CHRIST’S COSMIC CLAIM

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This is what the Lord says—he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. (Isaiah 43:1)

Did you know that our Lord Jesus Christ has staked His claim on every Christian from two providential perspectives? The first is natural; the second is supernatural. Let’s take a look.

The Natural Claim of Christ

This claim is rooted in the reality that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Creator and Sustainer of all things; therefore, has a rightful claim on everything in the universe, including you and me.

The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. (Psalm 24:1)

Know that the Lord is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture. (Psalm 100:3)

Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. (John 1:3)

The Supernatural Claim of Christ

This claim is rooted in the reality that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Redeemer and Savior of the world, and therefore, has a rightful claim on everything He has redeemed . . . and again, that includes you and me.

Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Twice born makes you twice His. Even if His natural claim was not enough, surely His supernatural claim is. The “right of redemption” . . . the “claim of the cross” . . . the “buying with the blood” . . . all these forever settle any insurrection on our part. You are still in this world, to be sure, but you are no longer of this world. Your citizenship is in heaven.

Christian, you are merely a pilgrim passing through this world on your way to the Celestial City. But along the way, be still long enough to remember whose you are and the life He is calling you to live for His glory and for the good of others.

Let’s close today’s message with this wonderful quote from the Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper:

There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, “Mine!”

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY!

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For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

Valentine’s Day, the celebration of love and affection, also called Saint Valentine’s Day or the Feast Day of Saint Valentine, is celebrated every February 14. It originated as a Western Christian liturgical feast day, honoring one or more early saints named Valentinus, and it is recognized as a significant cultural and commercial celebration in many regions around the world, although it is not a public holiday in any country. During the 18th century, it evolved into an occasion on which lovers expressed their affection for each other by presenting flowers, offering sweets, and sending greeting cards knows as “valentines.” In Europe, Saint Valentine’s Keys are given to lovers; Wikipedia explains that the key is given “as a romantic symbol and an invitation to unlock the giver’s heart.”

So . . . not knowing where this finds you and just how you might observe Valentine’s Day, I want to offer you a word of cosmic comfort: Did you know that you have been given the “Key” that unlocks God’s heart? That Key is Christ!

God gave the world Christ, the Key who unlocks God’s heart and opens the door leading into eternal life. When you, by grace through faith, believe that Jesus died on a cross for your sins and was raised from death on the third day and you transfer your trust to Him as your Lord and Savior, you possess the Key that opens the floodgates of God’s love into your life.

God’s love sought, caught you, and bought you with the precious blood of Christ. And if that knowledge is not enough to meet you in your place of deepest need for love today, consider this: there is nothing in the universe that can ever or will ever separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39).

For many, Valentine’s Day is a painful reminder of a lost love. As a pastor, I am reminded of this truth by way of my ministry to others. But there is a love that can never be lost. There is a love that transcends every earthly and temporal love. And that love is yours in Jesus Christ. He is the Key who will unlock the door of the eternal love that is as unconditional as it is unwavering.

You may not have an earthly love today to share Valentine’s Day with, but you have a heavenly love that invites you to go further in and further up into your relationship with Jesus, who promised that He would never leave you nor forsake you. You have His Word on that truth.

So regardless of where this finds you today, Happy Valentine’s Day! The one who “so loved you” that He gave His one and only Son for you told me to tell you that.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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NAME GAME

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She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. (Matthew 1:21)

In the ancient world (and in some cultures today), the name given to a newborn baby meant something more than a word with which to call the child. For the Israelite baby, receiving a name was the first significant and important experience in life. Hebrew parents would give the child a particular name for a variety of reasons: to describe their future hopes for the child; to paint a picture of the child’s personality; to commemorate an event close to the time of birth; to continue a family name passed down from previous generations; to utter a prophetic revelation of the destiny of the child. And in God’s perfect providence, many children would live up to their name. Here are the heads of the twelve tribes of Israel.

    Name                      Meaning

Reuben                  “Look, a son!”

Simeon                 “One who hears”

Levi                       “Being attached”

Judah                     “Praise”

Dan                         “To judge”

Naphtali               “My struggle”

Gad                       “Good fortune”

Asher                    “Happy”

Issachar               “Reward”

Zebulun                “Honor”

Joseph                  “May he add”

Benjamin            “Son of my right hand”

God was personally involved in the “Name Game.” When God promised Abram that he would father many nations and that his offspring would outnumber the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashore, he renamed him Abraham, which means “father of many.”

