PRIVILEGE OF REGENERATION

John 1:12,13 – But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

This passage touches the very heart of the solution to man’s greatest problem, we are sinners without the capacity to fix ourselves. It’s not good enough just to know I am supposed to be kind and merciful, I don’t have the capacity to be kind or merciful on my own. It’s not enough to know that adultery is wrong, I don’t have the purity of nature in myself to live a holy life. To have instruction about being a good parent or a better spouse can’t solve my family problems, only regeneration can. We are all flawed individuals and to be born again is the only way out of our circumstances. That is one of the basic themes of John’s gospel, it is the heart of our Christian faith. Here are some thoughts from Matthew Henry on today’s verses.

“All the children of God are born again; all that are adopted are regenerated. This real change evermore attends that relative one. Wherever God confers the dignity of children, he creates the nature and disposition of children. Men cannot do so when they adopt….It is not propagated by natural generation from our parents. It is not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of corruptible seed. Man is called flesh and blood, because thence he has his original: but we do not become the children of God as we become the children of our natural parents. …It is not produced by the natural power of our own will. As it is not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, so neither is it of the will of man, which labors under a moral impotency of determining itself to that which is good; so that the principles of the divine life are not of our own planting, it is the grace of God that makes us willing to be his…. Positively: it is of God.”

So maybe you are stuck with trying to improve yourself and keep getting frustrated by your failures. There is only one solution, you must be born again and begin to cultivate and trust in the life of Christ inside of you. This is the point of Christ becoming a man, not just to forgive us but to change us. He came to make us daughters and sons.

PRIVILEGE OF ADOPTION

John 1:12,13 – But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

John seems to be rushing to the very point of his gospel in the opening lines, and why not; the unthinkable has become our privilege. We who were rascals, scalawags, liars, thieves, and worse are now called sons and daughters. John unveiled the greatness of the Eternal Son and then immediately talks about why He became man; He came to make us sons. John also begins to go beyond all of the other gospels in these opening verses, he says that as many as receive Him, John was describing the new birth. Receiving Christ, not performance or sacrifice or an intricate belief system but simply receiving Christ. This was the stumbling stone that caused much of the Jewish world to reject Him. He came for all, anyone could receive Christ. Here is how one of our Puritan fathers, Matthew Henry describes the privilege of adoption.

“The privilege of adoption, which takes them into the number of God’s children: To them gave he power to become the sons of God. Hitherto, the adoption pertained to the Jews only but now, by faith in Christ, Gentiles are the children of God. They have power, exousian—authority; for no man taketh this power to himself, but he who is authorized by the gospel charter. To them gave he a right; to them gave he this pre-eminence. This power have all the saints.It is the unspeakable privilege of all good Christians, that they are become the children of God. They were by nature children of wrath, children of this world. If they be the children of God, they become so, are made—Persons are not born Christians, but made such.—Tertullian. Behold what manner of love is this, 1 John iii. 1. God calls them his children, they call him Father, and are entitled to all the privileges of children, those of their way and those of their home.”

This is the heart of our Christian faith, this is why Jesus came, He came to make a way for us to become sons. This is a revelation that will change the way you live. Not only do we have privileges as sons, we have access to relationship with our Heavenly Father.

POWER TO GET WEALTH

Deut.8:18 – And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.

Recognizing our dependence on God is the beginning of wisdom. I’ll never forget a breakfast meeting I had with Dr. Cho in 1994. He told me prosperity had become acurse to the church in Seoul. If you know the story of the Korean church you would understand his statement. Dr. Cho’s church had been birthed in poverty in the 1950’s. His message was the goodness and blessing of God. The church exploded and the people prospered. From Dr. Cho’s perspective the people had stopped looking to the Lord in 1994 and had put confidence in themselves. To Him, prosperity had gone from being a blessing to a curse. Today’s verse reminds us that the ability to prosper comes only from the Lord. Here are comments from Matthew Henry and the Adam Clarke on today’s verse.

“Forget not God’s hand in thy present prosperity. Remember it is he that giveth thee wealth; for he giveth thee power to get wealth….. therefore to him we must give the praise and consecrate the use of it.”

“God-giveth thee power to get wealth. Who among the rich and wealthy believes this saying? Who gives wisdom, understanding, skill, bodily strength, and health? Is it not God? And without these, how can wealth be acquired? Whose is providence? Who gives fertility to the earth? And who brings every proper purpose to a right issue? Is it not God? And without these also can wealth be acquired? No. Then the proposition in the text is self-evident: it is God that giveth power to get wealth, and to God the wealthy man must account for the manner in which he has expended the riches which God hath given him.”

