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The Whole Will of God

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Thursday, April 23, 2015, 4:21 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “Unless You Are Born Again.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Acts 20:17-32 (NASB).

Repentance and Faith

From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church. And when they had come to him, he said to them,

“You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials which came upon me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you publicly and from house to house, solemnly testifying to both Jews and Greeks of repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. And now, behold, bound by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me. But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.

Paul is the one speaking here. In context, Paul’s teaching met with both acceptance and resistance wherever he went. The persecution was most severe in many places, yet that did not deter him. He kept on preaching and teaching the Word of God and the gospel of our salvation to all who would listen. And, he encouraged and strengthened Christ’s followers wherever he went, too. He lived a life of integrity, he practiced what he preached, and he did what he did out of genuine love for God and for his fellow human beings. He did not consider his own life as anything worth holding on to, but his only aim was to complete the work to which God had called him – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.

He was on his way to Jerusalem. He knew he may never see the Ephesian Christians ever again, so these appear to be his parting words to them, via the elders, in affirming the faith and in warning of false shepherds, i.e. of wolves in sheep’s clothing who would most certainly come in among them after he left in order to try to deter them from the truth of the gospel and to try to persuade them to follow a false gospel of human origin instead.

Paul took the truths of the gospel very seriously. He solemnly (earnestly and soberly) taught both Jews and Greeks that they must turn to God in repentance and have faith in Jesus Christ. And, herein lies a problem with today’s modern church here in America. The vast majority of the church here in America is not gravely teaching that we must turn from sin and follow Jesus Christ in surrender and obedience in order to have eternal life with God. Yet, Jesus said that if anyone would come after him, he must deny self, die daily to sin and self, and follow (obey) him. He said if we hold on to our old lives of living for sin and self, we will lose them for eternity, but if we die with Christ to sin, we will gain eternal life (See: Luke 9:23-25; Ac. 26:16-18; Ro. 6-8; 2 Co. 5:15; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 4:17-24; Tit. 2:11-14; 1 Pet. 2:24-25; & 1 Jn. 1-5). This is a very grave matter, which we should take seriously!

He Did Not Shrink

“And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will no longer see my face. Therefore, I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.’”

Paul said that he did not shrink from teaching the whole purpose (will; counsel) of God. So, what did he mean by that statement? I believe, as do many others, that he was making reference to preaching the whole of the gospel of our salvation, which concerns not only what Jesus Christ did for us in dying on the cross for our sins, but which concerns what is expected of us in the receiving of this gift of salvation by faith, i.e. all that is necessary to salvation and to the sanctification of the believer in Christ and to him walking in the Spirit. In other words, he did not short circuit the gospel message in order to make it more acceptable, appealing, and pleasing to the people of this sinful world, but he proclaimed the same hard truths that Jesus Christ preached, and that are critical to our salvation.

In the book of Romans (6-8) he taught that faith in Christ Jesus means we die to sin. He said that, by God’s grace, through faith, our old selves are crucified with Christ so that the rule and control of sin over our lives might be obliterated in order that we should no longer be slaves (in servitude) to sin, but we should now be slaves of righteousness. When we were under the control of sin, he said, we were free from the control of righteousness. He said, though, that sin should no longer be our master, because we are no longer under the law, but we are under grace. He said that, just as we used to offer ourselves as slaves to impurity, so now we should offer ourselves as slaves to righteousness, leading to holiness, and the result is eternal life. And, the result is eternal life. I hope we get this!

He also said that Jesus Christ “condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, WHO DO NOT LIVE ACCORDING TO THE FLESH BUT ACCORDING TO THE SPIRIT” (Ro. 8:4). I hope we get this, too. He said that the mind governed (still ruled) by the flesh is death, but the mind ruled by the Spirit is life and peace. As well, he said that the mind controlled by the flesh is “hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God,” he said (See Ro. 8). Then he said, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live” (Ro. 8:12-13). Doesn’t this just blow out of the water much of what is being taught today with regard to our salvation?

Paul, in 2 Corinthians said that Jesus Christ died so we would no longer live for ourselves but for him who gave himself up for us, yet is this what is being taught today? We hear that Jesus died to save us and to forgive us of our sins, and to give us eternal life, but little do we hear of our responsibility in all of this, i.e. that he died to make us new creations in Christ Jesus, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (See: Eph. 4:17-24), which involves our cooperation with the Spirit’s work of grace in our lives. He didn’t die just so we could escape hell and go to heaven when we die. He died to radically transform our hearts and minds away from sin and toward him while we walk the face of this earth.

“For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (Tit. 2:11-14).

This (scripture above) is the true meaning of God’s grace in saving us from sin. What grace is it if all we do is pray a prayer to receive Christ but nothing ever changes in our lives with regard to leaving sin behind us and to walking in the Spirit in Christ’s righteousness and holiness? What kind of grace is it that teaches that God requires nothing of us in the way of repentance or obedience and so we feel we have free license to continue in sin? True grace delivers us, not just from the ultimate punishment of sin (eternal damnation), but it frees us from the control of sin over our day-to-day lives. Amen! That is true freedom! I know!

Unless You Are Born Again
An Original Work / November 3, 2013

Based off John 3:1-21

Nicodemus came to Jesus.
He acknowledged God was with Him.
Jesus said, “You can’t see heaven
Unless you are born again.”

“How can a man be born when he’s old?
Can he enter into his mother’s womb?”
Jesus answered, “Flesh is flesh,
So of the Spirit, you must be.”

Jesus said to Nicodemus,
“You’re a teacher, and yet you don’t
Understand of what I tell you,
Because you will not believe.

“For God so loved the world that He gave
His one and His only Son for your sin.
So, whoever believes in Him
Has eternal life in heav’n.

“Light has come into the world,
But human beings love the darkness,
Because their deeds are so evil,
So in truth, they stand condemned.

“Everyone who practices evil
Fears that the Light will expose his sin.
Yet, whoever lives his life by the Light
Does so through his God.”