Justified by God’s Grace

Today as we continue to look at grace, we look at Romans 3:23-24, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus.” (NASB) Remember, we said that grace was unmerited favor. Another word in our verse that many may not know the meaning of is justification. Another way to think of it is, “just as if I had never sinned.” When God looks at us through the blood of Jesus Christ, He doesn’t see our sin He sees Jesus’ sacrificial blood. He sees us as pure and holy before Him.

Sin has a penalty…death. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Justification and God’s grace takes care of the penalty of sin for us when we ask Jesus to be our Lord and Savior and live inside of us. When I was younger, I was studying to be an LPN. I had a rotation in my schooling where I had to work on the floor of a psychiatric hospital. We had one patient who walked the floor mumbling the first part of Romans 6:23 over and over. She was obsessed with the idea that she had sinned and deserved death. Another student, who was also a Christian, and I tried to help her remember that there was a second part to that verse, that Jesus had paid the price for her sin. I firmly believe that our patient was a Believer, but Satan had distorted her mind so badly that all he let her remember was that she was a sinner and it completely destroyed her. She didn’t have the assurance that God’s grace had justified her and that she was a child of God.

Many walk this earth with that same fear. They know that they have sinned, and they don’t have the assurance of knowing that if they only would ask Jesus to save them that they would be justified in God’s eyes because of His grace over them. Satan takes advantage of that and he keeps people in bondage, gripped in fear that there is no hope for them.

Our current crisis is a case in point. People are running around in fear that they will die from this virus, and many most likely don’t have a relationship with God. They don’t know that God will grant favor upon them when they put their full faith and trust in Him. They don’t know that He will place a hedge of protection around them, they don’t know that He loves them so much that He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9 KJV) God’s grace is evident in the way He is so patient with us. He calls to us time and again, asking us to repent and turn back to Him. He beckons us lovingly desiring us to have a relationship with Him.

What happens when we accept Jesus as Savior and Lord? We are forgiven of our sins, past, present, and future. We are made a part of God’s family and we become heirs of God. Romans 8:16-17 says, “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (KJV) We are children of God, and God extends His grace to us every single day. When we fall short and sin (and we will because we are human) and then confess our sins, He forgives us. (1 John 1:9) We are assured that God’s grace covers us daily. As we walk the pathway He has planned for us we find that we are changed, circumstances change, our outlook changes, all for the better. We are free from the fear of sin’s penalty and we can rest in the assurance that God’s grace holds us.

Our Identity as a Citizen of Heaven

Today’s Bible Journaling takes us to Ephesians 2:19-20, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners; but fellow-citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone.” (KJV) With all the craziness going on right now, it is good for us to remember that this is not our home, we are just travelers going through on the way to our Home. Those who call Jesus their Lord, Savior, and Master have no need for fear in troubled times. Our citizenship is not here, it is in Heaven.

Does that mean we have to wait to experience the benefits of that citizenship? No, as Believers, we already are experiencing some of the advantages of being a citizen of Heaven. As I was thinking about this, it occurred to me that one of those benefits was the peace I have in the middle of storms. I don’t have to be fearful of what happens to me here on earth. I know that whatever happens, my life is not over, I will live forever in a beautiful place where there is no pain, sickness, or sadness, where there is peace. I will be home!

As attached as we become to this earth, we need to remember that we are only sojourners. We are travelers on a long trip, and we are on our way home. My husband and I just had a three-week vacation recently, and we really had a great time! Were there difficulties? Yes, bad weather and long hours driving, but we did not become overwhelmed by those troubles. We were able to enjoy our vacation despite bad weather and being tired from driving far distances. When we were headed home, we were looking forward to being home, even though we were thoroughly enjoying our time away. We had peace in the face of the hardships, and yet we were anxious to get home.

As Believers, we also look forward to going to our Heavenly Home, whether that be in death or by way of the Rapture. And yet, we can still reap the benefits of Heaven right here on earth. I have already mentioned peace. Other rewards include knowing that we do not walk alone, God is always with us. He promises to “never leave or forsake us.” (Hebrews 13:5) He walks this journey with us. We are part of God’s family (John 1:12) and as such, we reap the benefits given to a family. We can experience His incredible love for us and the rewards and blessings He showers upon us. We don’t have to wait to experience those things, we can have them now.

As a citizen of Heaven, I can experience God’s protection. In 2 Samuel 22:3 we read, “The God of my rock; in Him will I trust: He is my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my high tower, and my refuge, my Saviour; thou savest me from violence.” (KJV) I don’t need to fear sickness, danger, or attacks from the enemy, God is my shield, my refuge, my fortress! That is a benefit of Heaven I can have right now.

