Welcome to National Evangelist Ministries. May the flame of evangelism never go out!
Rev. Sarah Garner
1251 85th Ave
Oakland, California 94621
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April 2013 Sermon and Daily Devotions (www.esword.com)
Moses Pointing to the Lord for Battle
Hear, O Israel: Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies; do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them; for the LORD your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you. (Deu_20:3-4)
Moses is another example of those who lived by grace in the Old Testament. He knew the necessity of relying upon the sufficiency of God, instead of upon the inadequate resources of man. One illustration of this is seen when he pointed Israel to the Lord for battle.
When the children of Israel would enter into the Promised Land, innumerable battles would lie before them. These battles were inevitable, since godless nations had entrenched themselves in the land: "because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD your God drives them out from before you" (Deu_9:5). Thus, the history of Israel documents one battle after another.
Moses announced the truth that the people of the Lord need to hear as the battle draws near. "Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies; do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them." So often, when the warfare appears, the foe seems invincible. "When you go out to battle against your enemies, and see horses and chariots and people more numerous than you" (Deu_20:1). The natural temptation is to "faint . . . be afraid . . . tremble or be terrified." Another temptation is to try to match the enemy horse for horse and chariot for chariot. The scriptures warn of the futility of turning to worldly resources. "Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many, and in horsemen because they are very strong, but who do not look to the Holy One of Israel" (Isa_31:1).
Moses knew that God's people need a reminder that the Lord wants to be our hope. When we must go into the battles of life, the Lord accompanies us. "For the LORD your God is He who goes with you." He is with us not only to comfort us, but also to battle on our behalf: "to fight for you against your enemies, to save you." The Lord can fight for His people in an unlimited variety of ways. He can change the hearts of those who oppose us. He can bring their plans to naught. He can trap them in their own evil plans. He can cause our enemies to turn and devour one another. He can effectively save us in any manner that He chooses.
O Lord, my defender, I face many battles that leave me intimidated and fearful. My hope is often placed in my own worldly strategies or the help that man can offer. Lord, I look to You afresh to fight for me to rescue me any way You chose, for Your glory and honor, Amen.
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Rev. Sarah Garner
1251 85th Avenue
Oakland, Ca. 94621
In Christ, a New Creation
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation. (Gal_6:15)
In the relationship we have with the Lord through the new covenant of grace, there is intimacy, fullness of life, spiritual victory, and so much more. These blessings (that are not available to those who are related to Adam) are aspects of the new life that comes to new creatures "in Christ."
"In Christ," everything is so different from how it was "in Adam." The family of man, having only natural life from Adam, puts great significance in human heritage or personal inclinations. Whether a person is a Jew or a Gentile can be of enormous consequence to many among the unredeemed community. Whether a person is religiously inclined or secularly motivated avails much with many unsaved people. On the other hand, those who have been brought into union with Christ can learn that God's perspective on such matters is vastly different. "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything."
In the kingdom of heaven, these distinctives among the sons of Adam mean nothing. Human differences do not cause the work of God or the will of God to be advanced or prevented. They avail nothing. What matters for all who are "in Christ Jesus" is not a "human category," "but a new creation."
When we come to know Christ by grace through faith, He gives us new birth. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again" (1Pe_1:3). We are created anew. We become a new spiritual being before the Lord. We have "put on the new man" (Col_3:10). In this heavenly kingdom of new men and women, "there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all" (Col_3:11). All that ultimately matters is that the Lord Jesus Christ dwells in all of His people, and He is wants to be all that they will ever need. All that matters is the Spirit of Christ is the living water that we have begun to partake of and that He makes us one. "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body — whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free — and have all been made to drink into one Spirit" (1Co_12:13). Any person in any human category who will cry out to the Lord in faith can experience this richness. "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him" (Rom_10:12).
Dear Lord, giver of new life, my heart celebrates the wondrous fact that I am a new creation in Christ. I am delighted that my old human categories could not prevent Your work of grace from being offered to me. I praise You for Your glorious grace, Amen.
