A young man, who obviously didn’t catch what I was saying, walked up to me after hearing me teach at the jail and said, “I think I understand what you’re saying. Are you saying, God meets us at the point of our best effort?” My immediate response was “I have always found that God meets me at the point of my greatest weakness.”

Later on, while pondering this young man’s question, I thought to myself, this is like saying “Do your best and God will do the rest.” While this may sound like wisdom at first, what I’ve discovered is it is really a false belief that we are independent and God is here to help. I knew a man who used to say things like, “God gave His very best for you; so you should give your very best for Him.” While we’re talking about this we might as well throw out the ever-present “God helps those who help themselves” too.

As a believer in Jesus Christ I am declaring Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I am not saying, I’m going to try harder, do better, change my life, start going to church, etc. No, what I’m saying is I could not save myself, I don’t know how to live life the way God intends, and apart from Christ I’m hopeless.

According to Colossians 3 “Christ is my life.” He isn’t a part of my life, He doesn’t simply give me life. He is my life! The Apostle Paul said, “For me to live is Christ…” and “I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” When Paul said, “I’m crucified with Christ” he meant he in fact died when Christ died, was buried when Christ was buried and rose when He rose.

Jesus Himself said, “Apart from me you can do nothing.” When Jesus says, “you can do nothing” I take that literally. When that young man said, “God meets us at the point of our greatest effort” I couldn’t help but think to myself, “he still thinks he has something to do with this.” He’s going to “help” God out.

It is true the Apostle Paul told us we are God’s co-laborers but from what I can understand our greatest labor seems to be entering into His rest. We are so used to “being all you can be”, and “going for the gusto” we have totally missed the fact that the work of salvation is God’s alone. We are called to bear fruit but we aren’t the ones who produce it. Only the vine produces fruit and as the branches we are called to simply bear it.

Louie

I recently talked with someone I hadn’t seen in over 20 years. He just came from shooting pool in a bar, and I just came out of Bible study. Oh what a difference Christ makes.

As Tracey and I spoke with him he asked, “What are you guys doing?” I thought to myself, well I sure am glad you asked. Tracey said, “We just finished Bible study!” then she invited him to come next week. He immediately seemed to glaze over and said, “I don’t have any use for the church thing.” I spoke up and said, “We’re not talking about “church” we’re talking about Jesus Christ.” We then proceeded to share a brief version of our testimony with him. As I shared with him about how I had become extremely addicted to pills and was basically killing myself, he said, “Now, that’s because of choices you made!” I quickly agreed with him and said, “You are exactly right! It was choices I had made but thankfully God rescued me and saved me from myself”, and Christ is now my life. As we ended our conversation, we shook his hand and let him go on his way. We may never know what kind of affect we had on him, but I’m believing our words will ring in his ears for a long time. My prayer is God will never stop pursuing him until he relents. He didn’t seem to have any hope but because of God I could see what God wanted for him.

The Bible clearly tells us “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” While most seem to focus on the fact we’ve all sinned, I think God’s attention is probably more on the missed glory. It seems God’s plan was for us to be joined with Him in His glory. That begs the question, just what exactly is His Glory? The Strong’s concordance tells us, the Greek word for glory is (doxa) meaning–“dignity, glory, honour, praise, worship.” If you look into the root word for doxa (dokeo) it is defined “to think, to seem truthfully, be accounted, please, be of reputation, seem good, suppose).

What can we learn from the idea that we have fallen short of God’s glory given this definition? I suppose one could say we have all fallen short of God’s dignity, honour, praise and good reputation. So, in other words, we have all failed to live up to what God designed us for. The good news is, while we failed it didn’t have to be for good. God didn’t give up on His purpose and plan for humanity. His plan was to get us back into His glory and to get His glory back into us. This is where two of the Apostle Paul’s favorite phrases come in to play:”In Christ and Christ in you.” Christ is our only hope of glory.

You see God’s plan all along was for us to be His representative on the earth. God said, “Let Us make man in our own image and let them have dominion.” So we were designed to be the visible expression of the invisible God. Of course after the fall we found ourselves quite a bit less than God’s intention. We became earthly minded creatures who became distracted with basic animalistic needs and desires. Rather than being God-conscious we became self-conscious. Rather than being heavenly-minded we became earthly-minded and death was the only way out of the fix we were in.

So, God became a man, an earth creature, in order to rescue us from the fall and lift us back into His glory. Through Jesus Christ’s death, burial and resurrection, God joined us to Him in order to convey us back in to His glorious kingdom. Ephesians tells us, “even when we were dead in our transgressions, (He) made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus…” Since we have been raised with Christ, we are told in Colossians “Keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on the earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Colossians 3:1-3).

The salvation offered through Jesus Christ is so much more than a ticket to heaven. God’s idea of salvation is for us to be fully restored to His former glory. We are told “it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him (Jesus Christ), and through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of the cross…” (Colossians 1:19-20). It doesn’t stop there either. If you read a bit further you’ll discover “in Him you have been made complete…” (Colossians 2:10). Christ in you, is the hope of glory! When God’s Spirit moved back into you through your regeneration, the Glory returned and His image was restored!

