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Sincere Prayer

I remember hearing a statement once that went something like this: “When I am on my knees, I am imitating angels.”  While I often contemplate the scenes of heaven, I don’t give much thought to imitating angels.  Nonetheless, the image is thought-provoking; particularly concerning the matter of prayer.  Imagine if on your next occasion to pray you could leave the features and confines of earth, and were given the means to perceive the glory and splendor, and majesty of the invisible, eternal God.  With eyes fixed upon the throne of His glory, and innumerable angels roundabout you, how would you pray?  Would your prayer not be filled with awe?  Would it not be fervent?  Would it not be solemn? Would it not be thoughtful?

The truth is, if we are to rightly understand the nature and solemnity of prayer we should begin with the realization that we do not need these imaginings.  While it is true that we do not behold God fully here, our prayers are just as really in His presence as are the departed saints and angels around His throne.  It is no small thing to have this understanding because, as inestimable as the privilege of prayer is, it is often a difficult privilege.  Now of course, to frivolously repeat a few cold, metallic words as a matter of form is not difficult at all.  But to pray in a way that pushes the temporal aside, and sincerely engages all our heart and mind toward the invisible God as though He were visible, and in a way that resigns all our thoughts and faculties to communion with Him is not easy for the pilgrim. 

To aid us in this regard, perhaps we ought to simplify the issue a bit. While there is much that can be said concerning prayer, it is important to state that perhaps more than any other characteristic, the pilgrim’s prayer must be sincere.  In fact, if your prayer is not an offering out of the heart, it would behoove you not to pray at all, because such prayer is worse than nothing.  John 4 tells us “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and in truth.”  No mere form…whether a bended knee, or some devout expression…can please God if the heart is not presenting the offering.  Such was the indictment brought against Israel “This people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.” (Is. 29:13).  Interestingly enough, v13 from the Isaiah text ends with “Their reverence for Me consists of tradition learned by rote.”

Christian, when you come before the Lord in prayer, it is helpful to remember…God sees your heart.  He knows your meaning.  Lay aside the rote forms and aspirations toward eloquence.  Your broken language and my broken language, when accompanied by a humble and sincere heart, are precious to Him.  Pray to Him as though standing before His throne…..because you are.  Speak to Him as your Father……because He is.  First give Him your heart; you’re His child and He promises to hear you. 

Rest assured, then, if prayer must be anything it must be sincere…and sincerity in prayer is the fruit of heart-felt meditation upon God’s word.   Think of God’s majesty and greatness if you intend to praise Him.    Thoughtfully consider His lovingkindness and goodness if you intend to thank Him.  Ponder His infinite power if you intend to petition Him for strength. Think of the riches of His grace if you intend to petition Him for zeal and fervor.  Set your mind upon your Great Redeemer and the hope of glory if you intend to pray for perseverance.  Appraise your life, contemplate your offenses, and consider His limitless mercy if you intend to sincerely confess your sins.  

To “imitate an angel”, first bow your heart/your will…..then bow your knee.  Think…. consider…. ponder…. focus upon your inevitable entrance into eternity, the great love of Christ, and the riches that are yours…and yours forever through union with Him.  Lastly, beloved, know that Christ is in heaven even now, ever living to intercede for you.  He is your advocate there.  Put aside pretense, and form, and feigned eloquence…and pray sincerely; relying upon His intercession.  His merit is the ground of all acceptance.

Grace to you.

True Holiness

An important feature of our Christian walk is the understanding that to fail to do what we ought to do is no less a sin than doing that which we ought not to do. In other words, the believer’s faith is not merely a matter of abstaining from evil, but also has the weightier matter of manifesting goodness.  In fact, abstaining from evil is a “default” characteristic of the believer; it is the minimum requirement.  It would be tragic then to assume that mere abstinence – the default form of Christianity – is the utmost expression of the regenerate heart.  Christianity is not relegated to abstinence.  Our faith is “…faith which works through love” (Gal 5:6). 

Paul, speaking to the Ephesians, in Chapter 5 of that epistle tells them “You were formerly darkness, but now you are the light, so walk as children of the light.” (v8)  Of course, at this point, the default Christian begins to think only in terms of abstinence: “The apostle must be exhorting me to refrain from evil”, he says to himself…..but that is not what Paul has primarily in view here.  Paul goes on to say in the very next verse: “…for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth, trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.” (v9).  The point is this: The “fruit” of regenerate children is not mere abstinence.  Paul tells us succinctly, that the fruit of regenerate children is goodness, righteousness, and truth. 

