If you are a child of God, the three letters in our title can be the acronym to your position in Christ. They stand for Called, Sanctified, and Preserved. When asked how they are doing, many Christians employ this well-worn response: “Blessed, and highly favored.” I guess, in this case, one could shorten the reply by saying the acronym, BHF, instead. On the other hand, whenever we use either of these phrases or just their acronyms, there may always be the chance that some will see us as a “goody two shoes.” To avoid that from happening, we may ask the Lord to help us use a better sounding reply. Nevertheless, the truth is that all God’s children can consider themselves blessed and highly favored, as well as “called, sanctified, and preserved."
Called: I suppose you remember the letter you got one day which informed you that you had been “called” to serve on a jury. Immediately you knew you were obligated to report for duty. Nothing in that letter implied that the decision to comply was totally up to you or that it was merely a “request”, and although that was a serious calling, it does not compare to our Christian calling. That is one reason Paul urged the Ephesians: “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called.” (Eph. 4:1
Sanctified: Because they don’t understand it’s full meaning, this is one word that spooks many Christians. In fact, upon hearing you say that you are “sanctified” many, again, will think you are a “holier than though” kind of person. No, “sanctified” merely means we have been “set apart by” God for a purpose. It does not mean we are better than anyone else. Paul began his first letter to the Corinthians with these words: “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours.” (1 Cor. 1:2)
Preserved: In his first letter to the church, Peter blessed God for the great benefits He bestowed upon His children, saying that they are the ones “who are kept (preserved) by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1:5) Whenever I hear someone say or claim they are faithfully “holding on” to God’s hand, I feel slightly uncomfortable because what matters most is that He is “holding on” to us. And because He is, we should always feel secure.
God’s promise for today: (John 10:28) “And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.”
In our Prayer meeting yesterday at church, Pastor Mike reminded us of one of our most valued benefits. I am referring to being complete in Christ, lacking nothing. Every time I think about this benefit, I am reminded of the little girl in Sunday School who started out the 23rd Psalm this way: “The Lord is my Shepherd; that’s all I want.” We were reminded yesterday that, from the very beginning, God had to provide a covering for Adam and Eve after their sin of disobedience. That covering, however, was only temporary. It was the same with the required sacrifices in the Mosaic Law. The writer of the book of Hebrews alluded to that truth when he wrote: “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” (Hebrews 10:4) No, they were not intended to take away sin but to make a temporary atonement. They also pointed to the day when Someone would remove sin completely, namely Christ.
Even with so called “total coverage” in auto and homeowners insurance, there are always things which are not covered. No so in Christ! Paul wrote: “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness.” (Colossians 2:9-10) The KJV says it this way: “And ye are complete in Him.” Hmnn, that reminds me of a corny joke I’ve probably bored you with before. This man accidentally drove his car into quicksand. He got out safely but as soon as he did, he frantically called his insurance agent. The faithful agent arrived at the scene pretty quickly and as soon as he did, they both watched the car disappear completely into the mire. After a long stretch of looking at each other in quiet amazement the agent blurted out: “your car is completely covered.”
Rejoice my brothers and sisters in Christ. When Jesus went to the cross, He paid in full for our sins past, present, and future. Yes, I’m aware that some may sarcastically say “Alright, then. I’m gonna live it up, anyhow I’m completely covered!” Nevertheless, I am also aware that God’s children are not this foolish. We all know that sin has it’s consequences but we also know that if and when we fail God, a sincere prayer asking His forgiveness and restoration will always be answered. God’s true children are not only saved, they are safe. In Christ, you are "completely covered."
God’s word for today: (2 Timothy 1:12) “I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.”
I think it is safe to say that the great majority of God’s children believe that nothing happens to us in life by accident or coincidence. That being true, why is it that so many questions, doubts, and fears arise within us when we are going through a hard trial? The only thing I can think of in that regard is that we’re human and our old nature is very much alive. Let’s be honest, we all see it pop up on us from time to time. Even now, at the time of this writing, some of us may be perplexed about a friend or loved one who’s been sick or in the hospital for a long time, or one whose doctors are not giving much hope. And that doesn’t include any storm we are experiencing. And if we say we don’t understand, I trust the voice of the Holy Spirit within us will remind us that we don’t have to. We just need to trust God. We need to remember that He always does what is best for us. We must never forget the promise that “In all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) That’s us!
