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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Grace: The divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.

Over and over I hear that we will get to heaven because of Jesus death on the cross and not because of anything we do. I hear, “You can’t earn your way into heaven.” All of this implies that I am without responsibility. What does the Word of God say?

Someone will say, “We are not under law we are under grace.” Now lets look at what God’s word says about “under grace.” Romans 6:14-15 is the only place that phrase appears in the New Testament, so what does it say.

“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.  What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid” kjv

So  here you have it. Grace is not a get out of jail free card. Grace is not a pass. This creates a larger problem. What is grace? Let us see if we can find any clues in God’s Word. The first time we see the word grace in God’s Word is in Genesis 6:8.

“And Noah found grace in the eyes of The Lord.”

What happened next? Do you know? He was given something to DO. It was not some little thing like raise your hand or say these words. This job took him and his sons 100 years. All of the cute pictures of the ark are something of an insult to what Noah and his sons had to do. And they did it without any power tools and no lumber yard to deliver the lumber. So how big was this ark? The best I can figure it was 547 feet long and a little over 91 feet wide and 54 feet high. It had 3 levels and each level had rooms. that is over 149,000 square feet of floor space. Oh, and it is free standing, not on a foundation and coated inside and out with tar for waterproofing.

Grace didn’t leave Noah with nothing to do!

In Exodus 33 beginning in verse 16 the term grace appears several times. Each time it seems that it could be a synonym of favor. But once again we see that Moses is given something to do. In Exodus 34:1 God says to Moses, “Hew thee two tables of stone like the first and I will write upon these tables the words that were in the first tables, which you broke.”

If you are not familiar with this story it is the story of how God delivered the children of Israel from bondage in Egypt. How they came to be in bondage is another story. All of these stories are to help us see how God deals with His people.

In the King James Bible the word ‘grace’ appears 39 times in the Old Testament and 131 times in the New Testament.

In the New Testament grace first appears in reference to Jesus in Luke 2:40. And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him. Here the word grace is a the same Greek word that we use when speaking of the gifts of the spirit (charis). This is the word in every appearance in the New Testament King James Bible.

GRACE: The divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.

This is the most complete statement that I can find in Strong’s Concordance and Greek Dictionary. Since that is the case lets use that definition and see if it works. I hope I am not violating any rules of proper Bible study if I modify the definition slightly in order to make it usable in our comparison. I will simply eliminate some words and change it to; “divine influence upon the heart, reflected in the life.”

And so beginning with the first appearance of the word grace and looking at a few more references, let us see if this definition will work.

Speaking of Jesus in Luke 2:40 it says,And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God (“divine influence upon the heart, reflected in the life.”) was upon him.”

Also speaking of Jesus in John 1:14 it says, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace (“divine influence upon the heart, reflected in the life.”) and truth.” I notice that the verse unmodified says “and we beheld”. Something was visible!

Then in verses 16 and 17 we see how this grace applies to us. “And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace (“divine influence upon the heart, reflected in the life.”)(is this grace to the second power?). For the law was given by Moses, but grace (“divine influence upon the heart, reflected in the life.”)  and truth came by Jesus Christ.

This is even spoken of in the Old Testament. In Jeremiah 31:33, God proclaims But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, says the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.” This seems to me to be a perfect illustration of the definition of grace, in prophesy.

In the book of Acts it speaks of the early Christians and in Acts 4:33 it says, “And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace (“divine influence upon the heart, reflected in the life.”) was upon them all.”

Later in Acts 11:23, When Barnabas went to Antioch it speaks again of grace, “... when he came, and had seen the grace of God (“divine influence upon the heart, reflected in the life,) was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord.”

OK, all of that is fine, but how does it apply to being “saved by grace?” This phrase or a form of this phrase only occurs in Ephesians 2 in verses 4-5 and 8. In both instances the definition is almost stated if you read them in context. But you must realize that the context goes at least to the end of chapter 3. Paul was really wordy. Anyway lets plug our definition in here and see how it agrees with the sense of what is being said.

“But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love with which He loved us (even when we were dead in sins) has made us alive together with Christ (by grace you are saved),” The definition of grace; “divine influence upon the heart, reflected in the life”, seems to fit in well with God making us alive. That would surely be a divine influence upon the heart.
Again in verse 8; “For by grace you are saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.” If grace is a ‘divine influence’, how could anyone take credit or boast of any result as though they were the source of the power.

