Freedom to Choose

As we’ve looked at the subject of freedom in Christ, we have learned about justification, sanctification, and now we look at glorification. Our Bible Journaling Scripture for today is Philippians 3:20-21, “But our citizenship is in Heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself.” (CSB)

So far, we have learned that justification is “the act of being declared righteous in God’s sight.” We have learned that sanctification means “to be made holy”. This is a process; it is a life-long journey. Now we look at glorification, which is defined as, “God’s final removal of sin from the life of the saints (through salvation). When Jesus comes back to take the Believer to Heaven with Him, “we will be changed from mortal to holy immortal with direct access to God’s presence.” (taken from http://www.gotquestions.org)

God did not create us to be mere automatons. He gave us the ability to choose the path we want to go. We alone decide whether to accept Jesus as our Savior or to reject Him. When we ask Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, God provides the final removal of our sins because of what Jesus has done for us. Unlike the angels, who were created to worship God entirely, we have a choice. We choose to love Him; we choose to follow His will and His purpose for us. We have a choice!

My first husband was into robots. In fact, he was so enamored by them that he made a couple of them. The last one was almost 6 feet tall and it walked, talked, and moved its arms. We named him Ottomation. But Otto couldn’t do any of those things without my husband rigging up a control panel for him to move and by providing the voice for Otto. The robot couldn’t do anything unless my husband made it do what he wanted it to do. Otto was a robot and could only do what he was programmed to do. God did not want mindless robots who were programmed only to do His bidding. He wanted His people to have the free will to be able to choose whether they would love, honor, obey, and worship Him.

The first test of this was in the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 3) God had only one rule for Adam and Eve, they were not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They failed the test miserably, and because of that, sin entered the world and we have been dealing with it ever since. Because of Adam’s sin, each of us was born in sin. In order to restore the relationship between God and us, we must accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sins. (John 3:3, John 3:16-17, Acts 2:21, 4:12) God does not beat us over the head, demanding that we follow Jesus, but He lovingly offers us a way of escape from the penalty of sin (Romans 6:23) through Christ’s death on the cross.

Once we have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, we are promised eternal life with Him, free from all the hindrances we face now. God accepts our repentance, we receive His grace, and we can then live a life full of peace and joy and have the knowledge that God loves us and provides eternal life for us. We are promised that we will have a glorified body, like Jesus, and we will be in God’s presence face to face. The choice is ours. The question remains, “What will you do with Jesus?” I hope that if you haven’t asked Christ into your life, that today you will choose to accept Him as your Lord and Savior. It will be the best decision you will have ever made.

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We are Free from the Power of Sin

As we continue to look at the subject of freedom, today we learn that we are free from the power that sin has over us. Romans 6:22-23 says, “But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (NASB) We are all born in sin, every single one of us. As babies we have the selfish desires of being the center of everything, our needs and wants are top priority over everything else. As we grow older, hopefully, we learn not to be so self-centered, but there is still that within us that wants what it wants when it wants it. That attitude is ingrained in us from birth…and as such, it is the sinful part that was handed down to us from Adam.

The Apostle Paul tells us in our Scripture today that when we accept Jesus as our Savior, He frees us from our sins, and we are sanctified. I looked up the definition of sanctification in Dictionary.com. and sanctification is defined as “to make holy; set apart as sacred; consecrate; to purify or free from sin.” When we become Believers, we are set apart for God’s glory and to be used by Him to be an example of what God has done in us. Our attitude, our actions, our speech, everything about us is to reflect Jesus Christ living in us. Does that mean that after we become Christians we never sin? No, of course not! We are still human and fallible. However, Jesus made a way for us to be reinstated when we fall. His death on the cross and His shed blood covers us when we come to Him and repent of our sins. Does that mean we can just keep on sinning because we can continue to ask forgiveness? No! We are not to make a habit of sinning. We are to live lives that are set apart, holy, and consecrated to God.

The Christians in Rome dealt with this very problem. Paul tells them in Romans 6:1-2, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (NASB) It is true, God’s grace covers us when we sin, but we are not to abuse His grace toward us. Because Jesus paid for the penalty of sin, God has declared that we are sinless and perfect in His eyes, and it is He who gives you the power to overcome sin. God has sanctified us, made us holy, and because of this, we must live our lives in a way to give honor and glory to Him.

We can’t overcome sin on our own, we need the power of the Holy Spirit to help us defeat those things in us that would lead us into areas of sin. Temptation is not sin, however; succumbing to it is. When we delve into sinful attitudes and actions, not desiring to repent but continue, we can find ourselves in trouble. We can put ourselves into situations where we easily fall prey to the traps of the enemy. Each one of us has areas in our lives that we battle with daily. It is then that we must turn to Jesus, ask for His help and hold onto His hand, allowing Him to guide us in the pathway we are to go.

