VIDEO Grace, Not 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

Almost every reward or compensation in this life is reckoned on the basis of works: final scores in sports, annual sales numbers, academic grades, and promotions in the business world. Occasionally we encounter grace in the secular world, but not nearly as often as being rewarded for works.

Grace was not unknown in the Old Testament—it is mentioned 18 times—but it became a major theme in the New Testament (119 mentions). Thus, it was a surprising idea to both Jews and Gentiles alike when Paul—the apostle of grace—taught that we are not saved by our works but by grace alone: “Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:28). And what a relief! For we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). If our salvation were based on our works, who could be saved?

If you fall, fail, or forget today, thank God for His grace. Confess your failing and continue to walk in His unmerited favor (1 John 1:9). 

Christian doctrine is grace, and ethics is gratitude.  J. I. Packer

Getting What You Don’t Deserve – Ephesians 2:8-9

Never Late

Your brother will rise again. John 11:23

As a visitor to a small West African town, my American pastor made sure to arrive on time for a 10 a.m. Sunday service. Inside the humble sanctuary, however, he found the room empty. So he waited. One hour. Two hours. Finally, about 12:30 p.m., when the local pastor arrived after his long walk there—followed by some choir members and a gathering of friendly town people—the service began “in the fullness of time,” as my pastor later said. “The Spirit welcomed us, and God wasn’t late.” My pastor understood the culture was different here for its own good reasons.

Time seems relative, but God’s perfect, on-time nature is affirmed throughout the Scriptures. Thus, after Lazarus got sick and died, Jesus arrived four days later, with Lazarus’ sisters asking why. “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died” (John 11:21). We may think the same, wondering why God doesn’t hurry to fix our problems. Better instead to wait by faith for His answers and power.

As theologian Howard Thurman wrote, “We wait, our Father, until at last something of thy strength becomes our strength, something of thy heart becomes our heart, something of thy forgiveness becomes our forgiveness. We wait, O God, we wait.” Then, as with Lazarus, when God responds, we’re miraculously blessed by what wasn’t, after all, a delay.

By:  Patricia Raybon

Reflect & Pray

What are you waiting for God to do or provide on your behalf? How can you wait by faith?

For You, Father, I wait. Grant me Your strength and faithful hope in my waiting.

How to Set Right Priorities

What actions are you taking to live out what you believe? 2 Corinthians 11:2-3

The Scriptures contain many cautionary examples of people who had misplaced priorities. This should give every believer pause: Take a moment to consider the importance of taking captive wrong thoughts and desires that could lead away from “sincere and pure devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). 

For good purposes or bad, we usually set priorities in one of three ways: by evaluating which things are most important to us; by letting people or circumstances influence what we value; or by drifting into habits and thought patterns that become a way of life. But no matter how we determine priorities, they’ll be misplaced unless we take into account how God wants us to live and what’s most important to Him.  

In order to remain steadfast for Christ we must prioritize deliberately, or we will miss the mark. Those things of greatest importance to the Lord should be in place before circumstances, our own desires, or other people tempt us to waver. 

Since devotion to Christ is of utmost importance, we must set goals in accordance with God’s Word. Self-discipline is also needed because living purposefully is rarely easy. Keeping Christ first makes it harder for other pursuits and pleasures to distract us.

His Mighty Hand

Your brother will rise again. John 11:23

“That all the people of the earth might know the hand of the LORD, that it is mighty: that ye might fear the LORD your God for ever.” (Joshua 4:24)

The testimony of Joshua to the children of Israel as they entered the promised land reminded them of the tremendous strength in the mighty hand of God whom they were to fear and trust forever. This is only one of about 20 references in the Scriptures to God’s mighty hand. Moses had often recalled how “the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt” (Deuteronomy 7:8).

The first reference to God’s mighty hand is in Jacob’s dying prophecy concerning Joseph. “His bow abode in strength, and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob” (Genesis 49:24)

Like those of Joseph, our hands also can be strong when they are placed in the mighty hands of God. Some may note that this is only a figure of speech, for God is Spirit and has no physical hands. Yes, but “he that planted the ear, shall he not hear? he that formed the eye, shall he not see?” (Psalm 94:9). God indeed is God of the mighty hand!

The final reference to God’s mighty hand and the only specific reference in the New Testament is in the apostle Peter’s exhortation to humility. “God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:5-6). Our human might is only a vapor, but “in the LORD JEHOVAH is everlasting strength” (Isaiah 26:4).

Jesus said concerning His followers, “They shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand” (John 10:28). HMM

“According to Your Faith”

Matthew 9:27-29

AFTER the raising of Jairus’ daughter, our Lord on His departure was followed by two blind men crying for mercy (Matt. 9:27-34). He asked them, “Believe ye that I am able to do this?” And they answered, “Yes, Lord.” Then He touched their eyes, saying, “According to your faith be it unto you,” and their eyes were opened.

A simple story, so simple that we pass over it and overlook its tremendous revelation. Here is the key to a life of blessing: “According to your faith.” But, mind you, faith in the Lord Jesus, for He had just asked, “Believe ye that I am able to do this?” The value of faith depends upon the object of faith, and when Christ is the object, faith never fails. All things are possible to the person who believes, if he believes in Him with whom all things are possible.

Back of all the misery of the world today lies unbelief in Christ. We will not come unto Him that we might have life. Sinners miss life here and hereafter because they believe not, and Christians live meager and defeated lives because they believe so little. In the midst of it all stands Jesus, the answer to every problem; but we do not believe like the blind men that He is able to do wonders in our lives or, if we believe it theoretically, we do not believe it practically, so our eyes are not opened. Some seek special experiences, signs and wonders, but will not live daily by faith, looking unto Jesus.

Here is the measure of blessing: According to your faith. If there is much faith, there is much blessing. If there is little faith, there is little blessing. There is no other way. Simple faith in Jesus Christ is the key to every problem, the answer to every issue from the smallest to the greatest. He Himself said so: how long will it take us to learn it?

After this miracle, the Lord healed a dumb demoniac and the Pharisees attributed His miracle to the devil. Alas, there are religious people today who deny a God of miracles and ascribe works of healing to the devil! It is to the everlasting shame of the church that we have lost sight of Christ the Healer and stand almost in the place of the Pharisees, ridiculing those who have the gift of healing, plainly taught in the New Testament, and almost ascribing the work of God to Beelzebub.

Our Lord went next to Nazareth, and there what struck Him was unfaith. His townspeople were offended in Him, and He could do no mighty works there because of their unbelief. He marveled at the centurions faith (Matt. 8:10), but here He marveled at their unbelief (Mark 6:6). So we read that He went around about the village, teaching. He was restricted to a teaching ministry here—and so He is today in most places, for we believe not. What wonders might come to pass if we only believed!

“The Lord reigneth.”

Genesis 11:1-9

Genesis 11:4

They would found a universal monarchy of which this tower should be the centre. They planned the tower that they might not be scattered, and they thus forgot the command to replenish the earth. Ambition was at the bottom of the plan; by centralising all mankind they hoped to build up an empire, which, like their tower, should defy heaven itself.

Genesis 11:5

To him their huge tower was a mere nothing; he is said, after the manner of men, to come down from heaven in order to see such a trifle.

Genesis 11:8

How easily can God thwart our plans, and bring to pass his own purposes, despite all opposition. The scene has been very graphically sketched by Bishop Hall. “One calls for brick, the other looks him in the face, and wonders what he commands, and how and why he speaks such words as were never heard, and instead thereof brings him mortar, returning him an answer as little understood; each chides with other, expressing his choler, so as he only can understand himself. From heat they fall to quiet entreaties, but still with the same success. At first every man thinks his fellow mocks him; but now perceiving this serious confusion, their only answer was silence, and ceasing: they could not come together, for no man could call them to be understood; and if they had assembled, nothing could be determined, because one could never attain to the other’s purpose.”

Psalm 33:10-22

As a fit comment on the transaction at Babel we will read apart of

Psalm 33:22

We have done with self-confidence which is but a vain tower of Babel, and we fly unto the Lord our God who is a tower of defence to save us.

In his providential reign,

Oh, what various wisdom shines!

He confounds the pride of man,

Blasts the people’s vain designs;

Brings their counsels all to nought;

Only his abideth sure;

What the gracious Lord has thought

Shall from age to age endure.

Man’s Fall Created a Perpetual Moral Crisis

For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. Romans 5:19

The fall of man has created a perpetual crisis. It will last until sin has been put down and Christ reigns over a redeemed and restored world.

Until that time the earth remains a disaster area and its inhabitants live in a state of extraordinary emergency.

Statesmen and economists talk hopefully of “a return to normal conditions,” but conditions have not been normal since “the woman saw that the tree was good for food… and pleasant” and “to be desired to make one wise” and “took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.”

It is not enough to say that we live in a state of moral crisis. That is true, but it is not all, for the Fall has affected every part of man’s nature, moral, intellectual, psychological, spiritual and physical.

Man’s whole being has been deeply injured; the sin in his heart has overflowed into his total life, affecting his relation to God, to his fellow men and to everyone and everything that touches him.

To me, it has always been difficult to understand those evangelical Christians who insist upon living in the crisis as if no crisis existed. They say they serve the Lord, but they divide their days so as to leave plenty of time to play and loaf and enjoy the pleasures of the world as well. They are at ease while the world burns; and they can furnish many convincing reasons for their conduct, even quoting Scripture if you press them a bit.

I wonder whether such Christians actually believe in the Fall of man!