Louie

Sometimes I like to do something I call skipping a rock through the Bible. Today I would like to trace how God moved through history to find His permanent dwelling place. Of course God is everywhere all the time, but His manifested presence can be traced through the Bible.

In Genesis we read where God lived with man in the Garden of Eden. In fact it appears they may have taken walks together from time to time. Just after man’s fall though, Adam and Eve hid themselves and they “heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” (Genesis 3:8). Man found himself separated from God and His glory, but the good news is God didn’t give up. He set out to reunite with man.

Years later, as you read through the story of the Exodus, God still wanting a relationship with man, moved into a tent. In Exodus, after reading of the very specific details God gave Moses concerning how to build the tabernacle, God’s presence filled the tent. We’re told, “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle. Moses was not able to enter the tent of meeting because the cloud had settled on it, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle” (Exodus 40:34-35).

Moving on into the Promised Land we see where the Tabernacle was traded for a more permanent structure called the Temple. King David wanted to build the Temple but God wouldn’t let him. Instead God gave that privilege to David’s son Solomon. After Solomon’s prayer of dedication of the Temple, “fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the house. The priests could not enter into the house of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled the Lord’s house” (2 Chronicles 7:1-2).

Up to this point we can see God must really love man and want to be with Him. He already went from living in a Garden to a tent and then a building, but there’s something even greater than this! As you look into the New Testament you’ll discover He wanted to be yet closer even still.

In the gospel of John we read, “And the Word (God) became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). Wow! So God became a man and dwelt among us. I can’t resist saying this: the Greek word translated here as dwelt is actually the word “tabernacled”. Isn’t that amazing? God was now located in a man and moving about with them eye to eye. Later on in the Gospel of John it’s recorded that one of Jesus’ followers, Philip said to Him, “Lord show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know me, Philip? He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘show us the Father’? (John 14:8-9). The Spirit of God was dwelling within the human Jesus.

Once the time came for Jesus to go to the cross, his disciples were understandably fearful; but Jesus comforted them saying, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you…In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (John 14:16 &20). So here we have a promise that God would actually make one more move. This next move was going to be a doozy.

After the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, he ascended into heaven right before the disciples very eyes. Jesus had told them to go to Jerusalem and wait until they received power from on high so that’s just what they did. In the second chapter of Acts we can read where the Holy Spirit came rushing into the room the disciples were waiting in and they were filled with the very Spirit of God Himself. This of course was the plan God had all along. His plan was always to dwell in man. He wasn’t going to be satisfied just living in a Garden, tent or building. No, He wanted to take up residence within the man He created in His own image.

The Apostle Paul was God’s chosen vessel to spread the word about this amazing deeper understanding of the Gospel. Paul said it was a “mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:26-27). He asked the Corinthians “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you…(1 Corinthians 6:19). So it seems God’s plan all along was to inhabit mankind and live His life through them. What an amazing plan from an amazing God!

Louie

“Educated people within the church have given us what they call the marks of the true church. However, whether a person is educated or uneducated, the only proof that he can have as to his own membership in Christ’s church is his being dead to all sin and alive to all righteousness. This cannot be more plainly stated than in these words of our Lord: “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin” (John 8:34). Surely the servant of sin cannot at the same time be a living member of Christ’s body, a new creature who dwells in Christ and has Christ dwelling in him! It is absurd to suppose that a man born again from above is still under a necessity of continuing to sin. Christ has said, “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (v36). Truly, if Christ has come to live in you, then a true freedom from all sin has been given to you.

Now, if this freedom from sin is hindered and cannot come to pass in the fathful follower of Christ, can it be because both the willing and working of Christ in man is too weak to overcome that which the Devil wills and works in him? Certainly not! Yet, this absurdity–and even blasphemy–is implied in the very common doctrine that teaches that the Christian can never be done with sinning as long as he lives. If Christians continue to believe this absurdity, they will also continue to live sinfully, without caring whether or not they are doing God’s will on earth as it is done in heaven. They will have no concern about being pure, as Jesus who called them is pure, nor will they care to walk as He walked.

The only Christian known to Scripture is the person whose every action is that of a saint. If the saint of Scripture were not a man who shunned all evil and was holy in all his behavior, there would be no real difference between the saint and the carnal man. Preachers and writers comfort halfhearted Christians by telling them that God does not require a perfect, sinless obedience, but that He accepts the sincerity of our weak endeavors instead. Here, if ever, the blind lead the blind.

Paul, comparing the way of salvation to a race, said, “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize?” (1 Cor. 9:24). Now if Paul could see into the truth of the matter, then they must be blind who teach that God accepts everyone who runs in the religious race and that He does not require that anyone obtain the prize. Paul saw that the sincerity of our weak endeavors is, indeed, quite different from the required perfection of our lives. God accepts our weak attempts at perfection; that is, He bears with them. But He does not do so because He seeks or requires no more. Rather, He bears with them because through them we are moving toward the perfection that He absolutely requires. This perfection is the fullness of the stature of Christ in us, and it is what Paul said is the new creature who obtains the prize.