Concerning the burdens that come our way from time to time, one of my favorite internet pastors wrote this recently: [“I read about a man who had a very fine dog who loved the water. One day, the dog was playing in the lake and the man decided to leave. He called the dog, but the dog wouldn’t come. He called him several times; he still wouldn’t come. It was a well-trained dog, but he just wouldn’t come. The man finally threw a stick out into the water. When the dog saw it, he swam over, got the stick, and came back and laid it at his master’s feet….. It just may be that God has given you a burden because He can’t get your attention. He wants you to come and lay it at your Master’s feet.”]
I agree with that sentiment. Sometimes, things are going so well for us that, just like the dog in the previous illustration, we are having such a good time that we unknowingly shut out God’s voice. When He finally gets our attention, often our first instinct is to panic. If that’s the case, I trust we will remember His promise and invitation in 1 Peter 5:7 which says: “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.”
God’s promise for today: (Psalm 55:22) “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous be shaken.”
On our recent one day vacation to Corpus Christi we arrived at a point in Port Aransas where we ran out of dry land. We had to hop on a ferry to be able to get to Mustang Island. Without that ferry barge we would not have been able to get to our desired destination. Heaven is like that. A long, long time ago, an immense gap was created by man’s sin which made it impossible for anyone to go live with God. Then came Jesus. God sent Him to earth to make it possible for us to live with God when our earthly days were over. Jesus was the ferry boat that would carry all who believed and trusted in Him to the Father in Heaven. Even today, Christ is the only way to get to Heaven. He made it quite clear when He said these words: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
I don’t have an idea how far our ferry ride was but I’m pretty sure very few people would be able to swim that distance if they had to. It is amazing to me, therefore, how many people today still believe that there are many ways for a person to get to Heaven. Most of these believe that they will get there because they do good things for others or live good, decent lives. If that were the case, and people could go to Heaven by their good works, Jesus would have never suffered and died on the cross. No, He paid the price for our sin because there was no other way for us to be saved. Ephesians 2:8-9 says: “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.”
I love these verses, and not because our church took it’s name from it. I love them for it’s simple but mighty truth. When you give a gift to someone you love dearly, do you give it because the person deserves it or earned it? If you did, then it wasn’t a gift, but a payment. If we were to get what we really deserved, it surely wouldn’t be salvation. Also, I sure am glad that salvation is by grace. As verse nine declares, this way no one can boast. Can you imagine people what Heaven would be like if the people there would constantly be boasting about how they got there? That certainly wouldn’t be heaven to me! As it is, we all know one or two super spiritual Christians who are constantly boasting about all they do for God. If they are hard to bear here on earth can you imagine hearing that throughout eternity? That reminded me of the Sunday School teacher who asked for a show of hands for all those who wanted to go to Heaven someday. Everyone raised their hand except one Kid. When the teacher asked, “Johnny, you don’t want to go to Heaven?, he replied “Not if the rest of these brats will be there!”
God’s word for today: (2 Corinthians 9:15) “Thanks be unto God for his unspeakable gift.”
One thing that is easy to overlook is that the biblical characters of old were very much like we are. In other words, their personalities were no different than the ones people have today. I was reminded of this fact when I was reading earlier today in the book of the prophet, Habakkuk, in particular verse three of the opening chapter where he wrote: “Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing? Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.” Here, in his opening grievance to God it is pretty obvious that he was greatly troubled by the things he saw all around him on a regular basis. His complaint: “Why do you let me see these things?” C’mon, have you ever griped about the evil and cruel things you see all around us constantly? Do you ever wonder why God permits them to happen? So did Habakkuk!
As God’s true children, it is reasonable to say that we are much different today than we were before Christ came into our lives. I think about that every time I turn away when I see a dog roaming a street that has heavy traffic. Years ago, when ACS did things differently, I would turn away, sometimes even turn in an opposite direction whenever I saw the dogcatcher trucks. The last thing I wanted to see was some poor unsuspecting critter being carted off to his impending extermination. The thing is, I wasn’t always like that. As a young man, I would coldly and unceremoniously kill chickens and turkeys in my dad’s poultry store. It was a well known put-down phrase at the time but it was true with me: I was once an old chicken plucker. Today, I even have a hard time killing roaches.