The second part of today’s verse is critical in order to keep blessing from becoming a curse to us. We are clearly shown that we are blessed to be a blessing. The Lord is looking for faithful vessels to use as a conduit for the blessing of God to supply resources for His kingdom. We become the channel the Lord uses. What is the outcome? We are blessed, the work of God is funded, and God is glorified by His provision and the grace of liberality in us.

LIGHT AND LIFE

John 1:4,5 – In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.

The world that we live in is a very dark place. The dilemma most have is this, they can’t recognize the darkness and think that the world is actually progressing. Darkness blinds the eyes of everyone born as sons and daughters of this fallen race. Something is wrong with all of us at the core of our being. We are sons and daughters of darkness until the day that the Sun of Righteousness bursts into our lives. In today’s verse John speaks very clearly about this. Jesus is the Light of the world. He came into this world, entered into His own creation, to pierce the darkness with His light.

Man is also living in a state of death. We are born in our trespasses and our sins and that is our lot in life until life itself breaks through. All life flows from Jesus. Spiritual life is the beginning of our life and it comes only from Him. He is light and life and His life still shines in the darkness. Here is how J.C. Ryle describes this verse.

“We learn…that the Lord Jesus Christ is the source of all spiritual life and light. John tells us, that “in Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” He is the eternal fountain, from which alone the sons of men have ever derived life. Whatever spiritual life and light Adam and Eve possessed before the fall, was from Christ. Whatever deliverance from sin and spiritual death any child of Adam has ever enjoyed since the fall, whatever light of conscience or understanding any one has obtained, all has flowed from Christ. The vast majority of mankind in every age have refused to know Him, have forgotten the fall, and their own need of a Savior. The light has been constantly shining “in darkness.” The most have “not comprehended the light.” But if any men and women out of the countless millions of mankind have ever had spiritual life and light, they have owed all to Christ.”

So have you stepped into the light or are you still living in darkness? Life is born in us as we experience His light of revelation. When Jesus comes into our lives our life finally begins. Every facet of your life will be impacted and made new by the life of God in Christ.

“Faith spies salvation and begins the lifelong gaze”

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS-

“What must I do to be saved!” Acts 16:30

People from around the world, from all races places and time, will always seek the path of salvation; it is the nature of man. It is the million dollar question which has been debated for centuries. People sneer “saved from what?” Gill answers; “thou shalt be saved; from sin, and all its miserable effects and consequences; from the curses of the law, from the power of Satan, from the evil of the world, from the wrath of God, hell and damnation.”

I love the Apostle Paul’s answer to the Jailer. He said, ‘Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.’ He makes it short and sweet. He didn’t lay down a system of works, or self help theories. Paul says, ‘The Lord,’ that is the divine Name; ‘Jesus,’ that is the name of a Man; ‘Christ,’ that is the name of an office. (McClaren) You must grasp the whole revelation of His nature and His power and believe it to flow into your own life. To believe on the Lord Jesus Christ is to lean the whole weight of yourselves upon Him. Just open your heart to wholeness, eternity and freedom.

The jailer in the book of Acts just had an encounter with the supernatural and like the most of us, men bow low when they come in contact with God. The spiritual bars were open and Paul calls for the light. Gill goes onto to say, “his faith spied salvation in Christ and went to him for it. One day he was groping in darkness, worshipping idols, without hope in the future, and ready in desperation to plunge himself into darkness, when he thought his prisoners had fled. In an hour or two ‘he rejoiced, believing in God with all his house.’ The outcast jailer changed nationalities in a moment.” How our world can change in a moment!

Sometimes it takes an earthquake to bring a spiritual Krakatoa. No need to live in a jail cell groping in darkness, seeking answers to a life in misery. What a precious treasure to know that we can be saved by calling upon Jesus. Any person any moment anywhere can find Christ. Take out your binoculars and spy out the land; by faith call upon the one name that can save you and spend the rest of your life gazing upon an eternity of joy.

Isaiah 45:22 says, “Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth“. A look is a swift act, but it is the beginning of a lifelong gaze.” McClarens

Paupers and Kings

John 1:14,16 ¶ And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.

