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Long-View Living in a Short-View World

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I marvel, at times, regarding the various trends that seem to captivate the attention of huge numbers of people. More often than not, I have no idea how or where the trend started, or what it is that keeps it going. Consider the recent national obsession with bacon. Seriously, what is up with that? Yes, I like bacon too, a lot, but I don't want to wear a bacon-print suit.

Another contemporary national obsession seems to be with zombies - the reanimated dead. In my little home town of Lynden, WA, I see, on occasion, a Zombie Outbreak Response Vehicle. It's pretty hilarious, but I would not drive it.

What men and women outside of Christ do not realize is that they are something of a zombie. Outside of Christ, we also were walking dead. Oh sure, went to work, we ate dinner, we watched television, but outside of Christ, we were "in" death.

Consider this statement from Jesus:

"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgement, but has passed out of death into life." - John 5:24, NASB

Jesus begins his statement with the oft-seen "Truly, truly" or "Verily, verily." It is "Amein, Amein," which is a way of saying, "Truth is coming. Pay attention to this!" Jesus will say this more than 20 times in John's gospel.

In one fascinating statement, we see Jesus talk about past, present, and future, telling us what was, what is, and what will be.

Past - What Was - We Were Dead

Jesus says we have passed from death into life because we heard his word and believed the one who sent him. Similarly, Paul says God made us alive in Christ, and that life is granted "to those who believe." (Ephesians 2:5, 2:8)

In order to pass from death into life, we had to be in death to start with. In his commentary on Ephesians, John Calvin said,"[Paul] does not mean simply that they were in danger of death; but he declares that it was a real and present death under which they laboured. As spiritual death is nothing else than the alienation of the soul from God." In his book Grace Unknown, R.C. Sproul said, "To be dead in sin is to be in a state of moral and spiritual bondage. By nature we are slaves to sin."

"And you were dead in your trespasses and sins," - Ephesians 2:1a, NASB

When we are outside of Christ, we are detached from the life-giving vine. We die. It is not theoretical. It is a spiritual reality!

Present - What Is - We Are Eternally Alive

We have eternal life. We have passed from death to life. It has already happened. As before, this is not theoretical. It is a present reality. Jesus has been infused with authority from the Father, and that authority extends to Jesus granting life to whomever he wishes to grant it. Hence the statement from John regarding Jesus:

"Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him." - John 3:36, NASB

Both Jesus and John agree that eternal life is a "now" possession. We see much the same thing in 1 John 3:14, where John says, "We know that we have passed from death into life..." It is a done deal. We are there!

Future - What Will Be - No Judgement

Because we hear and believe, and because we pass from death into life, we do not come under judgement. Not now, and not in the future.

"He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." - John 3:18, NASB
"Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus." - Romans 8:1, NASB

No, we face no condemnation. Instead we long to hear "Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." (Matthew 25:34b, ESV)

Those walking dead who hear God’s Word and believing on God’s Son are translated from death to life and face no condemnation. Not now, and not ever. "Everlasting life" means forever, for all time.

If you're not there, then I implore you to get there.

For He says: "In the time of favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you." Behold, now is the time of favor; now is the day of salvation!" - 2 Corinthians 6:2, BSB

Blessings upon you my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
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Twitter - @DamonJGray


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My first year in full-time ministry, I worked with a small church in Ruston, Louisiana. I still recall one Sunday morning, walking into the church building and overhearing a lively discussion going on in one of the adult classrooms. With a loud slap of his hand on the table, a frustrated man shouted, "Dammit! I’m trying as hard as everyone else in this room to be a good Christian!”

When I heard this, my first reaction was, Then STOP! We are not called to try hard to be good Christians. That frustrated man was trapped in the lies of a deed-reward faith, driven by a deed-reward religious culture.

One of the key passages cited to combat the deed-reward approach to faith is Ephesians 2:8-9. Here we find one of the greatest and most compact statements on salvation in all of scripture.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. - Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV

Most everyone reading that great statement will nod in agreement, because we understand it, intellectually, at least. But I will assert that most of us don't know it. We get the concept, yes, but we don't know the underlying truth of it. I say this because I have long believed we do not truly know a thing until we begin to live that thing out in our lives. And I know very few in the Christian community who truly live Ephesians 2:8-9.

In two brief verses, we find five powerful gems of truth regarding salvation.

