His presence. In fact, I was more so; since, if I had continued to ignore His call, my intellectual knowledge could have become a very large barrier to entering into a true relationship with Christ. However, God’s grace continued to pursue me until I stopped running away and accepted Him.

This need for grace continues throughout my life; in fact, it seems that there are many times when the need has become even greater than before I had entered into that relationship with Christ, for now, evil tries to speak to me with a voice that tells me in detail about every way that I fail to follow God’s will, and it keeps reminding me of each instance of moral, ethical, relational, and spiritual deviation from the direction that God tells me to travel. It is the truth of the Lord that brings me back to my senses, and it is the truth about my Lord’s grace that overcomes the lies that Satan keeps speaking to my mind.

I know, based upon my life experience, that there will be times today when I will need to focus on the truth of the totality of Jesus’ saving work and on what that means for me right now. The glorious aspect of this fact is that when I do closely consider  God’s love for me and then get on with living as someone who knows from the heart that this love and acceptance is total and absolute, my spirit is lifted out of the depths of worry and concern that fear tries to push it into, and I am set free to live as God intends for me to live. It is the grace of Christ that carries the weight of life that this world and I keep attempting to hang around my spirit. So, this same grace is where I find freedom and living in that freedom is how I experience peace in my soul. 

Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

1 John 5: 12

This is a simple and direct statement. There are two states of being, and one of those is fully and eternally alive, and the other is not. It is up to each of us to decide on which side of this equation we land when our days on this earth end. Essentially, this all revolves around who and what we believe to be true, and the outcome hinges upon willingness to take a singular action that is based upon that belief. God presents the evidence for His perspective in many ways. It comes to us in the form of the testimony of people who have believed in God and who have accepted Christ as the Son of God and as our own Savior and Lord of our lives. God also speaks to us through His word, the Bible, and He reaches out to all of the world through the wordless witness of creation. God is not silent about His presence, and He is never reticent to bring forth His presentation of Jesus the Christ as His Son and the path to redemption for all people.

Yet, God still allows us the right to choose. He does not want to compel us into a relationship with Him, for any relationship that is founded and formed up out of compulsion is not truly a relationship. God desires for each of us to willingly submit ourselves to His will so that we can live out our lives in committed service to His gospel of love. This is a form of service that provides the servant with meaning and with purpose in life that is far greater and more significant that anything else that we may have considered before we knew Christ. By submitting our lives to Christ, we are entering into dwelling outside of the temporary and futile nature of this world as we then begin to live in the fullest sense of what the bigger than life construct of eternal life describes. Living as a follower of Christ means that all aspects of life are framed in and formed up out of material that can be drawn from beyond that which is found in this world.

These resources are infinite in their abundance, and they are readily available to God’s people. Although we do not leave this world, we can operate in a manner that is supported and empowered by Christ so that His great love for all people can overcome our fears and our reluctance to engage with some people. In fact, Christ compels us to become ever more involved with our world as we grow closer to Him. The more we know of our Lord and the better that we understand Him, the more His heart of love, care, and compassion for the people of this world will shape our own hearts to be like His. This is one of the most significant ways that followers of Christ should be distinct from the rest of the world, for we should demonstrate God’s heart of redemptive care and relentless pursuit of the lost in all of our words and actions. So, this is what being alive in Christ truly means. The life that Christ grants to us is one in which we love others in the faith without reservation, and we love all people with a zeal for the Gospel of Christ that is fueled by the desire to see all people from every corner of our world given the opportunity to choose this same form of life for themselves. 

But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.

Hebrews 5: 14

 

This world is a solid food sort of place. The challenges that come our way place demands on the endurance of our bodies and our spirits in such harsh and taxing ways that it is hard to keep going on anything less nourishing. Yet, many people of faith in Christ, and at various times, almost all of us regress into a form of spiritual infancy in which we seek after easy truth and conveniently distorted understanding of scripture’s principles. These are times when the dense logic of God’s wisdom is deemed to be too hard to grapple with, and the reality of what is righteous and just is found to be nonconforming to the way that we want things to be in our universe. During these periods in the lives of followers of Christ, the Spirit’s role in our lives is redefined as one of being a bringer of warm feelings and peaceful images instead of being the one who guides us into discerning truth and the deep wisdom of eternity.

 

Consuming this solid food of faith is hard work. We need to practice at it on a regular basis. The rigor that it demands doesn’t leave much room for just coasting along or for times of vacation from spiritual disciplines. The ability to appreciate and to enjoy this sort of nourishment is formed through reading God’s Word on a regular and even on a continual basis. It is sharpened through discussion of the Word’s content with other followers of Christ, and all of this is brought into deep understanding and sharper focus in prayer and meditation and by the revealing work of the Holy Spirit. A life lived in the strength of a solid food diet is a life lived out in the discipline of a practiced spiritual existence. It is life in which practice is on-going and wherein the exercise of faith is unceasing.

 

All of this discipline and the effort that is attached to it does have its rewards. There is a richly satisfying quality to the Lord’s solid food that is not found in anything else. This diet gives to us the gift of understanding of God’s truth, and its adherents are led into the joy of following God’s will in their lives. Additionally, the ability to discern good from evil is a gift that is beyond value. There are many hard choices to be made in the process of living from day to day in our world, and God’s truth is the only source of real and lasting wisdom to use in making the sorts of choices that all of us are required to make. The Lord also grants us a form of confidence in the way that we choose to live our lives that can come only from the source of all truth. Seeking after the solid food of faith is not an easy thing to do, but its consumption brings with it rewards that are valuable beyond all else. Additionally, this solid food leads us ever deeper into a relationship with Christ and into the glory of His presence in our lives.

