Salvation ... comes from the Lord ... because they take refuge in him. (Psalm 37:39-40)

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Jesus Saves

Today we celebrate Easter.  Three days after a brutal death by crucifixion, the resurrection of Jesus Christ accomplished the greatest rescue ever known to mankind.  For all who believe in him, he provides eternal life (see John 3:16).  
Last month marked the passing of Billy Graham.  No man in history has ever publicly quoted the verses in John 3 to more people in his lifetime.   The Bible says, “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. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17).  Dr. Graham devoted his life to preaching the message of a resurrected Christ.  Jesus said “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).  A person can only truly know God by believing in Jesus.  
Although I never met him or never attended one of his crusades, Billy Graham had a profound impact on my life.  Rarely did a message of his that I saw on the TV, or heard on the radio, not bring tears to my eyes at some point while he was talking.  God’s love brings overwhelming comfort to the soul.  Like none other, Dr. Graham helped instill deep into my spirit, a love and passion for sharing the good news of Jesus.  He communicated the gospel of Jesus with unmatched clarity and simplicity. Everywhere he went, and to millions of people around the globe, he had the same message.  Jesus saves.  God’s love is so deep, there’s absolutely no way God can turn a person away whose heart is fully surrendered.  
Soaking in the message that Jesus saves is the quickest way out of depression, anxiety, worry, or any trouble in life.  Common, ordinary challenges all seem easier to bear after stopping to ponder what Jesus endured to accomplish our salvation.  Jesus saves the lost.  To benefit from what he did, I have to admit I’m lost.  When I’m willing to admit I need help (when something went wrong and created loss), Jesus rescues.  Big messes or little goofs, no problem is too tough for Jesus to redeem.  Thank God, Jesus saves!
Jesus never promised to eliminate difficulties in life.  If we had no troubles, he would have nothing to save.  We cannot live a “good life” through our own will power. It’s not about being good enough, strong enough, or smart enough.  It’s about being “fed up” enough to let Jesus be enough.  Jesus is enough.  He is always enough.  
It really is that simple.  Jesus saves.  That message is enough.  
For the follower of Christ, every day is Easter.   Every day, Jesus saves.  My prayer is that you make him enough for you today!
To take the next step after you acknowlege you need what Jesus has done for you, is to say something like this, “I am thankful for what Jesus did for me by dying on a cross and being raised from the dead, I surrender to his power to make me a whole person.”   As you surrender to the teachings of Jesus as described in the Bible, you turn around your ways of thinking and acting, and take on his new life.  Join in company with other believers to help this process and you’re on your way to a new life to confess that Jesus saves.  
The Bible (most trustworthy book on the planet) says,
This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
    he is my God, and I trust him.  ….
  The Lord says, “I will rescue those who love me.
    I will protect those who trust in my name.
 When they call on me, I will answer;
    I will be with them in trouble.
    I will rescue and honor them.
 I will reward them with a long life
    and give them my salvation.”  (Psalm 91:2,14-16;New Living Translation)

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Sanctifying Life: 6 More Stepping Stones