1 - Salvation is By Grace

Grace, in its simplest form, is the receipt of something that is undeserved. If I did, or do deserve it, then it's remuneration, not grace. I do not deserve God's forgiveness, but he gives it to me anyway. I do not deserve salvation, but God gives that to me regardless.

Grace is often confused with, or muddled together with mercy. Grace and mercy are not synonymous. Where grace is seen in me receiving what I do not deserve, mercy is 180 degrees out from that. Mercy is the withholding of what I do deserve. When a deserved punishment is about to be meted out, the victim will say, "Please, have mercy." Withhold the punishment, though it is deserved. In this way, God can be both gracious, gifting us salvation, and merciful, turning away his wrath.

2 - Salvation is Through Faith

Faith is the instrument, or the means of being saved by grace.

I have two tubes of nasty, sticky goop on my workbench. By themselves, they will always remain nasty, sticky goop. However, if I combine them, within about five minutes they transform into a rock-hard chemical bond with which I can glue or seal just about anything I want. The hardener combines with the resin, resulting in epoxy. Gods grace comes to me through the conduit of my faith resulting in salvation. Much as water is delivered to my garden "through" a hose, salvation is delivered to me through my faith.

3 - Salvation is Not of Us

With regard to salvation, there is no "I've lived a good life and done the best that I could do." There is not "I am a pretty good person and I try to do the right thing." Salvation is not "of us." It is not a product of our skill, natural abilities, or of any merit within us. Salvation is granted to us completely apart from any work of merit we might be tempted to offer on our behalf.

4 - Salvation is Not of Works

Salvation for me cannot possibly be "of works" because the work has already been completed through the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus.

"Therefore when Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, 'It is finished!' And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit." - John 19:30, NASB

I am grateful that salvation is presented to me not on the basis of my abilities or merit, but rather on the basis of my great need for it. I cannot purchase it. I cannot exchange anything of value for it. I am completely passive where salvation is concerned.

5 - Salvation is a Gift

With birthdays and Christmas, we typically engage in a tradition of gift-giving. I am sometimes asked, "What do you want for your birthday/Christmas?" This question always hits me a bit awkwardly because I want whatever they choose to give me, if anything at all.

Neither do I like to be told by others, "What I want for Christmas is..." No. I want to make that choice. It is an expression of my love toward you to think through the gift, and to make my selection based on that thought process. All control over the nature and presentation of the gift remain with me, the gift-giver.

So it is with God. The gift is from him, and is given upon whatever basis he chooses to give it. All we must do is receive it. Note the opposition of self to gift in this passage. With God, we will find that he always lands in opposition to self.

Blessings upon you my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
Medium.com
Facebook Author Page
Twitter - @DamonJGray


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Notwithstanding Amazon Alexa's claim that Jesus is a "fictional character," we just came through the Christmas season, a time when those of the Christian faith remember and celebrate the greatest gift God ever gave to humanity. I recognize that within the believing community there are those who opt to not celebrate Christmas in this way, noting that we are never commanded to observe the holiday, while others enjoy disputing the December 25th date, and still others object to the pagan roots of the Christmas celebration as we know it today.

While fascinating, at times, to indulge these side-trips, they are not what concerns me today. In this blog posting, I want to examine the substance of what was actually being proclaimed and celebrated just a few short days ago. "The Word became flesh, and pitched his tent among us." (John 1:14)

Jesus is God in Human Flesh

Many are those who will confess that Jesus was a great man, impactful, perhaps even a prophet, yet who are unwilling to confess him as the unique Son of God. Scripture is not so shy to make this proclamation. Jesus is indeed God's only begotten Son.

1) Proclaimed by the Angel, Gabriel

Prior to Jesus' birth, God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary, the soon-to-be mother of God-in-the-flesh, to explain to her what was about to happen inside her womb. It is difficult to imagine a more unsettling message.

"And the angel answered her, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.'" - Luke 1:35, ESV

I strongly suspect this is the same (unnamed) angel who appeared to Joseph, in Matthew 1, to calm him down by assuring him that his fiancée had not been fooling around behind his back.

2) Proclaimed by the Men Who Knew Him

John the Immerser (Baptist) declared Jesus to be God's Son.

"I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God." - Luke 1:35, ESV

His disciples recognized him as the Son of God, and said so outright.

