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Archive for April, 2010

Limitless Grace

April 30th, 2010

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.

Romans 8:5

 

When Adam and Eve were evicted from Eden God sent an angel with a flaming sword to guard the entry to the Tree of Life in order that fallen humanity would not enter the paradise of God except through His Redeemer, Jesus Christ. The mind of the Spirit accepts that through Christ we may find forgiveness, grace, acceptance, and redemption. This is the attitude that ceases to try on its own and trusts in God and His promises found in His word. These promises assure us of His gracious reward for our faith in Him; and the mind set on the things of the Spirit trusts that they will each be completely fulfilled.

 

The mind of the flesh expresses itself in two ways: one is in the effort to fulfill our own lusts and pride and the other is to mount some effort in self-righteousness to merit or earn our salvation. Both are contrary to the Spirit and lead to death, but the second one is in many ways more devious than the first. The second, the attempt to please God by our good deeds imagining that these could warrant His forgiveness, is the very thing that keeps us chained to the legalistic interpretation of the Christian life.

 

A.W. Tozer, in his masterful The Knowledge of the Holy, draws a beautiful illustration of our sins and the much greater grace of God. He likened our individual sins to a huge mountain that abounds before us, one that we cannot fully grasp. For example, in committing some sin we have influenced someone else, who also sins. His guilt is added to ours, but it does not stop there. He also influences HHothers who influence others, and the guilt multiplies quickly to go beyond what we can measure. This great mountain of our individual guilt grows to cross cultural and generational lines, even leaps over continents and translates into other languages. It seems unstoppable, but because you and I are people, it is also finite. Eventually life on this earth will come to an end, and all of the effect of our sin will turn into a cloud of chaotic dust. Though it will require millennia to happen, eventually it surely will.

 

But in turning to the grace of God that arises from God’s eternal nature, that was purchased by Christ on Calvary, but has existed in the reckoning of God since before the creation of the world and will continue for times immeasurable before us – we find that as great as this mountain of our guilt is, the grace of God is infinitely greater. We cannot think very well in terms of eternity, for we are linked to the finiteness of our beginning, and we know what we can measure, but God and His grace stand outside the boundaries of time. The death of Christ has an eternal value that does not pass away with time or melt into the dust of the earth like our bodies will. The grace of God as an attribute of His Person is inseparable from God Himself and as the outer space of the universe swallows whole the largest mountains on earth, so His grace more than compensates for the guilt of our sins. It is no wonder that the Bible calls our righteous acts as filthy rags before God in His awesome holiness.

 

If this can be said of our righteousness in terms of our salvation, it is also true in terms of living the Christian life. The mind set on the Spirit is the mind that takes the values of God – His attributes and character, His works and His promises – and lives in the reality of these. God’s character defines the true limitations of His children, and though we may be caught up in our own weaknesses, and often will stumble when we should be running free, His plans for our lives according His limitless wisdom is the true boundary for what His children may become and experience. The mind set on the Spirit is focused on these things.

 

Prayer:

 

Lord, let us learn of You, of Your grace and love and righteousness, and live within the limitless realm of Your Spirit, where eternal truth shines forth and we are not dismayed or disturbed by the lies of the world. Amen.

Evening Devotionals

The Reality of God

April 28th, 2010

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Romans 8:2-3

 

Our main problem with living in the victory of Christ is our lack of faith. Faith is simply trusting God to be who He has said He is. Walking by faith means to live daily in the reality of God’s revelation of Himself. Walking by sight means to put our own notions or ideas above the revelation of God in the Bible.

 

Often we walk by sight by only accepting part of the biblical revelation. If, for example, we only consider the justice of God and neglect His mercy, then our view is distorted and we will continue to seek to try to become worthy of God’s life – something we can never achieve. God does not turn off and turn on His attributes. He is not righteous one minute then merciful the next – He is always the same. His qualities do not conflict with one another, though they may appear paradoxical to us. To walk according to the Spirit means to live in the reality of all that God is – in daily confidence in His justice, His mercy, His love, His grace, His righteousness, and His power, etc.  

 

We need to be careful of putting our own ideas above the revelation of the Bible. We may feel a certain way, but our feelings were crafted by growing up in a fallen and imperfect world. Why should we let what our relatives said, or how a strict teacher may have made us feel, dominate our thoughts about God? Those individuals were not God! Even in our speech we can make careless philosophical errors when we speak about God. We might innocently say such things as “justice compels God” or “love compels God” but both come from His person and are not above Him. He is not compelled by anything but His own nature.  

 

“…It postulates a principle of justice outside of God which compels Him to act in a certain way. Of course, there is no such principle. If there were it would be superior to God, for only a superior power can compel obedience. The truth is that there is not and can never be anything outside the nature of God which can move Him in the least degree. All God’s reasons come from within His uncreated being. Nothing has entered the being of God from eternity, nothing has been removed, and nothing has been changed. God is, nothing more; and when God acts justly He is not doing so to conform to an independent criterion, but simply acting like Himself in a given situation…Everything in the universe is good to the degree it conforms to the nature of God and evil as it fails to do so.”[1]

 

To walk in the Spirit is to conform our thoughts to the whole nature of God, to expect Him to be Himself. A false and heretical notion is the idea that the God of the Old Testament was vengeful and the God of the New Testament merciful, where in truth God is the same in all times and even from before the creation of the world. So walking in the reality of His righteousness means that I should also walk in the reality of His mercy. If I feel put outside of God’s love or that His mercy is not directed toward me, then I have not grasped who God is.

 

When God made his promise to Abraham, since there was no one greater for him to swear by, he swore by himself, saying, “I will surely bless you and give you many descendants.” And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised. Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument. Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.
Heb 6:14-19a

 

How does God appear to you in your mind right now? Do you see Him as holy and loving, or only or mostly as righteous and angry? If you have neglected any part of the composite biblical picture of God then you are not walking by the law of the Spirit. We find victory by ceasing our own struggles and arguing with God, when we cease trying to feel our way through a crisis and simply accept the biblical reality of God. To live in victory means to be aware of our sinful nature and of God’s righteousness, but it means to be no less aware of God’s love for us and His redemptive plan. It is to believe that God truly loves you because He says He does.

 

Prayer:

 

Lord, Let us live in the reality of who You truly are. Amen.

 



[1] A.W. Tozer, The Knowledge of the Holy

Evening Devotionals