VIDEO By Grace, for Works

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. Ephesians 2:8-9

Throughout our social cultures, performance is often what matters. Our grades and entrance exams get us into college. Our work as an employee gets us raises and promotions. Our skills as an athlete, stock picker, or manager get us salaries and bonuses. The most sought-after accolade to which we can aspire is, “Great job! You did well!”

Performance is important, even in the Christian life. We will be judged and rewarded one day based on the works we carry out for the sake of the Kingdom of God (1 Corinthians 3:11-15). Jesus told a parable about successful financial management being the basis for hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:21, 23). Our works are important in every case except one: our salvation. Ephesians 2:8-9 says clearly that we are saved “by grace … through faith … not of works.” Our salvation is a gift that cannot be earned. It’s a new thought for performance-based people, but a biblical one nonetheless.

Ephesians 2:10 adds that we are saved “for good works,” after we are saved “by grace.”

The Church is a community of the works and words of Jesus.  Donald English


Ephesians 2:8-10, All Of Grace

Impossible Forgiveness

Father, forgive them.  Luke 23:34

 

Liberators found the following prayer crumpled among the remains of the Ravensbruck concentration camp where Nazis exterminated nearly 50,000 women: O Lord, remember not only the men and women of goodwill, but also those of ill will. But do not remember the suffering they have inflicted upon us. Remember the fruits we brought thanks to this suffering—our comradeship, our loyalty, our humility, the courage, the generosity, the greatness of heart which has grown out of this. And when they come to judgment, let all the fruits that we have borne be their forgiveness.

I can’t imagine the fear and pain inflicted on the terrorized woman who wrote this prayer. I can’t imagine what kind of inexplicable grace these words required of her. She did the unthinkable: she sought God’s forgiveness for her oppressors.

This prayer echoes Christ’s prayer. After being wrongly accused, mocked, beaten, and humiliated before the people, Jesus was “crucified . . . along with [two] criminals” (Luke 23:33). Hanging, with mutilated body and gasping for breath, from a rough-hewn cross, I would expect Jesus to pronounce judgment on His tormentors, to seek retribution or divine justice. However, Jesus uttered a prayer contradicting every human impulse: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (v. 34).

The forgiveness Jesus offers seems impossible, but He offers it to us. In His divine grace, impossible forgiveness spills free.

By:  Winn Collier

 

Reflect & Pray

How has God’s impossible forgiveness changed you? How can we help others experience true forgiveness in Him?

God, Your forgiveness is a strange, impossible thing. In our pain, it’s hard to imagine this possibility. Help us. Teach us Your love.

Jesus, the Faithful Witness

Revelation 1:4-8

John wrote the book of Revelation to encourage Christians being heavily persecuted by the Roman emperor Domitian. Approximately 25 years earlier Rome had destroyed Jerusalem and taken away Christians’ rights. Many believers were beginning to wonder, Where is Jesus? Is He still Lord? So John’s main purpose in writing this book was to remind believers that Jesus Christ was alive, and He was and would continue to be the same loving, all-powerful Son of God.

We also can be encouraged by remembering who Jesus is. Revelation 1:5 reminds us that He is the faithful witness, which means we can rely on every single thing He says. And not only are His words true, but according to John 14:6, He Himself is the truth. In other words, if He says He will do something, we can trust that it will happen. And that includes not only His statement that life on earth isn’t all there is, but also that He will be with us forever (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

We know Jesus’ words are trustworthy because He conquered death through the cross and His resurrection, preparing the way for all who trust Him. If you’re unsure whether Jesus is alive and active in your life, remember what lengths He went to in order to keep His word.

When He Does Appear

“And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.” (1 John 2:28)

There are many glorious promises associated with the great promise that Christ Himself shall once again appear in person here on planet Earth. For example, Paul says: “When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:4).

Similarly, the apostle Peter promises: “And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away” (1 Peter 5:4). The writer of Hebrews first reminds us of His former appearance on Earth: “But now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself” (Hebrews 9:26). Then the promise is: “Unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation” (v. 28).

Perhaps the most wonderful promise associated with His second appearing is given through the apostle John: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:2-3).