New Creatures in Christ
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new. (2Co_5:17)
Everyone who is "in Christ," through faith in His name, is a "new creation." We are new people. We are no longer who we were before we put our trust in the Lord Jesus. We are not the old person reformed or improved; we are a "new creation." Yes, we have the same body, but that is a mere tent in which we dwell. "For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (2Co_5:1). Some day in glory, we will trade this temporal, earthly tent for an eternal heavenly one. Meanwhile, though we live in the same old tent we had in Adam, we are new tenants, a "new creation." We may have the same old physical brain, but we are learning to think an entirely new way. "We have the mind of Christ... be transformed by the renewing of your mind" (Rom_12:2 and 1Co_2:16). Christ lives in us, and His Spirit also dwells in us. His Spirit takes the word of God and unfolds the thinking of our Lord for us. As we embrace God's way of thinking more and more, we are transformed to walk in the newness that is ours in "in Christ."
In all the ways that matter before God, "old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new." The old guilt is replaced by new forgiveness. "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus... in whom we have... the forgiveness of sins" (Rom_8:1 and Col_1:14).
The old foolishness is replaced by new wisdom. "For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God... But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God" (1Co_3:19 and 1Co_1:30). The old unrighteousness is replaced with new righteousness. "All our righteousnesses are like filthy rags... For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (Isa_64:6 and 2Co_5:21). The old hope of changing (self-help) is replaced by new hope of changing (sanctification, God changing us). "Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength... You are in Christ Jesus, who became for us... sanctification" (Jer_17:5 and 1Co_1:30). This is grace upon grace.
O Lord, my hope, I thank You for making me a new person in Christ. Please strengthen my heart to spend time in Your word that I might hear more of these grand truths. Lord, I yearn to walk in more of this rich newness of life, in Jesus name, Amen.
Every Spiritual Blessing Ours in Christ
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ. (Eph_1:3)
Living day by day by grace is essentially about developing an intimate relationship with the Lord. "But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ." We have considered some of the radical extent of that intimacy through the intriguing phrase "in Christ." "You also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another, even to Him who was raised from the dead" (Rom_7:4). Through this profound uniting with Christ, astounding spiritual riches are now ours.
This is why Paul offered grateful praise to the Lord: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." Paul's thanksgiving was for what the Father has given to us: "who has blessed us." Notice, the verb is in the past tense — this has already happened. What is it that has already been given to us? It is "every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places." Think of it. This truth is staggering in its implications. Every grace resource that heaven has to offer is already ours here on earth. This does not mean that we are fully aware of all that has been given to us. Certainly, it does not mean that we are experiencing all of these blessings. Yet, it does mean that they are all ours to draw upon for fullness of life here on earth!
The reason these rich blessings are ours is that they all reside in Christ. In Christ is forgiveness, righteousness, and wisdom. Also, love, joy, and peace are found in Him. In Christ dwell victory, discernment, and courage. Moreover, compassion, strength, and perseverance are part of who He is. All this and far more is found in Christ. "For it pleased the Father that in Him [in Christ] all the fullness should dwell" (Col_1:19). Now, we dwell in the place ("in Christ") where all of this richness resides: "who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ." All these spiritual resources of the kingdom of heaven are now ours "in Christ." "And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for [upon] grace" (Joh_1:16).
Dear Father, I too want to bless You for bestowing all of this richness upon me. Lord, forgive me for the spiritual poverty that I too often experience. Teach me to draw upon these limitless treasures of Your grace. I want to honor You with an abundant walk in Christ's fullness, Amen.
God Enlightening Us about Our Spiritual Resources
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ... the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling. (Eph_1:3, Eph_1:18)
We have seen that all the grace resources God has for us to live by here on earth are already ours "in Christ." Now, our need is to have these comprehensive spiritual treasures revealed to us by the Lord Himself: "the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling." In order to draw upon these heavenly provisions, we need the Lord to enlighten our understanding concerning what is ours in Christ Jesus. "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him. But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit" (1Co_2:9-10). As the Holy Spirit uses the word of God to reveal these matters to us, our faith develops so we might access them by faith. "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Rom_10:17).
The scriptures teach us to pray for such spiritual enlightenment. "Open my eyes, that I may see wondrous things from Your law" (Psa_119:18). In the word of God, we are told of the wonderful things that God has for His people. If we prayerfully seek the Lord concerning His insight into these blessings, the Lord will enlighten us. His willingness to respond is evident in His word. "Call to Me, and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things, which you do not know" (Jer_33:3).
