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Facts of the Matter

A weekly letter of encouragement and challenge to business and professional men and women

Archive for January, 2011

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

LIFE LESSON #3 (Continued): WITHOUT GRACE, I WOULD HAVE DESPAIRED (3 of 9)

Here is why grace is so critical to our lives: Can you side with Peter who, hours before Jesus crucifixion boasted that he would lay down his life for the Master – only to miserably deny him? (Jn. 13:36-38; 18:15-18, 25-27) Man! I can! If so, have you observed the incomprehensible grace of Christ gently manifested to Peter after his failure as recorded in John 21? I dont know about you, but I, Dwight Hill desperately need that grace because I am the worst of offenders in hurting Jesus over these many years through my pride, rebellion, judgementalism, lack of faith, etc., etc. If it were not for a clear understanding of his grace, I would have despaired years ago. I am continually reminded of John 1;16: For out of His fullness (abundance) we have all received [all had a share and we were all supplied with] one grace after another and spiritual blessing upon spiritual blessing and even favor upon favor and gift [heaped] upon gift. (Amp. N. T.)

Perhaps you, like I can readily identify with Pauls disciple Timothy, a rather fragile soul whom Paul felt needed to grasp the concept of Gods grace for his life. Thus Paul enjoined him: You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. (2 Tim. 2:1) That is, be empowered by Jesus grace, appropriate it, and rest in it. Timothys need to experience Gods grace is understandable when you consider that Timothy was of mixed blood (Jewish and Greek), who doubtless experienced the prejudices people of mix blood often incur. He was raised by two women (2 Tim. 2:5); the father, it appears was out of the picture; he seems to have struggled with fear (2 Tim. 1:7), and the overwhelming task of running a church as a youthful pastor (1 Tim 4:12). He also battled ill health, Paul advising him to take wine to calm his stomach (1 Tim. 5:23). I, like Timothy, need to live in the grace of God if I am to make it victoriously to the end of my pilgrimage.

In my studies on grace over these many years, several truths have stood out:

1) Gods grace does not give us a license to live in sin: Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?Certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord (Rom. 6:1,2; Jud. 1:4).  (See Rom. 6:15; I Pet. 1:14-16; 2:24; 1 Jn. 2:3-5)

2) Gods grace does not absolve us of our calling to live a cross-focused life: If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps, he must give up all right to himself, carry his cross every day and keep close behind me. For the man who wants to save his life will lose it but the man who loses his life for my sake will save it (Lk. 9:23, 24 Phillips Trans.).  (See Matt. 10:38,39; 1 Cor 15:31;  Gal. 2:20)

3) As recipients of Gods grace, we carry the responsibility of taking the message of Christ to the lost For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body. Because we understand our fearful responsibility to the Lord, we work hard to persuade others[God] gave us this wonderful message of reconciliationWe are therefore Christs ambassadors  (2 Cor. 5:10, 11a,19b, 20a NLT). (See Rom. 10:14, 15; 2 Cor. 6:1; Eph. 6:20)

4) The grace-centered disciple gives it 100% to become all that God intends: Whatever I am now, it is all because God poured out his special favor on meand not without results. For I have worked harder than any of the other apostles; yet it was not I but God who was working through me by his grace (I Cor. 15:10 NLT). (See 2 Cor. 3:5; Philip. 3:10-14)

CONCLUSION: In the final analysis, it is only in our weakness and brokenness that we truly experience the life-giving grace (and power) of God: [Jesus] said My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong (2 Cor. 12:9, 10).

QUESTION: Are you learning to live daily in the dead center of Gods grace? If not, why dont you start on that path today?

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

LIFE LESSON #3: WITHOUT GRACE, I WOULD HAVE DESPAIRED (3 of 9)

When I came to Christ at age 15, I had little understanding of grace, growing up as I did in an environment where both parents were emotionally removed from me, immersed in their own troubled world. In our house love was doled out when performance met their out of reach expectations. As a new believer I naturally assumed God operated on the same plane as my parents: No performance spelled no grace; no love.

In my mid twenties through early thirties, three critical events happened that began the process of liberating me from the tyranny of performance based Christianity, and introducing me to a sweet grace centered relationship with Jesus Christ:

1) I spent a year immersing myself in studying the Attributes of God. As the Holy Spirit revealed biblical truth to me, I prayed it into my life, often committing key passages to memory. The liberation promised in John 8:31, 32 became my experience: Jesus: "If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." (The footnotes below enumerate several helpful books for study on the Attributes of God.)

2) A godly man came along side of me and was able to compassionately probe the wounds of my childhood that unleashed Gods grace and healing to this needy soul.

3)  Through my studies, I internalized and appropriated such grace-based Scriptures as:

God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure. So we praise God for the glorious grace he has poured out on us who belong to his dear Son. He is so rich in kindness and grace that he purchased our freedom with the blood of his Son and forgave our sins. He has showered his kindness on us, along with all wisdom and understanding. (Eph. 1:5-8 NLT)

 God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Rom. 5:8)

I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness. (Jer.31:3)

If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared.(Psa. 130:3,4)

As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. (Psa. 103:13,14)

CONCLUSION: If you are struggling with this issue of grace, would you consider taking unrushed time to meditate on the above passages, and then pray their truths into your life?

