True Christian Conviction

What is true conviction? Is it necessary for salvation? How can we feel it? What are we to do with it?

Last week, we discussed with our college group that Christian faith has three essential parts: understanding, conviction, and commitment. This week we looked at the conviction piece, and how understanding it leads us in our pursuit of holiness, sanctification, a much deeper walk with Jesus. If we misunderstand this essential aspect of faith, we will seriously hinder our own walk with God, fellowship with others, and witness to the world. But if we do understand it, it will open the door for a vibrant, free, and exciting life in God.

 

 

Discovering The True Jesus (pt.3)- The Birth of a Savior

For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”   Luke 2:11-12

The virgin birth. In America, most of us hear this story every year during the Christmas season, so much so that I believe we have become calloused to the extraordinary way that Jesus entered into our world. The Bible teaches that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit in a virgin named Mary. The angel Gabriel tells Mary, “behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.”

Often times, we think of Jesus starting His whole life as an infant, but the Bible also teaches that He existed with the Father for all of eternity past. In the book of John, the author describes Jesus as the “Word,” stating that He was with God the Father in the beginning, and that God created all things through Him (John 1:1-3). God says before He creates man, “Let us make man in our image” (Gen 1:26). So, lets think briefly about the transition from Jesus’ life in heaven to His “birth” on earth….what do you think it was like?

Hard to think about, isn’t it? Thankfully, in Philippians, the author lays out for us what Jesus did when He chose to come to earth:”Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men” (Phil 2:5-7). Jesus completely humbled himself in leaving his heavenly throne to come live as one of us….to ultimately die for us and save us. He was born in the likeness of men, so that He could be the perfect sacrifice for men.

Speaking of Jesus’ humbling himself, look at where He was born! In our first text in Luke, we saw that it was said that Jesus would be found lying in a manger. A manger is a feeding trough used to feed farm animals. It was in the center of the holding houses and likely the dirtiest part of the barn. When animals eat…they often relieve themselves in the same spot. This is likely what the scene actually looked like:

manger

Jesus, the Son of God, came into the earth and spent His first few minutes on earth in one of the dirtiest environments. Why? Humility. Jesus humbled Himself, remember? Is this the way for an earthly King to enter the world? Certainly not. But we will learn of Jesus throughout our study, that He does nothing like an earthly king would do. “My kingdom is not of this world” Jesus says in John 18:36. But I also believe that this was God’s way of showing that Jesus was the real deal. Jesus was humble and a servant from the get-go. He was willing to do whatever it takes to complete His purpose, and in this case-that meant being born in a dirty manger.

The last piece of this story that I want to unfold is: why was it necessary for Jesus to be born of a virgin?

All throughout the Bible, God required a perfect sacrifice to be made before Him to pay for sin committed. In the Old Testament, God’s law required His people to sacrifice “unblemished” lambs, bulls, and goats. If the sacrifice wasn’t perfect before God, it was unacceptable. In the same way, for Jesus to be the perfect and final sacrifice, He must be perfect and unblemished before God. Ever since Adam sinned in the garden, every human being has been born into sin, and the Bible depicts sin nature passing down from generation to generation through the father (Romans 5:12,17,19). It was critical Jesus not to be “born in sin” so that He could fulfill His role as the perfect sacrifice. This is why the Holy Spirit conceived Jesus in Mary’s womb, so that Jesus could circumvented the transmission of the sin nature and become a perfect man.

This little story has more depth than you thought, didn’t it? Its read every year at Christmas, but certainly worth celebrating the entire year. It marks the beginning of Jesus’ life on earth, and is absolutely crucial to the fulfillment of the rest of His mission. Jesus wasn’t only born in a dirty manger, but He would die on a bloody cross.

Tune in next week for part 4 of this series.

