pill-bottleIntroduction 

I heard about a man who wanted to travel by ship from America to Europe, but could scrape together only enough money for a ticket, thus having no money to purchase food at the ship’s restaurant. So, he packed his own cheese and crackers, avoiding the restaurant, where people feasted daily on the most delicious foods.

Days later, as the crackers went stale and the cheese was probably beginning to mold, a fellow passenger pulled the wretched man aside and inquired, ‘’I noticed that you never dine with us in the cafeteria. Would you mind telling me why?’’ He confessed his inability to pay for anything except for the ticket, to which his new acquaintance replied, ‘’But didn’t you understand? The food came with the ticket!’’(1)

Tragically, many Christians are just like this man. They never grew enough spiritually to understand all that came with their ticket to heaven. Existing on spiritual cheese and crackers, they miss the spiritual feast that God says comes with salvation. Today let’s begin to look at a few items in the feast, and the doubts that keep some from enjoying that feast.

As a “new creation,” we have a fresh, new relationship with God and the desire to pursue that relationship.

Present declarations 

Salvation isn’t just about life after death. We possess eternal life here and now, along with its many benefits. Here are just a few:

Forgiveness. Some Christians continue to go to bed at night, racked with guilt for their past behavior. Yet, from God’s perspective, those sins are gone, taken away as far as the East is from the West, flung into the deepest sea. We no longer have to be shackled by guilt! As concentration camp survivor Corrie ten Boom put it, “When we confess our sins, God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. And even though I cannot find a Scripture for it, I believe God then places a sign out there that says, NO FISHING ALLOWED.”(2)

In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace…. (Ephesians 1:7) 

A New Creation. Some people think, “I’ve made such a mess of my life that it would be better if I started over from scratch.” That’s why God did more than simply help us rehabilitate our old lives. He started off fresh, giving us a new birth into His family. As a “new creation,” we have a fresh, new relationship with God and the desire to pursue that relationship.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! (II Corinthians 5:17) 

The Holy Spirit. God didn’t save us and then leave us to live the rest of our lives in our own power. At our salvation, His Spirit comes to live inside of us, offering us the power and guidance we need to live successful Christian lives. As we all find out, the Christian life isn’t hard, it’s impossible! That is, it’s impossible to live in our own power. Successful Christians learn to lean on His Spirit to empower them to live the Christian life.

Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 2:38) 

Future Promises 

Years ago, I read an interview with an incredible football player. He was a record- setting, professional superstar—the type hero that fans are tempted to worship. But while this quick and powerful running back was confident on the playing field, he wasn’t so confident about a bigger issue. One day, an interviewer asked him what he feared—an interesting question for a player so intimidating that his opponents feared him. But his answer was revealing. What did he fear? In his own words, “Dying and going to hell. But I hope I don’t, because I’ve been a good person.” 

This man had risen to the top of his profession, but couldn’t find abiding peace because he didn’t know for certain where he was headed for eternity. Many people don’t even think it’s possible to know their eternal destiny. Yet, the Scriptures make it clear:

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (I John 5:13) 

To know, not to merely hope or think probable, God wants us to have a confidence and peace about our final destiny. We should be looking forward to spending eternity with Him in our heavenly home!

God promises in His Word that we will:

Escape God’s wrath. Since God is a just God, the penalty for sin must be paid. Yet, because of God’s grace, Jesus took God’s entire wrath for sin upon Himself.

Since we have now been justified by His blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through Him! (Romans 5:9) 

Be resurrected at Christ’s second coming. Both deceased believers and the ones alive at His coming will be transformed, receiving new, glorified bodies. The more aches and pains my earthly body gets, the more I get excited about my new heavenly model!

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. (I Corinthians 15:42-44) 

Have eternal life. All believers are promised to be with Jesus forever! We don’t have to wait to see if we get eternal life. We possess it now!

For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16) 

Dealing With Doubts

If God promised that we will escape His wrath, receive a new heavenly body and live with Him forever, then why do some Christians struggle with doubts? Even if you don’t personally struggle with doubt, you will run across others who do. Let’s deal with some common causes of doubt.

In the previous Pocket PrincipleTM we answered two sources of doubt. 1)“I’m not sure that I understood everything when I first accepted Christ.” 2)“Sometimes I don’t feel saved.” Do you remember how we dealt with these? Here are some more.