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.

1 John 5: 20

 

God cares about truth. It matters to Him because He is both its definition and the author of the word truth, itself. So, there is nothing in this world that is true that did not originate with God, and nothing in this world is true if it does not have the touch of God’s hand upon it. Perhaps this is why there is so much in our world that issues forth out of various forms of lie and deceit. Everyone is born into deception, and we all spend significant amounts of time and effort along the way of life attempting to get away from God and the glaring light of the truth that He sheds upon us. Truth is, simply, too revealing and so, too painful for us to handle during our days of wandering outside of God’s righteousness.

 

That is why we all need Christ. He brings truth to us, but He also brings a redeemed possibility of understanding it and of living out its purpose and call in our lives. Christ also grants the ability to enter into a form of that truth that works to transform soul, heart, and mind in ways that are miraculous, wonderful, and eternal in their scope. If we are in Christ, we reside in truth, and truth settles upon us as our way and means of engaging with our world. When we are untruthful, we are proceeding from the perspective of our old selves, and this should be very uncomfortable for us. When people find that lies and deception are easy to speak and do, they are not living in relationship with Christ, and He is clearly not being expressed by them or their lives.

 

We live in a world where the lie is far too often seen as a simple convenience or as a necessary tool for handling the situation at hand. People enter into lies and deceitful words and actions without concern for how they might be causing harm or damage. Then they simply change the story when the facts are laid before them. This is thought to be normal and acceptable in our day by many people, but it is never acceptable and is utterly abnormal behavior in the eyes of God. He tells us to speak truth and to have faith in Him for the consequences. The Lord guides us into living as bearers of His truth so that His presence in our world can demonstrate the redemptive glory of Christ in the face of all that is broken and untrustworthy around us. Jesus Christ is God, in fact and in living truth, and He brings to light all that is valid and true in our world. Lord, let my words come out of a heart that dwells in You and that is filled with Your true Word of Life.

Since all of these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness?

2 Peter 3: 11

 

Here we have a question that applies to everything that we do, each thought that we have, and all of our life’s work. The simple truth is that our total portfolio of investments, acquisitions, and even the tangible things that we build with our hands will ultimately perish. The simple truth is that people cannot create anything that is not going to decay and eventually be destroyed or replaced in that all of this world is tainted by damaged and decaying molecules that have been infected by sin. Yet, this thought is not a frustrating, futile, or hopeless one; for, it leads to the greater question of holy and righteous perspective and orientation on everything in life.

 

God created each of us in conformity with His plan, and He designed righteous purpose into us, too. The Lord has something in mind for everyone to do and to accomplish in this life; so, seeking after that purpose in order to fulfill God’s plan is a reasonable consideration as the primary life focus for all who know Christ. I admit that I can get very lost in the process of trying to figure out just what that great purpose is. Some of the time I seem to just spin in circles like a dog chasing its tail trying to catch up with the illusive will of God; at other times, I become over whelmed by my lack of skill, training, and qualifications to even attempt to do the things that God seems to be placing on my heart as dreams. These are times when I let myself believe that these ideas or concepts are too great for someone like me to even attempt to achieve.

 

All of these struggles are the result of a lack of true focus and can be cured through seeking after the things that the Lord considers to be of real importance. God wants me to look at Him and toward Him first and foremost. Then my gaze is shifted from myself with my obvious inadequacies, and it is placed squarely upon Christ with His complete and total capacity and command of every situation that is before me. Christ wants me to understand how I am to think as His new creation and to live as His committed disciple; then, He will take me into the actions of my life as a natural progression of that relationship with Christ. Thus, my hands can actually create things which will last, and my legacy can be one that endures as my energies are put into living a holy and a righteous life.

 

Faithful is He who calls you, and He will bring it to pass.

1 Thessalonians 5: 24

 

Everyone faces issues and challenges that are hard to deal with. There are the long standing personal characteristics and traits that continue to plague us, and the issues of sin that are wound around our hearts and minds in a manner that makes them resist our best intentions and our genuine desire to change. The hard to win battle may be wrapped in a seemingly impenetrable covering of fear, doubt, and uncertainty, or it might be anchored by the hardened cement of our stubbornness. However, whatever it is that is causing us to hesitate to commit fully to Christ, to trust Him absolutely with everything, or to release our grip on the remnants of an old way of thinking and acting; God has an answer for it, and He will do most of the hard, transformational work for us.

 

The Lord does require that we be willing. He wants us to desire the change and to seek the relationship with the change agent; that is, with His Spirit. As we become open to the need for a new or a different way of viewing various aspects of our lives and we allow Christ access to those areas of our hearts and minds, His Spirit will start to change us, and this change will always be for the better. The Lord never requires us to give up something that He doesn’t replace with something far greater, and He always stays with us all the way through the process.

 

This all starts with accepting Christ as the one who makes that crucial difference. This is the difference between life and death, and the difference between futility and fulfillment in this life. Then, once we are engaged in a relationship with Christ, true living can begin. Then, the Spirit becomes engaged with us in molding our hearts into ones that function more and more like God’s, and He provides us with the direction, process, and strength to make these changes. The Lord calls us to live a life that is full of promise, hope, and joy, and He will make it all real for anyone who desires the transformation and who allows Christ to make the needed changes.