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Archive for January, 2009

Now We Are Washed

January 31st, 2009

Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? …  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

1 Corinthians 6:9-11

 

God sees us not in terms of what we were apart from him, but in light of who we become in Christ. One of the essential steps to gain victory and hope in our lives is to see ourselves in light of the power of the Gospel, in light of our new reality in Christ.

 

The “wicked” includes us all in some manner. The church at Corinth existed in a city renown for its debauchery, so much so that to be called a Corinthian was an insult in the First Century. Prostitution, slander, thievery, drunkenness – these characterized the populace, and some of them had become believers and were in the church. Yet by the grace of God their old sinful identities were exchanged for new ones: clean, sanctified, and justified.

 

But we do not need to be involved in such graphic sinning to be among the wicked. In Ephesians Paul wrote that all of us at one time lived like people of the world: “Gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts” (Eph. 2:3). Through the gospel we found ourselves being sought by God. Having trusted in Christ we have been made alive in him, yet still the old nature beckons us to return to its perspectives and patterns of thought and behavior.

 

God’s word helps us to form a new understanding of ourselves. We are cleaned through the blood of Christ. The old sins and trespasses that we have done, the former unclean ways of thinking and acting, the pain we have caused to others and to ourselves – all of this is forgiven completely. Washed has the image of a filthy object made clean.

 

We are sanctified, and this has two aspects: positional sanctification and progressive sanctification. We are in a new position in Christ as believers, not just cleaned from moral filth but also brought into the very presence of God through his Spirit; this is positional or legal sanctification. We are also growing in holiness in our lives through his Spirit who works to will and to do his good pleasure in our lives; this is progressive sanctification.

 

We are justified in Christ. Justified is a strong term and means more than forgiveness. In our common speech to justify yourself means to insist you did not wrong to begin with. To be justified in Christ means that God now sees us in a legal sense as though we had never sinned – the righteousness of Christ has covered our past.

 

This is who you are in Christ Jesus. What you were apart from Christ is not the final definition of who you are. You are a new creation! Rejoice in the grace of God this day!

 

Prayer:

 

Lord, it is easy for us to fall into old patterns of thinking, to define ourselves only by our past. Increase our faith that we may see ourselves in light of your gospel: loved, forgiven, sanctified, justified. Amen.

 

 

Evening Devotionals

Forfeiting Your Soul

January 31st, 2009

What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?

Mark 8:36

 

Christ warned us that we can, in the utmost sincerity of our hearts, seek after the wrong things. We might be quick to say that he meant we should not put money before God; the headlong pursuit of money is certainly a factor here but it is not the only wrong thing people seek after. What Christ was describing was the lifelong pursuit of anything that is not grounded in God. One person may seek possessions, another power, another popularity, another safety, another pleasures, and another security. But the pursuit of these things has a way of weakening us inwardly to the point that we are empty, out of touch with ourselves, even robbing us of our very selves, and we have paid the currency of our life for things we can never keep and that really do not scratch the deepest itches in our souls.

 

Solomon knew this empty feeling. He wrote of his own journey in discovery of what was worthwhile and what was not. He had achieved great projects and his wealth and power were unparalleled in the history of Israel, yet his soul was unsatisfied.

 

I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;

I refused my heart no pleasure.

My heart took delight in all my work,

And this was the reward for all my labor.

Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done

And what I had toiled to achieve,

Everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;

Nothing was gained under the sun.

Ecclesiastes 2:10-11

 

We are told that monkeys can be trapped by placing some nuts inside a coconut with an opening just large enough to put their hand through, but too small for them to pull it out with a clenched fist. Holding on to and refusing to let go of their prize, they forfeit their lives. And we can do the same. Solomon was wise and honest enough to realize it, but most of us just stumble along without ever waking up until our lives are almost entirely spent.

 

A danger exists that so many of us face in misunderstanding a principle here: we easily imagine if we are not wealthy that this issue is not about us, since we’ve not gained the world, but, actually, neither had Solomon, at least not the whole world. No, this is an issue we each face, whether rich or of modest means or abjectly poor. We pay the currency of our souls through our hopes and dreams and desires, as well as through our sweat and time and personal effort.

 

Ray Stedman wrote that we can have one of two attitudes:

 

One is: save your life now, i.e., hoard it, clutch it, cling to it, grasp it, try to get hold of it for yourself, take care of yourself, trust yourself, see that in every situation your first and major concern is, “What’s in it for me?” That is one way to live, and millions are living that way today. All of us, at one time or another, do this.

 

The other attitude is: lose it, i.e., fling it away, disregard what advantage there may be for you in a situation, and move out in dependence upon God, careless of what may happen to you.

 

Christ invites us to seek the other alternative, to put first his kingdom and his righteousness, to begin to value something more than our own agendas and reputations, to consider the compassion and love of God, his holiness and righteousness, and to let his Spirit move in our hearts to point us toward those things that move him. God calls us to lay aside our lives in order to find real life in Christ, to die to self and to live to God. This is conversion, the changing of our hearts from desiring what is false, to wanting what is true and eternal.

 

Your life consists of more than your possessions, of more than your power, and of more than your pleasures. God made you for himself, and in him we find true life and real hope.

 

Prayer:

 

Lord, we are weak in our hearts and are so easily drawn away to desire the wrong things. We need your wisdom and encouragement to let go of our own pursuits, to set aside our own agendas, to die to self, to take up our cross, and to follow after you. Forgive us as we have strayed, give us the grace of honesty and truth to see our hearts and to let your Spirit turn them toward you. Amen.

 

 

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o’er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Isaac Watts, 1707

 

 

Evening Devotionals