1. “It’s hard to believe God could forgive my past.” 

Listen to the testimony of this great sinner:

…I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man…. Here is a trustworthy saying that deserves full acceptance: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners— of whom I am the worst. But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life. 

Do you know who wrote that? It was the Apostle Paul in I Timothy 1:13-16, the man who God used to write most of the books of the New Testament. Do you know what he was like before he became a Christian? He rejected Jesus as the Messiah. He was such a violent man and so furiously enraged at Christians that he persecuted the church, imprisoning Christians and having them beaten and killed (I Timothy 1:13; Acts 7:58, 8:1, 9:1,2,4,5, 22:4,5,7,19,20, 26:9-11). But Paul wants you to know that if God can still have mercy on him, then nobody is too bad for God to save. No matter what you’ve done, remember—

…the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sin. (I John 1:7) 

From how much sin? “All sin.” Even if you’ve abused drugs or committed sexual sins? “All sin.” Even if you’ve killed Christians? “All sin.”

There’s no sin in your past that’s so bad that God can’t take out the stain and leave you as clean as fresh snow.

2. “To be perfectly honest, I’m not very serious about this God stuff.” 

Although Harry prayed to receive Jesus at a high school retreat and presently goes to church a couple of times a month, he really doesn’t give much thought to God in his day to day living. He doesn’t read his Bible to find out how to run his business, raise his children or treat his wife. In fact, his life is really no different from the non-Christians he works with every day. Although he has doubts about his salvation, he’s banking on that high school decision at a retreat to get him into heaven.

Harry needs to read some verses that comfort the disturbed, but disturb the comforted. Harry needs to be disturbed. Do you remember the verse we mentioned earlier in this study?

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (I John 5:13) 

What were “these things” that John had written to give them assurance? The book of I John describes two kinds of lives, the life of those who have eternal life and the life of those who don’t. Look at the characteristics of each life:

Real Christians show evidence of their salvation by their…

Obedience (I John 2:3,4) 

We know that we have come to know Him if we obey His commands. The man who says, “I know Him,” but does not do what He commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 

Although our lifestyle gives evidence of our salvation, it isn’t what causes or keeps our salvation

Faith (I John 5:1) 

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well. 

Love 

Love for God (I John 5:1,2)

Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves His child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out His commands. 

Love for People (I John 3:14,15)

We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love each other. Anyone who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life residing in him. 

Some of us sensitive types may look at this list and get discouraged. After all, none of us live out faith, love and obedience 100% of the time. Does this mean we’re not Christians? No! When John wrote the book of I John, he often used a tense that in the original Greek indicates a habitual lifestyle. I John 1:8 clarifies that we’re not speaking of perfection.

Some people get so sensitive that when they miss a personal time with God they question whether they are saved or not. But just the fact that you are trying to meet with God, and feel bad when you don’t, shows that the Spirit is working in your life.

When we accepted Christ, a big about face occurred in our lives. Instead of making all decisions centered on “me, me, me,” we’re starting to think about loving others and living for God.

According to I John, my assurance is based, not on how emotional I got at a religious service, but on the general direction of my heart and life, here and now.

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 

Do you believe in Jesus now? Are you following Jesus now? Do you love your brothers and sisters in Christ now? Are you following God rather than following self? According to God’s Word you’re a Christian and you have eternal life.

Caution! Although our lifestyle gives evidence of our salvation, it isn’t what causes or keeps our salvation. Our salvation is by grace through faith, not something we earn (Ephesians 2:8,9).

3. “I’m afraid I’m too weak to hold onto my salvation.” 

I’ve got good news for you! First, you don’t have to wait to see if you get eternal life with God after you die. You already have eternal life.

Our salvation is dependent, not on our ability to hold onto it, but on God’s commitment and ability to keep us.

I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. (I John 5:13) 

Think about it. If you could lose your eternal life, then it was never eternal in the first place! You already possess the eternal life that you’re afraid you might not get!