For me, I struggle with my weight, like a lot of us I suppose. I find that my “I want what I want when I want it” voice pops up more times than I like to admit. I fight that every single day. I’m not much on exercise either. My motto has always been, “Exercise will kill ya!” (LOL) My overindulgence in eating and not exercising is, for me, sin. I need to overcome my selfishness and seek God’s power to overcome in this area of my life. I have moments where I am successful, but then there comes a time when I’m tired of being good on my diet and I’m back where I started. Living a sanctified life isn’t always easy, but through the power of the Holy Spirit and God’s leading, we can be successful. We then can experience the freedom that comes in relenting to Jesus and turning our back on those things that lead us into sin.

Because of Jesus’ sacrifice and the power of the Holy Spirit, we can put our rebellion behind us and be free from the power and penalty of sin. We can rejoice, knowing that through Him we are free!

I Walk in Freedom

As we continue our study on freedom, our Bible Journaling Scripture today is from Psalm 119:45, “I will walk in freedom, for I have devoted myself to your commandments.” (NLT) What does walking in freedom mean? Politically, walking in freedom involves following the laws that have been set forth by our Constitution and legislators. As long as we abide by the law of the land, we have freedom. When we violate those laws, our freedom ends, and most likely will end up with a loss of that freedom.

Spiritually, our freedom comes when we follow God’s laws and when we accept Christ as our Savior. He frees us from our sin. As we mentioned in our last post, just because we are free to do what we want, we should not go against the precepts that God has laid down for us, or we will we be in bondage to sin and depravity. We are not to continue in sin for we will find ourselves in a position of rebellion and back to the bondage of sin, and discipline will be given to us for that disobedience. Just as we are free in our country to live as we please, when we violate the laws of the land, there is a punishment that will be given. Break the speed laws and we receive a speeding ticket. Do it too many times and we lose the privilege of driving. The same holds true with following God’s commandments. When we violate the precepts found in the Bible, God has no choice but to administer a “come to Jesus moment”. Willful sin cannot be a part of the Believer’s life. Yes, we do sin, but we are not to make it a continual choice, we are not to live in sin. When we sin, we are to ask God’s forgiveness and endeavor to do better. He promises to forgive us of our sin (I John 1:9) and set us free.

The Apostle Paul dealt with this with the early church. In I Corinthians 6: 12 Paul writes, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.” (NASB) Meaning, we can do what we feel is right, but it may not necessarily be the best thing for us to do. Peter struggled with this in that he seemed to act according to who he was with. In Galatians 2:11-21, Paul confronts Peter. Peter was eating with the Gentile Believers until some of James’ friends from Jerusalem came, and then he ate with them and distanced himself from the Gentile Christians. He was afraid of what the Jewish Christians would say if he ate with the Gentiles. This caused some Jewish Believers to follow Peter’s example, and Paul had to correct Peter publicly, because it showed inconsistency in his behavior. There was nothing wrong with eating with the Gentiles. However, the Jews had been raised not to eat with uncircumcised people (Gentiles), who were considered sinners. Therefore, Peter, even though he had the freedom to eat with the Gentiles, didn’t show the Jewish Believers the freedom that he had in Christ by his actions.

In other instances, if we know something we do that we do not consider sin, is a stumbling block to those who see it as sin, and we cause that person to backslide, then we are abusing our freedom and causing a fellow Believer to fall. Romans 14 deals with this very thing. In this example Paul is talking about eating meat that has been offered to idols. If a fellow Believer considers it sin to eat meat and we don’t, then it is advisable not to eat meat in their presence, that way we will not cause them to stumble. Their faith may not be as strong as ours, and so we must help them continue in faith and to grow.

Freedom also involves a level of maturity in how we act, speak, and show our faith. As an example, in some circles, Christians believe it is ok to drink alcoholic beverages. They believe they have that freedom as Believers, and they may have. However, as I see it, there is inconsistency in their walk with the Lord. Yes, the Bible says it is ok to drink, but not to get drunk. The Bible even says to drink wine as a medicine for your stomach. (I Timothy 5:23) But like my Pastor says, “When you take one drink, you are drunker than you were before.” It is not a good idea to engage in behavior that the world engages in because it will ruin our witness before them. They will say, “Well, if they can do that, what makes them different from me?” It can show them that God hasn’t made a difference in our lives and they feel that there is no desire to become a Christian.

