The ages-old debate in Christianity continues to rage on. Do our guardian angels have favorite TV shows? Oops, I mean, does a Christian do the works of God in order to be saved, to maintain (not forfeit) his salvation, or to gain any particular favor with God? Or does he work diligently, simply because he recognizes God’s amazing grace in saving him, and wants to show Him how thankful he is for the indescribable gift of salvation?
 
In which of those two scenarios would a believer be more likely to “work heartily as unto the Lord,” give ”cheerfully,” “go the second mile,” etc.? Well, how about you? Compare doing work for an impersonal boss, work you must do in order to earn your pay, with working for someone who saved you from drowning, took you into his own family, and is lavishing his goodness upon you. Surely it is easier to put your whole heart into working for the latter.
 
So what did God and His Son do for you and me? Many verses come to mind, but let’s look at these:
 
1 John 4:9-11, 17-19
9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another… 17 Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment [context: this is now, when men condemn us for trusting God]; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love because He first loved us.
 
Omigosh! “We love because He first loved us”?! Think about what that means. It means that the quality of my love for God—and for people—is directly proportional to the degree that I understand how much God loves me. That’s a little scary, because honestly I’m not sure that I even begin to grasp the magnitude of God’s love for me, part of which is understanding His magnitude overall, which is vast, to put it mildly (Ps. 103:11).
 
But I know that the Word and the works of God (as should our words and works) declare His magnitude, especially His giving His precious Son to die for me so that I can live forever. “God so loved that He gave…” and the more I focus on His boundless love for all men, the more I can fathom His love for me. As I choose to walk with Him daily, He reveals His goodness to me.
 
And of course there is JESUS, who also loves me beyond my comprehension, and who chose to endure unspeakable agony in order to save me from sin and death, as if I were the only one who would believe. His past choices have made possible a bright present and future for you and me. I can’t fathom how he did what he did, but I think the following verses give us a significant clue.
 
Hebrews 12:1-2
Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, 
2 looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
 
Look at JESUS! How? Open The Book! His example is not out of reach. It says that his focus on the “joy set before him” was the key to his enduring the Cross. So what was the joy set before him? That if he went the distance, he would get to be king of the world, raise all believers from all time, and usher us into everlasting life in a brand new world. I’d guess that God gave His Son plenty of specifics about how glorious his future with us will be.
 
Is there any joy like that set before you and me? What promises does God give us in regard to rewarding our faithfulness in serving Him? We don’t know many details about what everlasting life on the New Earth will look like, but the more we experience God’s amazing grace and mercy day by day, the more eager we are to be with Him forever. Being motivated to serve God because of the glorious Hope we have is the bottom line of standing with Him for a lifetime. The following verses are some of my favorites, and most apropos to this subject:
 
Titus 3:3-8

3 For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, 5 not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the holy spirit, 6 which He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life [life in the coming age]. 8 This is a faithful saying, and these things I want you to affirm constantly, that those who have believed in God should be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable to men.
 
If you look closely at the above verses, you see the biblical principle of GRACE UNTO WORKS, that is, being saved FROM and saved UNTO. What are we saved FROM? Sin and death. What are we saved UNTO? A life of fruitful service to our Father and our Lord. Cool, huh? The following verses clearly illustrate that great truth:
 
1 Corinthians 15:9-10

9 For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
 
God’s “grace” has been defined by some as “the condition that allows you to go further than you ever thought possible.” Of course, the choice is ours. We are to diligently do the good works of the Word as we preach and teach it. And we do them out of LOVE for our Father and our Lord, who first loved us and gave themselves for us. We are not to work with even the slightest trace of compulsion in the negative sense, but rather because we are motivated by overwhelming thankfulness, peace, and joy due to God’s immeasurable grace to us. We show our thanks to Him by passing on His love and truth to others.
 
Thanks to brother Gary Lee Corns for the following insight re: grace unto works. The same Greek word (charis) is translated both "grace" and "thanks, which could be understood in this light: "The more we see God's grace, the more we freely give him our thanks." In the South, many folks still refer to praying over their meals as "saying grace," and it is interesting how that nomenclature has survived through so many generations.

The stupendous epistle of Ephesians gives us a wonderful example of GRACE UNTO WORKS. Chapters 1-3 set forth what God in Christ has done for us and who we are in Christ as a result. Chapters 4-6 begin with “therefore,” so what’s the “therefore” there for? They tell us how we are to live, given what God has done to save us. The second half of the epistle is about what we are to DO because of who God made us to BE. BEING comes before DOING. If you don’t BE, you can’t DO. The more clearly you understand who God made you to you BE, the more energetically you will DO what that spiritual identity elicits.
 