This reminds us of another truth. What we see can affect us, some more than others. Let me give you a brutal example: From the pulpit, I could say that Jesus was the lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Revelation 13:8) and it may not make that much of an impact. On the other hand, if we were to show on the overhead screen the actual killing of a lamb while I was reading the verse, that would really bring the point home. That would make a lasting impression in the minds and hearts of many. In fact, many in the audience would get up and leave. Why? Most people don’t want to “see” such things. The lesson is apparent: Let’s avoid seeing anything that may affect us negatively and on the things that we can’t, let’s ask God to give us the grace and the strength to endure it.
God’s word for today: (Luke 19:41) “Now as He (Jesus) drew near, He saw the city and wept over it.”
Last night in Pastor Leo’s class, I was reminded of the many times we unsuspectingly ask God to specifically answer our prayers our way, forgetting to insert at any time in our prayer that His will be done. Often, when God doesn’t answer as we desired, we get discouraged or else we get upset with Him. We may even go through an extended period where no one can convince us that we’re wrong. As God’s children, we eventually come back to the realization that God did what was best. As pastor Leo rightfully pointed out, the problem is we often pray according to what we want, not what God wants. John knew what he was talking about when he wrote: “And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask any thing according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14) Even Christ Himself, upon nearing His appointment with the cross, prayed to the Father: “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” (Matthew 26:39)
Throughout the years I’ve said during funeral addresses that if we were just given a glimpse of where our departed loved ones are, we would be thrilled and overjoyed for them. We would probably ask God if we could stay there with them. If nothing else, we would be convinced that God’s will is always the best way. He knows things we may never know in this life. He knows what is up ahead in our future and I choose to believe that often, when He calls His children home, He is saving them from a very sad and tragic “might have been.”
It is never a sin to ask God to answer our prayers in a specific way, as long as we add in the end that His will be done. Because we are human, there will be times when we won’t be very happy with how the Lord responded to our petition. And if we get upset with Him, its okay, He can take it. Do you stop loving your children or loved ones when they are upset with you, especially when you know they are wrong? Why would God? Accepting God’s will is not always easy but it is one lesson it will do us much good to learn and never forget. I pray you are happy for the will of God in your life today.
God’s word for today: (Romans 12:2) “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will.”
Yesterday I wrote about the works (deeds/acts) of the flesh although I singled out anger. I wrote about the harmful effects they can impose on our testimony. (reputation) Today, I want to focus on that issue through a different perspective. I want to remind you of those who give up on their family members, friends, or Christian brethren on the day they see them exhibiting one of the deeds of the old nature. To me, it is understandable when the world in general does such a thing because it is a tendency of the human nature. What I find hard to accept is when God’s children do it, because the One who lives inside us is greater than our human inclinations.
As God’s children, we should know that each one of us is capable of doing things that dishonor Him. If we lose confidence in our brethren who “mess up” here and there, we have forgotten the many times God has had mercy on us. That is one reason why Paul wrote: “And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” (Ephesians 4:32) Sometimes Christians are especially hard on those who teach and preach the Word. They forget that God’s servants are no different than they, that they can fall as easily as anyone else. They fail to understand that, as a general rule, God’s servants are tempted and attacked more than most people. The higher the glory, the greater the responsibility. That is why Jesus said: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” (Luke 12:48)
Please don’t think that I am in any way trying to excuse those who fall victims to the deeds of the flesh, especially those who keep repeating them. Sin is sin, and it will always have it’s consequences. And while it is not fair for others to give up on us when we mess up here and there, we cannot blame them for losing confidence in us if we keep falling continuously. Regarding our trust and confidence in others, lets ask God to help us gauge them correctly. Lets not go by what others may say. We had a neighbor some years ago who was evicted by his own sister, the owner of the house. According to her, her brother was the scum of the earth. Whether he was or not we may never know. What we did know, however, is that to us he was about as good a neighbor as anyone can have. What should matter most to us is not what others say or think about certain people, but what they are to us.
God’s promise for today: (Psalm 103:10) “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities.”
