The Challenge of 2 Chronicles 7:14

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14)

There are some prerequisites here:

  • We need to be a people who are called by His name
  • We need to humble ourselves
  • We need to pray
  • We need to seek His face
  • We need to turn from our wicked ways

All these steps are necessary, and can only happen in this order. It is so easy to think that we are called by His name. I mean, how many people are out there calling themselves Christians (to whatever extent), saying they believe in God. But it is God “who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began, and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Timothy 1:9-10)

Yet even when we are sure of our calling, we need to humble ourselves. Being humble provides us with a set of character traits or attributes which will put us in a position in the world in which we can show the love of God through our good works and sincerity of heart. Secondly, being humble is not an end goal to be achieved, but a starting point to obtain from which all our transformation into Christ-likeness happens. Strangely enough a great book to study humility is James. I did this once, and it was really amazing.

When studying the book of James on the theme of humility my aim was to go through each verse and see if the character of humility was to be found in there. The main two distinctions is what character humility will produce, and what humility will give us. Humility is being patient (James 1:4, James 5:7-8, James 5:11), being self-controlled (James 1:19-20; 3:2), being content (James 4:1-3), being receptive to the Word (James 1:21), being repentant (James 4:8-9), being submissive (James 4:15), and being self-sacrificial (James 5:4-5). Humility will give us glory (James 1:9-10; 4:10), will give us grace (James 4:6), will give us rewards for work (James 1:25), and will give us spiritual healing (James 5:16). For each of the above, we at least need to find the humility to ask God for wisdom (James 1:5; 3:13).

Our humility should (and maybe can only) drive us to our knees, to pray. The reason prayer has such great potential for changing things is God. And the reason prayer is surrounded by such difficult problems is God. If it weren’t for the power of God over natural process and over the human will, there would be no hope in praying for change in the world or in people. And it is that very same power and prerogative of God that creates the problems we stumble over in prayer. This is what Spurgeon said:

“It is our full belief that God has foreknown and predestinated everything that happeneth in heaven above or in the earth beneath, and that the foreknown station of a reed by the river is as fixed as the station of a king, and “the chaff from the hand of the winnower is steered as the stars in their courses.” Predestination embraceth the great and the little, and reacheth unto all things; the question is, wherefore pray? Might it not as logically be asked wherefore breathe, eat, move, or do anything? We have an answer which satisfies us, namely, that our prayers are in the predestination, and that God has as much ordained His people’s prayers as anything else, and when we pray we are producing links in the chain of ordained facts. Destiny decrees that I should pray — I pray; destiny decrees that I shall be answered, and the answer comes to me.”

And prayer is hard work! “Devote yourselves to prayer, keeping alert in it with an attitude of thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2). The Greek word used here for “devote yourselves” is “proskartereō” and means to “to be devoted, steadfastly attentive, persevere, constant readiness, be strong”. Wow, to be devoted to prayer means to be constant ready, to be steadfastly attentive. Prayer is hard work. I never considered prayer to be hard work. I mean, do you ever need to take a shower after you’re done praying because you sweat so much of the hard work? I don’t! The other verse is “Epaphras… always laboring earnestly for you in his prayers, that you may stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God” (Col. 4:12). The Greek word for “laboring earnestly” is “agonizomai” meaning “to contend with adversaries, fight, to endeavour with strenuous zeal”. So it’s not only hard work, it’s a fight.

But not only pray, but also seek His face. The Bible talks about this in a number of verses:

  • Jehoshaphat sought God’s face on the eve of a great battle (2 Chronicles 20:2-4);
  • We are commanded to seek His face (Psalm 24:5-6; 27:7-9; 105:4; Hosea 5:15)
  • We receive justice through it (Proverbs 29:26)
  • Daniel sought His face in his prayer about the 70 weeks (Daniel 9:3)

Turning towards God, seeking His face, means being confronted with His glory. “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18). We are being transformed – progressively, degree by degree – into the image of Christ the Lord. This work of transformation is a process. We are becoming like Christ. We are growing in our capacity to show Christ by being like Christ. That is God’s will for us. That we be progressively be conformed to the image of Christ. When we behold the glory of God we see the face of Jesus Christ, and it transforms! God’s life in us is started or brought into existence and our human heart life, love, thoughts and power is replaced by God’s supernatural life, love, thoughts and power. It cannot be that we are beholding the glory of God and are not being transformed. Yes, we have our own willpower, but “the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6) must have as a result that we turn from our wicked ways…

And the result? God will listen, and respond. Isn’t that amazing!

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Stop Talking About Jesus

I read this story today on the blog of Seattle’s Mars Hill Church. The hurt is so real, but likewise the need for Jesus and the need for preaching the gospel is so real.

It reminds me of a quote from John Piper, who said, “The biblical perspective is that the cross is a witness to the infinite worth of God’s glory and a witness to the immensity of the sin of my pride […] The cross has brought together the two sides of preaching: (a) the vindication and exaltation of God’s glory; (b) the hope and joy and gladness of sinful man”

http://blog.marshillchurch.org/2009/02/19/stop-talking-about-jesus/

Three Tenses of Being Saved #3 – Future

Almost two years ago I did a study on the three tenses of being saved. In other words, being saved has a past, present and future component. Each with different characteristics and effects.