God sent an angel who appeared to Joseph in a dream, telling him what to name the baby that Mary was carrying in her womb: His name was to be Jesus—the Greek form of the name Joshua, which means “the Lord saves”—because He would save His people from their sins.

My name given at birth was Thomas, meaning “twin.” I don’t have a twin; my parents wanted to pass down my father’s name to me. I don’t know what your name is by birth, but I do know what your new name is by second birth: CHRISTIAN, which means “follower of Christ.” You received that name when you, by grace through faith, placed your trust in our Lord Jesus Christ for your eternal salvation.

So the question is this: “Are you living up to your new name?” Now, I am not suggesting that any of us can live up to the name “Christian” perfectly, but we must strive to live up to our name progressively. That is the process that we call sanctification. The same grace that saves us is the same grace that sanctifies us, making us more and more like Christ each day.

Remember, He who gave you your new name and began a good work in you will bring that work to completion when you are brought home into glory (Philippians 1:6). Knowing what your new name in Christ means, will you prayerfully consider any changes you should make in your life in order to better reflect who you truly are? God is ready, willing, and able to bring about that change if you are.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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REASONING WITH OUR REDEEMER

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“Come now, let us reason together,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool.”  (Isaiah 1:18)

Is it right for a mere mortal, stained by sin and self-absorption, to reason with God? As long as we understand the biblical meaning of the word “reason” as it is used her in Isaiah’s prophecy, it is not only right, but it is commanded.

Let’s start with an understanding of what “reasoning with our Redeemer” does not mean. First, it does not mean that we come to the throne room of heaven in the posture of a criminal’s defense attorney and plead our case by defending our wrongdoing and making excuses for our actions. Self-justification is as unwelcome as it is unwarranted when we stand before the revealed truth of Scripture, having knowingly violated it at virtually every turn.

Second, reasoning with our redeemer does not mean that we engage in arguing with the Almighty regarding any set of circumstances. You can see both these sinful forms of “reasoning” placed on dreary display by our first parents as they crouched, shivering in fear before the Lord God Almighty, clad in the flimsy fig leaves of their own self-righteousness.

[God] said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat from?”

The man said, “The woman you put here with me — she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.”

Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?”

The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” (Genesis 3:11-13)

“It’s not my fault,” was Adam’s protest. “You put me in bad circumstances! This woman you gave me is the reason I sinned!” How gracious is our God to listen to such blasphemy and not destroy the one who spoke it!

Eve sought to create an alibi for her actions. “It’s not my fault,” was her feeble defense. “The devil made me do it!” This kind of reasoning does not move the heart of God. All we do is compound our sin by even uttering it!

Reasoning with our Redeemer means that we come humbly and yet confidently to the throne of grace, according to His will, acknowledging the truth of His Word and His promise.

This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. (1 John 5:14)

When we are operating from the organizing principle that directed the entire life of Jesus—“Not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42)—we can be assured that God will hear and respond to our reasoning. And so the only way we can effectively reason with our Redeemer according to the will of God is to know and understand the will of God, and that knowledge comes primarily through meditating on and marinating in the sacred Scriptures.

Remember, God had His Word written down so that we would read it. He could have left it up to the Holy Spirit to inspire, motivate, and guide us, and that would have been sufficient. But God gave us even more—He gave us His God-breathed Bible.

Because Jesus was in constant communication with His Father in heaven, He was always sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit into the will of His Father. There are many ways to commune with God, but the two primary ways are prayer and the reading of the Word. The more time we spend in these two disciplines, the more we will be aligned with God’s will. And the more we are aligned with God’s will, the better we will be able to rightly reason with our Redeemer and receive grace to help us in our times of need.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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DON’T CONFUSE HOLINESS WITH HARDNESS!

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The man who had received the one talent came. “Master,” he said, “I knew that you are a hard man . . .” (Matthew 25:24)

How do you see God?  Do you see Him like the servant who had received one talent in the Parable of the Talents? Know this: how you see God will determine, to an altogether unsuspecting extent, how you serve Him.