We’ve all heard those who happily testify that God miraculously freed them from some situation or addiction. When we hear such reports, our hearts are filled with gladness but oftentimes we tend to think that these folks’ troubles are over or at least that their biggest battle has been won. In many cases it is not. Let me start with this example. An ex-coworker of mine struggled with alcoholism for many years until he finally decided to Join AA. Not long after that, he would constantly tell others what the program had done and how happy he was to finally be free from his addiction. It was obvious to all that he was different than before, but here’s the sad part: Other than drinking, he still kept on smoking, cussing, being a loudmouth, belittling others, and womanizing. He conquered one foe but not the biggest one, sin.
Even in cases where folks are freed from a situation or addiction and wholeheartedly turn to Christ, that is not always their biggest obstacle to hurdle. They still have to contend with the old nature within. They may still have a hard time with issues such as anger, impatience, un-forgiveness, and a few others. I know of a young man who was recently delivered from drug addiction. He was not ashamed to tell others about it. Yet, he had not conquered anger, and not long after his deliverance from drugs he got into a headed argument at home and was forced to leave. In his case too, he overcame his drug addiction but his anger got the best of him.
Anger is among the sins listed in the 5th Chapter of Galatians categorized as the “works” (acts/deeds) of the flesh. (old nature) Paul added that they which do such things (practice) will not inherit the kingdom of God. Since the old nature still lives within us, we are all capable of outbursts of anger. To be more specific, however, God’s genuine children do not practice sin but fall into it when they yield to the flesh. Even so, anger can cause great harm in the life of a Christian. One of the things anger does is hurt our testimony. (reputation) In fact, Proverbs 22:24 advises us: “Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered.” One outburst alone can cause others to lose confidence in us. It becomes a bigger matter if we are involved in ministry. On the other hand Proverbs 19:11 says: “A person’s wisdom yields patience; it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense.” When others see that we can control our anger, that we are patient, that we can overlook offenses that others can’t, it greatly enhances our reputation. Let’s be honest; this is one area where almost all Christians need help. Lets make a real effort to draw closer to God, to become more like Jesus each new day. Remember this: There are very few things we can’t do, when we trust God and draw close to Him.
God’s word for today: (Proverbs 16:32) “Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.”
Here’s a joke I read recently on the internet: A pastor came up with an idea to test his membership, so one Sunday morning he stepped out dressed as Satan. Everyone ran out except a man named Bob. The pastor (dressed as Satan) walked up to him and said: “Sir don't you know who I am?” Bob replied: “Yes sir I do.” Then he asked Bob “Aren't you afraid of me?” Bob answered: “Not anymore.” “Why not?” replied the pastor (dressed as Satan). Bob answered: “Because I've been married to your sister for twenty years.” Please don’t get upset ladies, its just a joke. We all know that the devil in a marriage can also be the husband. I only started with that corny fabrication because it seems that lately, more than before, I’ve heard some people, including Christians, who claim they are not afraid of anything or anybody, not even the devil himself.
Some of you may remember that last week I wrote about “respecting” anything or anyone who has or represents power or authority. I say this grudgingly, but even though he is a defeated foe in many ways, the devil still has enough power to qualify as a respected adversary. It is beyond foolish, therefore, to go around boasting that we’re not afraid of him or anybody else. In fact, anybody who does it is just inviting trouble. To begin with, everyone is afraid of something or someone, even if they deny it. Secondly, God detests this type of attitude. I was reading again the story of Gideon recently and, to me, one of the outstanding features of the account is when the Lord commanded Gideon to start whittling down the size of his army. The Lord told him: “You have too many men. I cannot deliver Midian into their hands, or Israel would boast against me saying, ‘My own strength has saved me’.” (Judges 7:2)
Many centuries have come and gone since the days of Gideon. Still, many people, including Christians, are always claiming, or at least implying, that they are the reason for their own success. How often have we heard someone who has just been blessed or has had a special prayer petition answered, imply that it was because of something they did? They may include their tithing, helping others, faithful church attendance, long prayer sessions, bible reading, etc.. All these are good things but they are really part of our Christian duty. Teaching about the master/servant relationship, Jesus told His Disciples: “So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.” (Luke 17:10) People who boast about everything they do for God are really trying to rob Him of His glory. God will be always be pleased when His children honor Him by serving Him wholeheartedly, but He will never be impressed by our good deeds or holy living. Lets remember that it is because of God’s grace and mercy that we are constantly blessed and lets be careful that we don’t give others the impression that God blesses us because we deserve it.
God’s word for today: (1 Corinthians 1:31) “Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”