The Presence of Sin
The future tense of sin means that when we are resurrected we will be eternally removed from the presence of sin. The apostle Paul in particular talks about this a lot throughout his letters (Romans 8:23; Philippians 3:20-21; 2 Corinthians 5:2). In all these verses he emphasizes that we are groaning at this moment, supposedly because we see both the limitations of this body and the superiority of the body to come, “for this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:53).

I am just wondering if we are really groaning? I am sure that most Christians when asked will say that they would like to be in heaven right now (or am I wrong to assume this), but to groan? To groan is a low, mournful sound uttered in pain or grief. Are you suffering right now to the extent that you are groaning? I know I am not. And maybe you not either. Why? Well, first of all, groaning is superseded by suffering. So the question should actually be if you are suffering for Christ? For “if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him” (Romans 8:17). Sure, there is this sense that “if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26), but is that really true for you? If someone knows suffering (next Jesus) it’s Paul. He says in 2 Corinthians 11:24-28, “Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches.” And still Paul says in his letter to the Philippians, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.” (Philippians 1:21-26). Wow, to be with Christ is much better (groaning), but he remains nonetheless and is content with it. Why? Because to live is Christ, which is to say, “for you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:10).

My simple question is this: do you groan, like Paul? Are you content with your life as it is, or do you really long for your spiritual body? Do you realize you have been bought with a price and that you should glorify God in your body? John Piper wrote an excellent book on this topic, called “Don’t Waste Your Life“. I recommend you read it.

Three Tenses of Being Saved #2 – Present

Almost two years ago I did a study on the three tenses of being saved. In other words, being saved has a past, present and future component. Each with different characteristics and effects.

The Power of Sin
In chapter six of Romans, Paul is describing that believers are dead to sin, meaning that sin no longer has power over us, or that we have the power in us to not have to give into sin. This is a powerful statement that needs further examination, as it deals with the subject of sanctification, the process where God is progressively separating a believer from sin to Himself and transforming him towards holiness and purity. It’s a lifelong process which entails three attitudes of mind and action on our part.

Consider Yourself Dead to Sin
For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall also be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; for he who has died is freed from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 6:5-11)
The first attitude deals with considering yourself dead to sin, yet alive in Jesus Christ. Being able to consider something true however depends on knowing and believing certain things. The things to know are listed in verse 5-10. There is certainty in knowing that when you died with Jesus you shall also resurrect with Jesus. This means that our body of sin is gone and are no longer slaves to sin. The old nature still exists, helpless, ungodly, rebellious, and an enemy of God, but now it’s no longer in charge anymore. We are no longer slaves to sin (singular! – it’s the sin nature). That means you are freed to be able to say no, but you still have to claim it by faith. To consider yourself dead to sin is an aggresive faith. It’s a present tense, daily keep on doing it type of faith. So, do you believe you are dead to sin and alive to God?

Do Not Yield to Sin
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.” (Romans 6:12-14)
So, do not let sin continue to reign in your body. Stop letting it right now, by insisting that what God says is true. The dominion is now your choice. Before Christ this wasn’t possible, but now it is. But it remains to be a moment-by-moment choice. The Christian life is not trying to become what you are not. The Christian life is experiencing what you are – in Christ. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17). This is not a fantasy, but a declaration of God! Your daily choices will now determine the results; not you previous slavery. The power of the old nature is now broken. Now that is good news! I am now under the principle of grace.

Serve Righteousness
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? May it never be! Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves for obedience, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin resulting in death, or of obedience resulting in righteousness? But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. I am speaking in human terms because of the weakness of your flesh For just as you presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness, resulting in further lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness, resulting in sanctification. For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death. But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:15-23)
Serving by desire, power by grace should be our response to what Jesus has done inside of us. “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13). Consider who your master is and what you are a slave of, because you cannot serve two masters. But thanks be to God, for He did it! So, be obedient from the heart, meaning believe in the gospel. “Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him” (Colossians 2:6). Three times in this chapter Paul wrote that sin results in death. This death is eternal separation from God in hell, in which unbelievers suffer conscious torment forever. This is the wages they have earned and deserve because of their sin. By contrast, the gift of God is eternal life. Eternal life is a gift that cannot be earned.

Three Tenses of Being Saved #1 – Past

Almost two years ago I did a study on the three tenses of being saved. In other words, being saved has a past, present and future component. Each with different characteristics and effects.

The Penalty of Sin
The past tense of being saved means that you have been saved from the penalty of sin. Jesus Christ died in your place for your sins on the cross. This is a one-time once and for all event. That’s why Jesus said: “It is finished!” (John 19:30) at the moment of death. Jesus took upon Himself the penalty of sin in order for whoever believes in Him to be free from this penalty. It does not mean that sin no longer exists, but it means that the acts of sinning no longer results in death.

Now I could go into a very lengthy discussion on topics like propitiation, substitutionary atonement, limited atonement, unlimited atonement, and predestination, but I won’t because I have not fully dug into these fine subjects yet. I will probably spend some future posts on this, as I do believe it is very important to fully understand the depths of what Christ accomplished on the cross, what it’s effects are for me personally, but also for my ministry. But for now I will leave you with some verses, and the fact that Jesus Christ died for you on that cross, and if you believe in Him He saved you from the penalty of sin, which means that you are right (justified) with God again, and therefore can approach the throne of God with confidence.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift from God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23)

For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

But if it is by grace, it’s no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace” (Rom 11:6)

But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:4-5)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet 1:3-5)