No Condemnation…

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Ephesians 3:17-19 (KJV)

17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

In today’s passage, Paul prays that the Ephesians will grasp the depth of Christ’s love.

Though divine care is beyond human comprehension, the apostle says God will give spiritual understanding so we can experience Him more fully.

But there are four things that keep us from getting a handle on His love and resting in it.

  1. We think God’s acceptance is imperfect and conditional like ours.

Yet the Bible tells us that His compassion comes from His character and is not dependent upon our morality, choices, or thoughts.

(See Rom. 5:8.)

  1. When we recognize our sin, we often experience guilt.

Sometimes this leads to feeling unworthy of the Father’s ultimate love. Instead, let a guilty conscience lead you back to God so that you can repent. Realize that His love and forgiveness are greater than any sin. He promises that there is no condemnation for His followers

(Rom. 8:1).

  1. There are some teachers who encourage legalism.

This traps a person into feeling he or she must earn God’s favor. It also contradicts the divine truth that our Father loves His children without condition.

  1. Some of us have a difficult time reconciling God’s love with His discipline.

These can exist together, however. His correction flows from compassion, just as loving parents must redirect their children.

Recognizing God’s love will bring peace and joy to your life.

At the same time, it doesn’t give license to sin.

Like any caring father, the Lord will use discipline to bring you back to Him. Instead, why not let His love motivate you to walk in a holy and obedient manner before Him?

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His Purpose in Your Suffering…

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1 Peter 1:6-7 (KJV)

6 Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations:
7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire,

Most likely, you’ve heard the age-old question, “If God is good, how can He let bad things happen?”

Since the fall of man, life has always included hardship.

Though trials are painful, understanding the Lord’s purpose can bring joy and hope.

The Word of God is clear that suffering is purposeful.

Primarily, the Lord is conforming His children to be like Jesus (2 Cor. 3:18). When a person is newly saved, he or she still has many “rough edges.”

Sanctification, which takes place from that point on, is the process of becoming holy—and few things build character like sorrow. Unfortunately, people rarely mature during pleasant times.

Instead, pain brings impurities to the surface and forces people to see the reality of their life.

Another reason the Father allows trials is to test the faith of His children. Of course, He doesn’t need this for His own information—it is the believers who benefit.

Tested faith is stronger and more reliable than untried faith.

Furthermore, God allows hardship in order to reveal His character, love, and power. During life’s storms, people who cling to their heavenly Father will find Him trustworthy and real. When the next difficulty arises, they’ll remember His faithfulness during the previous trial and will rest confidently in Him.

While no one wants to suffer, experience and sorrow will mature the believer.

We can learn certain things from books and other people’s stories, but most growth occurs during trials.

So, when problems occur and sorrow seems piercing, thank God for His purpose in your suffering.

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A Grand Plan for the Life of Every Person…

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Jeremiah 29:11 (KJV)

11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

The heavenly Father has a grand plan for the life of every person, and it can be summed up with the word sanctification.

If you have never been certain of the term’s meaning, you are not alone—many people are unclear about its definition and application.

However, believers should understand it because the word applies to them.

In its verb form—sanctify—the term means “to make holy” or “to separate.”

So when something is sanctified, it is separated from its former common usage and is dedicated for sacred purposes.

The Old Testament mentions a number of things that the Lord sanctified: He made the seventh day holy, set aside the Levite tribe as priests, and even consecrated places like the Holy of Holies inside the tabernacle (Gen. 2:3; Num. 3).

The heavenly Father still sanctifies people today.

Before a person places faith in Jesus Christ, he or she is spiritually dead and, in fact, an enemy of God (Eph. 2:1-3; Rom. 5:10). But the moment the choice is made to trust in Jesus Christ, sins are wiped away, and the individual is adopted into God’s family—set apart as a child of God, with a sacred purpose.

This means believers aren’t here to chase after personal gain but are to serve the Lord and bring Him honor and glory.

As members of God’s family who are called upon to reflect His glory, believers are referred to as “saints.”

We’re given this moniker—which shares its root with sanctification—not because we live sinless lives, but because we live a life consistent with the One we represent.

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The Tools He Uses to Mold and Perfect Us…

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1 Thessalonians 5:23-24 (KJV)

23 And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.
24 Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.

Sanctification is the process God uses to conform believers to the image of His Son.

The writers of Scripture used word pictures that speak of the Father’s shaping work in the life of His saints. Isaiah, for example, compared the Lord to an artist making pottery: “We are the clay and You our potter; and all of us are the work of Your hand” (Isa. 64:8).

These are some of the tools He utilizes to mold and perfect His creations:

The Bible.

The psalmist described God’s Word as “a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Ps. 119:105). The Holy Spirit illuminates what we read so that we can come under conviction and grow in our faith.

The Church.

As part of Christ’s body, we learn of God’s ways from the pastors and teachers who have been called to minister. The Father also calls His children to fellowship together (Heb. 10:25), in part so He can use them in each other’s sanctification process. Not only that, but there are Christians at church who will encourage their brothers and sisters in times of trouble or hold them accountable when they miss the mark.

Suffering.

God freely offers us solace and help during times of difficulty, but He also uses our painful circumstances to shape us. When we submit to Him, we emerge from our struggles looking more Christlike than ever before.

From the moment, a person places trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s transforming work of sanctification will be ongoing throughout his or her life.

As children of the King, we should long to glorify our Father by faithfully reflecting Him.

