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Established by Grace

December 31st, 2010

Now to Him who is able to establish you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ…

Romans 16:25 NASB

 

 

I heard someone make a statement about “free will” that gave me reason to think: “Love is only love if it is given freely, so God always allows us the possibility of not loving Him.”

 

That might make sense on earth, but what about heaven? Will we retain some capacity beyond life on this earth to reject God’s love and willfully sin against Him? The answer to this question makes the difference between heaven being something we will look forward to and being something that we will eventually lose. For if we can still sin, then given enough time – and eternity certainly would provide enough time – sooner or later each of us will. Having already destroyed the paradise called Eden, we will either run the risk of destroying the paradise called heaven or run the risk of being removed from heaven and consigned to hell.

 

So, what does the Bible say about this? The theology of the average Christian about heaven is very weak – often little more than sentimental thoughts of a beautiful place, no pain, and “seeing Mama up there.” As sweet as that may sound, “seeing Mama” again is not the biblical emphasis on heaven.

 

We are established in Christ as new creations by the grace and power of God. Several times the New Testament writers used words indicating a fixed and “established” reality of our souls. Our “position” in Christ is of only partial interest concerning gaining assurance of salvation’s security, since Satan and angels fell from their high positions. But the notion of being “established” is different and carries with it the idea of permanency. The Greek words of sterizo and stereoo and bebaioo are normally translated “establish” but sometimes “strengthen” is also appropriate. In addition to Romans 16:25, we find them in,  

 

1 Thess 3:13 (ESV): …so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

 

2 Cor. 1:21 (NIV): Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

 

1 Peter 5:10 (Young’s Literal Translation): And the God of all grace, who did call you to His age-during glory in Christ Jesus, having suffered a little, Himself make you perfect, establish, strengthen, settle [you].

 

You may notice that I used three different translations to make the point, for they all vary in how they translate these words depending on the context. Each of the contexts of the verses above is about eternity and the clear concern is for their permanent establishment in God. The challenge with interpreting and translating the Scriptures is that, like language today, the writers used words that could be bent a bit into meaning other things, such as “established” could also be used to convey “strengthening.” Though these are similar ideas, in other areas they are miles apart, such as someone seeking to “strengthen” a defensive position of soldiers in the field of battle compared to “establishing” an immovable fortress. So is our salvation more like the troops strengthened and encouraged to stand in the field, or more like the impregnable fortress?

 

The clear point that each of these scriptures makes is that God takes responsibility for both the strengthening and the establishing of our souls and spirits. (See also Rom. 1:11; 2 Thes. 2:17; 2 Peter 1:12.) For some Bible students the matter ends right here, and for all of us on some level the matter should end here. Faith accepts what God declares and if He declares that He will perfect us so that we might be established then we should accept this. But this does not prevent us from exploring how He will achieve this, for it is taught in His Word. What can we glean from Scripture on this topic?

 

Simply this: We shall be “glorified” (Romans 8:28-30). Our glorification includes receiving our incorruptible body (1 John 3:2) but also a transformation of our soul and spirit. We shall have complete knowledge (1 Cor. 13:12) and that knowledge will be about the wisdom and love of God. We shall be made complete in love (1 John 4:16-18) and see the glory of God also connected with the concept of love (John 17:24). The complete and pure knowledge of the love of God for us along with the clear understanding of the plan and purpose of God for our lives and for the universe will serve to redirect our thinking toward the will and purpose of God.

 

We shall live in life, and life shall be in us, complete and wholly (1 John 5:12 and John 5:21, 24). We read: “For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it” (John 5:21). Christ was speaking not merely of conscious existence after death but of possessing the life of God. The deepest fears and unholy motives of our souls will be removed – the tempter also will be removed from the scene never to rise again – and we will be made complete. Wounds that had become scars will be removed, even the scars of our souls will be removed, and our redemption shall be complete.

 

We are not saved by our works but by the grace of God, but the evidence of the grace of God working in our hearts and lives is the different and holy way we begin to think and feel. Is there a place in your life where evil still has a stronghold? If you want to rediscover the joy of your salvation, renounce Satan and all of the evil influences of your heart and submit yourself to God.