One of the most vivid examples of GRACE UNTO WORKS that I know of was told to me by a former ministerial colleague. While in college, he had been assigned a term paper for the first semester class, but did nothing about it, and the semester was about to end. He went to his professor just before the Christmas break and confessed his slothfulness, saying he knew he deserved a failing grade. To his surprise, the prof pulled out his grade book, showed it to my friend, and wrote a big “A” beside his name, saying, “I’ll tell you what I’m going to do; I’m giving you an “A,” which will stay in my book no matter what you do. Now go home and write an “A” paper. And, of course, my friend went to Cancun and frittered away his whole vacation. No. Motivated by the professor’s grace and mercy, he wrote the “A” paper.
 
As for our standing in Christ in God’s sight, each of us already has an “A+” in His Book. We are justified, righteous, sanctified, and guaranteed to be glorified—NO MATTER WHAT. Isn’t that what Romans 8:31-39 says: NOTHING can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus, our Savior. Sad to say that my inherent inclination is to feel that good works justify me in God’s sight, and bad works somehow at least slightly dilute His love for me. But God says differently, and I must believe what He says and act accordingly.

Compared to the size of the world, each of our lives is like a relatively tiny garden, and we have the years of our lives to cultivate the fruit therein. The word “cultivate” means “to prepare and work on (land) in order to raise crops; to promote or improve the growth of (a plant, crop, etc.) by labor and attention.” That begins with an intimate relationship with the Lord Jesus so that we keep the weeds out and blossom ourselves. Furthermore, our borders are flexible—we can expand our sphere of influence whenever another person comes into our world. Personally, I want my garden of grace to abound with fruitfulness. I want to leave a huge wake of deliverance behind me in this life. How about you?
 
Elizabeth and all the brethren in our TLTF leadership nucleus send love with mine to you. THANK YOU for praying for us.
John Lynn
 

 


Paul: Apostle of Christ
Reviewed by John Lynn
 
When you attend one of the increasing number of “Christian” movies these days, you never know what you will get. However, you can pretty well count on hearing that God is in control and that dead Christians are alive in heaven, somehow with bodies. Although this film is heavy on the latter theme, there is lots of the Word woven into the dialogue (I kept muttering the references under my breath), albeit now and then out of context.
 
Other than Jesus, the apostle Paul is the most famous person in both the New Testament and the subsequent history of Christianity. Yet only a few movies that have been made about the man who brought Christianity to the known world.
 
Set at the end of Paul’s life when he is in the Mamertine prison in Rome, the movie interweaves three storylines. First, Paul is imprisoned in Rome in AD 67, accused by Nero of burning the city along with other Christians. Luke (Jim Caviezel—Jesus in The Passion of the Christ), who later penned the Book of Acts, comes to visit the imprisoned apostle. The second storyline concerns Luke and Paul’s relationship with Mauritius, the Roman commander over the prison. Third, the movie shows both Paul’s suffering and that of the Christian community in Rome, led by Priscilla and Aquila, most of whom are in hiding.
 
Despite their suffering, the hope-filled early Christians refuse to retaliate in the face of persecution, and this may be the movie’s most powerful message. Christianity is correctly presented as a minority movement under duress. Paul’s demise is an imitation of the sacrifice of Christ, whose glory comes not by bypassing suffering and death, but by bearing it, and for me that was its greatest inspiration.

 
Movie Trailer:  Click Here
 
*Available on DVD and Digital Download
 
 
The Gift of Holy SpiritThe Gift of Holy Spirit
The Power To Be Like Christ
 
Power. Power to excel in all that life throws at you. Power to heal, help, and comfort those in need. If you are a Christian, knowing the power of God that lives within you will give you a real confidence in who you are and what you can do.
 
As we understand what "the holy spirit" is and how we receive it, we can manifest the power of holy spirit in our lives and receive great blessings. After all, God, by way of the Lord Jesus, gave the gift of holy spirit to equip and enable each Christian to bless the Body of Christ and mankind in general. This gift gives each Christian real spiritual power that he can use day by day. As Jesus said, "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit [holy spirit] comes on you…" (Acts 1:8a). The power that each Christian has is very real, and very helpful. Scripture declares that the power of holy spirit is "for the common good" (1 Cor. 12:7b). It is good for the individual, good for the Body of Christ, and even good for all mankind, because all those in your world are blessed when you walk in God's power.
 
On Sale Now: Hardcover / Paperback / Kindle
 

One Day With The Creator
Jesus Christ: The Diameter Of The Ages
*  The Book Of Romans
The End Times
 


QUOTE OF THE MONTH
 
The greatest enemy to the human soul is the self-righteous spirit which makes men look to themselves for salvation. God was all in the drawing up of the scheme, and Christ was all in carrying it out. What can you do that is not sinful? Christ has done all for us; the work of redemption is all finished. God planned it all, and worked out all; and we, therefore, preach a full salvation through Jesus Christ.” – Charles Spurgeon
 
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