To do that, we must yield to His tools of sanctification.

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Progressively Maturing in Our Faith…

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Romans 12:1-3 (KJV)

1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.
2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
3 For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.

By placing faith in Jesus Christ, a person becomes a new believer and is sanctified—that is, set apart for God’s purposes.

We who are followers of the Savior should be letting the Holy Spirit control our lives.

If that’s the case, we are currently being sanctified, regardless of what we may feel or how our actions appear to those around us.

In other words, we are progressively maturing in our faith.

And if we are progressing, we must be working our way toward something.

The apostle Paul explained the Christian’s mission: “For those whom [God] foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom. 8:29).

A believer’s character, conduct, and conversation should be reflections of Jesus, who lives within.

On our own, we might place too much emphasis on behavior and get caught up in following rules and rituals that look Christian without truly reflecting Christ. But God has given each believer His Holy Spirit as a teacher and guide.

The Spirit works to transform our minds and hearts so that we are markedly different from our unsaved peers.

When we allow the Spirit to control us, we speak and act in accordance with our true identity: God’s sons and daughters.

Our Father wants His children to be living examples of who He is.

He doesn’t expect perfection—He knows we can’t be totally sinless in our human body.

But He shows us how to think and act so we may “walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which [we] have been called” (Eph. 4:1).

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Finding Genuine Strength…

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Psalms 63 (KJV)

Every one of us will experience moments of apprehension, and denial and trying to hide from it will do no good.

When fear arises, ask yourself the following questions: Where does it come from? (You know it isn’t from God.)

Has God ever failed me in the past? Does He promise to meet all of my needs? Does He keep His promises?

If we read the Bible, we’ll find countless stories of God’s faithfulness.

For example, Paul lived through hardship, persecution, pain, and all kinds of terrible circumstances. The apostle wrote these well-known words: “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28).

This testifies to the fact that for those who trust in Him, God turns every difficulty, loss, and separation into something good.

From Abraham to Isaiah to David to Job to Jonah to Paul to John, we see God’s constant love and care for His people.

His Word is a lamp that will give us clear guidance when circumstances are bleak.

It offers the best direction we will ever find. When we meditate upon it, pray over it, grapple with it, and incorporate it into our lives, His light chases away the darkness.

The psalms, in particular, are helpful in dealing with fear.

God, the sovereign ruler of this universe, is in control of your life.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking He isn’t, simply because He does not operate according to your will and schedule.

If you read your Bible and meditate on it, you will find genuine strength in His promises.

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Two Paths You Can Walk: Faith or Fear…

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Isaiah 41:8-13 (KJV)

8 But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend.
9 Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away.
10 Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.
11 Behold, all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded: they shall be as nothing; and they that strive with thee shall perish.
12 Thou shalt seek them, and shalt not find them, even them that contended with thee: they that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought.
13 For I the Lord thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee.

These days, there are plenty of reasons to fear.

Our world seems to be in a continuous state of war and crisis. The jobs market is dismal, natural disasters wreak havoc, and stories of crime dominate the headlines.

As Christians, we know that fear should have no place in our lives, but how can we ignore what’s going on around us?

Basically, there are two paths you can walk: faith or fear.

It’s impossible to simultaneously trust God and not trust God.

Another way of saying this is that you cannot both obey and disobey Him–partial obedience is disobedience.

So, which road are you traveling?

Some people who read the Bible and believe in God nevertheless choose to live with fear. Seeing others experience hardship, they start wondering if it could happen to them:

Someone at my office lost his job; will I be next?

Someone died in an accident–I could die too. But this kind of “logic” places your circumstances above your relationship to God.

If Satan can get you to think like this, he has won the battle for your mind.

But when you focus on God rather than your circumstances, whatever the situation is, you win.

The Bible tells us, “God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7).

Our heavenly Father understands our disappointment, suffering, pain, fear, and doubt.

He is always there to encourage our hearts and help us understand that He’s sufficient for all of our needs.

When I accepted this as an absolute truth in my life, I found that my worrying stopped.

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What Does a Surrendered Life Entail?

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Matthew 16:24-27 (KJV)

24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.
25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.
26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?
27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

The Lord wants to give each of us an abundance of blessings.

Let’s explore what is required so that we may enjoy all that He has planned.

Today’s passage clarifies the one necessary condition for receiving His best: surrender.

Every aspect of our being—body, soul, and spirit—is to be a living sacrifice. This may sound dreary, but contrary to human logic, true freedom is found only when we fully yield to Christ.

In the Old Testament, sacrifice was very common.

To atone for sin, a person could bring a lamb to the altar. The animal was set apart for God’s purposes as a holy offering, and through its death, restitution was made.

When we give ourselves as a sacrifice, there is, thankfully, no need for our blood to be shed.

Jesus died to atone for all of our sin. So out of love and gratitude, every aspect of our life should be dedicated to Him.

What does a surrendered life entail?

Most importantly, it involves complete commitment to Christ, unaltered by the world’s influence.

Our desires and old ways of functioning are no longer driving forces.

Instead, God’s Spirit guides us, and His will is the goal. Yielding to Him means following His way in attitude, words, thoughts, and deeds—and doing so unapologetically, unwaveringly, and fearlessly.

You have a choice: Either be content with less than God’s best, or give yourself fully to Him.

Complete surrender is not an easy road; it means dying to your desires and selfishness.

But remember that the Lord is willing and able to do more than we can even imagine (Eph. 3:20).

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