The Lord delights to give heavenly spiritual insight to the humble of heart, not to those who trust in their own wisdom and prudence. "In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, 'I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes'" (Luke 10:21). This picture of a little one humbly trusting in the Heavenly Father to reveal His ways fits perfectly God's pattern for living by grace: humility and faith. What God has given us in Christ are His grace resources. It takes grace at work for us to even see what is ours in Him. God gives grace to the humble (Jam_4:6), and faith accesses grace (Rom_5:2).
Dear Lord, fountain of every heavenly blessing, I humble myself before You. On my own, I could never discover the richness You have given me in Christ. Please enlighten me by Your Spirit, as I search Your scriptures. Build my faith to draw upon Your grace resources day by day, through Christ I pray, Amen.
Proclaiming Christ for Maturity in Christ
Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. (Col_1:28)
Spiritual maturity is one of the heavenly blessings that is ours "in Christ Jesus." Our heavenly Father desires that all of His children develop in this blessing of maturity: "that we may present every man perfect [mature] in Christ Jesus." As God's people are being built up, the goal is that "we all come... to a perfect [mature] man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children... but... may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ" (Eph_4:13-15). Jesus is our standard of spiritual maturity. The Lord wants us to be maturing into the likeness of the character of Christ.
For the saints to mature in Christ requires the proclamation of Christ. "Him we preach... that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus." Truth about the Lord Jesus Christ is the message that matures the people of God: "Him we preach." We need to know who the Lord is, what He has done, and what He wants to do in our lives, that we might trust in Him as our source: "from whom the whole body" (Eph_4:16).
The scriptures abound with many beautiful revelations of such truths about Jesus. He is the Son of God, divine. "And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God" (Joh_1:34). He is the Son of Man, Immanuel, God coming as man. "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head... Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel... God with us" (Mat_8:20; Mat_1:23). He is the lamb of God. "Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! " (Joh_1:29).
This Jesus is our Mediator, bringing us the new covenant of grace. "And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant" (Heb_9:15). He is our Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, supplying all we need from start to finish. "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End" (Rev_22:13). He is our "all in all." "Christ is all and in all" (Col_3:11).
Such truths about Jesus are the ultimate message to mature the saints.
Dear Lord Jesus, I long to mature in Your likeness. There is so much about my life that is immature and carnal. I hunger to see who You are and all that You want to do in and through me. Please reveal Yourself to me through Your word, that I might know You better and be conformed to Your image. This I pray in Your holy name, Amen.
Rev. Sarah Garner
1251 85th Avenue
Oakland, Ca. 94621
Jesus Christ, Our Great High Priest
Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb_4:14-16)
Jesus as our High Priest is one of the magnificent truths that matures us in the faith and draws us more intimately to Him. When we see the greatness of Jesus in this office, our steadfastness is strengthened. "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession." Jesus was completely successful in His mission of redemption. He came and died as the sacrifice for our sins. He rose victorious over sin and death. He ascended to the heaven of heavens, seated in authority at the right hand of the Father. Knowing this, we have great cause to remain steadfast in our confession of hope in Him.
Furthermore, our great High Priest is not aloof from our needs or impervious to our frailties. "For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses." The enemy of our souls threw all of His tempting devices at Jesus. He faced what we face, so He understands our battles in a very personal manner. Another matter of even greater significance is that He never yielded to the tempters attacks: "yet without sin." Thus, He not only understands our plight, but He can also provide victory.
We are hereby given reason to approach God, through our great High Priest, without hesitation or apprehension to find the help we need. "Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." Our God rules this universe from a throne characterized by grace. This grace can only be properly known by those who live under His new covenant of grace. This grace is sufficient to justify and to sanctify all who humbly trust in the Lord. The grace offered here is not for initial salvation. Rather, it is for rescuing the redeemed when they are aware of their inadequacy. We are invited to draw near, approach our God in an intimate fashion, and partake of His fullness in light of our emptiness.
Dear Jesus, my great High Priest, I extol You for Your greatness. You are great in understanding, compassion, victory, and grace. Lord, I have so many great needs in my life. So I draw near to You, anticipating that Your grace is fully sufficient to meet my lack, Amen.