(Part #2 of this Facts will continue next week.)

Resources for further study: (1) The Attributes of God Arthur W. Pink; (2) Summary of Christian Doctrines Louis Berkhof, (3) The Knowledge of the Holy A. W. Tozier, (4) Systematic Theology Charles Hodge

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

LIFE LESSON #2: GOD CAN BE TRUSTED (2 of 9)

Folks who possess true faith are a rare breed.  The reality is that most of us sort of believe God. Imagine: Jesus takes the Eleven disciples to the mountain and commissions them to take the Gospel to the world. And what are they doing? The Scriptures state that they worshiped him, but some doubted.  (Mt. 28:17) How is that possible after observing the miracles and the resurrection? How is that possible after living with Jesus for three years?  Is it any wonder that Jesus said of two of them: O dull of perception and slow of heart to be believing  (Lk. 24:25 Wuest)

Jesus summed up the low level of faith on planet earth: When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?"  (Lk. 18:8) (See Num. 14:11; Ps. 78:6-8; Mk. 9:19; 16:14; Jn. 6:29) Given our strong inclination toward doubt, I personally do not know how we can truly live by faith except by immersing (marinating?) ourselves regularly in the Scriptures in an unrushed fashion, claiming its promises, and praying its truth into our lives.

Over a half century ago I made a decision that I would believe and obey Gods word and its promises, whatever the cost.  Today, I can now attest also from years of experience that God and his word can be taken seriously. He will not play billiards with our lives.  He will not lead us into a cul-de-sac.  God is dead serious when he promises, I will not in any way fail you nor give you up nor leave you without support. [I will] not, [I will] not, [I will] not in any degree leave you helpless nor forsake nor let [you] down (relax My hold on you)! [Assuredly not!].  (Heb. 13:5b Amp.)

As I look back over my life, I can say with conviction,Not one of all the good promises the Lord your God gave you has failed. Every promise has been fulfilled; not one has failed. (Josh. 23:14) Here are three examples out of hundreds where God showed up for Ruth and me over these many years:

 Back in 1970 we needed a substantial amount of money to buy a house.  After revealing the exact house to us through prayer, a check for the down payment showed up the day we needed it.  No one knew of our need.

 In 1973, our neighbors were facing bankruptcy,  needing a certain amount of money to remain solvent.  We had no idea of the amount.  While preparing our taxes I ran across a stock certificate which we gave them to help them in their plight. It turned out to be the exact amount they needed to dodge bankruptcy. Within days both came to Christ.

 Ruth and I have been amazed at how God has provided a steady and more than adequate income for us in these, our senior years.  (Why am I still amazed!?) 

Here is Gods challenge to us:My righteous one will live by faith. And if he shrinks back, I will not be pleased with him. But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are savedWithout faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. (Heb 10:38, 39; 11:6)

QUESTION: Will you choose to be one of those rare persons who chooses to truly believe God?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

LIFE LESSONS: #1 OUR CONCEPT OF GOD IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING ABOUT US: IT DEFINES US (1 of 9)

In successive weeks I will be sharing nine life lessons I have learned over nearly six decades of knowing Christ.

Our concept of God is the most important thing about us.  In fact, it defines us. So said A. W. Tozier. How is this true?  If you are an insecure person, you probably have no concept of Gods sovereignty. By Gods sovereignty we mean that God knows everything, has everything under control, and that nothing surprises him. If you tend toward legalism or an unforgiving spirit toward yourself or others chances are you have little concept of Gods great grace.  If you dabble in sensuality, you are probably ignorant of Gods wonderful, but terrifying holiness. Etc., etc.

Tragically, most of us have a severely diminished concept of God due to weak teaching, and/or anemic personal bible study habits.  If we are to realize the riches in Christ and experience true Kingdom living as God intends for us, it is imperative that we understand theologically what the Scriptures teach about God. What you know about God, affects every aspect of your life.

One of our carnal inclinations is to possess too high a view of ourselves and too low a view of God. Listen to St. Paul in this regard For although they knew God, they neither glorified [honored] him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. (Rom. 1:21-23) (See Psa. 106:20; Jer. 2:11; I Cor. 21, 22)

Years ago J. B. Phillips wrote a book entitled, Your God Is Too Small. Think about the fact that in almost every biblical account of Gods visitations, man is terror struck. Observe Isaiahs response: "Woe to meI am ruined! For I am a man of unclean lips, and I live among a people of unclean lips, and my eyes have seen the King, the Lord Almighty" (Isa. 6:5). (See Ex. 33:20; Lk. 5:5)

If you have a diminished or warped concept of God, consider: 

God: "My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughtsWho has understood the mind of the Lord, or instructed him as his counselor? Whom did the Lord consult to enlighten him, and who taught him the right way? Who was it that taught him knowledge or showed him the path of understanding? Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust (Isa. 55:8, 9; 40:13-15). (See. Isa.40)

Paul: Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay him? For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever! Amen (Rom. 11:33-36). (See Ex. 33:20; Lk. 5:5; Eph. 3:10; Col. 2:3; Job 5:9; 11:7; Isa. 40:13; 1 Tim. 1:17)

QUESTION: If you have less than a biblical view of God, and if in fact our concept of God defines us, would it not behoove you to get serious about learning who God is from a true biblical perspective?