I want to set this thought in your mind this morning.  The Christian is called to live a life of moral purity, but holiness goes far, far beyond this point.  Holiness is a matter of bearing good fruit.  The servant who had one talent entrusted to him, and which he neglected, is declared by Christ to be a “…wicked and lazy servant” (Matt 25:26).  Not because he had wasted the talent…..but because he had made no improvement with it; it bore no fruit.  In Matt 25:41, The Lord describes myriads who will be condemned to eternal darkness…..not for crimes of evil, but for neglect of doing righteously.  “Depart from Me, cursed ones….for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked and you did not clothe Me; sick and in prison, and you did not visit Me.”

Many who confess Christ seem all too content if they preserve their testimony from flagrant reproach.  It is good and right to be diligent in this regard — but take a moment also to reflect upon the Parable of the Fig Tree given by Christ.  The tree was ordered to be cut down…..and NOT because the Owner of the vineyard found harmful fruit upon it.  Rather, it was ordered to be cut down because He found no fruit upon it (Luke 13).

The Lord Himself has declared that His true followers are those that produce fruit in accordance with the Vine they abide in…….the fruits of goodness, righteousness, and truth.  And not fruit in any small amount, mind you:  “I am the vine and you are the branches; he who abides in me and I in Him, he bears much fruit.”  (Jn. 15:5)

Make today more than mere abstinence……make it a day of fruit-bearing to the glory of God.  “By this My father is glorified, that you bear MUCH fruit, and so prove to be My disciples” (Jn. 15:8)

God’s Law

   What is the Law to us today? What application does the Law have in a New Testament Christians life? It is so easy to separate the Bible into then and now, saying that when grace came the law was done away with. But that is not what we are told in Romans 5:20-21.

20The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord


   Here we see that the Law came to show us our transgression, where we sinned against a righteous and holy God. The above passage states The Law came in so that the transgression would increase, which is to say, the Law is there to show us how far we have fallen into sin and away from God, not that sin would get worse when the Law came. This was the purpose in the Old Testament and so it is now. When we use just the Ten Commandments to look at our lives we see that in every aspect we offend God. There is no way in our self that we can come close to God’s requirements, which means we require something more than we can offer. With the first sin of Adam we were as far away from God as ”East is from West” and the Law bears that out. But God chose to draw us back to Himself by grace through the suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, His Son.
   We do well, as Christians, to remember this daily as it should cause you to look on the lost differently. When you have opportunity, use the Ten Commandants to show the depravity of man and let God’s word convict in the hearts of man. We are not called to save them we are called to show this world the truth of Gods word. Do your part then let God save those He will, by His grace. Soli Deo Gloria

What does it mean to trust?

What does it mean to trust?  Does it mean that someone treats you well?  Does it mean that you treat others well?  Trust from a Biblical perspective means that you believe in, rely on, commit to someone or something without questions, period.  It is complete.  Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us to “Trust in the Lord with all of your heart and lean not on your own understanding, but in all of your ways, acknowledge Him and He will make your paths straight”.

God is telling us to completely and whole-heartedly trust our lives to Him, not just in some aspects, but in everything.  May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ help us to do just that each day.

A Life Well Spent?

Have you noticed that Scripture gives us numerous encouragements to “redeem the time”?  How we are called to consider the fleeting character of life, and to live with a constant cognizance of both its uncertainty and its imminent closure?  To that end, Ecclesiastes 9:10 says soberly, “Whatever your hand finds to do, verily, do it with all your might; for there is no activity, or planning, or knowledge, or wisdom in Sheol where you are going.”

How often we can be heard saying, “So much to do, and yet so little time.”  And yet, I wonder how wisely we occupy the allotment of time apportioned to us.  As you go about cataloguing the day’s to-do’s, how are your priorities reflected? Take a moment, for example, to consider all of the gifts and graces that are still in need of strengthening.  Consider all the encumbrances to be laid aside and sins to be mortified.  Are you redeeming the time…..or is it being uselessly expended upon trivial matters that bring no merit to your eternity?  How brief is our pilgrimage, and yet how much more we need to grow under the sanctifying grace of God.

