CAPTURED BY GRACE

Gal.1:15 – But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace,

Paul seemed to be fixated all his life on that moment in time on the Damascus Road that changed his life forever. Everything changed that day. What caused the change? The obvious is what he saw on his way to Damascus, he said Jesus came to him with a light shining out from Him brighter than the sun at noon day. That is quite impressive but just seeing something like that, no matter how magnificent, can’t change everything. Just seeing something outwardly, no matter how incredible, doesn’t have the ability to change us. The answer to what changed Paul that day can be seen in this little phrase at the beginning of this devotion. Paul said that God was pleased to separate him from before the time he was born by God’s grace. What is grace? Many think it is the overlooking of our sinful lives by God. That definition doesn’t even come close. Grace is the influence of God on our hearts that actually changes the things we love. We used to love sin and now we find Jesus as incredibly attractive. That love and attraction to the Lord is what separated Paul and called him into his new life. He was called to follow Jesus through the influence of grace. Here is how Augustine described grace; this is one of my all time favorite quotes.

“During all those years [of rebellion], where was my free will? What was the hidden, secret place from which it was summoned in a moment, so that I might bend my neck to your easy yoke? . . . How sweet all at once it was for me to be rid of those fruitless joys which I had once feared to lose! . . . You drove them from me, you who are the true, the sovereign joy. You drove them from me and took their place, you who are sweeter than all pleasure , though not to flesh and blood, you who outshine all light, yet are hidden deeper than any secret in our hearts, you who surpass all honor, though not in the eyes of men who see all honor in themselves. . . .O Lord my God, my Light, my Wealth, and my Salvation.”

So what is it that keeps you from really selling out to the Lord? That is the thing that will no longer have its attraction to you and hold on you once you drink deeply from this cup of grace. Once you were a slave to the pleasure of that particular sin, that is until grace came. The pleasure found in the knowledge of the Lord replaces the foolish pleasures of sin.

BEFORE TIME BEGAN

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Gal. 1:15,16 ¶ But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles…

Have you ever thought about the fact that the Lord created all things and that time itself is part of the Creation? Living inside of that realm of time and space we cannot comprehend the timelessness of God and His plans. Paul said in Ephesians that God knew him (knew him intimately) from eternity. It’s more than knowing about you or decisions you will make, He has known us from before time. Our salvation is the moment that His grace breaks in on us and we begin to taste His great love for ourselves. From that moment He begins to reveal Christ to us and in us. Luther describes this phenomenon in his comments on today’s verse.

“Paul is saying, “When I was not yet born God ordained me to be an apostle, and in due time confirmed my apostleship before the world. Every gift, be it small or great, spiritual or temporal, and every good thing I should ever do, God has ordained while I was yet in my mother’s womb where I could neither think nor perform any good thing. After I was born God supported me. Heaping mercy upon mercy, He freely forgave my sins, replenishing me with His grace to enable me to learn what great things are ours in Christ. To crown it all, He called me to preach the Gospel to others. Did God call me on account of my holy life? Or on account of my pharisaical religion? Or on account of my prayers, fastings, and works? Never. Well, then, it is certain God did not call me on account of my blasphemies, persecutions, oppressions. What prompted Him to call me? His grace alone.”
Luther grasped this Pauline revelation in his own life. As Christ was revealed in him and to him his message began to go out and penetrate the darkness of the religious world of the sixteenth century. In the same way the grace of God captures us and begins to flow out of us to touch the dark world that we live in. Have you seen it yet? The Lord has known you from your mother’s womb and even before. Meditate on His love for you, as it breaks in upon you the light of His grace will touch your world through your actions and words.

GRACE AND PEACE

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Gal. 1:3 ¶ Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ,

Two of the most influential voices in the development of Western Civilization is the Apostle Paul and Martin Luther. Actually, Luther was a preacher of the Apostolic message of the Apostle Paul, “the just shall live by faith”. Luther’s story is quite classic. He was an Augustinian monk who desperately wanted to please God. He spent years in strict adherence to the teachings of the Catholic Church in his day that required an austere system of works that left Luther frustrated. He said that he hammered on the teachings of Paul and hated the concept of the righteousness of God. No matter how hard Luther persisted in his self denial and rigid practice of the requirements of the church he felt condemned by his own conscience and failure to attain to the righteousness of God. In a moment of time Luther saw it. It was righteousness that comes by faith in Christ. Righteousness was a gift of grace, not something anyone could earn. Finally he was at peace, he had found peace with God by grace through faith. Here are some of Luther’s thoughts on today’s verse.

“Grace remits sin, and peace quiets the conscience. Sin and conscience torment us, but Christ has overcome these fiends now and forever. Only Christians possess this victorious knowledge given from above. These two terms, grace and peace, constitute Christianity. Grace involves the remission of sins, peace, and a happy conscience. Sin is not canceled by lawful living, for no person is able to live up to the Law. The Law reveals guilt, fills the conscience with terror, and drives men to despair. Much less is sin taken away by man-invented endeavors. The fact is, the more a person seeks credit for himself by his own efforts, the deeper he goes into debt. Nothing can take away sin except the grace of God. In actual living, however, it is not so easy to persuade oneself that by grace alone, in opposition to every other means, we obtain the forgiveness of our sins and peace with God.”
I can remember the horrible torment of my guilty conscience. One of the proofs to me of the reality of my Christian faith was the incredible peace that came in me and upon me after I believed in Jesus Christ. No longer was shame and guilt hammering away at me, I had found acceptance with God; for me, nothing else could ever matter.

