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The Blessing of Surrender

June 1st, 2017

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the LORD. (Psalm 1:1-2 NKJV)

Christ began His Sermon on the Mount in speaking of attitudes that bring blessings into our lives. The first is the admission of our poverty of spirit (Matt. 5:3), or our awareness of our weaknesses and our willing submission to the Lord. Albert Barnes expounded on this:

To be poor in spirit is to have a humble opinion of ourselves; to be sensible that we are sinners, and have no righteousness of our own; to be willing to be saved only by the rich grace and mercy of God; to be willing to be where God places us, to bear what he lays on us, to go where he bids us, and to die when he commands; to be willing to be in his hands, and to feel that we deserve no favour from him. It is opposed to pride, and vanity, and ambition.

The Psalms begin, however, with the proclamation of the reverse truth, that the one who pursues selfish plans is the one who suffers loss. The “counsel of the ungodly,” the “path of sinners,” and the “seat of the scornful” is the way of the unbelieving world. They pursue their own plans and seek their own goals. While sin is expressed in various degrees – not all men are as sinful in attitudes and actions as others – there is no doubt that great evil lies in each of us. Left to our own selfishness we will choose wrongly, ruining our lives and quite likely the lives of those around us.

The solution is to surrender to God our hearts, to delight in His rule and His redemption. The law of the Lord included both the sacrificial laws and the moral laws. The sacrificial laws prefigured Christ and we delight in them today through our faith in Christ. We see Him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. We see Him as God’s solution for our sin and we delight in Him through faith.

We delight in the moral code through submission to Him, through worshiping Him in our hearts, through loving Him with our minds and wills, and letting Him fill us with Himself. We then, in the fullness of His Spirit, take His moral law and delight to obey it.

C.S. Lewis wrote these words in his classic Mere Christianity:

I think that many of us, when Christ has enabled us to overcome one or two sins that were an obvious nuisance, are inclined to feel (though we do not put it into words) that we are now good enough. He has done all we wanted him to do, and we should be obliged if he would leave us alone. But the question is not what we intended ourselves to be, but what he intended us to be when he made us… Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what he is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on. You knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make sense. What on earth is he up to? The explanation is that he is building quite a different house from the one you thought of — throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage, but he is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it himself.

A “decent little cottage” designed by selfishness or a great “palace” made by God? These are our options, and really there is no option, for selfish little cottages become dismal hovels if left unsurrendered to God.

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The Power of Gratitude

May 30th, 2017

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers… (Ephesians 1:16 ESV)

Gratitude is the purest expression of faith. And there is good reason for it.

If we may look past all of the failures of the flesh in others, past all of the weaknesses of human will, past all of the wounds that thoughtless words have caused, then we will see the hand of God at work in each Christian. We are not what we should be, but we are not what we once were, nor what we will yet become in Christ Jesus. Rather than looking at the thing in a brother or sister in the Lord that has hurt us, we should look at the progress that has already been made in that life by Christ’s Spirit.

And in our attitude toward the unsaved world, it is good for us to remember that the world passing away, and has no hold on us. Our sins are forgiven by God, not by the world, and the world has no hold over us in terms of our sins. David prayed to God, “Against Thee and Thee only have I sinned” (Psalm 51:4). If God forgives then who can accuse? (Rom. 8:33) God’s work is eternal and we can rest in that reality.

A Scottish pastor well known for his prayers of gratitude came to lead in worship one Sunday when the weather was miserable – sleet, cold, windy – plus there had been a death in the church family. So the people wondered what he would thank God for that day, if anything. He began his prayer thusly, “We thank Thee, O God, that it is not always like this.”

Can’t we pray a similar prayer: “We thank You, Heavenly Father, that it will not always be like this.” The world will not always be around to persecute and reject us. Christians will not always remain in a state of immaturity – He who began a good work in each of us will complete it one day (Phil. 1:6). Cannot we pray in gratitude for the promised victory of Christ and for the evidences in each other’s lives of our spiritual progress?

And in sorrow and separation, or in loss and sickness, cannot we also take comfort in knowing that every earthly life has an end to it, that death was assured the moment a child is born? And that one day sorrows and sicknesses and separations and grievings will cease? Cannot we take comfort in these truths? There were hardships in Ephesus and persecutions. It was in reference to that place that Paul described the Christian’s life to a soldier in a spiritual conflict. But there was so much more to be grateful for, as there is for us.

If we lose a loved one, as painful as that is, we can take heart and be grateful knowing that we shall see them again. If failure seems to dog our steps and hound us all our life long, we can take heart knowing that in Him we are more than conquerors. If people disappoint us we can be assured that God will still win in the end. We can be grateful for every person and amid every situation in life. Faith feeds gratitude and gratitude builds up our faith.

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