Paul was saying something that Christ had said in different words: “Strive to enter in at the strait gate” (Luke 13:24). In this verse, our best endeavors are called for and are therefore accepted by God. Yet, Christ added, “For many…will seek to enter in, and shall not be able” (v. 24). Why is this? It is because Christ Himself is the one Door into life. Christ said that people strive, and Paul called them runners in a race. Christ called Himself the one Door of entrance, and Paul said that only one receives the prize. That one, who alone obtains the prize or who alone enters through the right door, is that new creature in whom Christ is truly born. Only Christ in us can be our hope of glory.”

 

Taken from “You Will Receive Power” by William Law

My wife just left. It’s probably not what you’re thinking though. She actually did just leave but it was to share Jesus with some female inmates in our local jail. She always wants me to pray with her before she goes and tonight was no different.

It’s funny how God speaks to you sometimes while you’re praying for someone else. One time as we prayed it dawned on me how the story of Jonah fit in with being in jail. Think about it for a minute. Jonah was running from what God had told him to do and he found himself in a dark, cramped, uncomfortable place. For Jonah it was the belly of a whale but for the men and women in jail and prison maybe it’s a cell full of people they don’t know or even like. Either way they are there and have no way of getting out until it’s time, just like Jonah. The hope is that, like Jonah, when the time comes for them to get out they will go and do what God tells them to do.

Tonight as we prayed Tracey prayed that the women would be receptive to God. As she said that what came to me was, “How could they not?” Of course we all have had our times when we didn’t want to hear about God or from God but I think it’s only because we hadn’t seen Him as He really is. The truth is if we get a clear picture of the loving God described to us in the scriptures we can’t resist. He’s irresistible! After Tracey finished praying I prayed and my prayer basically consisted of asking God to show Himself to these women in a clear and personal way because I know if He does that they will be drawn to Him like a moth to a flame.

The Bible tells us to “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8a). Once you draw near to Him we are told to “Taste and see that the Lord is good…” (Psalm 34:8a).

I realize not everyone is called to minister to men and women in jail and prison; but I challenge you to pray for them. I ask that you would simply pray that they would come to see Jesus Christ really is the answer to their problems no matter what their charges are or how long they have to be incarcerated. God can do miraculous things through them even though they are behind bars.

Louie

In the beginning Adam was created in the image and likeness of God. God created him to have a mind and a will in order to choose. To use New Covenant language we might say, he had the mind of Christ. So actually what happened at the fall was Adam lost his mind. Adam had made the decision to go with what Satan said rather than God. Therefore all who have been born of Adam are born operating from the mind of the enemy, or the mind naturally ours because of the fall.

The Bible admonishes us to “not lean on our own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5), and “There is a way that seems right to a man but the end leads to death” (Proverbs 14:12). So we’re not supposed to live according to our natural reasoning because our natural reasoning is opposed to God. “The mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God” (Romans 8:7). Because, “a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

Proverbs spends a considerable amount of time telling us to seek Wisdom. We are to “make our ear attentive to wisdom, incline our heart to understanding; for if you cry for discernment, lift your voice for understanding; seek her as silver and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will discern the fear of the Lord and discover the knowledge of God” (Proverbs 2:2-5). So we see Wisdom is a woman who is to be sought after. The Wisdom of God is actually God Himself. It’s the knowledge “of” God not simply knowledge “from” God. In the New Covenant we discover “Christ Jesus became to us Wisdom from God…” (1 Corinthians 1:30). We are to “be renewed in the spirit of our mind, and put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth” (Ephesians 4:23-24).

It only makes sense to me if Wisdom from God is a woman, the enemy might just have a woman of his own. You see we have all been operating from the wrong mind or wisdom because of the fall. Part of what happened in the fall is the Wisdom of God departed. Once Adam, and subsequently all of us, was left without God’s Wisdom, or mind, natural reasoning was all we had left. The trouble is what I’m calling “natural reasoning” is actually the mind of the Harlot.

Proverbs seven shows us the mind of the harlot, who is a deceiver. She sees a naive young man lacking sense walking a bit too close to her house. What I would like for you to notice is the harlot works this foolish young man over through natural reasoning. She says, “Today I’ve paid my vows. I have spread my couch with coverings. I have sprinkled my bed with myrrh, aloes and cinnamon. My husband is not at home, he has gone on a long journey.” The young man blindly walks right into her web “as an ox goes to the slaughter.” That old harlot gave him every reason in the world why he should come to her place, and he went. You see we are absolutely no match for the craftiness of the enemy without the Wisdom of God. We are told “in all your getting get understanding” (Proverbs 4:7). We are told to “Say to wisdom, “You are my sister,” and call understanding your intimate friend; that they may keep you from the adulteress, from the foreigner who flatters with her words” (Proverbs 7:4-5).

Ultimately we are all operating from one of two minds. Romans eight tells us “the mind set on the flesh (natural reasoning or mind of the harlot) is death, but the mind set on the Spirit (the Wisdom of God, mind of Christ) is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh(natural reasoning, satanic mind) is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God; for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh(natural reasoning, satanic mind) cannot please God” (Romans 8:6-8).

James tells us the wisdom from below is “earthly, natural and demonic…but the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy. And the seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:15-18).

Louie