Irrevocable

One of my Bible school teachers once said that, if God were done with you, you’d be dead.

I’m not retired. Not even close to it. I know I’ve still got a lot of time and a lot of work ahead of me. I think a lot of people give up way too early, though. When they retire from their career, they retire from the ministry. That’s not to say that you can’t take it easy in old age, but many people act as though their calling ends when their job does.

For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Romans 11:29 (ESV)

IRREVOCABLE: not to be revoked or recalled; unable to be repealed or annulled; unalterable

No matter what your age or stage in life, God’s purpose and plan for you will never be called back. The call is permanent. You’re not done until you’re dead.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 93-95; Romans 11:22-36

Firstborn

There are some that believe we are all predestined for a certain purpose and eternal end. That we have no choice in the matter. No matter what we do, nothing will change what God has laid out for us whether it be good or bad.

I cannot bring myself to agree with this idea.

The idea of predestination could be derived from Romans 8:29 where it states that, “those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” It makes sense. Almost.

Think about it.

Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there were none of them

Psalm 139:16 (ESV)

God foreknew all of us. Every last human being on earth. He formed us in our mother’s wombs.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

Romans 8:28-30 (ESV)

God predestined the entire population of planet earth to be conformed to the likeness of His Son. He called us. He justified us. He glorified us.

So why aren’t we all living the happy, wonderful Christian life?

Because in giving us a destiny, God also gave us free will. You can make plans for someone. Good plans. But that doesn’t mean that the person you’ve made plans for will follow them. If we have no choice in the matter, there’s no point in the matter.

I take great comfort in the knowledge that God loves me enough to have set out good things for me. A hope and a good future. I was skillfully made for a purpose. God thinks about me. Good thoughts. Many thoughts. He has a plan for my life.

Is this plan just going to happen on it’s own? Does any plan just happen on it’s own? No! In order for plans to be carried out, you need to know what they are. The best way to learn the plan is to get to know the planner.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 82-84; Romans 8:19-39

Free

It seems, more and more, that our culture is moving away from the feeling of shame. No one should ever have to feel bad for anything they’ve said or done.

While I agree that we should not be going around pointing fingers at each other, there is a reason and even a benefit to shame. There are reasons why some win and some lose.

Let’s first look at what shame really is.

SHAME: a painful sensation excited by a consciousness of guilt, or of having done something which injures reputation; or by of that which nature or modesty prompts us to conceal.

In other words, shame is something you should feel when you’ve done something wrong. Even Christians have somehow taken this twisted world view expressing that we shouldn’t feel bad.

Like pain is an indicator that something is wrong with us physically, shame is an indicator that something is wrong spiritually. If we do things that we know are contrary to the life of Christ that we’ve been brought into, we should feel a measure of guilt and shame. What we should not feel, though, is condemned.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:1-2 (ESV)

If you’ve sinned, you’re guilty. There’s no reason to hide from that fact, but the truth that we can run toward is this – that God does not condemn us when we come to Him in repentance.

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, 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… But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through is Spirit who dwells in you.

Romans 8:3-4, 9-11 (ESV)

Though sin leads to death, those who are in Christ have been set free from it. What better reason is there to run from the bondage of sin than to run towards the freedom life?

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 79-81; Romans 8:1-18

Grace

What is grace? To some, it is the Get Our of Jail Free card because, after all, God will always forgive me, right? It would mean that we can do anything and, as long as we ask forgiveness, we’re good. But if you’re never truly repentant, can there ever be true forgiveness?

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?

Romans 6:1-2 (ESV)

The doctrine of grace is this: we are born into sin because of Adam’s sinfulness in the Garden. Because of that sin, we are ever separated from God and can never be reconciled with Him. Grace is what we have been offered through Jesus’ blood as a way to come to God. One of my Bible school teachers put it this way:

Faith is our grip on God.
Grace is God’s grip on us.

Grace is not an excuse to sin, but rather an excuse to stay away from sin. We can either be alive in Christ and dead to sin or alive in sin and dead to Christ. We cannot be both alive to sin and alive in Christ. If Christ, the light of the world, be in us, darkness cannot also dwell there.

In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1:4-5 (ESV)

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 75-77; Romans 6

Hope

Yesterday we talked about trials and the fact that, as Christians, we can expect to have to endure them as David did. All the time. Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Check out the first few verses in today’s reading in Romans:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access, by faith into this grace in which we stand , and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

Romans 5:1-5 (ESV)

Suffering produces hope. Sounds counter intuitive if you ask me. But that’s skipping out the middle part. Suffering to endurance to character to hope. It makes sense. Look at David. His trials caused him to lean more heavily on God. Each time he came against a wall, he laid his worries, his complaints, his pain at God’s feet. Each time he made it through, it became easier to make it through the next storm. He endured. And, because he weathered the storms upright, he became a man of greater faith and greater character. When he came out the other side, he had more hope in the One who brought him through.

It becomes easy to see how people can become discouraged and downhearted. If you have no faith how can you ever have any hope that things can be different? How can you ever grow in endurance and character if you’re always parked in the middle of a storm without anyone near who can stand and command the wind to cease?

We rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

Daily Bible reading: Psalm 73-74; Romans 5

What Comes Out

You’ve probably heard it said that you should be careful what you allow into your mind and heart. And so you should. But the issue is not so much with what you allow in is as it is with what you allow out.

And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him.”

Mark 7:20 (ESV)

Speaking to his disciples, Jesus went on to say,

“For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

Mark 7:21-23 (ESV)

Wait. What? Hasn’t the media been telling us the evil is all around us? That evil is being done to us? It doesn’t come out of us. Or does it?

Be careful what you think, because your thoughts run your life.

Proverbs 4:23 (NCV)

I recently read an article that spoke about how people – here, college students (but it applies to all of us) – are told what to think. It doesn’t take much perusing through news sites to validate the truth of this statement. All around us, we – yes, we Christians – are allowing other people to tell us what to think and how we should think.

While we may not be able to prevent the bad things from going in, we can certainly stop the things that defile us from coming out.

Do not be shaped by this world; instead be changed within by a new way of thinking. Then you will be able to decide what God wants for you; you will know what is good and pleasing to him and what is perfect.

Romans 12:2 (NCV)

Being inundated with worldly opinions all day every day, I need to ask myself if I am being shaped by the world or if I am shaping the world around me. Do I allow the thoughts being projected at me to shape the way I think or do I daily renew my mind to a new way of thinking – a way that is good and pleasing to God and perfect – so that I can shape the world around me?

Daily Bible reading: Numbers 21-23, Mark 7:14-8:10