VIDEO Clouds and Darkness – “Good Grace Churches”

Clouds and darkness surround Him… —Psalm 97:2

A person who has not been born again by the Spirit of God will tell you that the teachings of Jesus are simple. But when he is baptized by the Holy Spirit, he finds that “clouds and darkness surround Him….” When we come into close contact with the teachings of Jesus Christ we have our first realization of this. The only possible way to have full understanding of the teachings of Jesus is through the light of the Spirit of God shining inside us. If we have never had the experience of taking our casual, religious shoes off our casual, religious feet— getting rid of all the excessive informality with which we approach God— it is questionable whether we have ever stood in His presence. The people who are flippant and disrespectful in their approach to God are those who have never been introduced to Jesus Christ. Only after the amazing delight and liberty of realizing what Jesus Christ does, comes the impenetrable “darkness” of realizing who He is.

Jesus said, “The words that I speak to you are spirit, and they are life” (John 6:63). Once, the Bible was just so many words to us — “clouds and darkness”— then, suddenly, the words become spirit and life because Jesus re-speaks them to us when our circumstances make the words new. That is the way God speaks to us; not by visions and dreams, but by words. When a man gets to God, it is by the most simple way— words.

WISDOM FROM OSWALD CHAMBERS

We are not to preach the doing of good things; good deeds are not to be preached, they are to be performed. So Send I You, 1330 L


“Good Grace Churches” | January 3, 2021

Moving at the Speed of Jesus

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” John 11:21

Recently, my car needed work. The mechanic’s shop was close, a mile from my home. So I decided to just walk home. But as I shuffled along next to a bustling thoroughfare, I noticed something: Everyone else was moving so fast. 

This isn’t rocket science. Cars go faster than pedestrians. Zip, zip, zip! As I ambled home, I had a realization: We’re so used to moving fast. All the time. Then, another realization: I often expect God to move just as quickly. I want His plans to fit my speedy timetable. 

When Jesus lived on earth, His seemingly slow pace sometimes disappointed His friends. In John 11, Mary and Martha sent word that their brother, Lazarus, was sick. They knew Jesus could help (vv. 1–3). But He arrived some four days later (v. 17), after Lazarus had died. “ ‘Lord,’ Martha said to Jesus, ‘if you had been here, my brother would not have died’ ” (v. 21). Translation: Jesus didn’t move fast enough. But He had bigger plans: raising Lazarus from the dead (vv. 38–44). 

Can you relate to Martha’s desperation? I can. Sometimes, I long for Jesus to move more quickly to answer a prayer. Sometimes, it seems like He’s late. But Jesus’ sovereign schedule is different from ours. He accomplishes His saving work on His timetable, not ours. And the ultimate outcome displays His glory and goodness in ways that are so much greater than our plans.

By:  Adam R. Holz

Reflect & Pray

When have you been disappointed that Jesus seemingly didn’t answer a prayer, only to realize He was accomplishing something bigger? How did that realization affect your perception of God and His sovereignty?

Father, sometimes I get so impatient. Help me to trust in Your perfect timing and to cling to Your goodness in faith.

To learn more about the life of Christ, visit ChristianUniversity.org/NT111.

Sunday Reflection: Jesus Fulfills the Law

To get the most out of this devotion, set aside time to read the Scripture referenced throughout.

In the earliest days of Christianity, people came to the church from a variety of cultures. This resulted in much confusion and disagreement about how Gentile believers should observe the faith. Paul, in his letter to the Galatians, sought to address this issue by reminding them that there is a new and transformative freedom in Jesus Christ. (See Galatians 5).

Specifically, the apostle wanted to remind them that adherence to Jewish practices was not required of the new faithful, regardless of their background. He was cautioning his audience against any attempt to earn God’s favor by behaving in certain ways and also against using those customs to judge who did or didn’t belong in the community.

Jesus had already come to fulfill the law—He gave Himself for the freedom of those who called upon Him for salvation (Matt. 5:17). But still, the temptation to be legalistic was strong back then, and it’s just as strong 2,000 years later.

Think about it
• Consider how Paul’s words might apply today. What can we do to make new Christians feel welcome and free in their newfound faith?  

• In what ways have we hindered their freedom?

Salvation in the Spirit

“Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5)

Nicodemus was confused the night when Jesus first spoke of the necessity of the new birth and then equated it with the symbol of baptism. Christ then indicated that the reality in both was the supernatural work of God, the Holy Spirit. “Except a man be born of water [that is, the Spirit], he cannot enter into the kingdom of God [with ‘and’ understood as ‘even’].”

