For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
[Ephesians 2:8-10 NKJV]
Created for good works ...
The subject of our being ‘created ... for good works’ has caused great theological debate over the centuries, with our good works often taken as our purpose; but Paul makes it plain that we are His workmanship, and that the good works we are to walk in are His workmanship also.
Our purpose is to live as the joy of His creation, looking to Him as the author and finisher of our faith, and growing in our relationship with Him, to express inwardly and outwardly His perfect nature. It sounds great — and indeed it is — but, as we know, it is far from the easiest thing for us. We are flighty and our focus so easily alights on pretty distractions that are put in our paths.
But that not of yourselves ...
It is important to remember that we were chosen before the beginning of the world. This is not that we should say “It’s not my fault, Lord. You chose me!” In a sense, we would be justified in thinking this only if we weren’t chosen by Him in the first place. Ultimately, we are not our own; we are His. We have each been bought at a price ... and such a price too!
And you He made alive, who were dead ...
... and He does it still. It is both a completed work and an unfinished ever-creative one. That is the beauty — and the mystery — of God’s workmanship. His is the finished work, our part is to see His growing unfinished work in us.
If there is to be another revival, it will be through the readjustment of those of us on the inside who call ourselves Christians.
In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.
[Ephesians 1:7-10 NKJV]
The picture above is a copy of my notes taken while listening to an inspiring man of God speak at a meeting about 15 or 20 years ago. I do not know how coherently it reads, and I see that I have missed bits out here and there, but to me it represents an important piece in the jigsaw that is my maturing walk with The Lord.
Thinking of this man of God reminded me that he often referenced Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, so I felt to re-read through Ephesians — and of course found some verses which have been an immense inspiration for me, as well as millions of others, I am sure. These words speak eloquently for themselves; a wonderful exposition of redemption, and marvellous words to dwell in.
In Him We Have Redemption - David Fellingham
If I am a Christian, to whom is my appeal? To none but to those God sends you to. You can’t get men to come; nobody could get you to come till you came. “The wind bloweth where it listeth: . . . so is every one that is born of the Spirit.”
I will praise You, O LORD, with my whole heart;
I will tell of all Your marvelous works.
I will be glad and rejoice in You;
I will sing praise to Your name, O Most High.
[Psalm 9:1-2 NKJV]
We can forget that our praises are sacrificial offerings — the sacrifice of praise. In praise, we are giving everything of ourselves; we are lifted into a different sphere, because I am focussed on He that is greater than I. It is part of what is described as death to self; a message that seems unpalatable, and yet it is so uplifting and easy when we throw ourselves fully into praise, because we are transported to a greater reality; the reality of Jesus Christ.
But we must be careful in this. Praise can become an end in itself; almost a drug; for we enjoy the lifting up, the exhilaration of the moment. This can be a trap, when we are merely enjoying ourselves — our eyes diverted away from who we should be worshipping. Not that there should not be enjoyment; perhaps joy would be a better description? Praise is not there to serve us, but to glorify The Lord.
Psalm 9:1-2 shows us the sure heart of our praise. Sing praise to your name, O Most High!
Sing Praises Unto God, Sing Praises
It is the most natural thing to be like the person you live with most, therefore live most with Jesus Christ; be absorbingly taken up with Him.
And He will send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
[Matthew 24:31 NKJV]
I am writing on this subject because on Saturday evening I was sitting and talking with Milady, and I heard inwardly a sound unlike no other; a deep resonant sound which I could not at first identify. Then I remembered an album I had on cassette many years ago of music from the Middle East, which featured the many and varied instruments of that region. One of those instruments was the Shofar - a rams horn, made into a trumpet. However, the trumpet is actually another instrument altogether*. The Shofar, or horn has a very distinctive sound and was used in a variety of ways, but primarily as a call to commence battle, or as an alert to signify something momentous. In each case this signifies a beginning.
There is a significance too, in the fact of it being made for preference from ram’s horn** (although often from a wild goat horn) — a connection with the ‘ram in the thicket’ sacrificed in place of Isaac perhaps, I do not know. What I do know is that such a sound in your head is quite a thing. A wake-up call, indeed!
From that moment, I have been especially aware of The Lord moving; of a change in the spiritual atmosphere. This, so far, is unquantifiable to me beyond a handful of small events signifying a shift in the way things are, and this is the essence of the sound of a trumpet — change.
Listen brother to the trumpet sound
We are free, we’re no longer bound
When the Son has set you free
Rise up and proclaim your liberty
Don’t you settle for the prison floor
When the Lord has offered you so much more
Shed your shackles of sin and doubt
Let faith arise, walk on out
When the enemy seeks to bind
Plays captivity on your mind
Telling you that can’t be free
And there’s no such thing as Jubilee
Don’t you settle for the prison floor
When the Lord has offered you so much more
Shed your shackles of sin and doubt
Let faith arise, walk on out
* see Numbers 10:2 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying: “Make two silver trumpets for yourself; you shall make them of hammered work; you shall use them for calling the congregation and for directing the movement of the camps.