CHRIST IN YOU

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It was the good pleasure of God . . . to reveal his Son in me. Galatians 1:15–16

One of the strangest statements in the Bible was this, “among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he”. Two amazing parts to this statement, John was greater than all the Old Testament prophets and the least believer in the New Testament was greater than John. How could the simplest Christian be greater than the greatest of the Old Testament prophets? The answer is quite stunning. The Old Testament prophets had an anointing upon them, Christians today have Christ actually living inside of us. There is really no comparison, we have become new kinds of creatures in Christ. Here is how Watchman Nee describes this truth.
“I would not, if I could, exchange places with the disciples, even on the Mount of Transfiguration. The Christ with whom they lived was a Christ limited by time and space. Was He in Galilee? Then He could not be found in Jerusalem. Was He in Jerusalem? Then men sought him in vain in Galilee. But today Christ is limited neither by time nor space, for He lives in the power of an endless life, and the Father has been pleased to reveal Him in my heart. He was with them sometimes; He is with me always. They knew Him then after the flesh, saw Him, touched Him, lived with Him in the closest contact. “Now know we him so no more,” and yet I know Him in truth, for I know Him as God is pleased He should be known. Has He not given me the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him?”
Even the experiences of the apostles before the death and resurrection could not be compared to what we have today in Christ. All of that changed on the Day of Pentecost, suddenly everyone, every ethnic group was able to be filled with the Holy Spirit. No longer was it just the special few, all flesh could be filled with the Holy Spirit. No longer were the disciples and even the common lay person just an observer, Christ was now in everyone who believed displaying His glory through miracles, signs, and wonders. That’s the day we live in, the Lord wants to display His glory in and through your life.

CHURCH INTERRUPTED

Gal. 1:15 But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace,

In one of Jonathan Edwards’ defenses of revival he actually prayed that the Lord would “interrupt” services all over New England. He felt that formalism and deadness of heart had stolen the joy and spontaneity of their Christian faith. Maybe we need to pray that prayer again today in 2016, “Lord, interrupt our services one more time”. Church can be so predictable and just plain routine. I can’t think of anything worse than a cold, dead church service. We need tongues of fire and a rushing mighty wind to shake things up again; that is unless your are satisfied with the status quo. Every generation or so the Lord sends His holy interruptions into our world. I think of the Welch Revival and the Pentecostal outpouring at Azusa Street and even the Great Awakening that birthed our great nation. There has recently been a lot of talk about making America great again. The only one thing that can accomplish this may be the last place people will look, I think the greatness came from that holy interruption called the Great Awakening. Here are some thoughts from Oswald Chambers on holy interruptions.
“As servants of God, we must learn to make room for Him—to give God “elbow room”. We plan and figure and predict that this or that will happen, but we forget to make room for God to come in as He chooses. Would we be surprised if God came into our meeting or into our preaching in a way we had never expected Him to come? Do not look for God to come in a particular way, but do look for Him. The way to make room for Him is to expect Him to come, but not in a certain way. No matter how well we may know God, the great lesson to learn is that He may break in at any minute. We tend to overlook this element of surprise, yet God never works in any other way. Suddenly, God meets our life—“when it pleased God.”

Maybe this Sunday will be one of those “holy interruptions”. I sure hope so. Our church was interrupted on a Sunday morning in August of 1994. For some, it was the greatest day of all time. For others, not so much. I guess the real reason not everyone like God’s interruptions may be that it always requires a change. Some prefer predictable and safe because change is out of the question.

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HUNGRY FOR THE LOST

HUNGRY FOR THE LOST

Gal. 1:23-24 They only were hearing it said, “He who used to persecute us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God because of me.

I went to Bible School after being born again for just two weeks. Parris and I got married in New Orleans and headed on our journey to California. I think it was the day after I arrived in Kerman, California that some of the “brothers” from the seminary took me out to F&G Street to do street evangelism. F&G was the local red light and bar district. I was getting baptized into the passion of that Bible School called God’s Army (the name was a perfect fit for the ministry). Souls, that’s what we cried for, souls. I was being given the hunger for souls that Jesus spoke about. John 4:34-35 ¶ Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work. Do you not say, “There are still four months and then comes the harvest’? Behold, I say to you, lift up your eyes and look at the fields, for they are already white for harvest! Jesus was speaking about a spiritual hunger, not unlike a hunger for God. He said His soul hungered for souls. Adam Clarke spoke powerfully for this God imparted passion for the lost.

“My meat is to do the will of him that sent me. In these words, our blessed Lord teaches a lesson of zeal and earnestness to his apostles, and to all their successors in the Christian ministry. Let the salvation of souls lie nearer your heart than life itself. Let eating and drinking, labour and rest, reading, thinking, study, prayer, and all things, be directed to the accomplishment of this great work. Ministers of Jesus! imitate your Lord! Souls are perishing for lack of knowledge—God has given you the key of the kingdom, the knowledge of his word—O open unto them the gate of life! They are dropping by thousands into hell! O pluck the brands out of the burning!”

This hunger for the lost Clarke spoke of was the fuel that fed the fire of the Methodist revival in the 1700’s and 1800’s. this longing to see souls come to Christ is not natural. This passion for lost human beings is not in the hearts of natural man. This is a gift, an imparted desire, given by God. Actually, it is the very heart of God. It is the “God so loved the world” heart of our Father God. This is the passion that brought Jesus to the world. This is the joy that was set before The Lord that kept Him headed toward the cross. Have you tasted this heavenly passion? It is contagious. I caught it from those brothers at God’s Army, maybe you can catch it today. The lost are all around us. They are in the schools, at work, they are even present in the pews next to us at church. If your heart is cold or unconcerned for the lost ask God for His passion. He still so loves the world and wants love through you.