Sanctification is the topic of the previous article which discussed the first 5 stepping stones.  This article describes 6 more facits of the definition provided by a dictionary definition.             The Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines “sanctify” with the following:  to cleanse, purify, set apart, separate, prepare for divine service, ordain and appoint to the work of redemption, cleanse from corruption, purify from sin, render productive of holiness or piety, make free from guilt, and secure from violation.      
At this point, reading the previous article will help fit this together.  Sanctifying life is like crossing a flowing stream of water.  God gives us stepping stones to navigate, but we need to intentionally take the steps and allow the cleansing process of the water to work out the details.  A decision to follow Jesus is not the final destination.  Salvation of our soul begins the journey of crossing the stream of life to fall into the arms of Father God on the other side.  
As we look at these 6 stepping stones, let’s again ask ourselves the question, “Am I living living a sanctifying life?”   Which of these areas might God have you focus on for change?
6. Ordain and appoint to the work of redemption - (2 Corinthians 5)  To redeem is to purchase back or to deliver.  Our sinful condition from birth made us a prisoner in slarery to the enemy.  Jesus delivered our soul from this condition.  Christ’s deliverance gives us more freedom as we surrender more of our heart to the process.  But it doesn’t stop there.  God makes us part of an army sent out to deliver others.  God sanctifies our life so that our focus does not remain on our own welfare, but the welfare of others.  In the journey of crossing the stream, our duties include helping others prevent drowning and finding the stepping stones to sustain life.  Are you able to explain to someone else what Christ’s  “redemption” means?  Are you growing in your understanding and practice of forgiveness and reconciliation?  Are you able to extend grace to close friends  (in their imperfections), and can you give your trust to God, for Him to do His work, with His timing and methods, in their lives?  
7. Cleanse from corruption - (Proverbs 20:10; 2 Peter 2:17-22)  The Bible says,  “People are  slaves to whatever has mastered them” (2 Peter 2:19).  Sometimes we need deliverance for something that has a particular strong hold on our thinking and behavior.  Addiction would be an example of this.  Or, corrupt activity may be in our family line producing destructive patterns. We may even need outside help to become free.  Is there a bad habit in your life you have tried to kick, but you can’t get victory over it?  What desires (that lead to bad deeds) seem hardest to control?  What undesirable habits exist in your family line, and what is the impact on your life?   
8. Purify from sin - (Mark 7:17-23)  Sin is not about wrong actions, as much as it is about a corrupted condition of heart.   Allowing your heart to be reconditioned and purified by Jesus, removes the desire to sin.  Change from the inside out produces more lasting results.  Turning bitterness and resentment over to God will free the heart of rage leading to an act like murder.  The Bible calls them “bitter roots” (see Hebrews 12:15).  Anger is often a sign of a bitter root.  Bitter roots are created by routine critical judgments we make (so common we are not even aware of them).  This topic of  inner life change is frequently discussed in previous articles on my web site.  What is your anger trying to tell you about your heart condition?  Are you “seeing to it” that no bitter root is given room in your heart (see Hebrews 3:13, 12:15)?  What part of your belief system is causing you to form critical opinions (judgments) of people?  
9. Render productive of holiness or piety - (1 Corinthians 7:1)  God is holy.  No man can be holy in the way God is holy.  However, Christians are to represent God’s holiness as best as is possible for mankind.  We are to give God the “glory due his name” (Psalm 29:2).  Jesus commanded us to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37).  
What does it mean for God to be holy?  Do you love him with all your being?   Is there an idol that might stand in the way?  What is the next step to removing the ungodliness from your life?  