** the larger ones (as in the illustration above) are made from the horn of the Greater Kudu, a type of antelope.
Shofar (Ram's Horn Trumpet) Blowing
Never try to explain God until you have obeyed Him. The only bit of God we understand is the bit we have obeyed.
As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?
But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses.
But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet.
For this is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.’
[Matthew 11:7-10 NKJV]
If you are searching for something that you have misplaced, you will only find it where you placed it. If that something is a thought or an idea, you can work to reclaim it or realise it. You may or may not succeed. When it comes to the spiritual, we may not even know that we are searching. We may have pre-conceived notions, or ideas that have been fed to us, which we do not question, or merely an emptiness that we did not know could be filled.
But Jesus says “but what did you go out to see?” What were your expectations? He asks us to question why we are where we are - standing before Him in the crowd, listening to His words. Three times He says about John the Baptist “what did you go out to see?” A wild man from the desert, ranting incoherently? Did you expect someone in fine clothes, bringing words of comfort, soothing to the ear? Or were you looking for a prophet, showing the way ahead? In other words, are you seeking entertainment, or comfort, or truth?
Jesus speaks shortly after John has sent word seeking to know if Jesus was "The Coming One". He tells the crowd that John is the the messenger God reveals in Malachi chapter 3 - the one who points the way to The Messiah. We cannot see Jesus without being shown the way. Jesus cannot be seen with the natural eye. In verse 14, Jesus says "And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!" Thus we have a picture of the heavenly one showing the way by which He may be seen. Seek and you will find.
So, what do we go out to see? Do we see Jesus standing before us in the everyday reality. We may be searching for any number of misplaced attitudes and truth; to be comforted or lifted in the Spirit; but we shall only find what we are looking for if we go out of ourselves to see Jesus. He will show us the way back to Himself. He is the only answer,
Open The Eyes of My Heart Michael W Smith
(Written by Paul Baloche)
Beware of the sentiment that we consecrate natural gifts to God; we cannot, we can only consecrate to God the holy disposition He gives us (Romans 12:1).
Who may worship in your sanctuary, LORD? Who may enter your presence on your holy hill?
Those who lead blameless lives and do what is right, speaking the truth from sincere hearts.
Those who refuse to gossip or harm their neighbours or speak evil of their friends.
Those who despise flagrant sinners, and honour the faithful followers of the LORD, and keep their promises even when it hurts.
Those who lend money without charging interest, and who cannot be bribed to lie about the innocent. Such people will stand firm forever.
[Psalm 15:1-5 NLT]
Psalm 15 is so hugely challenging. It seems at first reading to put the onus on us to behave in a certain way — in the way that the four statements beginning “Those who ...” lay down as imperatives.
There is no doubts that commitment and purpose are required; we need to be aware of and fully understand The Lord’s nature, co-labouring with Him. However, Psalm 15 implies that this is an uphill challenge. It is uphill, trying to reach the highest heights of a holy walk, but Jesus said My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
In the co-labouring there is no stress, because Jesus has already paid the price for us, so that the Holy of Holies awaits us as our dwelling place. We cannot live up to His standards without Him. In Christ’s company, we cannot fail if we hold onto Him. Be as He is; hold onto Him, seeking His continuing and continual presence on His holy hill.
Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”
[1Peter 1:13-16 NKJV]
Rest your hope fully upon His grace!
Your Presence Is Heaven Free Chapel
It is easier to stand true to a testimony which is mouldy with age because it has the dogmatic ring about it that people agree with, than to talk from your last moment of contact with God.
Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands.
Then the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and tie on your sandals”; and so he did. And he said to him, “Put on your garment and follow me.”
So he went out and followed him, and did not know that what was done by the angel was real, but thought he was seeing a vision.
[Acts 12:7-9 NKJV]
Walking through the Calgary woods on Mull a couple of weeks ago, I was startled by the strange vision in the photograph above. These woods are home to a continuing art exhibition and new pieces are often found in unexpected locations throughout the woodland. On this occasion, in the evening half-light, the face staring from the roots of a fallen tree was rather un-nerving. It was unexpected, certainly, and my reaction was “Was that real, or did I imagine it?”
In a sense, my reaction was the same as Peter’s on encountering the angel. I thought this was a vision, albeit anything but an angelic one, and my mind was tricking me! My experience reminded me of the lesson I learned several years ago. There is much in the world that is actual, but lacks ‘the real’; but much actuality which seeks to disguise what is real. The dictionary definition of 'actual' and 'real' are similar, but it ignores the spiritual dimension. Let me explain.