So, walking in freedom requires us to use discretion in how we live. If we want to be consistent, show the world that Christ has made a change in us, and be an example to others, we must use our freedom wisely, and then we will be truly free.

The Word Full of Grace and Truth

Today’s Bible Journaling is from John 1:14, “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 and truth.” (KJV)

The amazing part of this verse for me is the whole idea that God’s Son became human, walked on the face of this earth, and became our avenue for salvation. John says in the very first verse of this book that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (KJV) The study Bible I looked at said that “the idea behind the title embodied God’s revelation of Himself to humanity.” Jesus is the Word! In order for Him to help us relate to Him, He needed to become human, experience the things we experience, and that helps us know that He understands the things we deal with on a daily basis. He also had to become man in order to provide the perfect sacrifice for our sin.

Our verse says that He is also full of grace and truth. He embodies grace and truth. If you are looking for a definition of grace or truth, look to Jesus. Grace is what God extends to us in forgiveness and in healing (physically, emotionally, and spiritually). Because of His great love for us, He made a way for our salvation and He brings healing. Our verse says also that He is full of truth. When Jesus says He will do something, or when He says something, we can fully rely on it. He does not lie, He IS truth. He IS grace.

How awesome to think that everything He endured here on earth was for our benefit! He desires a relationship with us, one that is close and everlasting. He wants us to rely on Him for everything. He wants us to come to Him in every situation…in pain, in sorrow, in confusion, in a steadfast certainty that He will be with us, in joy and exhilaration, in peace! He wants to rejoice when we are rejoicing, and He wants to cry with us and bring comfort when we are in pain and agony. He wants us to tell Him everything! When life is bringing us joy and it seems like nothing could go wrong…He wants to hear about how awesome it is! When we are grieving and feel like we are in a dark pit, He wants us to tell Him how we feel. He even wants us to question…yes, question…why? It’s ok to ask why. He’s right there to provide the answer and to comfort us.

God’s grace has been described as unmerited favor. He offers us grace for salvation when we do not deserve it. But I think grace can be more than that. Grace is God’s way of showering us with His love. Whether it’s blessings that fall on us and cause us to be grateful for His provision, or His holding back on punishment we deserve, He extends grace to us daily. He is truly full of grace and truth, and we can trust Him for everything. There is nothing in our lives that He does not already know about and has control over. That is a comfort…to know He holds the reins of our lives and is in control, even when life seems to be spinning out of control. We can rest in Him.

Saved By Grace

Today’s Bible Journaling is from Acts 15:11, “But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.” (NASB)

To give a little background on this verse, the Apostle Paul and Barnabas had been ministering to the Gentiles and many were being saved through their preaching. Acts 15:1 says, “Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’” (NASB) This brought confusion and arguing among the congregation, some saying circumcision was not required and some saying that it was. Paul and Barnabas were commissioned by the congregation to go to Jerusalem to talk to the elders of the church concerning this issue. As Paul is explaining, he appeals to them, “Brethren, you know that in the early days God made a choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles would hear the word of the gospel and believe. And God, who knows the heart, testified to them giving them the Holy Spirit, just as He also did to us; and He made no distinction between us and them, cleansing their hearts by faith. Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” (NASB)

There were some in the church who wanted to require a strict adherence to the law in addition to being saved by grace. They advocated a grace plus works salvation. God never placed that upon us as Believers, and I for one am grateful. We can do nothing to obtain our salvation, it is given as a free gift from God with no strings attached. If someone gave you a present and then required something of you in order to receive that gift, then it would not be freely given, there would be strings attached…something you would have to do to receive it. In my book, that’s not a gift, that is a duty, something to be earned by your actions.

I have been in churches that required a strict adherence to their denomination’s book of laws as a requirement for salvation. Trust me when I say, I’ve never seen such unhappy, joyless people. They were under a yoke, a burden, that they were unable to bear. Regulations on outward appearance, requirements of things that must be done to appear holy. Perfection was the goal…I am here to tell you that no one is perfect, and God most certainly does not expect us to be perfect. We are not required to clean ourselves up before coming to Jesus and asking for forgiveness and salvation.

I am so thankful that my salvation comes freely by grace. Oh, how much God loves us! Because of His great love for us, salvation is free! We can live our lives for Him without worrying about whether we are measuring up to a set of laws that are impossible to keep. Does He require us to live a holy life? Absolutely! But we do the works because of our love for Him, and as proof of what God has done in our lives. (James 2:17) We are not bound by man-made laws demanding us to live a life that is impossible and brings no joy or peace. His salvation to us is offered freely. His grace is extended to us because of His love for us.