The man who received one talent from his master buried it in the ground because he believed his master was a hard man, harvesting where he had not sown and gathering where he had not scattered seed (Matthew 25:24). Make no mistake, if we see God as “hard,” rather than holy, it will affect everything about the way we serve Him . . .

  • Our work will be unrewarding.
  • Our service will be slavery.
  • Our labor will be lukewarm.
  • Our giving will be without gladness.
  • Our toil as trying as it is tiresome.

If we see God as “hard,” we will serve Him out of fear rather than joy, just like the servant in the parable, who was sternly rebuked by his master. Fearful service is faithless service, which brings no glory to God. So we must make the distinction between hardness and holiness. God is not a hard taskmaster; He is holy, and in His holiness God demands that we do the best we can with what He has given us to do it with.

We are to serve by faith, not in fear. When we do, we will experience the freedom and joy that comes from knowing that God is holy, not hard. God expects our best and deserves our best. When we give Him our best—whatever that ends up looking like—we can be assured that He receives it and smiles down upon it.

How is it with you these days? Have you confused holiness with hardness regarding your personal relationship with God? You can know immediately if you have by checking your attitude in your service to the Almighty. If God seems hard to you, you will see your service as a joyless and heavy burden. But if God is holy to you, you will see your service as a huge blessing that will return multiple rewards to you now and which will echo in eternity as well.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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THE MASTER’S MATHEMATICIANS

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We will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. (Ephesians 4:15)

Today’s word of encouragement is rooted in the fact that, as a disciple of Christ, you have been called to be good at the basic skills of math: addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division. How are your mathematical skills? Have you been putting them to good use for the glory of God? Let’s take a look.

ADDITION

Make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-8)

SUBTRACTION

Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. (Colossians 3:5)

MULTIPLICATION

May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. (1 Thessalonians 3:12)

DIVISION

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

To be sure, our Master has called us to be mathematicians. And it is equally certain that we are all stronger in some areas and weaker in others, which is why we need to examine ourselves on a regular basis, just as our math teachers tested us when we were in school. We are to be adding knowledge to our faith . . . subtracting all that is earthly and fleshly from our lives . . . multiplying our love for all those God puts on our path . . . and rightly dividing the Word of truth.

The better we become as mathematicians for our Master, the better we will be able to glorify our God and bring the Good News of eternal good to others . . . all others.

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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A DIVINE DEATH

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These all died in faith. (Hebrews 11:13)

Christians have received great grace from God: we have been raised from death to life so that we can live by faith. But it is an even greater grace from God to be preserved throughout the entirety of our lives so that we can die in faith. That is indeed a divine death which brings almost unimaginable blessings to those who experience it.

The epitaph for the faithful, given from the pen of the inspired writer of Hebrews, echoes in eternity. It matters not how “these all” died. Some died at a ripe old age after many years of fruitful service to their God. Others were called home during the springtime of their lives. Still others died a martyr’s death. But regardless of the timing of their departure, they went out through the veil in faith, and that is all that truly matters.

What starts in faith will end in faith because the Faithful One has promised to preserve us to the end (Philippians 1:6). The saints of God who died in faith did not trust in their own merits nor rest in the glory of their own good works. No, they looked only to Him who gave them the faith they lived by and died in. Living by faith looks both to the past and to the present. Dying in faith looks to the promised future which we do not presently possess, yearning with confident expectation for “the city that is to come” (Hebrews 13:14), where the saints of God will enter into the unbroken and unchanging presence of their Lord and Savior and rejoice in every spiritual blessing.

Here indeed is cosmic comfort: Whether we live or we die, we do so in faith, trusting in the Lord’s faithfulness to His covenant promises. God is not a man that He should ever lie or change His mind (Numbers 23:19). The promises of God are as certain and secure as they are satisfying, and each one of those promises finds its “Yes” and “Amen” in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20).

We all die; the question is how we will die. Either we die in faith or we die in our sin. To die in sin is to spend eternity separated from the love of God and surrounded by His eternal wrath and judgment. But to die in faith is to live submerged in the shining sea of the Savior’s eternal light and love.

So . . . how will your epitaph read when you breathe your last? If you are trusting in Christ alone, by grace alone, through faith alone, it will read as it does for all those in the “Faith Hall of Fame”—These all died in faith. And that is a divine death indeed!

This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!

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