Put as simply as possible, we inhabit the actual world - defining ‘actual’ as ‘existing in fact’ - in what we call ‘the real world’, with 'real' defined as 'actually existing as a thing or occurring in fact; not imagined or supposed'. But when we are born again from above, we begin to perceive things differently. The things of earth become strangely dim, as Jesus Christ changes our perception, so that we see through His eyes; opening our understanding to the Heavenly viewpoint. In our reading from Acts, 'real' means true; loving and speaking the truth.
Thus, my initial fright at seeing this apparition on the tree root, was revealed to me as the spirit behind the created work. I was given understanding of that hidden reality. In fact, the angel was real, can be restated as the messenger from God was true; hidden in the beginning.
Jesus Is Real To Me -- The Bolton Brothers
The bedrock permanent thing in Christianity is forgiveness not sanctification and personal holiness; the great abiding thing underneath is infinitely more rugged than that, it is all that the New Testament means by that terrific word “forgiveness.”
Then he said to them the third time, “Why, what evil has He done? I have found no reason for death in Him. I will therefore chastise Him and let Him go.
But they were insistent, demanding with loud voices that He be crucified. And the voices of these men and of the chief priests prevailed.
So Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they requested.
And he released to them the one they requested, who for rebellion and murder had been thrown into prison; but he delivered Jesus to their will.
[Luke 23:22-25 NKJV]
That it should be as they requested. Truly, it seems very much that nothing has changed, and that today, many are choosing the path of rebellion instead of Jesus. Why is that?
The message Jesus brings is not an easy choice. We want to know that things are going to turn out well for us, but we are unprepared to follow the difficult road that leads to that desired result. We rebel against the ‘hard word’ and ‘the way of suffering’.
Do we really choose to release rebellion and murder from prison? It is the only alternative that we are offered by the authority in the world. To rebel against the ‘hard road’ and ‘put to death’ the one who is ‘the way of salvation’. Often, and only too late, do we realise the wrong turning we have taken.
Pontius Pilate found no reason to condemn Jesus to death, but he chose to take the easy way out and listened to the many voices shouting to release the murderer, Barabbas.
This morning, reading the ‘Seeds of the Kingdom’ message by Ron Scurfield of Ellel Ministries (“Bitter-Sweet”), it became clear that The Lord’s Way means that we have to taste of our own bitterness, before we find the refreshing water at the oasis.
PRAYER: Lord, help us all to see the error of our ways and turn, or re-turn to You and know that You lead us to make the right choices every day, even through harshness and pain, for Your glory and our salvation. Forgive us, Heavenly Father, when we listen to the wrong voices and make the wrong choices.
I Choose Jesus Arc Gogong
An appalling thing to-day is that the man of the world has his eyes open in a way many a preacher of the Gospel has not. Ibsen, for example, saw things clearly; he saw the inexorable inevitableness of God’s pronouncements—no forgiveness, no deliverance, no emancipation, because he ignored Jesus Christ and His Redemption and saw facts as they are.
But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.
[Ephesians 2:4-10 NKJV]
What do we mean by God’s grace; or more importantly, what does God expect us to understand by His grace? The standard definition is "unmerited favour." And that is what it is, undoubtedly. But I want to get closer. I do not want a definition, I want the actuality.
And what is that? What is the reality?
I believe that the reality lies in Him; in who He is. Grace is an intrinsic part of the love of God. Without His love there can be no divine grace. Can we say otherwise? And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love. [1 Corinthians 13:13 NKJV]
The ordinary definition of grace is "smoothness and elegance of movement" or "courteousness and goodwill." By comparison with our Lord's expression of grace these are but pale comparisons. But then everything in the natural is a poor thing beside the glory of all things from God.
Only this morning on the radio I heard two different reports of people expressing their gratitude to God for a working in their circumstances. I mention this simply because it is such an unusual occurence. Very few speak of faith nowadays, let alone Christian faith; but it seems that in these troubled times, people may be turning from their former conceits to some sort of appreciation of Heavenly matters. I pray that this is so, but whatever is or is not happening, the grace of Almighty God is at work. Hallelujah!
And now for a little while grace has been shown from the Lord our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a peg in His holy place, that our God may enlighten our eyes and give us a measure of revival in our bondage.
[Ezra 9:8 NKJV]
Only By Grace Can We Enter Graham Kendrick
Don’t put prayer and obedience in the place of the Cross of Christ—“Because I have obeyed, Christ will do this, or that”; He won’t. The only way we are saved and sanctified is by the free grace of God.
GEORGE and GILL STEWART