Jesus Christ, Our Only Foundation
According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1Co_3:10-11)
Another wonderful blessing in Christ is the foundation that He provides for all who live by His grace. As with buildings, lives also need solid foundations. Our foundation is a person, Jesus. "For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." By the grace of God enabling him, Paul ministered the gospel of Jesus Christ. "According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation." In doing this, he was laying the only reliable spiritual ground for living as God intended. So many people attempt to lay other foundations for their lives. Some turn to earthly riches. Others hope in human wisdom. Others put their confidence in personal power and influence. Such vain pursuits are like attempting to construct a building upon shifting, sinking sand.
Our lives need a rock foundation. It has always been the Father's purpose to provide such for His people. David experienced this through his pilgrimage, as he trusted in the Lord. "From the end of the earth I will cry to You, When my heart is overwhelmed; lead me to the rock that is higher than I" (Psa_61:2). In the most extreme situations on earth, when circumstances were overwhelming him, David cried out to His God. He looked to the Lord to be to him a rock upon which he could stand above the rolling waves of impossibility. "He only is my rock and my salvation; He is my defense; I shall not be moved" (Psa_62:6). David stood on the Lord alone as his solid spiritual ground. Standing by faith he would not be destroyed.
Of course, the ultimate expression of God being a rock to His people would be in the coming of the Son of God to earth as a man. This great plan the Lord promised through Isaiah. "Behold, I lay in Zion a stone for a foundation, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; whoever believes will not act hastily" (Isa_28:16). Jesus is that proven, priceless, and secure foundation. Now, all who stand on Him by faith will not be driven about frantically, searching for solid ground on which to plant their feet.
O Lord my rock, You are the only foundation that I will ever need for my life. I have tried to stand on so many things that proved to be sinking sand. Lord, I want to place all of my hope for spiritual stability in You. When circumstances threaten to inundate me, be to me my rock of refuge in the storm, Amen.
Christ in Us, Our Hope of Glory
To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Col_1:27)
We have been considering the wondrous truth that we who believe in Jesus are in Christ. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Eph_1:3). All that God has for us is ours "in Christ." We can now enjoy the benefits of who Christ is and all that He has accomplished for us, because we are in Him. Our present verse adds another extraordinary dimension. Not only are we "in Christ," but Christ is also in us: "Christ in you, the hope of glory."
God wants to make something known among all the nations: "to make known... among the Gentiles." The message He desires to reveal is glorious in spiritual richness: "the riches of the glory of this mystery." However, it truly is a mystery, in the New Testament use of that term. A biblical mystery is something that can only be known by the revealing work of God. The mysteries of the scriptures cannot be discovered or understood by intellectual investigation or personal experience. God Himself must make them known. The Lord does this through the grace-empowered, Spirit-empowered proclamation of His word. Here, the great mystery God wants to unfold is "Christ in you, the hope of glory."
What a grand hope this message brings! Jesus, the Son of God, is willing to come and dwell within us to assure us of making it to glory (heaven) some day. Meanwhile, Christ wants to reside at the very core of our being: "that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith" (Eph_3:17). As we are trusting in Him, He is living in, and working through, our hearts. Then, from this strategic point of intimacy and access, He gives us heavenly hope. That confident expectation includes the joyous fact that He is coming again: "looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ" (Tit_2:13). Yet, His return is not our only hope. He, Himself, is our day by day hope: "Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope" (1Ti_1:1). Jesus is our comprehensive hope!
Lord Jesus, my hope, I praise You for the hope You give — anticipation of Your return, assurance of heaven, and daily confidence in Your working in me. Forgive me, Lord, for the times I place my hope and confidence elsewhere. Teach me, help me to put my hope in You alone, in Your faithful name I pray, Amen.
Living in Christ, Christ Living in Us
He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him... At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you. (Joh_6:56 and Joh_14:20)
In our verses, we again see the extent of the intimate relationship that the new covenant of grace provides. An astounding intimacy is declared in these words: "abides in Me, and I in him." We have not merely come near to Christ, nor has He simply drawn close to us. Rather, we live in Him, and He lives in us! We live by being in Christ (by being related to Him, by being united with Him, by drawing our spiritual life from Him). Moreover, He lives in us and desires to express His life through us.
