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Long-View Living in a Short-View World

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This is week three of our look at walking with Christ, or walking in the Spirit, and how such a walk contrasts with the temptation to "lie around in the Spirit," lounging and relaxing in Christ - floating with the currents, wherever they may take us.

Such is not the way of the Christ-follower. Rather, we walk! We take deliberate, purposeful steps in the execution of those works God prepared in advance for us that we should walk in them.

This is going to be a "scripture-heavy" blog posting, so you may want to grab your Bible and keep it handy to verify what I'm presenting. As always, don't just take my word for it.

A People in Motion

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. - Ephesians 2:10, ESV

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16, ESV

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. - Galatians 5:25, NIV-1978

Clearly, the disciples of Jesus Christ are a people in motion. We are active, giving, serving, accomplishing those tasks that God has placed before us. That is where we walk.

...so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; - Colossians 1:10, ESV

The Purposeful Artistry of God

When the apostle Paul says we are "God's workmanship," he uses the word ποιημα (poiema), from which we derive our word "poem." Each of us is an artistic endeavor of the creator of the universe. We are that "new creation" (2 Corinthians 5:17), but that creation or conversion experience is not the end of the story. We are re-created with a purpose.

Not only did God re-create us, and ordain works in which we should walk, but he continues to work within us, empowering us to be fruitful in the work he has prepared for us.

...for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. - Philippians 2:13, ESV

And consider this from the writer of Hebrews:

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. - Hebrews 13:20-21, ESV

The Working of Grace

If I am coasting with the currents in Christ, I am not fulfilling the calling of God on my life - the God who created me in Christ Jesus FOR good works. We know that we are saved by grace through faith, and not by works so that no one is able to boast (Ephesians 2:8-9), so we are not saved by grace plus works, but rather by grace that works.

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them, though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me. - 1 Corinthians 15:10, ESV

Clearly, Paul worked, and grace worked with him. Later, Paul said...

And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work. - 2 Corinthians 9:8, ESV

Grace abounds to us for the very purpose of enabling us to perform good works that glorify the Father.

James says we demonstrate our faith by our works (James 2:18). Even the Heavenly Father is not kicking back and coasting. In response to some who criticized him for healing (working) on the Sabbath, Jesus said...

...My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working. - 1 John 5:17b, NASB

Works With an Objective

And just as we are saved with the purpose of doing these good works that God prepared for us, the works themselves have a purpose. This isn't just busywork. This is work with an objective, a goal.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. - Matthew 5:14-16, ESV

We cannot boast in our works as though they saved us, and neither can we boast in our works we do because we are saved. In both cases, our works shine like conspicuous lights giving glory to our Father in heaven.

I believe the point has been sufficiently made, so let me just close with a flurry of reinforcing references.

I know this was a long blog posting. Thank you for sticking with me to the end. Resist the urge to coast, brothers and sisters. Grab your bat, step up to the plate, and take your swings!

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

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The Greek adverb, αξιως (axios), is translated as "worthy of" in all of its six NASB New Testament occurrences, and five of those six instances are directly tied to our walking in a manner worthy of God, worthy of the gospel of Christ, or worthy of our heavenly calling.

Just as we walk in the Spirit rather than lounge around in the Spirit, Christ-followers walk with intent, taking calculated steps in prudent, purposeful living. There is no aimlessness in the life of a disciple of Christ. Rather, every activity of our daily walk is an expression of the glory, majesty, and worthiness of our God.

...walk in a manner worthy of the God who calls you into His own kingdom and glory. - 1 Thessalonians 2:12b, NASB

I do not align with those who interpret this call to a walk worthy of God as one which infuses us with merit, or deservedness. Rather, this is a call to conduct ourselves in a way that speaks well of the God we serve.

Walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called. - Ephesians 4:1, NASB

When my eldest son was preparing to leave home to attend the University of Washington, I had a "dad talk" with him, and in that talk one thing I emphasized was, "Never forget that you are Sheridan Gray." I was not concerned that he would actually forget his name. No, I was cautioning him to remember that his name and reputation are inexorably tied to the way he walks through his days.

Similarly, never forget that you are a child of God, that you wear the name of Christ. Our actions as Christ-followers are a direct reflection on the name of Yeshua. Because of that we conduct ourselves in accord with that name, and with his gospel.

Conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. - Philippians 1:27, NASB

When we read or hear the phrases, walk worthy of the gospel, worthy of the Lord, worthy of God, and worthy of our calling, these are calls for us to live in a manner befitting the majesty of God, the gospel, and our calling.

Finally, because we walk with intent, there are consequences to that walk. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction if you will. We are doers of the word (James 1:22), and as such our lives bear fruit - spiritual fruit.

Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. - Colossians 1:10, NASB

Next week we will look more closely at the fruit-bearing aspect of walking worthily. For now, I'll just encourage you with this word from John:

You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. - 3 John 1:6, NASB

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

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Sometimes, Alean and I will jump into the Jeep and go for an aimless drive. We have no destination in mind. We just pick a direction and start driving, trying, if possible, to select roads we have never previously driven.

When we do this, our goal is simply to get out of the house and see something beautiful in Whatcom County. It is entirely possible that there is not a more beautiful spot on the face of the earth than Whatcom County, Washington.

Aimless. Just there for the ride. Drifting with the currents.

When it comes to life in Christ, this drifting approach will not serve us well.

But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. - 1 John 1:7, ESV

Our calling in Christ is active. We walk in the light. That involves movement, decision, effort.

I'll risk being labeled as judgmental and say that I see far too much lounging in the body of Christ, and far too little walking in the light. We easily fall victim to basking in the light, coasting with Jesus when our entire call to follow Jesus is a call to action.

Our discipleship is not a destination, but a journey. We do not coast with the currents, but rather take deliberate, decisive action as servants of Yeshua.

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. - Galatians 5:25, NIV-1978

We are led by the Spirit of God in our walk, and by definition, if we are "led," that means we are moving. We are active.

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. - Romans 8:14, ESV

We are pressing on toward the goal of our upward call in Christ (Philippians 3:14). and just as we say "yes" to a decisive life of action as one walking in the Spirit, this same calling is a decision to say "no" to a damaging lifestyle.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16, ESV

A life of submission to the Holy Spirit of God enables us to crucify the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:24) Our desires become aligned with the Spirit's desires, and we feel no loss at the removal of worldly passions from our inner drives.

Remember the beautiful redundancy from Galatians 5:1 "It is for freedom that Christ has set us free." We are free to completely indulge ourselves - in fruit - spiritual fruit.

  • We are free to love.
  • We are free to spread joy.
  • We are free to live in peace.
  • We are free to be patient.
  • We are free to exude kindness.
  • We are free to dispense goodness.
  • We are free to be faithful.
  • We are free to embody gentleness.
  • We are free to exhibit self-control.

Please understand that we are free to indulge ourselves to the extreme in any or all of these virtues and find ourselves in no trouble whatsoever. We generally do not stir up difficulty or contention with others by being overly gentle, or just way too kind and loving.

Next week, we will continue our contrasting examination of walking in Christ versus lounging in Christ.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
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This past week, I was engaged in a lively Twitter discussion that revolved around the importance of, effect of, and motivation for obedience - specifically, obedience to the commands of Christ.

Obedience is not optional, but neither is it the end in itself. Jesus never said, "Obey me, and here's the outcome of that," but rather "If you love me, you will obey my commands" (John 14:15).

Loving Jesus is the end, and obedience to him is the outpouring, or result of that love.

At times, Jesus laid down difficult commands, callings against which our inner drives tend to bristle. Not the least of these commands is the call Jesus makes of us regarding the nature and extent of our call to forgiveness - seventy times seven.

When Jesus presents us with a difficult command, what is the required response to that command? Intuitively, we want to answer, "Well, it's obedience, of course!"

I challenge that response. I am asserting, rather, that faith is the proper response to difficult commands. I know how odd that sounds, but let's look at a specific instance wherein Jesus laid down a terribly difficult commandment, and see what we can learn from that event.

In Luke chapter 17, Jesus presented a challenging call regarding forgiveness.

If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, 'I repent,' you must forgive him. - Luke 17:3b-4, ESV
Yowza! That's one tough nugget of instruction. And on the heels of that difficult teaching, look at the response of the apostles.
The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" - Luke 17:5, ESV
Whoa! Ya’ think?

From the worldly standpoint, this unlimited forgiveness charge from Jesus is laughably absurd. So much so that the apostles scratch their heads and say, essentially, "Well, Jesus, in order for me to live up to that one, I’m going to have to have a whopping lot more faith than I have right now."

Recognizing their severe faith deficit in the face of this overwhelming directive from Jesus, what did the disciples propose as a remedy? They looked directly to Jesus as a source of faith and asked Him to increase their faith.

They did not turn to prayer or study. They did not look at anything we might refer to today as spiritual disciplines. They looked at Jesus and made a very bold, blunt request: "Increase our faith."

We are not told how Jesus responded to this unexpected request, but the request does seem to agree with Paul’s statement in Romans 12:3 (NASB): "God has allotted to each a measure of faith." Earlier in the same letter, Paul says, "So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ" (Romans 10:17).

It seems, from these verses, that we have defined both a source and a means of increased faith, and it is that faith which allows us to radiate an endless flow of forgiveness. The source of this empowering faith, at least in the minds of Paul and the disciples, is Jesus himself. Indeed, Hebrews 12:2 calls Jesus the author and perfecter of faith.

The means is the word or message of Christ. When the evidence around me says my faith is not what it should be, or when I am tempted to cry out with the disciples, "Lord, increase my faith," there is a good chance that what I really need is to spend more time reading and hearing the message of Christ, particularly the words from His own lips.