Nathanael:
"Nathanael answered Him, 'Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.'" - Luke 1:35, NASB

Simon (Peter):
"Simon Peter replied, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'" - Matthew 16:16, ESV

John:
"...but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name." - John 20:31, NASB

Thomas:
"Thomas answered him, 'My Lord and my God!'" - John 20:28, ESV

3) Proclaimed by Demons

Even the powers of darkness knew who Jesus was, and they grudgingly declared him to be the Son of God.

"And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out, 'You are the Son of God.'" - Mark 3:11, ESV

4) Proclaimed by Those who Barely Knew Him

As Jesus hung, dying, on the cross among other convicted criminals, even the battle-hardened centurion who supervised his execution could not help but recognize the truth about Jesus. He likely did not fully understand the implications, but he knew it was true!

"When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, 'Truly this was the Son of God!'" - Matthew 27:54, ESV

5) Proclaimed by The Father

As if all of these witnesses were not enough, we have the most important testimony of all from God the Father, who declared Jesus to be the Son.

"And a voice came from heaven, 'You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.'" - Mark 1:11, ESV

"He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.'" - Matthew 17:5, ESV


I recognize this posting is more scripture than my thoughts, and that's fine. Scripture, not me, is the authoritative word. But why does any of this even matter? Why make such a fuss over it?

Well, to continue the theme, let's let scripture answer that question for us. This is the Long View...

"Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God." - John 3:18, ESV


Happy New Year my friends.

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
Medium.com
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Twitter - @DamonJGray


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A few days ago, Alean and I were driving into town to purchase a couple of items needed to complete Christmas gifts for the grandchildren. As we made the drive, our conversation veered into a discussion of those times we speak truth, but do so in damaging ways. In such situations the content of our communications may be accurate, but our timing or manner of delivery is way off the mark.

We recalled a couple of times we had witnessed pastors standing before their congregations, saying things that were clearly directed at a single person in the audience, and delivering those statements in such a crushing manner that the person never showed their face in that community again. It is doubtful that was the ultimate goal of the pastor, but that was, unfortunately, the result.

"For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline." - 2 Timothy 1:7, NASB
The statement above was made with reference to a gift within Timothy, a gift delivered through the laying on of the apostle Paul's hands. As an apostle, Paul was able to pass spiritual gifts to others through laying his hands on them. Timothy was Paul's "child in the faith," meaning Paul taught Timothy about Jesus, and as such became his spiritual parent in the faith. Paul is reminding Timothy, in this passage, to kindle his gift afresh; exhorting him to stir it aflame.

"For this reason I remind you to kindle afresh the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands." - 2 Timothy 1:6, NASB
The gifting God gives his people is not something to be used timidly, selfishly, or carelessly, but rather with power, love, and discipline. The power of God within a Christ-follower is not a toy with which one plays, but a tool with which one advances the kingdom of God. With gifts in hand, we exercise them with three governing controls firmly in place:

Power

God's gifts within us are not particularly effective if we are too timid to use them. Any sense of timidity we feel in that regard is not coming from God, and that truth alone should give us pause.

God has not given us a spirit of "deilias." Deilias is not fear, so much, as it is timidity, or even cowardice. God's people are neither timid, nor cowardly in deploying the gifts God has placed within us. Note that the power is not the gift, but rather the gift is to be governed by the power God gives.

The governing force of God's gift within us is "dunamis," from which we derive the term dynamite! Dynamite is neither timid nor cowardly. It is also exceedingly dangerous when used without great care. Understand that the gifts God has placed within you, he has empowered you with the ability to use, but this must be done with great care and sobriety.

Love

The gift is regulated by love. The entire discussion of gifting from 1 Corinthians chapters 12 to 14 is governed, or regulated, by chapter 13. Any gift God places within me that is not governed by love is a gift I am abusing. Any use of a gift from God that draws attention to me rather than brings glory to God is a gift I am abusing. Any gift from God that I use to advance myself and my standing in the church or in society rather than to advance the kingdom of God alone is a gift I am abusing.

"Let love be your greatest aim." - 1 Corinthians 14:1a, TLB
Again, love itself is not the gift, but love regulates my use of the gift.

Discipline

The gifts of God are governed by "sophronismos," the discipline and training that molds our character and reigns in our behavior in the same way a track guides the train that rides upon it. It is a combination term, melding the ideas "to save" and "to control," giving us an end product of "safe control."

The engineering firm that employs me for my day job bombards us with safety training. We are drilled with safety training, tested on it, and able, or unable to secure contracts with clients on the basis of our safety rating. As I write this, our company has in excess of five and a half million hours of work without a time-loss accident. Such an impressive record is achieved only through deliberate, disciplined effort.