This unique arrangement for spiritual intimacy is experienced by the one "who eats My flesh and drinks My blood." Although the language sounds strange to the natural mind, the picture is common, that of eating and drinking to find life-giving nourishment. The unusual aspect is that the source of the nutrition is a person. Earlier in Jesus' discourse, He had indicated what this process encompassed. "I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me shall never hunger, and he who believes in Me shall never thirst" (Joh_6:35). Eating and drinking of Jesus' flesh and blood involves simply coming to Him in faith. When we come to Jesus, we are counting upon who He was (His person, His flesh, the Son of God becoming a man). When we believe in Jesus, we are also relying upon what He did (His work, His blood poured out for us upon the cross). As we relate to Jesus in this manner, we are finding our spiritual sustenance in Him. Thus, we abide in Him and He in us.
Of course, the Holy Spirit would participate fully in this process. "At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you." Jesus was leaving His disciples soon, to return to the Father. So, He comforted them: "I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. A little while longer and the world will see Me no more, but you will see Me. Because I live, you will live also" (Joh_14:18-19). On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was poured forth in fullness and power. Now, the Spirit would make the very life of Jesus available to all of His followers. As they trusted in Him, Christ would live in and through their lives.
Dear Lord of life, help me to learn to live this way — me living in You, and You living in me. Help me to see it is as simple as eating and drinking. As I trust food and drink for my physical life, I want to trust in who You are and what You have done for my spiritual life, Amen.
Branches in the Vine, the Vine in the Branches
Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. (Joh_15:4-5)
Previously, we examined these verses to see how the grace of God produces fruit in those who walk in humility and faith (thereby living by grace). Now, let's revisit these words to consider the intimate relationship they describe. It is a profound biblical picture of us being in Christ and Christ being in us. It is like the relationship between a vine and a branch. Jesus is the vine; we are the branches. "I am the vine, you are the branches." He is the source of the life we need. We are the recipients of the life that He alone can provide.
The Lord Jesus wants us, His branches, to be fruitful. "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit" (Joh_15:8). Fruit is the result of developing life. Branches do not innately have that life in themselves. "The branch cannot bear fruit of itself." Branches must always find their life in the vine. The vine, Jesus, has life. "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6). Our Lord came to share that life with us in abundance. "I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly" (Joh_10:10). His abundant life is what enables us to bear much fruit.
Such life abundant (fruit-developing life) flows out of the intimate relationship available to us in Christ. Think of the "joined relationship" that a vine and a branch have. The branch came forth from the vine, and is ever after connected to the vine. The life of the vine is available to flow in and through the branch. We came forth from Jesus, our vine, as we were born again by His Spirit through faith in Christ. Now, we are joined to Him forever. "He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him" (1Co_6:17). Day by day, His life is accessible to us.
We access that life by abiding. "Abide in Me, and I in you." We depend on Him to be our source of life. He, then, lives in and through us.
Dear Jesus, my vine, You are my only source of spiritual life. I confess that I often try to produce that life on my own. Also, I often think of You as far away, as I cry out to You in my prayers. Actually, You are as near to me spiritually as a vine is to a branch. Please remind me frequently of Your nearness. Lord, I want to abide in You day by day, Amen.
Christ Living in Us
I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Gal_2:20)
In these sublime words, we are given profound insight concerning the grace of God at work through our intimate relationship with Christ. This majestic statement begins with our spiritual death, that another might live in and through our lives. Finally, we are told how we are to respond, so this divine arrangement can proceed as intended.
First, our spiritual death is in view. "I have been crucified with Christ." If we are believers in the Lord Jesus, we died with Him upon that cross. The cross of Christ is now our testimony of rejoicing, for by that cross we escaped the dead world of unredeemed humanity. "But God forbid that I should glory except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world" (Gal_6:14). Although the cross is the end of our old life in Adam, that is not the end of our story. "Even when we were dead in trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) " (Eph_2:5). By His grace, we were raised with Christ. We died with Him, that we now might live with Him. "Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him" (Rom_6:8).