Second, God promises that He’ll keep you. Our salvation is dependent, not on our ability to hold onto it, but on God’s commitment and ability to keep us. Jesus said,

And this is the will of Him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that He has given me, but raise them up at the last day. For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in Him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. (John 6:39, 40) 

My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. (John 10:27-29) 

These verses paint a vivid picture of us securely held in Jesus’ and God’s hands. Don’t let that picture leave your mind. We’re not dangling from God’s fingers, holding on desperately for fear that we’ll fall away from Him. His all-powerful hand holds us so firmly in its grasp that nothing can snatch us away. Our salvation is as secure as the power of God to hold and keep us!

 

End Notes:

(1) Found in Bill Bright’s Transferable Concepts (Campus Crusade for Christ). Worded by Steve Miller.

(2) Corrie ten Boom with Jamie Buckingham, Tramp for the Lord (Fort Washington, PA: CLC Publications, 1974), 53.

IMG_1957-300x269One of the joys of my job as coordinator of the Atlanta Arts Network is meeting and partnering with other Creative Artists and in this case Worship Artists.

Jay and Abby Akins have just released a Album called Trust.

You might be saying, yeah another CD from a worship leader.  Isn’t that par for the course.  Everyone who leads worship these days pretty much has to record as well as lead worship.

This is where Jay and Abby are a bit different from the rest!  Jay and Abby see this Album as an extension of their ministry to worship leaders as well as a way to serve the church by providing great songs for worship.

From the first time I met Jay at a Chick-fil-a (the original one in Hapeville GA) I realized that Jay’s heart was for building disciples as well as making music.  Abby and Jay are part of our South Atlanta Worship Leaders Community.  Jay has been a big part of our getting that group going and he really loves investing his time in people.

Trust is a testimony of a Jay and Abby’s vibrant heart for God and a desire to cultivate worshippers of God.  While many people focus on styles of worship, Jay has been at the forefront of helping his congregation learn to focus on Christ and the message of the gospel.  In a culture that looks at the church and what it offers as products and services to be consumed, Jay is quick to point to the fact that their focus is engaging the worshippers in such a way as to point to Christ and to challenge them to vibrant walk with God, and be owners of the church rather than be a merely a member who comes to church!

Trust features songs that call the worshipper to consider Christ and what it means to follow Him in the midst of life!  “Hope is” is a praise anthem that sets Jesus before us as the eternal son who is Himself Hope.  We bring our “Golden Dreams Fragile Hopes and Simple Faith” and find that they are torn.  When we look at ourselves we hear the call of Jesus to “surrender.”

Hope is Rising from the Ashes
I’m delivered
I’m restored
Hope is Rising
Christ delivers Christ restores

I Stand in Awe of You“, communicates the commitment of a follower of Christ who sees the truth of the gospel and prayerfully calls on God to work and shows a overwhelming sense of wonder of His person and work.

Jesus my Savior
I bow low before You
Carried my sin
Healed my shame
I live for You
Forever I am changed
My heart will sing Your praise

I stand in awe
I stand in awe of You

Hope in You, considers the nature of God and how He is the place to find true hope.

Trust, the title track, beginning with a lyrical feel with some nice mandolin work that a made the song flow and yet didn’t take away from the melodies and sing-ability of this song.  The vocal counterpoint between Abby and Jay in chorus will translate well into congregation singing.

Invited features strong vocals from Jay and Abby’s harmonies blend well with the driving guitar which gives this song energy.

Returning is features a nice organs and guitar which complement the Abby’s vocals on this rock ballad that echoes the themes of a prodigal.

For too long now
I’ve turned my face from You
I have tasted
The bitter sinful fruit
I am longing
To feast upon Your love
I am turning
Please fix my eyes above

Ransom Song and Point of Surrender finish off this album pointing us first to the Cross of Christ where the debt was pain in full, where Jesus took our place.  Point of Surrender finishes by taking lyrics of traditional hymn and re-tuning it in such a way that provides a new melody that still ties to the original and then weaving the melody of “I surrender” as a close.

Take some time to listen to “Trust” and consider getting a copy and spreading the word.  This review is no where near unbiased as I think Jay and Abby are pretty awesome both as musicians and partners in ministry.  But listen for yourself and let us know what you think.