Seeing the Goodness of Our God

Topaz-Waters-beautiful-nature-21888528-1217-812

The more closely we study ourselves, the more beneficent our Creator becomes. Look at the highest of God’s earthly creatures-man. We have plenty of reasons to say with the Psalmist, “I will praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works; and that I know full well” (Psalm 139:14). Everything about the structure of our bodies attest to the goodness of our Maker. How suited are our hands to perform work! How good of the Lord to appoint sleep to refresh our wearied bodies! How benevolent His provision to give to the eyes lids and brows for their protection! We could continue indefinitely!*

The goodness of God is also seen in the variety of natural pleasures that He has provided for his creatures. God could have decided to satisfy our hunger without allowing us to really enjoy the taste of it- yet how good is He that he gave us such flavors as those in meat, vegetables, and fruits! He has not only given us senses, but also things that will gratify our senses, and this too reveals His goodness. The earth could have been fertile as it is without its surface being so delightfully multicolored. Our physical lives could have been sustained without beautiful flowers to please our eyes with their colors, and our nostrils with their sweet perfumes. We might have walked outside without hearing the music of birds. Why then, is all of this loveliness so freely diffused over the face of nature? Because the tender mercies of the Lord “are over all His works” (Psalm 145:9).*

When others behave badly to us, it should only stir us up the more heartily to give thanks unto the Lord, because He is good; and when we ourselves are conscious that we are far from being good, we should only the more reverently bless Him that He is good. We must never tolerate an instant’s unbelief as to the goodness of the Lord; whatever else may be questioned, this is absolutely certain, that Jehovah is good; His dispensations may vary, but His nature is always the same (C.H. Spurgeon).

Gratitude and thankfulness is the return justly required from us, the objects of His goodness. Yet we often do not give it to God because His goodness is so constant and so abundant. It is lightly esteemed because it is exercised toward us in the common course of events. It is not felt because we daily experience it!* We must labor to not allow this to be so!

Praise the Lord for His Goodness!!

*My translation from A.W. Pink’s “Old” English language (Attributes of God, Ch. 11, The Goodness of God)

The Never-Changing God

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. (Hebrews 13:8)

Our God NEVER changes. One may think, “great, how is that of use to me?” It is of great importance to us! Think of the ways that Jesus responded to the crowds in the first chapters of Mark: there were three different instances when Jesus was almost crushed by crowds of people. He even had to tell his disciples to prepare a boat that He could get in if the crowds started to crush Him (yes, that many people were running to Him!) When He went home to sleep that night, the scriptures say that the entire town was at His house! Yet, He skipped his meal, stayed and ministered to and loved on the people so much that his own family remarked that he was “out of his mind.” So, if He never changes, He still has this disposition, and He still reacts this way to those who run to Him.

Here is solid comfort. Our human nature cannot be relied on, but we can rely on God! However unstable I may be, however fickle my friends may prove, God does not change. If He changed as we do; if He willed one thing today and another tomorrow, if He were controlled by His mood, who could reveal their secrets to Him? However, we can bring Him praise and worship, because He is ever the same! His purpose is fixed, His will is stable, His Word is sure. Here then is a Rock on which we may fix our feet, while the mighty oceans of life try to sweep us away. (My translation of A.W Pinks Attributes, pp 692 Kindle)

Think about it. His character is permanent. He could never change for the better, for that would imply that there was something about Him that needed improving before, and thus, He wouldn’t be a perfect God. He has always been, and forever will be, the same, perfect, God. The permanence of His character guarantees the fulfillment of His promises:

For the mountains may depart
    and the hills be removed,
but my steadfast love shall not depart from you,
    and my covenant of peace shall not be removed,
    says the Lord, who has compassion on you.”               Isaiah 54:10

His promises are true. His hatred of sin endures forever. His love for His children never changes. His satisfaction with the sacrifice His Son paid for our sins will never change…Aren’t you glad that our God never changes?

Start The New Year Remembering Your Identity In Christ

As the new year begins, I believe that the church at large, myself included, needs to remember our identity in Christ- as it pertains to sin. If your like me, when you think about who you are in Christ-you often think of yourself as forgiven, loved, set-apart, saved, etc. These identities are very true and important, but God has reminded me early in this year of another aspect of my identity in Christ- dead to sin.

Paul writes in Romans,

We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. For one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.” Romans 6:6-8

We as believers are told not only that Christ died for us (substitution) but that we died with Christ (identification). He not only provided the forgiveness of sins, he provided the deliverance from the enslavement of sin. Watchman Nee says, “Our sins were dealt with by the blood,we ourselves are dealt with by the cross.” The blood of Christ seals and provides our forgiveness (“without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins- Hebrews 9:22b); But the cross of Christ delivers us from what we are in Adam- slaves of sin!