Another benefit of Heaven we can experience now is freedom. We live under the law of Grace; we do not need to be burdened by trying to live up to a set of laws that are impossible to keep. Because of our love for Him we willingly live a life of holiness in obedience to His will for us. How awesome to be able to bask in the light of Heaven’s blessings as a citizen! In uncertain times we can rest in the knowledge that our future is secured. We can thrive in our identity as a citizen of Heaven and live a life of peace, joy, and security in our Father’s arms.

Set God Goals for Your Vision

Accomplishing our vision begins with setting goals. No matter whether our vision is tied into ministry, is Spiritually based or not, those goals must be in alignment with God’s desire for our lives. Our verse today tells us that even though we may have plans for our lives, God also has a plan and He has goals in how those plans will come together. Today’s verse, Proverbs 19:21 says, “There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the Lord, that shall stand.” (KJV) The New American Standard Bible says it this way, “Many plans are in a man’s heart, But the counsel of the Lord will stand.”

If you are anything like me, I’m not a good goal-setter. I am great at getting things started, but not always a good finisher and that is partly because I haven’t set goals before I begin a project. I kind of go head-first into a project with no real thought of where I want to be in the process at a set time, or how I want the project to look or a myriad of other things. That doesn’t always lead to a successful outcome.

As we talk about vision, I think of the vision I have for my blog. My vision is to reach people for Christ. As I look at setting goals, I need to place a goal for my vision. For me, the goal is that someone, even just one person, will come to know Jesus as their Savior through my blog. I then need to think about how I would go about accomplishing that goal. The first thing that pops into my head is, I first need to go to God, pray and ask Him to help me make my posts clear and understandable, posting encouragement that lines up with the Bible, and always look to Him for guidance in writing and doing my Bible Journaling.

My writing must be Scripturally correct, the ideas I put forth must line up with God’s will and desire for each one of us. Therefore, I must keep in close relationship with Him, praying and asking for His help and asking that He move someone’s heart to let me know that through my writing, they have accepted Jesus as Savior and Lord. In my mind, if just one person gets saved, then I will have accomplished the vision I have set before me.

I need also to put feet to accomplishing the goal. I need to be sure that I am more consistent in posting and Bible Journaling. I cannot let the enemy distract me from achieving my objective. That may entail setting a specific time of every day to do my Journaling and blog. I also must pray and ask God to help me not to yield to the temptation of falling for Satan’s traps.

Setting goals need to be achievable. Sometimes we set goals so high that it is virtually impossible to attain the lofty goals we have set for ourselves and then we become disillusioned. We set ourselves up for failure. Again, we need to pray and ask God to help us set realistic goals.

The goals should also line up with what God desires for us. He has a set pathway all planned out for us. Jeremiah 29:11 tells us, “For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’” (NIV)
He wants us to have a vision and He wants us to succeed in accomplishing that vision utilizing “God” goals; goals that will align with God’s desires for us. As we fix our eyes on going forward toward the vision we have set for ourselves, let this post be a reminder to set “God” goals that will lead to success. Then pray for God’s help, and He will help us.

Christmas Hope

As we continue to look at Christmas, today we look at the hope that Christmas brings to us. Isaiah 9:6 is a familiar passage for us. It has been spoken in countless church Christmas programs by shining little faces acting out the Christmas story. “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (KJV) Isaiah prophesied the coming of the Messiah some 700 years before it was fulfilled. The Jewish people had hope that God was going to step into their lives and rescue them.

Jews today are still looking for the Messiah. What they don’t realize is, He already has come. Two thousand years ago He came in a way they weren’t expecting, and so they missed it. They are still in hope of seeing the Messiah come, they look for His coming. As Born-Again Believers, we have seen that Hope realized in our lives. Jesus came to earth as a baby born in a stable to common people. He didn’t come as a King. The Jews were looking for a grand entrance with lots of fanfare. Jesus came quietly, in a small town, with no fanfare except for a chorus of angels telling of His birth to lowly shepherds on a country hill looking after their sheep.

He lived a simple life, preached to those who would hear about what His purpose for being there was, showing them how to live, who God was, who HE was, and then fulfilled His purpose by becoming a sacrificial lamb for the sins of the whole world. He came to be the Savior of the world and provide the hope of eternal salvation for everyone. That hope is still available today.

Jesus invites each one of us to tap into that hope by accepting His free gift of salvation. He loves us so much that He wants us to become part of His family. He wants to provide for us, not just physical or financial things, but He wants to provide eternal life, He wants to provide to us eternal blessings.

That is the greatest hope we can ever have! The hope of eternal salvation! The hope of having a Friend who is closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24), the hope of walking with Him daily, the hope of a love greater than we could ever imagine, the hope that our lives will be full of joy, peace, and grace. These things can only be found in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Life in this world is hard, that’s a fact. However, Jesus can help us in those times when it seems life is smacking us down. He can give us hope that He knows what’s going on, hope that this will not last forever and that He has a plan for our lives, and it’s a good plan (Jeremiah 29:11). When we feel as if we can’t take one more step, He will carry us.