The astounding consequence of these truths is that we are not the ones producing our Christian life. "It is no longer I who live." This reality is radically contrary to man's natural thinking. If we are not to manufacture our life with God, what other option could possibly be available? The wonderful answer is: "Christ lives in me." True Christian living is to be Christ living in and through our lives. How can this be accomplished? We still have an ongoing human experience in flesh and bones bodies: "the life which I now live in the flesh." Yes, but this life is to be lived by faith: "I live by faith in the Son of God." As we put our trust in Jesus day by day, He lives in and through our thoughts, our words, our choices, our priorities, our relationships.
Once again, this is God's grace at work through humility and faith. The humility is expressed by embracing this confession: "it is no longer I who live." The faith is expressed by counting upon this truth: "Christ lives in me."
Dear God of my salvation, what a magnificent plan! Thank You for providing a way out of the old life. Praise You for raising me to a new life. How wonderful that this new life is to be Christ living in me. Lord Jesus, please live in me as I depend upon You, Amen.
Christ Being Formed in Us
My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you... Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? (Gal_4:19 and 2Co_13:5)
When we take the truth of the gospel to others, that they might be born again, we often enter into spiritual birth pangs on their behalf. They are wresting over issues and questions. We are agonizing with them, that they might embrace the truth they need to become a child of God by faith. "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal_3:26).
When the Apostle Paul took the gospel into the region of Galatia, he labored in this manner on behalf of those who would become believers in Jesus Christ. Later, he is writing them, telling them that once again he was in spiritual labor for them. "My little children, for whom I labor in birth again." This subsequent agonizing was not concerning their initial salvation. They had already been born again through faith in in the Lord Jesus. Now, he was laboring "until Christ is formed in you."
It is the will of our Heavenly Father that we invite His Son into our lives. "As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God" (Joh_1:12). Furthermore, it is His will that we allow the life of His Son to be expressed in and though our lives. As we face life day by day, we become engaged with issues, opportunities, challenges, responses, ideas, relationships, values, priorities, etc. The Lord Jesus Christ died for us in order to live with us through all of these aspects of living. "For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us that... we should live together with Him" (1Th_5:9). In every situation of life, the Lord Jesus is with us, dwelling within us, wanting to express His life through us.
Although this great reality is described in many places throughout the word of God, many of God's people seem not to know it. "Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? " Either they have not heard it, or they have forgotten it. What a great privilege it is to share these grand truths with others. The process will not be without difficulties. "To this end I also labor, striving [agonizing] according to His working which works in me mightily" (Col_1:29). However, though we may experience spiritual birth pangs for others, God will see us through, as He touches their lives.
Lord Jesus, my indwelling Savior, please express Your life in and through me. May there be no area of my life that is just me doing my best or me fulfilling my will. Also, Lord, be my strength, enabling me to share these great realities with others, in Your mighty name, Amen.
Enriched with Grace by Christ
I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus, that you were enriched in everything by Him in all utterance and all knowledge... you abound in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us. (1Co_1:4-5 and 2Co_8:7)
As we have seen, the new covenant of grace is essentially about developing a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. Our God desires to impart His grace into our lives through this acquaintanceship with His Son: "the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus." This phrase ("by Christ Jesus") points once again to the intimate relational aspect of living in Christ by grace. God's grace flows into our lives "by Christ Jesus." It might be helpful to restate this truth. God's grace comes into our experience by means of another person, the Lord Jesus. The limitless grace of our great God available to us on the basis of who Jesus is and all that He has done for us. It is accessed whenever we humbly, dependently relate to Him.
The resources that continually await us are so rich. The believers at Corinth found this to be true. "You were enriched in everything by Him." Two areas of God's rich grace are mentioned here: "enriched... in all utterance and all knowledge." God's grace had enriched them with a great capacity to know the things of God and to put the wonder of those things into appropriate words.
When Paul wrote these saints on a later occasion, he elaborated upon the richness of grace that had become their personal experience. "You abound in everything — in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all diligence, and in your love for us." Three aspects are added to the previous list here: "faith, diligence, love." By the grace of God at work in them, their capacity to trust in Him had been enlarged. By the grace of God at work in them, their attentive perseverance had grown. By the grace of God at work in them, their loving concern for Paul and his missionary team had developed further.
When Paul prayed for other disciples of the Lord Jesus, he prayed in a manner that fits this picture. He prayed that their lives might be "filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God" (Phi_1:11). Righteous fruit, such as the Corinthians were enjoying, comes from Jesus Christ imparting His grace into our lives.