But now I begin to see a proper relationship between grace and all of the commands of the New Testament: Matthew 5:48, “Therefore be perfect, even as you Father in Heaven is Perfect.”; in Philippians 2:12, “ out your salvation with fear and trembling.” ; Romans 12:2, “...but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect will of God.”; and there are many more which if you have looked may have given you some problems.

In Hebrews 4:16 with the help of our definition there may be some clarity.

“Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

At the throne of “divine influence upon the heart” we can find the help to be transformed and become like Jesus"its reflection in life". It will never come about by acts of our will and when it does occur we will only be able to follow the example of the demoniac, and tell all men what wonderful things God has done for us. (Mark 5:1-20)

Surely it is Jesus; as it says; “but as many as received him, to them gave he POWER to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, BUT OF GOD.”

GRACE: The divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life.

NOTE: I use the King James Bible because I am use to it and it is commonly acceptable. I also feel that in many cases it is sharper (Heb 4:12) than most of the more modern translations. This is just one person’s opinion.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Sermon Notes

 Three weeks from today we plan to be headed home. By the way if any of you have any tips for figuring this retirement thing out, I am open to suggestions. Seems like I am more tired than ever and only have the time for a few of the things I hope to accomplish.
Two weeks ago we took the grandkids to the zoo, but they made us bring them back home. Then last week they took us to a museum but we were too young so they had to bring us back too. Oh well! We are enjoying some really good times with our kids here and with some other family and friends.
Sunday Russell shared again from Luke 6. He said that he had intended to go on to the next chapter but the more he prayed about this and looked at it, the more he felt he should say some things about Jesus choosing the 12 apostles. I think it is the second time I’ve heard him say something like, “There is gold under every verse if you are willing to dig.” And as he began he said, “Jesus is our model for everything.” Sometimes I hear something and just want to park there for a while and let it sink in. Those 2 statements are that kind of thing. The more I think about them the deeper the meaning becomes and the broader the truth.
Starting in Luke 6:12 and reading through verse 16 we see the story of Jesus choosing the 12 apostles. The story begins with a powerful verse.
Luke 6:12  And it came to pass in those days, that he went out into a mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God.
Russell pointed out how amazing this is. He said he had never even come close to anything like this and doesn’t know of anyone who he could say had spent a whole night in prayer. But this is how Jesus prepared for a very important time of selecting the 12 who would be the inner circle of his disciples, that he would eventually trust with taking his message to the world. This is how Jesus prepared for important decisions and he is our model.
Then the text says that from his disciples he chose 12 whom he named apostles. This was a common word in that time and had a specific meaning. In the Jewish culture the Sanhedrin was the legislative branch of their community. They made the laws and they had apostles (sent ones) that they appointed to spread the news of their decisions. In the same way Jesus apostles were to spread his message to all the world. (Mark 16:15-16)
Russell also mentioned that he noticed that all of the apostles were men. This seems to be a consistent pattern in God’s economy. In no way does this suggest that women are of lesser value or importance in God’s eyes or in the life of the church. It is simply something we can observe and practice because it is God’s design. “Just trust God’s design.”
There is always something of value to see in every verse of God’s Word, even a list of names. As we look at the men Jesus chose to be his apostles, it is good to consider, why did Jesus choose these men?
When Samuel was sent by God to choose a king for Israel he was confused when God rejected the sons of Jesse. God spoke to Samuel and said, “man looks on the outward appearance, but The Lord looks on the heart.” (1 Samuel 16:7)
And so what are the characteristics that God looks for to find someone he can use. If you take a close look at these men they were pretty ordinary men. They had no outstanding skills or talents that would recommend them for proclaiming the most important message of all time. Yet these are the ones that Jesus chose.
Russell mentioned that there seems to be a law of nature or sermonology that there are always 3 points to a sermon. No matter whether he starts with 2 points or 8, by the time he has fully organized his thoughts he ends up with 3 major ideas developed. So, what are the 3 characteristics of someone God can use in his service.
First; Someone God can use must have a teachable heart.
·         Are you willing to learn and change?
·         There are many Proverbs that speak of the wisdom of hearing reproof  and instruction.
·         When you listen to a sermon do you think of others or how it applies to you?
·         How do you respond to correction?
The second characteristic is an obedient heart.
·     Russell mentioned someone who jumped in and for several years has kept the lawn mowed and looking good, for the love of the church.
·     Are you looking for the thing you can do for God and his church, then doing that thing?
Thirdly, God notices a heart that is satisfied with only him. Jeremiah 29:13 says, “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.”
·         Those who are looking for nothing more than to be one with God.
·         for the 12, all the compensation they needed was to be with Jesus.
God doesn’t choose men & women because of their amazing talents or gifts. God chooses those who have a heart to honor him altogether.
1 Corinthians 2:9 challenges us with these words: “But as it is written, Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those who love Him." What does God want to do with you or me? Are our hearts prepared for his service?
I hope you have found some things here that encourage and challenge you to examine your life with a view to being someone God would use. I know I have.