This Blood

I am deviating from our study on grace for a moment, but in reality, God’s grace is plainly shown in our journaling for today. We just celebrated the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. During our Easter service at my church our worship team did a song called, “This Blood.” I woke this morning with that song running in my mind. Take a listen:

As I thought about the words and heard the song in my head, I began to get an image in my mind, one of my sin being covered by Jesus’ blood, no longer to be remembered or to be charged against me. The image was so powerful to me that I knew I had to journal it in my Bible. So, I searched for a Scripture that would express what I was feeling. I came upon John 19:30, “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, ‘It is finished’; and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.” (KJV) The thing that hits me is that when Jesus died on the cross, He did it willingly because of His great love and grace toward me. As I am sitting here listening to the song, I can’t help but be completely in awe of what Jesus has done for me. He has forgiven me of every sin I have ever committed or ever will commit. He has welcomed me into His family. He has become my Best Friend, He is my Healer, He loves me unconditionally, and He beckons me to have a relationship with Him.

The Scripture reference highlights for me that nothing more is needed to be done. Jesus finished the work assigned to Him to bring about my salvation. Nothing more is needed, not from Him, and most certainly not from me, because there is nothing I can do to purchase my salvation, only Jesus was the perfect sacrifice! The old hymn, “Nothing but the Blood”, says it all…” What can wash away my sin…nothing but the blood of Jesus! What can make me whole again…nothing but the blood of Jesus!”

Not only did He die for my sins, He rose from the grave three days later and conquered sin, death, and the grave! That gives me hope (confidence). A hope that one day I will also rise again and be joined with Him in the sky to go Home to Heaven! I have nothing to fear because He will walk with me through death.

What can be more precious than that? To walk through a time that can be fearful, with your Best Friend who will bring comfort and strength just as He has done your entire life. Peace beyond anything we can even imagine overflows our hearts and souls at the thought of being with Jesus.

This morning, my heart overflows with love for my Lord and Savior! I am so grateful for His salvation, His love, His friendship, and His leadership. “This Blood” is so precious to me!

Because of Love

 

Today I’m focusing on the Easter season with this being Passion Week. Friday is Good Friday, where we remember the death of Jesus Christ on the cross for our sins. His sacrifice was accomplished because of His love for us, and because of His great grace that has been bestowed upon us in that, He took the punishment for our sins. He was the only perfect sacrifice to fulfil the requirement of death as payment.

As we look at the entire 19th chapter of John, we are taken through Jesus trial, scourging, death, burial, and resurrection. I can’t help but think that the Easter account is not just about Jesus dying for us, but it also is about how He conquered sin, death, and the grave. Jesus loved us so much that He willingly endured the pain of being crucified, the most painful death one can imagine, to take our place so that we would not have to pay the requirement of death for our sins.

John 3:16 is probably the most recognized Scripture in the Bible. Most people can recite it without difficulty. I wonder though how many realize just what that verse means, and do they believe it? “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him, should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (KJV) God’s love for us is so vast, it is hard for mere humans to comprehend. He willingly gave His Son up to die for us. I don’t know many people who would willingly give their lives for another, especially someone they don’t even know. But God loves us all, He created us, and He wants us to have a relationship with Him. Through Jesus death on the cross, that relationship can be achieved.

How? By accepting Jesus as personal Savior. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (CSB) Every person born is born into sin because of Adam, and the relationship with God has been severed. There is a punishment for that sin. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (CSB) God provided a means of escape, a plan, to save us from the penalty of sin. Romans 5:8 tells us, “But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (KJV)

I Corinthians 15:3-6 says, “…Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures; And that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures: And that He was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once.” (KJV) Jesus not only died for our sins and was buried, He was resurrected again to life, conquering death and the grave. We have nothing to fear because of this. Death and the grave has no power over those who trust in Jesus as Savior.

The Bible says that Jesus is the only way to salvation. Jesus, Himself, said, “I am the way, the truth, and he life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” (KJV) John 1:12 explains that, “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.” (KJV) When we accept Jesus as Savior and Lord, we become children of God, He takes us into His family.
Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are ye saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (KJV) We have no claim to our salvation, because we cannot in ourselves be saved. Nothing we can do can ever pay for our sins. Only Jesus can save us. All we need do is ask Jesus to save us. Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (KJV)

The process of salvation is simple, even a child can ask Jesus to come into their heart and save them. All we must do is ask forgiveness of our sins, invite Him into our hearts, and promise to follow Him, make Him Lord of our lives, and endeavor to live a holy life. We can rejoice because we have eternal life because of Jesus! He is Risen!