Get the Album on iTunes

http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/trust/id715743606

 

 

 

 

Get at CD at cdbaby
http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/jayabbyakins

Hear about the Stories for their Songs:

http://jayandabbymusic.com/song-stories/

Don’t Forget to Like their Facebook Page – http://www.facebook.com/JayAndAbbyAkins

 

Editors Note: Previously posted at Atlanta Arts Network

Hope

Hope is sometimes hard to hold onto in this life.  It isn’t always an easy process.  There have been seasons where I have tried to write out my feelings in a song but have been at a loss for lyrics.  The situation I was in was so complex that it was hard to express in words.  At those times I have found that the music itself was a better medium for my heart than lyrics.  I think that my creativity is sometimes directly tied to hope.

Hope

So, if my ability to create is so connected to hope, what is my hope tied to? I’m realizing that my ability to look at the world with hope is directly related to how I view my relationship with God and His purposes for my life.  Many in my circles talk about “preaching the gospel to yourself.”

That might seem a strange place to begin when creating art (for me, music and lyrics).  But the truth found in the “gospel” can provide clarity and perspective.

Understanding that God has chosen to pursue me in love is the beginning of hope. For when I was “dead” spiritually, He loved me.  In Jesus’ death He has freed me from the penalty of sin and given me freedom in Jesus’ resurrection. Not only that, but as a Father He has adopted me as a son, and now I am no longer a  slave to sin.  This is the gospel message I have learned to preach to my heart.

A lack of hope in my life leads to self doubt, pessimism, and powerlessness. In the moment I forget the gospel, these issues begin to surface.  It is actually the gospel that is the cure for these Hope killers!

The cure for Self Doubt

When I doubt if I have anything to offer and words on a blog like this seem to be lame, I remember that I am no longer a slave to sin but a “son” of God.  I am loved dearly because Jesus was willing to die for my selfish heart.  I no longer have to doubt my worth because it is no longer defined in what I think of me.  What matters is what God thinks of me!

The cure for Pessimism

When I begin to think that nothing matters, nothing will ever work out, I’m going no where, the gospel message brings me back to another truth, God saved me for a purpose!  He has brought me out of darkness to light.  He has revealed that I was re-created to serve and love Him. I have been re-created and am being renewed to be part of something bigger than me, that He is in charge of! I no longer have to worry and be a pessimist.  God is in control.

The Cure for Powerlessness

Instead of feeling powerless, the gospel changes the way I pursue my work and calling.  For where I might have looked for strength in my ability and self will, I remember that once I was powerless.  I had power in my self but not the kind of power that comes from God’s Holy Spirit dwelling in me.

When I wonder what this looks like, I begin to think of the disciples hiding out after Jesus had died.  They were pessimistic, they were powerless and had plenty of self-doubt.  But Jesus appears in front of them having first risen from the dead and shown Himself to two women at the tomb.   Soon the Holy Spirit would come and fill them with power to do His will.  They would preach and see 1000s of people turn in faith to the true Messiah, Jesus.

For the first time they have Hope and it came in the good news that Jesus has overcome and now has given them purpose and a calling.  What they would do as followers of Christ would have eternal impact.

So What?

So what does this mean for my creative work?  The gospel gives me perspective that changes the way I look at everything!  Hope doesn’t come from my experiences, but rather hope comes from understanding what Jesus has done for me and what Jesus is calling me to be for Him.

When I remind myself of the truths of the gospel, I have real hope.  I have a storehouse of resources for communicating about my life, the world, my relationship with God and others and taking these ideas and creating music and lyrics.

So how do you deal with a lack of Hope in your life? How does it hinder your creativity?  How might understanding the gospel help you have true Hope?

If you are interested in learning more about how the gospel changes everything, consider reading Putting Amazing Back into Grace by Dr. Michael Horton (the first chapter is here in pdf and you can order the book online).http://www.whitehorseinn.org/putting-amazing-back-into-grace.html

This WDA Pocket Principle is also helpful in reminding us of our Security in Christ. http://www.disciplebuilding.org/2013/05/31/security-in-christ-wda-pocket-principle/

 

problem modelWhy is Life so unfair sometimes? Why do I have to suffer the consequences of someone else’s behavior? Ever heard those questions before? Ever asked them?

I know I have. And I have heard those questions asked numerous times in counseling sessions with other people.

None of us like it when somebody else messes up and it affects us. It leaves us with the responsibility of figuring out how to correct the problem. One of the biggest areas that I help people work through in counseling has to do with their fathers. Many fathers are absent, neglectful and hurtful towards their children. Some fathers don’t even realize what they are doing, or the effect it might have on their children.