Attempting to use the gifts of God without discipline lacks the safety controls those gifts merit, and is a terribly dangerous practice.

Kindle afresh the gift of God within you, but do so with the regulating Spirit of power, love, and discipline. The power drives our timidity, the love realigns our focus from self to others, and the discipline enforces safety controls that prevent us from doing damage.

"As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God." - 1 Peter 4:10


Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
Medium.com
Facebook Author Page
Twitter - @DamonJGray


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"Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain." - 1 Corinthians 15:1-2, ESV
The word "gospel" is an English tweak of an old Anglo-Saxon term "godspel," which loosely translated means "a God story." Thus, when we "preach the gospel," we are telling God's story to the hearers. If what we are speaking is not God's story, then we cannot rightfully maintain that we are speaking the gospel. Simply labeling our words as gospel does not make it so that they are.

From a New Testament perspective, what we translate as "gospel" is the Greek word euangellion. It is from this term that we derive the English word "evangel" or "evangelist." Euangellion simply means "good news," or "good message." God's story is a message of good news.

You may recall the angel (angellion) in Luke chapter two who came to the shepherds on the night of Jesus' birth. He came with a good message - glad tidings of great joy. That is the emphasis of our first Attribute of God's Story.

It is Good News


There is an indistinct line of demarcation between those who inspire hope with their gospel message and those who inspire fear with a somewhat different message. To assess the message of the gospel by listening to some of these latter preachers, one could quickly conclude that there is no good news. The message is that I am bad, dirty, valueless. Where is the good news? Where is the grace? Where is the love? I have exited some of these presentations having heard, "You're going straight to hell, son, and I'm glad to hold the door for you!" It is a message of despair and fear.

I understand the necessity of conviction as it relates to my sinfulness before God, but it is not the task of a hellfire and brimstone preacher to bring about that conviction. Jesus said in John 16:8 that it is the Holy Spirit who will convict the world regarding sin, righteousness, and judgment.

The good news is that we have a redeemer, one who bought us out of the desperate state we were in. The good news is that there is love, love so deep and extensive that it made that redemptive purchase at the price of blood.

"For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life." - John 3:16, NRSV

That is very good news! That is the "glorious gospel." (2 Corinthians 4:4)

It is Declared


The gospel is something that must be spoken before those who need to hear it. This task of speaking is not relegated to some special class of believer - pastors, evangelists, and the like. It is my task, as it is yours. It is the responsibility of those to whom the gospel has been entrusted, those of us with that gospel treasure in earthen vessels. (2 Corinthians 4:7). The apostle Paul told the church in Rome:

"For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?" - Romans 10:13-14

Likewise, Jesus charged us with this same task in Matthew 28 when delivering the self-perpetuating command.

"All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you." - Matthew 28:18b-20a

It is Received


The gospel is not merely heard. James tells us to be doers of what we hear. (James 1:22) It is not even merely believed. Even the demons believe, and they tremble! (James 2:19) The gospel is received. It is accepted and taken in. It is embraced and owned. It is active and effective in the life of the one who has received it.

"But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God." - John 1:12-13

It is Bedrock


Paul describes the gospel as that upon which we stand (1 Corinthians 15:1). It is a bedrock, a firm foundation.

"For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ." - 1 Corinthians 3:11, ESV

The foundation of the gospel has been laid, and it is there that we take our stand. The Psalmist says God is our rock and our salvation, and from that truth we will not be moved! (Psalm 62:6) God said, through Isaiah, that he was laying a foundation stone in Zion, a tested and precious cornerstone, a sure foundation. (Isaiah 28:16)

It is Saving


Given that the gospel is the bedrock, the foundation, if we hold fast to it, it is the gospel by which we are saved! (1 Corinthians 15:1) To the church at Ephesus, the apostle Paul described it as "the gospel of our salvation." (Ephesians 1:13)

"For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him." - John 3:17

Victoriously in Christ!

- damon

DamonJGray.org
Medium.com
Facebook Author Page
Twitter - @DamonJGray


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Please note: Long-View Living Administration reserves the right to delete any and all comments that are deemed to be snarky, offensive, or off-topic. If in doubt, read our Comments Policy here.

        




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Acts 17:28 - ἐν αὐτῷ γὰρ ζῶμεν καὶ κινούμεθα καὶ ἐσμέν