 

Prayer:

 

Lord, we praise You and thank You for the great salvation You have prepared for us. Strengthen us in our hearts in accordance with the establishment of Your grace within us. Amen.

 

 

 

Evening Devotionals

Be Still My Soul

December 30th, 2010

 

Let not your hearts be troubled.

John 14:1

 

The Lord is telling us we each have some control over the amount of worry we allow into our hearts. “Let not” means that we may choose not to be upset when problems arise. Not every event that troubles others must completely destroy our peace. We may take the burdens and concerns of life before the Lord in prayer and in trust leave them there.

 

In today’s world where everything is instantly available, we may think that our faith should be instant as well. That is not a bad goal to have in life, constantly instant faith, but when we are caught off guard by unexpected problems, if we think we should have instant faith, we might unwittingly deny ourselves the need and time to mentally and emotionally process our feelings. To refuse to admit our struggles can result in our emotions going “underground” in our souls, hiding out in our hearts only to surface unexpectedly at other times and in unrelated situations. For example, if our loved one is in the hospital we may explode in anger at a nurse over something insignificant, while we profess to be in “perfect peace” with God. Beware of the smug Christian who in the face of personal tragedy denies himself the right to grieve in the name of “faith.” The scripture says that we do not grieve like the rest of men who have no hope; it does not say that we do not grieve (1 Thess. 4:13). Even Paul admitted that the death of Epaphroditus would have brought him “sorrow upon sorrow” (Phil. 2:27).

 

Trusting the Lord amid the troubles of life often requires some time to recover from the shock of the news, or to get our minds and hearts around a problem that continues to develop over time. There is a process that we will go through in grasping the seriousness of some situations, and then learning to leave these matters with God. The process of growing in trust through sorrow and potential problems is not so much like switching on an electric light of faith as it is taking a walk down a long and winding path. There will be ups and downs, hills and valleys, times when we can see ahead a bit and other times when we hardly know what will happen the next second. There will be moments of victory and periods of struggles, but if we keep walking in faith, if we do not get too far ahead in the journey from the real events of each day, the Lord will give us the peace we need day by day.

 

I love the hymn, Be Still My Soul, (see below) and especially the line, “Leave to thy God to order and provide.” This is what each day calls for – to leave the uncertainties of life into the hands of the One of whom we can be certain – God!

 

Prayer:

 

Lord, teach us to trust you daily through the journey of life with its challenges and concerns, sorrows and joys. Amen.

 

 

Be Still, My Soul

Translated from the German by Jane Borthwick, 1855

 

Be still, my soul: the Lord is on thy side;
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain;
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In every change he faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to joyful end.

 

Be still, my soul: thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as he has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.

 

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

 

Be still, my soul; the hour is hastening on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love’s purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul; when change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed, we shall meet at last.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stille, mein Wille

 

 

Geschrieben von Katharina von Schlegel, 1752

 

Stille, mein Wille! Dein Jesus hilft siegen;
Trage geduldig das Leiden, die Not;
Gott ist’s, der alles zum Besten will fügen,
Der dir getreu bleibt in Schmerzen und Tod.
Stille, mein Wille! Dein Jesus wird machen
Glücklichen Ausgang bedenklicher Sachen.

 

Stille, mein Wille! Der Herr hat’s in Händen;
Hält sich dein Herz nur im Glauben an ihn,
Wird er den Kummer bald wenden und enden;
Herrlich wird endlich, was wunderbar schien.
Stille, mein Wille! Dein Heiland wird zeigen,
Wie vor ihm Meer und Gewitter muß schweigen.

 

Stille, mein Wille! Wenn Freunde sich trennen,
Die du so zärtlich und innig geliebt,
Wirst du die Freundschaft des Höchsten erkennen,
Der sich zum Eigentum treulich dir gibt.
Stille, mein Wille! Dein Jesus ersetzet,
Was dich beim Sterben der Liebsten verletzet.

 

Stille, mein Wille! Es kommen die Stunden,
Daß wir beim Herrn sind ohn’ Wechsel der Zeit;
Dann ist das Scheiden, der Kummer verschwunden,
Ewige Freundschaft vergütet das Leid.
Stille, mein Wille! Nach zeitlichem Scheiden
Sehn wir uns wieder ohn’ Schmerzen und Leiden.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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