When these children become adults, the fallout of their father’s interactions with them can cause major problems. When they show up in my counseling office they are suffering from the results of someone else’s behavior. Together we have to figure out how to correct the emotional damage done to them. The good news is that there are solutions. The bad news is that the solutions involve going through a process that takes time and hard work. Yet there is hope and healing during the process.

 

In the Pocket Principle (Fallenness of Man) , I noticed many similarities between the counseling process and the solution God has provided for man’s fallen condition. They both involve a change of heart and a process of restoration. Read on to discover the good solution that God has given us for the consequences of Adam and Eve’s bad behavior.

Get this Pocket Principle in Understanding People, part of Cornerstone  from the WDA Store

For more information visit the WDA Store.

Sometimes when I think of the process of Christian Growth to Christlikeness, I am discouraged by my progress.  Recently, I have been part of our church’s discipleship initiative which placed a leader with three other believers in a group.  These groups met each sunday morning before our worship.  We were to discuss a topic related to the basics of the Christian Life and follow that with some basic pastoral diagnostic questions and prayer.

A+These questions related to how well we had been doing this week in our relationship with God.  How was our personal worship and time with God? To be honest, there were weeks where I dreaded going.  Why? Because I was the leader…. and I did my homework on Saturday. Personal discipline hasn’t been my strong point as a whole.  I tend to be one of those people who make a calendar and forget about it.  The immediate and urgent typically hits me and drives my calendar.  So Sunday came, I sat with these other men and felt like a looser.  Yep, the leader who can’t even string together a successful week of quiet time with God.  Did I pray? Sure.  Did I spend time with the word?  Yes.  I did those things but not every day.

What I wonder is why I tend to think of my spiritual life as performance? Why spending time with Jesus isn’t something I look forward to.  Why is does it feel like doing my algebra homework in Jr High School?

 

What is the point?

I have come to the conclusion that when I focus on Sanctification as the end or more precisely, Spiritual Disciplines as a goal I tend to fail.  My heart wants to have a way to measure its growth.  I find that I condemn myself for not doing the particulars.  But the real issue here is that I forget that the particulars are not the point to begin with!

Big fat harry deal that I missed a 20 minute quiet time on Wednesday morning.  What I need to remember is not that I “didn’t do my homework” but that I didn’t get to enjoy spending time with Jesus!  My heart wasn’t encouraged.  My spirit didn’t hear from the Holy Spirit that I am a Son of God.  I didn’t remember the gospel!  I didn’t see the forgiveness that I mine in Christ! I didn’t remember that my Father in heaven loves me!

 

Seminary Surprise

I remember a seminary class during my last year.  We get the syllabus and begin to read over it looking at what we are expected to complete.  Some of us are wondering how we can get all this new work done and also have time to look for a job after graduation.  The pressure of getting good grades and also mastering the material is important.  The professor says to the class, you already have an A.

What?  The whole class looks up from their pages!

“You already have an A.”

He took the issue of grades and performance off the table from the start!  He set the tone of the class from the beginning.  We were there to learn. Not to get an A.

That class was a lot of fun.  We laughed and we learned.  We didn’t worry about the grade.

The gospel frees me to learn, laugh, cry, relax and spend time with Jesus.

 

The Difference between Justification and Sanctification

It is worth noting that the Westminister Shorter Catechism points out the difference between Justification and Sanctification in the first phrase.

Q. 33. What is justification?

Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.

Q35. What is sanctification?

  1. A. Sanctification is the work of God’s free grace, whereby we are renewed in the whole man after the image of God, and are enabled more and more to die unto sin, and live unto righteousness.

Note that the difference is that Justification is an ACT and Sanctification is a WORK.  Both are by the Free Grace of God.

When I remember that my relationship with God begins with an “Act of God’s Free Grace” and that act of God is based on the righteousness of Christ applied to my account freely and received by Faith alone, I then am free to walk with God as He works to make me like Christ.

Sanctification is a Work of God’s grace, where I find renewal, and am enabled!

This looks a whole lot different than doing my homework!  It becomes an adventure in grace!  Today I open my Bible and listen.   I’m not trying to get my homework done so I can get the A.  I already have one!