He will provide blessings that will overwhelm us. In those times, He will rejoice with us. The joy of His presence, of experiencing His blessings, of finding the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7) is one of the greatest gifts He gives us. Jesus is God’s gift to us! How we love Him for providing such an amazing gift! That is the Christmas Hope we have.

If you haven’t asked Jesus to be your Savior, ask Him to come into your heart and life, confess your sins, and make a conscious decision to live for Him. You will find it is the best decision you will ever make. You will then have that Hope!

Our Confidence is in Jesus – A Better Covenant

Today’s Bible Journaling is from Hebrews 7:22, “so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.” (NASB) As we investigate from where our confidence comes, we see in this passage that our confidence can be placed in Jesus because He guarantees our salvation. The writer of Hebrews points out in this chapter that the Law of the Old Testament “made nothing perfect” (Hebrews 7:19 NASB) and therefore couldn’t be a guarantee of entrance into Heaven, it couldn’t save us from our sins, rather it pointed out our sins.

Verses 18-19 say, “For, on the one hand there is a setting aside of a former covenant because of its weakness and uselessness (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God.” (NASB) Only through Jesus’ death on the cross as payment for our sins, and our acceptance of His sacrifice, can we be guaranteed a home in Heaven.

As we place our confidence in Him daily, He walks with us, He guides us, and when we fall, He picks us up and sets us back on the right track. We are not worn down by the weight of sin that we bore, because He took our load of sin upon Himself. We can now walk free of that burden. He promises never to leave us (Hebrews 13:5), He promises to be our help in time of trouble. (Hebrews 4:16) He is our High Priest, (Hebrews 3:1) the one we confess our sins to, and who is able to save us from our sins and He is continually making intercession for us to the Father. (Hebrews 7:25) He has promised that not only will He save us from our sins, but He will remember them no more. (Hebrews 8:12)

Chapter 8 tells us that under the New Covenant a New Law will be placed into the hearts and minds of His children. (Hebrews 8:10) This Law is a Law of Love. We obey because of our love for Jesus, not because we must follow a Law that is impossible to keep and that shows us our shortcomings. The Old Testament Law had a purpose…to show us how far from God’s perfection we are. The New Covenant shows us that because of God’s love for us and Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, we can be obedient to His Law because of our love for Him and the salvation He paid in our stead.

Because of His faithfulness to us we can have confidence in whatever He promises. We know that He will never leave us, never go back on His promise to help us, never turn His back on us. He will always walk with us. We can trust Him to bring us through whatever we are facing. We can trust that He has our best in mind. (Jeremiah 29:11)

The New Covenant has made the Old Covenant obsolete; it no longer is useful. (Hebrews 8:13) The New Covenant, salvation through Jesus Christ, is a better covenant, and that is from where our confidence comes.

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!

God’s Grace Transforms Us

This past week has been very hard for me and my family. Saturday, we held the funeral for my nephew, and it’s been difficult to say the least. So, I’ve not been in any frame of mind to do journaling. The day before my husband and I left to go to the funeral I did my Bible journaling artwork, and Satan knew just how to get to me because my hubby and I had a big argument and I couldn’t even put my thoughts together to write my journaling blog. So, the artwork has just been sitting here and as I look at it and read the Scripture, I still am having a hard time knowing where to begin.

The verse comes from Titus 2:11-13, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” (NASB) The first thing I see in this passage is that God’s grace brings us salvation. For that, I am eternally grateful! Without His grace toward me, I would have no hope, no joy, no peace.

The second thing I see is that God instructs us in how to live our lives. He guides us in godly living, and that guidance helps to transform us. When we allow Him to do that transforming work in our lives, we are changed. We are not the same people we were ten years ago, five years ago, a year ago, even a day ago! He is constantly molding us and changing us to be more like Him. As I think about how He has transformed me, I recognize that the transformation He must do in me can only come about if I allow Him to work in my life, allow Him to change me.

I still battle with anger issues, but He is working in me trying to help me gain control of my anger. It isn’t easy for me to not just lash out at whoever I’m angry with. I am a work in progress. I don’t know if I will ever gain control over this, but I know it can’t happen if I don’t allow Him to do what He needs to do in me to gain the victory over anger. He is still working, and I can see that the outbursts aren’t as frequent, but I still have a lot of work to do to be more like Him.

The last thing I see in this passage is that because of His transforming work in our lives, we have something to look forward to…”the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” We are expectantly waiting for His return, the Glorious Appearing! As I look at events in today’s world, I know His return is very close. There are days I say, “OK, God, You can come anytime, I’ve had enough!” We have a future to look forward to! We can be assured that He will keep His promise to come and take us home with Him. We also can have that assurance that He won’t call us home until we are transformed into who are to become…a transformed child of God who is the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.