Heavenly Father, I again see that Your grace enriches my life by means of Your beloved Son. Lord Jesus, I humbly depend upon You to fill my life with Your righteous fruit, in Your holy name, Amen.https://twitter.com/revsarahgarner
Eternal Life and Knowing God
And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent. (Joh_17:3)
This statement by the Lord Jesus begins in a very profound manner: "And this is eternal life." To complete such a statement requires comprehensive truth. If the statement had started with "this is included in eternal life," many non-comprehensive matters could be used to finish the statement. One could rightly state that forgiveness of sins is included in eternal life. One could properly say that escaping hell and securing heaven are included in eternal life. Likewise, one could say that meaning and purpose for living are included in eternal life. Additionally, one could state that spiritual gifts and spiritual fruit are also included. Furthermore, one could say that fellowship in the body of Christ and new understanding of the scriptures are included. Nevertheless, none of these individually, nor all of these collectively, are sufficient to complete the statement: "And this is eternal life."
To finish that profound beginning, one must add an all-encompassing truth. One must speak of the full dimensions of eternal life. What is large enough to complete that majestic opening? Only the one reality of knowing God would be adequate: "that they may know You." Yes, knowing God is what eternal life is all about. It is only through meeting the Lord that forgiveness is found. It is only by being in Christ that we escape hell and secure heaven. Then, it is only through getting acquainted with the Lord that meaning and purpose for our lives are made real to us. Also, it is only through a growing intimacy of trust in Christ that spiritual gifts and spiritual fruit can properly mature. Furthermore, it is only through an increasing acquaintanceship with the Lord that Christian fellowship and biblical insight are appropriately developed.
These truths certainly concur with those prophetic words of old that promised a new covenant of grace to replace the old covenant of law. "I will make a new covenant... not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers... But this is the covenant that I will make... I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people... they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them" (Jer_31:31-34). Heb_8:11 makes it clear that these words are for us today. "All shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them." The new covenant provides a growing, intimate acquaintanceship for all who will walk in its terms of grace.
Dear Father, I confess that I often think and behave as though eternal life is less than knowing You. Help me to understand and to live the very essence of Your new covenant of grace — Your provisions for allowing me to grow in knowing You, through Christ Jesus, my Lord, Amen.
The Excelling Value of Knowing Christ
But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ. Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ... that I may know Him. (Phi_3:8, Phi_3:10)
We can easily underestimate the great value of getting to know the Lord Jesus Christ. Other concerns from the world, or even within the church world, gain our interest and allegiance. Paul clearly saw the precious treasure of knowing Christ.
Paul had advanced greatly in the religious culture of Israel. He was "a Hebrew of the Hebrews" (Phi_3:5). He was a prominent Pharisee, a leader among the nation of Israel. Nevertheless, he forsook all of that cultural and religious advantage in order to follow Christ. "But what things were gain to me, these I have counted loss for Christ." He considered knowing the Lord Jesus as far greater than his privileged personal position.
Furthermore, Paul continued to consider other matters as loss, as compared to the supreme value of knowing his Lord better. "Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." Now that Paul had a relationship with the Lord, he considered any thing that would interfere with or diminish that relationship as being a spiritual loss. Sometimes, we are tempted to engage in matters that seem to bring some blessing or advantage. Yet, when we see the impact it might have on our relationship with the Lord, the apparent gain is actually a loss.
Paul knew Jesus as his personal Lord and Savior. Still, he was aware that more of the blessings of Christ were yet to be experienced, if his relationship were to develop into more depth and intimacy: "that I may gain Christ." Thus, he repeats his two-fold renouncement of anything that might interfere with this desire. First, a look at the past: "I have suffered the loss of all things." Then, a confession of the present: "and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ." This term ("rubbish") refers to garbage, to waste, to dung.
These convictions left Paul with one great goal is his life: "that I may know Him." Paul realized that this goal was the excelling value in all of the universe: "the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord."
Lord Jesus, knowing You is the most precious treasure of my life. Yet, I admit that I do allow other concerns to interfere with our relationship at times. Lord, help me to view as rubbish anything that would keep me from growing in this wonderful acquaintanceship with You, Amen.https://twitter.com/revsarahgarner