I wonder how we will view our season on earth once stepping over the threshold into eternity.  I wonder how uselessly spent the span of our lives will seem; how pointless our endeavors, investments, and pursuits will prove to have been.  Some waste the precious commodity of time by applying their affections to the fading and deceiving allurements of the world.  Others are so immersed in concern or care that they haven’t the affinity left by which to hone the features of godliness.  Some waste their time invested in pointless, vain novels that consume countless hours, and do nothing to prepare their minds for eternity.  Others are so consumed by the gluttony of sleep that they slumber right through this life and into the next.

Such unredeemed time should not be characteristic of the child of God. Today is gone in an instant…and once spent it cannot be recalled to be spent more wisely.  All of today’s advances can do nothing to slow the advance of time’s steady cadence, nor can they purchase back one wasted moment.  It is gone forever to be recorded for what it is.  If you knew today that you would be gone tomorrow, how priceless this very moment before you would seem.  But, as it stands, one day just seems to drift into another…and another.  Such is the cadence of life.  Subsequently, you are nearer to eternity today than you were yesterday.  And after today, your appointed days will be one less.  Shouldn’t every new sunrise then remind us of our approaching eternity? Shouldn’t every sunset cause us to consider the approaching conclusion of life?  Before sleeping tonight, spend a brief moment to ask yourself “How much of my time could have been invested to honor Christ…..and yet how much have I wasted away? How much more could I have reflected the beauties of Christ today? How much more could I have served the Lord today?  How much more worthy may my walk have been had I not trickled so much time uselessly away?” 

Does Christ demand too much of us in all of this? Is it too much for us to break the idolatrous gaze that has been affixed to corruptible things, so that the whole of my life and your life might be devoted to His glory?  Do you think you will ever regret the diligence of a life well spent?  Soon….all the time you have to improve for God will be expended and you will be ushered into a place where “days”, and “years” are words without relevance. ….and where the bliss of your eternity will never cease.   May God give us grace to embrace the merits of today, so that we may live today in light of that tomorrow.

“For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” —James 4:14

As the men of Legacy have diligently studied through 1 Corinthians we have come across passages that required even more study than we had time for in our short time together. Last night was one of those nights, where as the Body of Christ(the church) we need to get a hold of, so to speak, a critical doctrine…”Perseverance of the Saints”. Here is how Elder Jeremy Clarke states it:         
Jesus Himself said, “He that endures to the end, the same shall be saved” (That’s an excellent verse to memorize). What Scripture tells us is that those who persevere in their faith until the very end demonstrate genuine salvation. They demonstrate that they are/were in fact effectually called, are/were in fact united to Christ, are/were in fact indwelt by His Spirit. Again, perseverance is not the means toward, but rather the demonstration of true saving faith. The doctrine of the Perseverance of the Saints, therefore, does not mean that everyone who professes Christ is secure. That is profoundly false……because not every profession is a true one. Rather, it means that true saving faith will evidence itself in enduring to the end; the true believer will abide in Christ to the end; continue in His word until the end. (John 15:6; 1 John 2:19)……and of this is the expression of God’s preserving grace to those whom He predestined for glory.    Jeremey Clarke, Elder of Legacy         
If we have an appropriate understanding of this doctrine it will bring much clarity to the New Testament. Let us as a body prayerfully strive to understand these doctrines and with God’s grace persevere to the end.        

  

   

Joy Unspeakable

A merry heart doeth good like a medicine: but a broken spirit drieth the bones. Proverbs 17:22

        The way we face life has a lot to do with how good we feel about it. If we are negative, life is a burden, but if we are positive, life will seem like the greatest gift we’ve ever known. Happiness is contagious. When we are happy, it spreads. But sadness is contagious, also, and when we are gloomy and angry, we spread a dark cloud over all the people we meet. A positive spirit is like a powerful medicine and has a great deal of power to heal. It is so much better to face life with joy than to let life get you down. The person who feels that life is bad will wither (dry up) and fail. God gave us life to enjoy.

      These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world. John 16:33

If you are in Christ and Christ in you, know then that He has overcome this world and we have much to be joyful about. Eternity awaits us with joy unspeakable and full of Glory. He blesses us when we embrace life with happiness and contentment. How then can we be continuously gloomy when there is so much to look forward to after this life?:)