As always Be Faithful

(Prov 4:23)

Monday, July 29, 2013

Sermon Notes from RVCC

Dear Friends,
 Warmest greetings and extreme humidity from Oklahoma. Although the temperatures here have not been what they are in Oregon for a few days, It is the humidity. Speaking of heat I got an email from Tarri, She is a young lady in the military from RVCC. Right now she is stationed in Afghanistan, where the average temperature is 114 degrees. Please remember her in your prayers along with many of the others over there who are serving to protect us and make a better life for the people of that country. I am a Viet Nam vet but these young people are volunteers and they have my extreme respect.
Sunday David Wise stepped in and shared some thoughts from Luke 6. He began by sharing a story of how when he was younger his brother and sister each got glasses and he was jealous. I think I can remember the few moments I thought glasses were cool. Anyway, although he did get glasses, the problem was not serious and was caused by the fact that he could intentionally shift the focus to a point where he could see things that were not easily seen by most people. You may remember the dot pictures from the ‘90's that as you stared at them 3 dimensional images would appear. If you’re like me you probably had little to no success with them. David was really good at it and that was his main problem. He would do it without thinking about it, no matter what he was looking at. This made the words on a printed page hard to read.
David read from Luke 6:20 thru 26. This is an account of Jesus blessings and woes with which he began a message. This seems very similar to the blessings at the beginning of what is called the sermon on the mount in Matthew 5,6 &7. David looked at it in a little different way than we might have heard it in the past.
First he pointed out that Jesus was speaking to his disciples. There were others there who heard but in verse 20 it says “And lifting up His eyes to his disciples, He said...” Jesus was speaking to those who had decided to follow him. So in the same way if we have set our hearts and minds to follow Him, He is speaking to us.
Then reading on, David said that this passage does not mean what it may appear to say. It doesn’t mean that you will be blessed if you are poor, hungry, sad and nobody likes you; or that you are in trouble if your wealthy, well fed, cheerful and popular. Much more important than the condition is the reason for the condition. The question is; Where is your focus?
David pointed out that if we focus on what is right in front of us, the things that are in the distance will be difficult to see. In the same way if we are looking into the distance the things close at hand will be out of focus and seem unimportant. He illustrated this by pointing out how you can focus a camera on something near or on something in the distance. In the same way if our attention is upon heavenly things we will not be as concerned about things which are valued by others who are not interested in the life of the spirit.
He also mentioned how we can go overboard if we get distracted thinking we must be poor, hungry, sad and unpopular. When he came back from a mission trip to Africa, he felt like they should get rid of everything. Fortunately Natalye had the good sense to tell him he was NUTS. That brought him back to reality and he saw that the things were not the problem. He only needed to be sure his focus was where God wanted it.
In II Corinthians 4:16-18 we can see.
For this reason we never become discouraged. Even though our physical being is gradually decaying, yet our spiritual being is renewed day after day. And this small and temporary trouble we suffer will bring us a tremendous and eternal glory, much greater than the trouble. For we fix our attention, not on things that are seen, but on things that are unseen. What can be seen lasts only for a time, but what cannot be seen lasts forever.
So this is the challenge for us today. Where is my attention?
I am so thankful for the opportunity to take these sermons and look carefully at them to find the message that is there and share it with each of you. I hope this letter is an encouragement where ever you are to check your focus and make the adjustments that will be to God’s glory.

Let us each endeavor to Be Faithful.

Phil 4:4-8