10. Make free from guilt - (Hebrews 10:22)  Repentance prepares the way for sanctification.  Guilt is a good thing, and should lead us to confession and repentance (turning away from wrong doing).  Don’t confuse guilt with shame. Shame condemns who you are as a person.  God does not condemn people for who they are.  God condemns wrong doing (sin).  God provides forgiveness for wrong doing.  Shame comes from condemning self ( rejecting self) as not worthy of God’s forgiveness.  Along with any actions that offend God, we can repent for the guilt of shaming ourselves, and thus be free of shame as well!  God works forgiveness and sanctification.  Our good works can never take the place of that for which we must rely on God.  Are there sins for which you have not repented and asked God’s forgiveness?  Are you trying to “work off” (perform your way out of) a guilty conscience?   Are you feeling condemnation (shame) that is holding you back from the freedom Christ has provided you?  Are you willing to repent (turn these things over to God) and receive his forgiveness?  Do it right now!
11. Secure from violation - (Psalm 91) “Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty.  ….  With long life I will satisfy him and show him my salvation”  (Psalm 91:1,16).  God is our salvation.  Our “good works” to not save us.  In fact, our attempts to get good enough for God, end up driving us further away.  Going to church, practicing spiritual disciplines, nor progress made (past experiences) in the areas mentioned above, can be relied on for salvation.  We must surrender (hand over) the steering wheel and let God be the Driver for our remaining journey on the sanctifying life.   In the metaphor of crossing the stream, we must hold out our hand and let God’s strong hand-grip  deliver us from the raging, over-powering currents.   Is God the place where your security lies?  To what degree are other people, places, or things in the way of God being a greater  Refuge; Salvation; Sanctifying Life?  Is he your Source (is your full trust in him) for all the good change mentioned above?   
There is a verse in the Bible that people often mis-interpret, and thus rely too much on self-effort for the sanctifying life.  “Work out your salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) is to reinforce living out the previous verses  with honor and respect for God. The verse before it summarizes, “every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord,  to the glory of God the Fatherj” (Pilippians 2:11).    “Work out your salvation” is not a license to trust in your own efforts to be saved, but an admonishment to cooperate with the work of God in our lives.  This is explicitly stated in the next verse, “for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13).  The work of sanctifying life is merely to surrender to, and cooperate with, the work of God In this world.   
Are there things in your life you want to see improved a year from now? Do you want to be a better person?  Do you want to lead, speak, parent, teach, or work with more authority and influence?  Unfortunately, most people aren’t willing to make the changes necessary for sanctifying life, but, if you are still reading this article, you are likely one of the ones who are.  Thus, I have a challenge for you.  For  each of the next eleven months, take one of the areas above and make it a focus for positive change in your life.  Study the Bible on the topic.  I gave some Scripture references for starters.  Pray about it.  Ask God to show you areas that need changed (sanctified) and allow Him to show you how to make it happen.  He is more than willing to meet you where you are (in the stream) and sanctify your life for the journey (left to navigate).  Take the twelth and final month as an evaluation and planning (rest) month the next year.  Evaluate with questions like the following.  Am I now more comfortable with the process of change?   What is the hardest part?  In what areas do I see the greatest improvements?  How can I help others and join with others in sanctifying life?  
One more question ..  Does this article ask enough questions?  <smile>  Please write to me and whare with me any new questions  that come to your mind.  Share your answers too.  I trust God has all the answers!  

