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Relinquishing Your Freedom in Christ is an Expensive Proposition

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Freedom

Just saying the word evokes thoughts of sacrifice and struggle, oppression and conflict. It also calls to remembrance our sincere appreciation and gratitude for those who have sacrificed to ensure freedom for people’s everywhere.

As children of God we know that in Christ we have been made free. Those who know the Lord as Savior know a freedom unlike any other, as “free indeed” is unlike any other freedom……”whom the Son sets free, is free indeed”. (John 8:36).

Other verses inform us of the fact that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty, and while we are now free from sin, we have become slaves to righteous living.            (II Cor.3:17 & Romans 6:18)

All this to say that as Christians, we willingly, lovingly embrace the liberty we have in Christ. Nonetheless, this liberty is fraught with potential dangers should we be tempted to dangle our toes in unfamiliar waters.

All of us, and I do mean all of us, face temptations that appeal to our flesh. Whether we are tempted by power, drugs, alcohol, sex, or money, the fact is that any of these can quickly become our master, overpowering our senses and bringing us again into bondage.

We must remain ever vigilant to counter such temptations if we are to live in victory. Prayer and the reading of the Word are key weapons in this never ending struggle.

These points have been driven home to me again this week while reading the story of how Israel came to have a king reign over them. What started as a nation fully dependent upon and loyal to God, soon turned into full blown rejection of His leadership.

Without launching into a long, detailed history lesson, Samuel was the prophet who had the unenviable task of anointing the first king of Israel. While crowning a new king would normally be cause for great celebration, Samuel’s task was heartbreaking because he knew that in anointing an earthly king, it signaled a severing of the cord between Israel and their God.

As most of you know, throughout Israel’s history they demonstrated a propensity to wander from God. This tendency to stray eventually culminated in their demanding a king to rule over them, just like all the nations around them. In other words, they wanted to be just like everyone else.

Have you ever been told, or have you ever told someone “be careful what you wish for, you just might get it”? This is about to happen to Israel.

Even though they had received an advanced warning as to the quality of leader they would be getting, Israel was determined to proceed with having things their way regardless of the cost. And oh what a price they would pay!

If you will read 1st Samuel 8:10-18 you will see the details of what was to come upon Israel. Take note especially of how many times the word “his” or “take” appears in the description of their new king.

The takeaway I want to leave with you is just how much this new king was going to take from them. Whereas we look to new leadership with an eye for what they can do for us, Israel’s new king would be a taker, not a giver.

What’s the lesson for the New Testament Christian in all of this? The lesson is that we are called out of sin to be the Church. We are not called to be like everyone else.

We also have a Leader who is unlike any other. We are different because our King is the difference maker!

Once God has delivered us from sin, we are not to go back. Not even to look back! We have a freedom known only by the redeemed, and that freedom was purchased by the highest cost imaginable.

Relinquishing your freedom in Christ is an expensive proposition, a proposition I have no desire to entertain.

How about you?

How to know what God really expects of us.

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One of things I struggle with in writing this blog is how to condense topics that I could speak about for hours into a few hundred words,all while maintaining the integrity of the subject matter. I suppose everyone who has a blog struggles with this.

Such is the topic I want to tackle today:how to know what God really expects of us.Of course,I’m aware that a great many people,even some who attend church regularly,do not believe God expects anything of them.

Sad as it is,for many people God is seen as a type of cosmic genie who is supposed to be at their beck and call should a need arise.

The Bible however,paints a very different picture.You see,scripture points us to the fact that God desires to have a relationship with us.

As with any relationship that you might be involved in,it is a two way street.There are expectations,are there not? And if those expectations are not met on a frequent basis,the relationship suffers.

So it is with our relationship with God.He expects certain things from us and when we don’t deliver on our end,this relationship suffers.Think of it this way: God will not bless a relationship He is not involved in. Let that sink in for a minute.

So lets look at a few of those expectations,beginning with a question that the Lord posed to Israel:

He has showed you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?   Micah 6:8

act-justly

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At the time of Micah’s tenure as a prophet in Israel,God had a problem on his hands with this people.

They had developed a malady not unlike us today in that they suffered from a serious case of ingratitude.

So deeply embedded was this ingratitude that the Lord even asked them “what have I done to you”?(v.3).

In telling them that He has showed them what is good,God is reminding them that for centuries they have had the Law and the Prophets to instruct them in how they should live.In other words,don’t even act like you don’t know what is expected of you.

He then gets to the heart of the matter by telling them three things He requires of them.

  1. to do justly,or to exercise Godly,righteous judgement in their dealings with one another
  2. to love mercy,to willfully and joyfully extend love and compassion to others
  3. to walk humbly with your God,meaning to acknowledge Him in all your ways

Notice something missing here? God did not require them to offer a ram,or a goat,or a calf.No,what He required of them was a different kind of sacrifice.One that came from within their hearts.

What He required of them necessitated a renewed heart.He wanted relationship.The same relationship that He desired when He delivered them from Egyptian bondage,and when He delivered to them His Law.

God has always yearned to have a covenant relationship with His people. Now lets take a look at this question as it was asked in Jesus’ day.

There was a certain lawyer who in trying to tempt Jesus,asked him what the requirements were for him to inherit eternal life.

And he answering said, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.   Luke 10:27

Once again we see the answer to the age old question of “what does God require” to be something other than rules,sacrifices,or tradition.Jesus made it as clear as it could be that what the Lord requires must come from the heart.