When I accepted Christ into my life in 1973 I had no idea the magnitude of what had happened. I had just begun to connect the dots of my sin, the cross, and forgiveness of my sin. As I began to read my Bible and grow in the Spirit I began to catch glimpses of what John called, in today’s passage, as fullness. It started as I began to see the fullness of God in this man, Jesus of Nazareth. As I continued on in my spiritual journey I began to think the unthinkable. This fullness was now in me. Like John said, ‘of His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace upon grace’. I now find myself in the most amazing life, the fullness of God is my portion. He fills and overflows our hearts with a life that we never thought possible on this side of heaven. Just think about it, if His presence is so overwhelming that we sometimes have our breath taken away and can’t stand in His presence in this life; what will heaven be like? Unthinkable!!! Here are some thoughts from Andrew Murray on this fullness in Christ.

“Read these words until you are gripped by the transcendent fullness of Christ. Let the Spirit lead you into worship appropriate to the One in whom all fullness dwells. I may receive a purse containing very little or nothing at all, or it may contain a substantial amount. Thus it is with Christians. Some receive Christ in terms of the forgiveness of sin and the hope of heaven, yet know little of His fullness and the wealth that is to be found in Him. Others will sacrifice everything in order to be able to say, “From the fullness of his grace we have … received one blessing after another.” Paul was such a one. He said, “I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord”….Have you come to know the Christ in whom such fullness dwells? Or do you live as a pauper, largely dependent on the world for your joy?”

What a question, it begs to be asked again. Are you satisfied living as a pauper dependent on the world for your source of joy or have you discovered the fullness that fills us now?!?!

BOATLOAD OF FISH

Lk.5:8 – But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.

Everyone responds differently to miracles or the power of God. Peter saw the incredible, unexplainable harvest of fish in this story and he was thunderstruck. He suddenly realized just exactly who was standing on his boat. This was the Holy One of Israel. This evokes pictures of Isaiah and the temple when he saw the Lord and was convicted of his sin. Isaiah cried out, “I am a man of unclean lips”. Peter, like Isaiah, began to see the depth of his sinfulness in the light of the Lord’s holiness. This place of conviction of sin is painfully sweet. This is the place where revelation begins, this is the first ‘open door’ we enter through. Peter’s spiritual journey was just beginning. He saw it for himself, it wasn’t about the fish, it was all about Jesus. Here are some thoughts from Albert Barnes from today’s verse.

“This is an expression of Peter’s humility, and of his consciousness of his unworthiness. It was not from want of love to Jesus; it did not show that he would not be pleased with his favor and presence; but it was the result of being convinced that Jesus was a messenger from God—a high and holy being; and he felt that he was unworthy to be in his presence. In his deep consciousness of sin, therefore, he requested that Jesus would depart from him and his little vessel. …We are not worthy to be with him, to be reckoned among his friends, or to dwell in heaven with him; but he came to seek the lost and to save the impure. He graciously condescends to dwell with those who are humble and contrite, though they are conscious that they are not worthy of his presence; and we may therefore come boldly to him, and ask him to receive us to his home—to an eternal dwelling with him in the heavens.”

Have you experienced the bitter sweetness of conviction of sin? Have you seen Jesus as your Savior? Many are stuck on the miracle worker part and miss the greatest miracle of all; new life that comes from forgiveness of our sins. Let Jesus step on your boat; if you do, you will get a whole lot more than a boatload of fish.

THE BEAUTY OF REDEMPTION

1 Cor.1:28, 29 – God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.

Redemption is the display of the beauty of God. Many people can’t see this display of God’s beauty, it is only seen by those who have redeemed eyes. What exactly is this thing called redemption? It’s the whole purpose of the word of God. Mankind is locked up in misery resulting from our separation from the Lord. Our sins have robbed us, blinded us, and destroyed our ability to live and enjoy living. Redemption is the working of the sacrificial blood of Jesus on our souls. The power of redemption starts with forgiveness but doesn’t stop there, far from it. The power of God transforms us into different kinds of people. What is the outcome, we are able to actually enjoy life and God is glorified by the transformation. We see our world through different eyes, we also see the Lord and His church through different eyes. Here are some thoughts from Jonathan Edwards on the beauty of redemption.