Therefore, when He shall appear, we shall appear with Him in glory; we shall receive an unfading crown of glory; we shall be like Him, and without sin unto salvation. These promises even now constitute an incentive for each believer to purify himself even as He is pure.

But there is also the sobering warning in our text associated with the soon-coming time when He shall appear. We should abide in Him (that is, continue in Him, hour after hour), careful that whatever we do, wherever we go, we are in no danger of being ashamed before Him when He shall appear! HMM

A Major Preaching Challenge

Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.

—Ephesians 3:8

Many of us who preach the unsearchable riches of Christ are often pretty dull and hard to listen to.

The freshest thought to visit the human mind should be the thought of God. The story of salvation should put a radiancy in the face and a vibrancy in the voice of him that tells it. Yet it is not uncommon to hear the wondrous message given in a manner that makes it difficult for the hearer to concentrate on what is being said. What is wrong?…

It is true that only the Spirit-filled preacher can be morally effective at last; but for the moment we are thinking only of the ability of a speaker to command the attention of his hearers. And if the speaker cannot keep his hearers immediately interested, his message cannot possibly have a long-range effect upon them, no matter how spiritual he may be.   WOS067-068

Lord, in this media-saturated, video-oriented age, it is increasingly difficult for the preacher to hold the interest of sound-bite listeners. Yet as we give ourselves to the task of preaching, You’ve promised to bless, and we thank You. Amen.

 

God’s Presence—Wonderfully Real

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

—Matthew 5:6

 

There are qualities in God that can never be explained to the intellect and can only be known by the heart, the innermost being. That is why I say that I do believe in feeling.

I believe in what the old writers called religious affection—and we have so little of it because we have not laid the groundwork for it. The groundwork is repentance and obedience and separation and holy living!

I am confident that whenever this groundwork is laid, there will come to us this sense of the other-worldly Presence of God and it will become wonderfully, wonderfully real. ICH075

The deeper life is a continual discovery of how fully Jesus satisfies the deep yearnings of our hearts.

Do we long to be holy? The indwelling Christ offers Himself to us as our holiness!

Do we long to know our Father, God? Christ is the Revealer of the Father!

Do we long for power that enables a fruitful ministry? Christ, by His Holy Spirit, is that power! JJJ048

 

Seedtime and Harvest

Galatians 6:7

Seedtime and harvest. They are inseparably linked, but always occurring at different times and under differing conditions. Seedtime speaks to us of the spring, while harvest speaks to us of the fall. Springtime is fertility; autumn is fruition. The inexorable springtime and autumn, seedtime and harvest, point to a vindication of faith in the process of natural growth which fulfills God’s purpose and promises.

Who is the mastermind who can define the process which transforms a black, ugly, twisted mass of autumn roots into the roses of springtime? Who can explain how a seed falls into the bosom of springtime and dies, only to reproduce itself a thousand times in the golden grain of harvest?

Springtime and harvest, uncompromising, follow the law of identical harvest. If the earth receives seeds of wheat, the harvest will be wheat. If corn is received, the harvest will be corn. The law of identical harvest says that one reaps what one sows. Whatever you put into the ground, into your body, into your mind, into your heart—is what you will get back.

I have heard advice given to young people today that all should have the opportunity to “sow their wild oats.” Personally, I am not too attracted to wild oats, and I find this kind of thinking to be fallacious double-talk. Instead, these young people should hear that if one chooses to sow wild oats, one must bear the responsibility of reaping them as well. The law of identical harvest is: what we plant, we reap.

Every person continually sows and plants. Each of us puts seeds of one kind or another into the ground of our character by the choices we make. The seeds dictate the nature of the harvest. In the holy presence of God one must examine the nature of seeds already planted and find ways to pluck them from our lives.

God is not mocked. What we plant is what we reap. We get back more than what we put into life, whether it be good or evil. What seeds are we sowing in our life? Psychologist Abraham Maslow said, “The test of any person is does he bear fruit. Is he fruitful?”

So what will the harvest be in your life? My father once wrote: “Let us plant the memories, the traditions of yesterday; let us water them with our tears and warm them with the sunshine of devotion and service, and may God grant to us a rich harvest of souls.” Those are the seeds we must all sow and the harvest we must all seek.

Robert L. Docter, The Salvationist Pulpit