Loving God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself is only possible when the heart has been transformed.It cannot be done from the mind,or because it’s the morally right thing to do.

No,the expectations set forth by Jesus bespeak intimacy with God,and that can only come with spending time with Him in prayer and in the Word.Which brings me to the title question of this post:”how to know what God really expects of us”.

The answer is found within the pages of God’s Word.The two examples I shared with you are representative of the content found within the sixty six books of the Bible,nearly all of which contain an abundance of instruction and admonition for our spiritual development.

My hope,my earnest prayer is that we first understand that God does indeed expect something of us.He expects US. Not our things,not our money,not our deeds or even our sacrifices,but rather our hearts.

Secondly,that we regularly read His Word,because the Word of God is alive and more relevant for today than most can imagine it to be.It will keep and sustain you in the darkest hours you may face.It will compel you onward as you draw near unto Him.

since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God“.   1 Peter 1:23   ESV

Have a wonderful Wednesday everyone!

Ron

 

 

When I see The Blood….

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Admit it.

The word BLOOD conjures up images of something gruesome and horrific.It’s the stuff that horror movies like to show in graphic detail as victim after victim succumbs to some unspeakable horror.

Not the most entertaining topic of conversation in my opinion.

Come to think of it,outside of the medical or first responder professions I rarely hear anyone use the word in anything that resembles a normal conversation.

But yet when we step into the pages of God’s Word,we find that a great number of references to blood actually do exist.

Maybe that’s because to the Lord,blood has a special significance.The blood represents life,for in our veins pumps the blood of life.Every vessel,every artery,every vein carries this life giving resource.Being the Creator of us all,of course the Lord designed us to be so.

So let’s look at the nation of Israel and a significant event involving the BLOOD.

Early in the book of Exodus we find Israel on the brink of deliverance from the slavery of Egypt.Moses had appeared before Pharaoh several times to demand that he let the people of Israel go to worship their God,and though he would agree he always recanted and refused to allow Israel to depart.

Until God said “enough”.Through all of the various plagues that had befallen the land of Egypt,Pharaoh had continually hardened his heart before the God of heaven and remained in denial of God’s great power.

Until the BLOOD was applied.The BLOOD that made all the difference.The BLOOD that distinguished Israel from Egypt.The BLOOD that spelled redemption for one and destruction for the other.

The BLOOD.

7 And they shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and on the lintel of the houses where they eat it.12 For I will pass through the land of Egypt on that night, and will strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both man and beast; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgment: I am the Lord.13 Now the blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you; and the plague shall not be on you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.   Exodus 12:7,12,13

Painting blood

The BLOOD.
When I see the BLOOD I will pass over you and you will be safe in the midst of the destruction that’s coming.
The Passover.
Now,I realize that many don’t like Old Testament references for one reason or another.Yet in it’s pages we find so many similarities to Christ. Like the one you just read!
In the same way that the children of Israel were protected because the BLOOD had been applied to the door posts,you and I are also protected from the wrath to come by the BLOOD of the Lamb of God that has been shed abroad in our hearts.
If we have repented of our sins,if we have asked Him to save us,if we have acknowledged Him as our Savior,the BLOOD that was shed for the remission of our sins will save us from the destruction that is coming upon the world.
The BLOOD has always been a part of God’s redemptive plan for man.
Won’t you receive his sacrifice today?
Be blessed,
Ron

“I Remember You”

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Jeremiah 2:1-2 (NKJV)
1 Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
2 “Go and cry in the hearing of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord: “I remember you, The kindness of your youth, The love of your betrothal, When you went after Me in the wilderness, In a land not sown.

The Prophet Jeremiah received this word from God concerning the spiritual condition of Israel a little less than 600 years before the birth of Christ.In it the Lord was calling His children to remembrance of a better time,a happier time when Israel was following after the Lord with all of their heart.A time when God had delivered them from slavery and bondage in Egypt and led them out with a mighty deliverance.

So intense was this love between God and Israel that He speaks of it in terms used to describe a marriage.The kindness,or tenderness of their youth,the love that was compared to the deep abiding love between a man and his wife,their pursuing of Him in the wilderness.Israel was young and in love with the Lord,not unlike us when we fall in love.So deep was this love that God was considered the nation’s “husband”.

Yet something sinister has happened to this once inseparable love.Through the passage of time Israel has rejected her “husband” and has taken up after other gods.They no longer needed God for they have long since left the wilderness and have established themselves as a great nation.They have literally forgotten where they came from.Or as I like to say, they have gotten above their raising.

The fall of Israel reads as the most tragic in all of history when you consider that they were the chosen of God.Chosen of Almighty God to receive blessing and favor the likes of which had never been seen before.We cannot fully understand the scope of what has happened to Israel unless we go back and study for ourselves,and I dare say that when we do that we will be stunned at what has happened to this once proud nation.

Beloved, from where I set on the front row I often feel as though I am reliving the pages of biblical history as I see the church of the living God drawing further and further away from Him.Oh,we’re growing in numbers in many places.And we certainly can erect impressive monuments that we call houses of worship.But where are our hearts?Where is the “love of our betrothal”?

From where I set on the front row I see tradition.I see formalities.I see one choreographed  program after another.I see the church succumbing to the great god entertainment.I see an atmosphere of “worship”more commonly found at a rock concert.I see a total lack of respect for the house of God.

I hear the Lord saying “I Remember You”…

Be blessed,

Ron