by Mike Ratliff
38 Therefore let it be known to you, brethren, that through Him forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you, 39 and through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses. 40 Therefore take heed, so that the thing spoken of in the Prophets may not come upon you:
41 ‘Behold, you scoffers, and marvel, and perish;
For I am accomplishing a work in your days,
A work which you will never believe, though someone should describe it to you.’” Acts 13:38-41 (NASB)
We have been looking at Christian faithfulness vs. unfaithfulness and the fruit of each. We have looked at the difference between Christian Externalism and Christian Internalism and what constitutes worship in Spirit and Truth. We looked at these things from the perspective of Christian authenticity and the culpability of Church leaders who do not disciple their flocks thereby spiritually starving those in their care. The responses to these things was very interesting. It was also very edifying to see some take it deeper by reasoning and praying their way through them. This is what Christians do in mind renewal, which is the engine that transforms Christians into the mature living sacrifices who both bring glory to God and become mature, Christlike, Spirit-filled believers.
However, there were also some who revealed hearts that were hard towards these truths revealing various levels of unbelief. Unbelief is a tragic condition caused by pride and rebellion in those who love their sin more than the truth. There were also some who interpreted the things we discussed about the absolute requirement for personal holiness from the perspective of religiosity. This created tangent discussions pertaining to the duality of our faith.
Some contend that Christianity is all mysticism and not to be understood and grasped through logic or human reason. This is the Gnostic position. Others say that Christianity is a philosophy. This would be the position of what we call Christian liberals. My brethren, our faith is spiritual, but it can be explained and defended through reason using God’s Word. For instance, we teach that no one can come to Christ unless the Father first draws him or her. We teach this because those are our Lord’s own words. (John 6:44) This does cause some consternation in those who refuse to believe while viewing our faith as the most absolute fantasy. However, those who believe and say those things always do so from arguments based on incomplete or faulty data. As we read in Acts 13:38-41 there are those who will never believe even if presented with all the facts. Why won’t they believe? We find the answer to this by remembering what our Lord taught in John 6:44 and comparing it to what Paul taught in Ephesians 2:1-10.
1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. Ephesians 2:1-10 (NASB)
Who believes? Those who believe were formally dead (in unbelief) because their sin and trespasses against God separated them from life that is only available from God. However, He is rich in mercy. By His grace and because of His love for His people, He made them alive, or quickened them, so that their faith is now able to believe God. God saves His people by Grace through faith as a gift, not in any way that could be attributed to those being saved. Why? It is so no one could say that they did any thing to cause God to justify them. Never forget what John 3:16 says.
16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. John 3:16 (NASB)
Who receives eternal life? All those who believe receive it. Is justification and eternal life and salvation speaking of the same thing? Justification is an accounting or legal term that speaks of an account being paid off. God justifies all who believe as He imputes Christ’s righteousness to their account. Eternal life is spiritual life that all who believe receive and it will be fulfilled in eternity in glorification. Salvation speaks of the saved condition of all who believe being freed from the penalty of their sins which had condemned them to an eternity separated from God.
Tragically, many believers are not discipled well. They fall into the hands of shepherds who are mere hirelings. These folks do not care for the flock. As a result, their flocks are left to fend for themselves. The most tragic part of this, I believe, is that there are plenty of false teachers out there who will gladly teach these hungry souls all about their false doctrines. These sheep not only don’t know how vital it is to pursue personal holiness, when they encounter those who do teach it, it seems unreal to them.
When I preached at a church in Northern Missouri several years ago to fill in for their Pastor who was having a hip replacement, I encountered some wonderful people who dearly loved the Lord and were hungry for the truth. In between the early service and late service, I attended Sunday School. The discussion in the class led to how hard it was to repent and pray as we ought and how to get the victory over some things. I am a teacher and when I am in that environment I cannot keep my mouth shut. It just comes out. I had everyone turn to Romans 12:1-2 and explained it to them phrase by phrase. We also looked at Ephesians 5-6. The light bulbs went on in these dear folks all over the room. That, of course, is the work of the Holy Spirit. It was then that I realized that there are innumerable Christians all over this world who have no idea how important it is to walk in repentance or how to do it.
Just as God draws people to Christ for salvation, He also draws Christians to repent, to draw near unto Him for cleansing, spiritual growth, and direction. The key to this is humility. God is working in the lives of all who know Him to humble them through all sorts of means. Why? Our salvation gave us eternal life and we are new creations, but we are fleshly, selfish, and prideful along with being uneducated about God and His ways. We don’t know that we can’t repent by will power alone. We don’t know that the commands to die to self, take up our crosses, and follow Jesus are requirements instead of optional. Therefore, God has to humble us. When we reach the end of ourselves we are ready to walk closer with Him. God draws near to the humble for cleansing and spiritual healing, but He shuns the proud.
Are you hungry for God? Are you becoming desperate for victory over your sin(s)? Well, that means God has put that hunger and desperation in you. He is drawing you to Himself. This is what He did with me in 2004. What I did was spend several months seeking Him in more and more ways. I quit watching TV. I cut out entertainment continually replacing that with Bible reading, prayer,and worship. My brethren, God is good. He did a wonderful work in me that has never diminished. He has not turned down the heat on me. Instead, it has grown deeper and more intense. If He had done that with me to this level before 2004 I don’t think I could have taken it. However, I do know now to rejoice in my sufferings, to consider it all joy because God is working in this to cleanse me of my fleshly parts. The more I submit and obey the more He cleanses.
Now, please do not let that scare you away from devoting your life to our wonderful Lord. No, please remember He is very good to His children. He sustains us in even the worst of trials. I would like to leave you all with a bit of encouragement. I know that some of you have doubts. Some of you are still working through moving from self-reliance to total dependence on God. Please read this devotional from Charles Spurgeon from Morning by Morning as you consider your eternal position in Christ. I pray that each of you will turn your hearts to God, seek Him fully, and begin your journey down this narrow and difficult path which is the only one that leads to God in Heaven.
The believer in Christ receives a present justification. Faith does not produce this fruit by-and-by, but now. So far as justification is the result of faith, it is given to the soul in the moment when it closes with Christ, and accepts Him as its all in all. Are they who stand before the throne of God justified now?-so are we, as truly and as clearly justified as they who walk in white and sing melodious praises to celestial harps. The thief upon the cross was justified the moment that he turned the eye of faith to Jesus; and Paul, the aged, after years of service, was not more justified than was the thief with no service at all. We are to-day accepted in the Beloved, to-day absolved from sin, to-day acquitted at the bar of God. Oh! soul-transporting thought! There are some clusters of Eshcol’s vine which we shall not be able to gather till we enter heaven; but this is a bough which runneth over the wall. This is not as the corn of the land, which we can never eat till we cross the Jordan; but this is part of the manna in the wilderness, a portion of our daily nutriment with which God supplies us in our journeying to and fro. We are now-even now pardoned; even now are our sins put away; even now we stand in the sight of God accepted, as though we had never been guilty. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus.” There is not a sin in the Book of God, even now, against one of His people. Who dareth to lay anything to their charge? There is neither speck, nor spot, nor wrinkle, nor any such thing remaining upon any one believer in the matter of justification in the sight of the Judge of all the earth. Let present privilege awaken us to present duty, and now, while life lasts, let us spend and be spent for our sweet Lord Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria!