“By the Grace of God I Am What I Am”

By the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain… —1 Corinthians 15:10

The way we continually talk about our own inabilities is an insult to our Creator. To complain over our incompetence is to accuse God falsely of having overlooked us. Get into the habit of examining from God’s perspective those things that sound so humble to men. You will be amazed at how unbelievably inappropriate and disrespectful they are to Him. We say things such as, “Oh, I shouldn’t claim to be sanctified; I’m not a saint.” But to say that before God means, “No, Lord, it is impossible for You to save and sanctify me; there are opportunities I have not had and so many imperfections in my brain and body; no, Lord, it isn’t possible.” That may sound wonderfully humble to others, but before God it is an attitude of defiance.

Conversely, the things that sound humble before God may sound exactly the opposite to people. To say, “Thank God, I know I am saved and sanctified,” is in God’s eyes the purest expression of humility. It means you have so completely surrendered yourself to God that you know He is true. Never worry about whether what you say sounds humble before others or not. But always be humble before God, and allow Him to be your all in all.

There is only one relationship that really matters, and that is your personal relationship to your personal Redeemer and Lord. If you maintain that at all costs, letting everything else go, God will fulfill His purpose through your life. One individual life may be of priceless value to God’s purposes, and yours may be that life.

Restoring the Joy of Christmas

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This season, may our celebration of Christ outweigh our complaints.

The famous Christmas carol “Joy to the World” exhorts us to joy because “the Lord has come,” but if you watch cable news, you’d think Christmas is not a time for celebrating, but mourning—maybe even fighting.

As ubiquitous as too-early Christmas sales at retail stores is the annual outrage of a “war on Christmas.” You know what I’m talking about: nightly reports of some small town that took the manger off its town square or a department store that affixes “Happy Holidays” to its sale signs instead of “Merry Christmas.”

Should Christians be troubled by a secularization of a sacred holiday? It is distressing to see a toothless Christmas foisted on the world, a holiday stripped of the miracle of the incarnation. And yet, rather than motivating us to angry fights on Twitter or compiling lists of “naughty and nice” businesses, perhaps we should use this opportunity to retell the beautiful story of the incarnation—and do it with joy.

In fact, the most joyous people during the month of December should be Jesus’ own followers. The calendar affords us an opportunity to tell our story, the one of God entering human history and inaugurating His sovereign and eternal plan to redeem His people. Light has broken into the darkness of the world, the end of the age is here and Christ is gathering a new people from every race, tribe, and tongue.

Christmas is an opportunity to answer the question, What is this Christmas story? Even hardened skeptics cannot deny that this man from Nazareth, born in humble beginnings, has radically upended the world. The movement He began still throbs with hope.

Joy has come to the world, something that we should repeat over and over again. This joy should cause us to be gift-giving, feast-holding celebrants. Yes, Christmas has often been hijacked by parties, stress, and desperate retail giants. And yet, Christians shouldn’t react and become gospel Grinches. Christmas is not a time for austerity, but a time for generosity.

Amid a broken and fractured world, we can tell the story of a God who broke in with redemption and grace. Fallen humanity and a flawed cosmos are in the process of restoration. And our feasts, our gift giving, our joy are mere glimpses of life in the coming heavenly city. Christmas, done right, is a portal into the Kingdom to come.

This is why we shouldn’t fret too much about a culture that has lost the ability to see Jesus in Christmas. Rather we should use this opportunity to tell the world why Jesus is the only source of joy and hope. Instead of rolling our eyes at the tired retail worker who says “Happy Holidays,” let’s imagine the joy of the season by embodying Jesus as the reason for the season.

We do this, not to win an argument or to see more plastic Jesus’ set up at the town square. We do it because there is no better story than the story of the babe in the manger, the God-man who entered our world, lived a sinless life, died an unjust death, bore our sin, defeated the enemy powers, rose again in victory and is now seated at the right hand of God. There is no more compelling narrative than the Bible’s story of a sovereign Creator God, a fallen humanity, a redemptive Savior, and a coming Kingdom.

Christians can embody this “Joy to the World” because our Lord has come. The “War on Christmas” has already been won, not in the boardrooms of Madison Avenue, but 2,000 years ago in a cattle trough in Bethlehem.

by Daniel Darling

Five Commands

“Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:13)

In our text and the succeeding two verses, five commands are given to the believer striving to live a godly life. Let us look briefly at each one.

Gird up the loins of your mind: Using the long, flowing robes worn by most people in Greek societies as a word picture, Peter commands us to gird up our minds just as such a robe needed to be gathered up in preparation for strenuous activity. We need to discipline our minds for action.

Be sober: A drunken person has a disoriented mind, lacks self-control, and is not alert to his surroundings. We are commanded to maintain a calm and thoughtful state of mind, in full control of all our actions.

Hope to the end, or “patiently fix your hope”: We must recognize that He is in control and patiently wait for Him. The focus of our expectation is His grace, which we presently experience but which will be fully granted us at His return.

Not fashioning yourselves according to the former lusts in your ignorance (v. 14): This phrase is translated “be not conformed” in Romans 12:2 and commands us not to adopt the world’s lifestyle and thought patterns, especially our “former lusts,” which enslaved us before our conversion.

But as he which hath called you is holy, so be ye holy (v. 15): God is first and foremost a holy God, and we are called to “fashion” ourselves after Him. Complete holiness is out of our reach this side of glory, but it should be our goal.

All five are commands indeed, but commands three and five are in an emphatic position in the Greek, and these two hold the key to success in the others. Only by patiently fixing our hope on Him and His grace can we successfully strive for His holiness. JDM

He saith unto them, Follow me… and they straightway left their nets, and followed Him

He saith unto them, Follow me… and they straightway left their nets, and followed Him.—Matthew 4:19, 20.

JESUS calls us, o’er the tumult
Of our life’s wild, restless sea,
Day by day His sweet voice soundeth,
Saying, “Christian, follow me,”
As of old St. Andrew heard it
By the Galilean lake,
Turned from home, and toil, and kindred,
Leaving all for His dear sake.

THE will of God will be done; but, oh, the unspeakable loss for us if we have missed our opportunity of doing it!

God, who calleth us, Himself gives us the-strength to obey His call. He who is with us now to call us, will be ever present with us; in all whereto He calleth us. All in His purpose and love, every degree of grace and glory, lies wrapped up in
His next call. All eternity of bliss and the love of God will, through His grace, forecoming, accompanying, following, lie in one strong, earnest, undivided, giving of thy whole self to God, to do in thee, through thee, with thee, His gracious loving will. EDWARD B. PUSEY.

We glory in tribulations

We glory in tribulations. Romans 5:3

If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. — Sorrowful, yet alway rejoicing.

Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, rejoice. — They departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name.

The God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing. Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation.

1 Corinthians 15:19. 1 Peter 4:12,13. 2 Corinthians 6:10. Philippians 4:4. Acts 5:41. Romans 15:13. Habakkuk 3:17,18.

The Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all

The Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord be with you all. 2 Thessalonians 3:16

Peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come. — The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. —Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. The Comforter … even the Spirit of truth. — The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace. —The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.

My presence shall go with thee and I will give thee rest. And he said unto him, If thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence. For wherein shall it be known here that I and thy people have found grace in thy sight? is it not in that thou goest with us?

Revelation 1:4. Philippians 4:7. Luke 24:36. John 14:27. John 15:26. Galatians 5:22. Romans 8:16. Exodus 33:14-16.