Remember what Jesus said in John 15:7 (NASB), "If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you." To the unbelieving Jews in John 5:38a (NASB), Jesus used the same line of reasoning to rebuke them, saying, "You do not have His word abiding in you." Yet these people were meticulous in their study and memorization of Scripture. How then could Jesus say such a thing?

There is something to God’s Word abiding in us that goes far beyond study and memorization. A word that abides is a word that has found a home. I abide in my home. You abide in yours. God’s Word must make its home in us.

When Jesus commands us in ways that are difficult for us, we need an increasingly robust faith. Faith comes by hearing the message of Christ, and we find that message in the pages of scripture, particularly in the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

When Jesus calls us to forgive without measure, seventy times seven, and it feels like a gut-punch, pull out your Bible, curl up with a cup of hot chocolate, and immerse yourself in the message of Christ.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
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A Hypothetical

Tom and Jack are co-workers on the swing shift at Dirk's Doumafladgie Manufacturing. Two weeks ago, a horrible explosion at the plant left Jack trapped in an interior room with a wall of fire blocking his only exit. Further complicating the matter, the explosion caused sufficient injury to Jack's legs that he was incapable of walking his way out of the plant on his own.

On the other side of the fire, Tom was able to assess the situation, grabbed a blanket for protection and made his way through the wall of fire to rescue his co-worker. Once there, Tom threw Jack over his shoulder, covered both men with the protective blanket, and carried Jack through the fire and out of the plant to safety.

Fast-forward two weeks to today - Tom is visiting Jack in the hospital where Jack is recovering from his injuries. At some point in their conversation, Jack says, "Tom, I owe you my life, man. I really wanna thank you for what you did." In response, Tom says, "Awe, it was nothing you wouldn't have done for me, Jack. Forget about it."

Is Tom daft? How can he possibly tell Jack to forget about what he had done. Tom risked his own life to save the life of a coworker. There is no way someone "forgets" something like that.

What is Tom really saying to Jack when he says, "Forget about it"?

Forget About It

The Bible speaks in several places of God forgiving and forgetting our sin. For example:

I, even I, am the one who wipes out your transgressions for My own sake,
And I will not remember your sins.
- Isaiah 43.25, NASB

A quote like that tends to launch me into logic hiccup spasms. How can an omniscient God not know something? How can the ultimate, infinite being not remember?

For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.
And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,
'This is the covenant that I will make with them
after those days,' declares the Lord:
'I will put my laws on their hearts,
and write them on their minds,'
then he adds,
'I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.'
- Hebrews 10:14-17, ESV

These passages state unequivocally that God does not remember our sins. But God is omniscient. God knows everything and forgets nothing. How do we reconcile God's omniscience with God remembering our sins no more?

Let's return to our hypothetical with Jack and Tom. When Jack thanked Tom for saving his life, and Tom responded by saying "Forget about it," what Tom was telling Jack is, "You don't owe me anything for this. You are not indebted to me."

When God "forgets about it," or "remembers our sins no more," God is choosing to take the same position as Tom - "You are no longer indebted to me." Short of age-related dementia, Jack will never lose the memory of Tom saving his life, but he can "forget about it" in the sense that he is not indebted to Tom for his having done so.

Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you. - Ephesians 4:32, NASB

Our call to forgive others as God has forgiven us demands that we release our offenders with a "forget about it." They owe us nothing. We release them from any indebtedness to us. It's not that we are not able to recall the offenses (though in some cases you'll find that you do forget) but rather that we make the choice to release, to overlook, to cancel any debt toward us.

It's a Done Deal

For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. - 1 Peter 3:18a, NIV-1978
All sin, for all people, for all time. This is what the writer of Hebrews referenced when he said, "For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified" (Hebrews 10:14, ESV). It is a one-time sacrifice that completely removes sin.

The apostle Paul tells us that there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Absolutely none! My sinfulness, past, present, future, has no condemning impact on my standing before our holy God. I am declared righteous in Christ, by the power of his blood and resurrection.

As Christ-followers, this same principle holds true in our forgiveness of others. We declare them to be "non-offenders" and it is a done deal. We do not hold the offense in reserve just in case we feel the need to pull it out at some future date. Forgiven is forgiven and done is done.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. - 1 John 1:9, ESV

God is faithful to forgive us, and having forgiven us to cleanse us, or purify us. Nothing is held in reserve, or held over our heads. God frees us. In this, we can appropriate the beautiful imagery of King Hezekiah and say, "you have cast all my sins behind your back" (Isaiah 38:17b).

Forgive, brothers and sisters. Forgive and forgive and forgive.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
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Acts 17:28 - ἐν αὐτῷ γὰρ ζῶμεν καὶ κινούμεθα καὶ ἐσμέν