What is the Christian life all about? What does it mean to believe in Jesus Christ? Is it a mere “escape clause” written into a contract between two parties? Is it merely a free ride to heaven on a “gravy train”? Is it just a religion and religious beliefs and practices, also including religious rituals? Or, is there more to it? Or, is it something else? And, if so, then what?
The Lord Jesus led me to read Psalm 103 (Select vv. NASB).
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget none of His benefits;
Who pardons all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases;
Who redeems your life from the pit,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion;
Who satisfies your years with good things,
So that your youth is renewed like the eagle. Vv. 1-5
This is awesome! For those of us who put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ, as Lord, and as Savior of our lives, he forgives our sins. This means that he removes the punishment of our sin, so that we will not be eternally condemned. But, it isn’t just that. He removes the sin, the addictions, the slavery to sin, and he delivers us from the power Satan had over our lives, and he sets us free! He removes the guilt and the shame, too, for what we have done, and he gives us a clean slate! It is as though we never sinned.
But, this is not automatic. What I mean is, just because Jesus provided this for us when he died on the cross for our sins, it does not mean that everyone has this. We have to believe in Jesus. Yet, we must know that “belief” in Jesus is not a feeling (emotional experience) or a mere acknowledgment of Christ and of what he did for us on that cross.
But, it is us drawn to Christ by God the Father, and it is us divinely persuaded of our sinfulness and of our need of the Savior, and of God’s purpose and will in providing salvation for us. Thus, if divinely persuaded, we will submit to God’s will, surrender our lives to Christ, turn from our lives of sin, and turn to follow Christ.
When we believe in Jesus Christ, we die with him to sin, and we are resurrected with him to newness of life, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness. The old has gone. The new has come.
But, this is just the beginning. This is a life-long process of putting off the old and putting on the new, of taking up our cross daily and following Christ, of daily being cleansed of sin, and of, by the Spirit, putting to death the deeds of the flesh. It is walking in fellowship with our Lord, according to the Spirit, and no longer living our lives according to our sinful flesh.
This walk of faith, though, is of The Spirit and by The Spirit, and not something we can generate in and of our own flesh. Only in the power and working of God’s Spirit within us can we say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives, while we wait for Christ’s return. But, we must cooperate with God’s work of grace in our lives. We must work with him in doing what he says to do, and in following him wherever he leads us.
It is a daily walk of faith, continuous, and persistent. It involves daily being in the Word of God, listening to our Savior speaking truth to our hearts, and then us following him in faith in whatever he tells us or he calls us to do.
And, part of this daily walk involves the Lord watching over us, caring about us, nurturing and comforting us, counseling us, and comforting us, too.
The Lord performs righteous deeds
And judgments for all who are oppressed.
He made known His ways to Moses,
His acts to the sons of Israel. Vv. 6-7
Who are the oppressed? They are those who are being persecuted for their faith in Jesus Christ, who are suffering emotional or verbal or physical abuse of some sort because of their testimonies for Jesus Christ, and for their stand on His Word. But, they are also those suffering abuse from spouses who are addicted to sin. They are children who are being abused and taken advantage of by those in positions of authority over them, or by those who are trusted family or friends. They are those, too, who have been captured and turned into slaves, or workers whose bosses mistreat them, etc.
For all those suffering abuse, mistreatment and/or betrayal of some kind, my heart goes out to you. I feel your pain! I hurt for you! I empathize with your suffering. When I hear your stories, my heart cries out for you to God. And, I cry real tears for you, too, because I understand. I know that pain.
So, in trying to understand what the psalmist was saying here to those of us who are oppressed, in some way, I read some commentaries, and this one said it so well, so I just felt I should quote the commentator on this one:
“The Lord executeth righteousness and judgment – That is, “justice.” He sees that justice is done to the oppressed. He is on their side. His law, his commands, his judicial decisions, his providential interpositions, are in their favor. This does not mean that it will he done at once; or that there will never be any delay; or that they may not suffer even for a long time – for this occurs in fact; but the meaning is, that God has their true interest at heart; that at proper times, and whenever and whereever there are any dealings of his in the case, his acts are in favor of those that are oppressed; and that there will be sooner or later such interpositions in their behalf as shall entirely vindicate their cause.” Barnes’ Notes on The Bible
For those of us who put our trust in Jesus Christ, as Lord and Savior of our lives, we can be encouraged that our Lord is with us, that he is watching over us, that he is our comfort, and that he will carry us through it all.
The Lord is compassionate and gracious,
Slow to anger and abounding in lovingkindness.
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever.
He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth,
So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him.
As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
Just as a father has compassion on his children,
So the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him.
For He Himself knows our frame;
He is mindful that we are but dust. Vv. 8-14
We serve a loving, compassionate, kind and gracious God. Not one of us is deserving of his love and grace. Not one of us can do anything, in our flesh, to deserve or to earn his love and grace, either, or our own salvation. This is a free gift from God, not of human works, lest any of us should boast.
But, a lot of people get hung up on this word “free” and they assume there is no cost involved at all, and no requirements. They see God’s grace as something which is just handed to us, regardless of anything which we do. But, that is because they don’t really grasp the meaning of the “gift.”
This gift of God’s grace to us is not a mere escape from hell and the promise of heaven when we die, though many people believe it is, or else they live like they believe that is all there is to it. And, so they see obedience as optional, and repentance as not necessary at all.
But, God’s grace to us is not a free license to continue in sin without guilt and without remorse. His grace to us instructs (commands) us to say “NO” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we await Christ’s return.
Jesus didn’t die just to save us from the punishment of sin, but to deliver us from bondage (slavery, addiction) to sin. He didn’t die just to forgive us our sins, but that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. He didn’t die just to save us, but to transform us! So, the gift is deliverance from our slavery to sin and it is the freedom to walk in Christ’s righteousness and holiness, so if we are to be truly free, we need to submit to God’s work of grace in our lives, and apply to our lives what he did for us on that cross.
For, this is what it means to fear God. His love and his grace are great towards those of us who fear him, who honor him as the Holy God that he is, and who respect, obey and submit to him and to his purposes for our lives. This is how we are truly set free. And, this is truly what it means to “believe.”
In Christ Alone
Stuart Townend & Keith Getty
In Christ alone my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ I stand…
Wednesday, December 27, 2017, 7:48 a.m. – Thank you, Jesus, for your grace and kindness towards us in saving us from our slavery to sin. Amen!