You see, we were joined with Jesus on the cross. One may ask you, “who was crucified at Calvary?” Certainly most Christians would answer with Jesus, but how many would answer that we were crucified there with him, too? It is a beautiful fact–that we were united with Christ in his death and resurrection. We were united to him in death, as our old selves were crucified with him, and also united in his resurrection, as our new selves were given life!

Fellow believers, we are set free from sin! We are not only forgiven from our past, present, and future sins, but we are a new creature! (2 Cor. 5:17), able to have victory over sin, and to say “NO” to temptation. C.H. Spurgeon once said, “You cannot be married to Christ until you are first divorced from sin.” You may ask, “How can we be divorced from sin?” The answer is that Jesus provided the very divorcement papers! He declared us divorced when we were crucified with Him at Calvary.

Does this describe your walk with Jesus? Can you say that you have accepted this great truth by faith, and leaned on the Spirit to live by it? This is God’s desire for us: to trust in Christ, receive the forgiveness of sins, and to walk a new life in the Spirit, a life characterized by freedom from sin. Throw yourself upon Christ! Trust in Him! This was our greatest need- to be made dead to sin, and alive to God- and He perfectly provided for us. Our old self has been crucified, and our new self has risen with Christ in power. Will you join me in pursuing a life that lives out this identity this year?

Belief and God Working: The Two Go Hand In Hand

This morning I was reading in Mark 6, where Jesus returns to his hometown, Nazareth. The people have heard of Jesus’ miracles and authoritative teaching, yet when he comes back home, they utter, “How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon?…And they took offense at him” Mark 6:2-3.

Jesus replies that he is honored by people everywhere else except for his hometown, a reoccurring theme that has happened ever since the ancient prophets taught in Israel. The verse that struck me, however, was verse 5 and 6, “And he could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief.” This is the first time in Mark’s gospel that we see that Jesus’ power can be limited for those who do not believe. This is not to say that he could not physically do any miracle that he wanted, because, him being fully God, he had the power to do so. He simply could not bring himself to force his miracles on a hostile, skeptical audience.

Knowing myself, if I was in Jesus’ place, the Nazarenes’ skepticism would have actually prompted me to work miracles, to prove them wrong. Yet, this is another example of our Lord’s great humility. He has no desire to prove himself right, to put people to shame, or to prove them wrong by obvious miraculous works. Instead, he keeps teaching and preaching, drawing those to him who truly believe.

My sincere worry, though, is that other believers and myself sometimes become like Nazareth. How many times do we say ,”Well God doesn’t do that anymore,” or “Well I don’t think God would do that.” How many times do we offer our requests up to him, yet we know in our hearts that we doubt that he will do what we ask! How many times do we enter into a situation without first consulting him! How many times do we make a decision without first asking his guidance! I believe that the reasons we do such things is from a lack of belief. My heart aches to wonder how many times we have limited God and his power by our unbelief!

Do you doubt that God will provide for your family financially? Do you doubt that he can turn your brother, sister, son, daughter, or mother’s life around? Do you doubt that he can bring revival or healing in your church? Do you doubt that he can take your weary and tired heart, and set it ablaze for him? Do you doubt that he can reunite your family, or place you in the job that he wants you? Do you doubt that he can speak to you? Do you doubt that he can heal your cancer, give you a child, or draw your friend to salvation?

My friends! I beg you to please ask him to help our unbelief. An easy believism has plagued our society and culture, that has drawn us to use God as nothing but a cherry on the top of our lives. O, how we could feel his presence and see his miraculous hand if we would only believe!! We must draw ourselves close to him, through the reading of his Word and through prayer, with an open heart, saying, “Lord, help us to understand and to believe!” My friends, I ask you to start this journey with me! I will not stop until I feel the Lord’s presence and see him working! Pray for belief!

Mark 9:24, “Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!

“Heavenly Father, would you please work in our hearts and help us with our unbelief! O, how the inner longing of our hearts is to know you and to see you work in our lives! Do not let us be like your hometown, but lead us to a heightened, stronger belief in you and in your power! Do not withdraw your mighty hand from us O God! We need you to bring us to this belief, for on our own, we cannot come to you. Please strengthen us, speak to us by your Spirit, and prompt us to the reading of your Word and to prayer, that we might draw nearer to you, and that our faith may increase. Oh Lord, I beg you to help us with our unbelief!”