“Tis of God that we actually do receive all the benefits that Christ has purchased. ’Tis God that pardons and justifies, and delivers from going down to hell, and ’tis his favor that the redeemed are received into, and are made the objects of, when they are justified. So it is God that delivers from the dominion of sin, and cleanses us from our filthiness, and changes us from our deformity. ’Tis of God that the redeemed do receive all their true excellency, wisdom and holiness; and that two ways as the Holy Ghost by whom these things are immediately wrought is from God, proceeds from him, and is sent by him; and also as the Holy Ghost himself is God, by whose operation and indwelling, the knowledge of God and divine things, and a holy disposition, and all all grace are conferred and upheld.”

This is what the ministry of Paul was all about. He called himself the worst of all sinners because he had attacked the church. It was the beauty of redemption that changed Paul from being a murderer to becoming a wonderful man of God. This was the power of his message. He was preaching his testimony, the beauty of redemption. Next time you go to church have a look around. Former adulterers, liars, thieves, braggarts, drug users, alcoholics, homosexuals, and prostitutes; now they are the people of God, redeemed by the precious blood of Jesus.

MY SOUL LONGS FOR YOU

Psa.63:1 – O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.

Deep in the heart of every human there is a sense of why he was really born. We all know it but most spend their lives trying to ignore it, cloak it with other purposes, or simply deny that it even exists. I’m sure you know what I am talking about, our hearts long to know the Lord intimately; that’s why we were born and nothing else can complete us. No athletic accomplishment, no title or position, no earthly position, and no sexual or family relationship can even come close. At the end of the day Augustine was right, “Our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You”. This is why David’s songs still captivate us 3000 years later, David gave himself to that great pursuit, the pursuit of satisfaction in God. Think about it, David had access to power, finance, women, and anything this world could afford and his pursuit was totally focused on God. He captured what our hearts really long for. Here is how Andrew Murray described it.

“What is the most worthwhile thing humankind can experience on earth? Nothing less than God Himself! And what is the first and most important thing to be done each day? It is nothing less than to seek, to know, to love, and to praise God. As glorious as God is, so is the glory that begins to work in the hearts and lives of those who give themselves to live for God.

It is a great step forward in the life of a Christian when he or she truly sees this and regards their daily fellowship with God as the most important aspect of their existence.

Take time and ask yourself whether this is indeed not the most important thing around which your life should revolve—to know God and to love Him with your whole heart. This is what God desires above all else; and it is that which, in answer to your prayer, He will enable you to do.”

So just go ahead and give in; give in to the hunger that is at the core of your being. It’s not so much in what the Lord can do for you, it is God Himself that you really want and need. David got it , “O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you; my soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water”.

LIVING MY LIFE BY FAITH

Hab.2:4 – But the just shall live by his faith.

This is a verse of scripture that changed the entire world. Paul preached this truth passionately and through this revelation of justification by faith and living by faith New Testament Christianity penetrated the non-jewish world. This verse also was instrumental in birthing the Protestant Reformation which changed Western Civilization and is still changing our world today. Obviously the Apostle Paul and Martin Luther came to the same conclusions from reading this simple verse. They saw that faith in God is what justifies man, not his good deeds. Further, they both believed and taught that it was this faith in God that justified them that also propelled them into a different kind of faith. Those justified by faith will live by faith. Luther said it like this, “The Apostle draws into his argument the testimony of the Prophet Habakkuk: “The just shall live by his faith.” This passage carries much weight because it eliminates the Law and the deeds of the Law as factors in the process of our justification”. Albert Barnes points out that we are not only are justified by faith, we also live by faith.

“By this faith in God, each righteous person begins to live piously, righteously, holily, peacefully and divinely, and advances therein, since in every tribulation and misery, by this faith and hope in God he sustains, strengthens, and increases this life of the soul. He says then, “the just lives by faith,” the unbelieving and unrighteous displeases God, and consequently will not live by the true, right, peaceful and happy life of grace, present righteousness, and future glory because God is displeased with him, and He places his hopes and fears, not in God, but in human beings and man’s help and in created things. But the righteous who believes in God shall live a right, sweet, quiet, happy, holy, untroubled life, because, fixed by faith and hope in God who is the true Life, and in God’ s promises, he is dear to God, and the object of His care.”

So the revolution continues; just as the Apostle Paul was delivered from the bondage of being a Pharisee and Luther threw off the shackles of being a Catholic monk; we too are being liberated today. Faith liberates us from the chains of sinful behavior as well as breaking the shackles of some system of works or self help program. The justified live a new kind of life, a life empowered and sustained by faith.