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Sanctifying Life: 5 Stepping Stones

Sanctification is not just a theologican term, but should be the daily guide for the Christian life.  Let’s look at what it is and why it makes all the difference.  
The Webster’s 1828 dictionary defines “sanctify” with the following:  to cleanse, purify, set apart, separate, prepare for divine service, ordain and appoint to the work of redemption, cleanse from corruption, purify from sin, render productive of holiness or piety, make free from guilt, and secure from violation.      
We may have differing perspectives on which of these meanings is most important or most relevant, but they all have one thing in common.  Salvation through Jesus is the thread through all.  Jesus came to complete the work of sanctification.  Jesus as Savior includes Jesus as Sanctifier.  Salvation of the human soul comes through sanctification.  The path into God’s presence is through sanctification.  
Each of us needs a Savior because the first man God created (Adam) turned away from God.  When we believe in Jesus, is when we activate salvation and sanctification.  Theologians talk about sanctification from three angles; past, present, future.  That is, “ I am saved,” ”I am being saved,” and “I will be saved.”  In legal terms, God has pronounced a judgment of “requirements fulfilled,” “requirements being fulfilled,” and “requirements yet to be fulfilled.”  Belief in Jesus is our initiation into a new covenant with God (see Luke 22:20; Hebrews 8).  Requirements for our salvation are complete, they are in process, and they include a promise of future completion, all at the same time.  
If that seems like too much to wrap your brain around, it’s okay.  It  is for me too.  But this I know.  God is good, so I can trust the future to him, and I’m sure that part of sanctification will be glorious.  I see that as heaven, and I’m looking foward to it.  As far as the past, Jesus accomplished all that is needed, so by believing in Jesus, I am saying “yes, I’m in” to this sanctification thing.  Now that just leaves the middle part of “being saved.”  This is the part that plays out the rest of my life on earth.  The “process” part (in the present) is the part that begins with my conversion experience and continues until the day I die.  Let’s consider some more things about this process.  
The ongoing work of sanctification in life creates a real battleground. The battle for our soul is not finished with a conversion experience.  The real battle for our soul intensifies at conversion.  The battle for a completely sanctified soul is won by continually surrendering yourself over to the work of sanctification (as described in the definition above).  The sancifying life is about significant change in the direction of glorifying God (see Romans 5).
Failing to understand this can lead to false hopes and expectations about what the “Christian life” should look like. Inner life change is at the center of the battlefield.  The struggles of life are real.  The struggles are not meant to defeat us, but to sharpen out skills to become a better spiritual warrior.  Many examples of this are written in the Bible for our encouragement.
A model for us is the ancient Israelites who were given a “promised land” by God upon exiting Egypt.  They had to invade, conquer, and possess that land in order to enforce the “promise.”   Egypt represents the life of sin we are exiting when we convert to following Christ.   Christ Jesus is the promised Messiah as the “promised land” for our existence.  We must get past the resistance, fight the good fight, and rest in the completed work of Jesus, in order to inherit Father’s promise to us of the sanctified life.  
Are you living a sanctifying life?  Which of these areas might God have you focus on for change?
1. Cleansing - (Psalm 51) To make room for the new, sometimes the old must be cleaned out.  Old belief systems, thought patterns, habits, etc. may need to be cleansed for the new beliefs, commitments, and surrender to take a firmer hold.  Too much electronic media, video games, movies, or activities like lying, cheating, flirting, or exposing your mind to internet sites that exploit human sexuality  (porn).  Cleansing of thoughts and activities are part of sanctification.  What needs cleansing in your life?  Are there friendships you need to let go because they are having too much negative influence in your life?  Do you give too much time or attention to TV, facebook, alcohol or something else?
2. Purifying - (Psalm 12:6) A precious metal like gold is valued by its degree of purification.  The less impurities, the greater the value.  Truth purifies.  The Bible is the authoritative Word of God.  That means it is the supreme source of Truth.  Wisdom is gained from instruction in God’s Word (Proverbs 1).  Our hearts and minds need purifying.  We live in a world of information overload.  Purifying may mean giving more attention to the real source of Truth.  Are you reading your Bible to relate to God and get to know Him better?  Is the Bible worth more to you, and respected more by you, than any other book or influence?  Do the things you allow to influence your mind, need stricter filters?  
3. Set apart - (Psalm 4:3) “Fitting in” should not be our goal. Fulfilling our unique God-given purpose for being should be our goal. Comparing ourselves to other people or “normal” standards, can keep a us from growing in the skills, talents, relationships, and environment we need to flourish in the call on our lives.   Are you comparing yourself to others too much?  Does it bother you that others appear more capable, more good looking, or stronger than you think you can become?  Is your concept of self based more on what you do than who your God created you to be on the inside?  
  4. Separate - (2 Corinthians 10:2-6) We are in the world, but we should not allow the world to dictate how we think and act.  As we grow in being a Christ-follower, we develop an ability to discern right from wrong.  Good must be separated from evil.  Evil is real and it needs to be uprooted from all aspects of our life.  We must be aware of enemy schemes to deceive us into believing lies.  Refrain from dabbling in “questionable” practices.  Stick to what can be confirmed true to Bible standards.  Do you “play around” with things you know are wrong?  Are you growing in your ability to “distance yourself” from things you know are wrong?  What might you fear the most about taking a stand for truth?  
5. Prepare for divine service - (Leviticus 20:24; 1 Corinthians 6:18-20) We are to demonstrate how much we value Jesus and the salvation he purchased for us with his own life blood.  We do this by surrendering our entire being to his service (see Romans 12:1-2).  Life is not about us.  It is about God’s Kingdom, ie. His rule and reign as a sovereign King.  We are to be at His service, and not the reverse.  What is most important in your life?  Is God no. 1?  What is in the way of God being no. 1 at all times?  Is pleasing God more of a passion than pleasing people?  Why, or why not?  
There are six more aspects of the dictionary definition of “sanctify” to consider.  Stay tuned for the next blog to consider those.  

by Ed Hersh, Blue Rock BnB Healing Ministry