The miracle of regeneration is thus a work of the Spirit, and just as “the wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). It is not some soul-winning methodology but the Holy Spirit who does the work, and He (like the invisible wind) may work in a great variety of different ways.

This work of the Holy Spirit in bringing salvation to the unsaved is so great and so complex that it must be described in a variety of figures to convey the whole reality. In the first place, He must bring conviction of sin and the need of salvation. “When he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8).

Then, as the sinner repents and believes on Christ, the Spirit baptizes him into Christ. “For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:13). As a member of Christ’s body, he is made a partaker of His resurrection life. Simultaneously, “after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise” (Ephesians 1:13), and “the Spirit of God dwelleth in you” (1 Corinthians 3:16). All of this becomes the mighty miracle of spiritual birth. “According to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost” (Titus 3:5). HMM

Face Down and Listening

And Aram fell on his face: and God talked with him, saying, As for me, behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.—Genesis 17:3-4

The Scriptures declare, “Abram fell on his face” as the Lord talked with him (Genesis 17:3). Abraham was reverent and submissive. Probably there is no better picture anywhere in the Bible of the right place for mankind and the right place for God. God was on His throne speaking, and Abraham was on his face listening!

Where God and man are in relationship, this must be the ideal. God must be the communicator, and man must be in the listening, obeying attitude. If men and women are not willing to assume this listening attitude, there will be no meeting with God in living, personal experience….

Yes, Abraham was lying facedown in humility and reverence, overcome with awe in this encounter with God. He knew that he was surrounded by the world’s greatest mystery. The presence of this One who fills all things was pressing in upon him, rising above him, defeating him, taking away his natural self-confidence. God was overwhelming him and yet inviting and calling him, pleading with him and promising him a great future as a friend of God!   MMG021-022

Lord, we don’t spend nearly enough time facedown before You. Draw me to a position of humility and reverence, I pray. Amen.

The Holy Spirit: Present or Absent?

And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.—Ephesians 4:30

In most Christian churches the Spirit is quite entirely overlooked. Whether He is present or absent makes no real difference to anyone. Brief reference is made to Him in the doxology and the benediction. Further than that He might as well not exist….

Our neglect of the doctrine of the blessed Third Person has had and is having serious consequences. For doctrine is dynamite. It must have emphasis sufficiently sharp to detonate it before its power is released….

The doctrine of the Spirit is buried dynamite. Its power awaits discovery and use by the Church. The power of the Spirit will not be given to any mincing assent to pneumatological truth. The Holy Spirit cares not at all whether we write Him into our creeds in the back of our hymnals; He awaits our emphasis. POM060-061

[The Holy Spirit] loves us so much that when we insult Him, He is grieved; when we ignore Him, He is grieved; when we resist Him, He is grieved; and when we doubt Him, He is grieved. COU052

Don’t Wait, The Time is Now!

John 7:6

Do you sense that time is rapidly fleeting? Our entry into a new year seems to make this all the more apparent. Concerning this matter, I have a suggestion. Don’t think of time as rushing by; think of the time that is yours now.

Jesus said, “Your time is always ready” (John 7:6 KJV). In the first part of that verse Jesus said that His time had not yet come. He, with God, knew what would happen and when it would happen. But His disciples were ordinary mortals, like you and me. The only time they had, and that we have, is now.

The time is now! This is so because we have no guarantee of any other time. It is not morbid to point to the slender cord of life which holds us in time; it is only to face a fact. James warned us not to take time for granted. He said that our life is “a vapor that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away” (James 4:14). Don’t presume about tomorrow. Use today wisely; it is priceless.

The time is now! This is so because this very moment can be more important than any which have preceded it or any which may follow. See today as the living essence of time between a past that is gone and a future not yet come. Today we can take what has come from the past and, with God’s help, transform it so that the future will be better and nobler. Today can be the time for new beginnings. What needs to be said? Say it. What ought be done? Do it.

The time is now! This is so because it is God’s time. He has given us life, permitting us to participate in a segment of time. There are many necessary and important things to do with time, but nothing should prevent us from giving God His rightful place in today’s schedule. This is God’s time for us. Be sensitive to Him and His will so that we may effectively respond to the needs of the people around us. Today is ours because God has given it to us.

Another year has come, and we find ourselves swept up in its forward movement. But you and I are not fearful of time’s relentless passage. We are not measuring a diminishing time but trusting the Eternal God. “Your time is always ready.” Let us make the most of today, because the time is now!

Bramwell Tripp, The War Cry