August 2005

lily valleyLife doesn't have to be a continual struggle. Jesus said, "Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But be of good courage, because I have overcome the world."1 Jesus died and rose from the dead not only to give us an eternal life, but an abundant life here on earth.

This may sound strange coming from a prisoner like myself, but the secret to living a victorious life is to simply abide, trust and rest in the finished work of Jesus Christ. When Jesus shouted from the cross, "It is finished", I believe he was saying we can stop trying to obtain righteousness through the works of the law, because He established the only way to obtain forgiveness, righteousness and life.

Many of our struggles are with guilt and shame resulting from illicit sex, divorce, abortion or other sinful behavior. There will be consequences, but Jesus shed His blood 2000 years ago to provide forgiveness for all sin; past, present and future. 2He rose from the dead to give us an abundant life, regardless of present circumstances. 3

This morning...

I woke up singing the song: "Everybody ought to know, Everybody ought to know, who Jesus is. He's the lily of the valley. He's the bright and morning star. He's the fairest of ten thousands. Everybody ought to know." I can't get that song out of my mind.

That's really what living the victorious life is all about; knowing who Jesus is, what He did for us, who we are in Christ and what we have and can do in Him. We are to abide in Christ, that is, to settle down and make ourselves at home in the finished works of the cross. As we know Jesus better, His divine power gives us everything we need for living a godly life. He has called us to receive His own glory and goodness!4

Sadly, the world didn't recognize Jesus when He came. Even in His own land and among His own people, He was not accepted. But to all who believed Him and accepted Him, He gave the right to become children of God. They are reborn! This is not a physical birth resulting from human passion or plan--this rebirth comes from God. 5

Here's a question

Have you come to a place in your thinking where you know for sure that when you die you will go to heaven? If not, suppose you were to die tonight and stand before God and He were to say to you, "Why should I let you into my heaven?" What would you say? Pause and think really hard on this, You may not even believe in heaven or hell.

How would you answer? If your reply is anything to do with your goodness or accolades, you're on the wrong track. If you are trusting in the Ten Commandments, none of us are without sin. There is more recorded in the Scriptures concerning what Jesus said about hell, than what He said about heaven. So why should He let us into heaven? You may think that God would never want you there? If your answer has to do with anything but JESUS, you won't enter heaven.

Jesus proclaimed...

I am the bread of life. He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never be thirsty. 6

I am the light of the world. Whoever follows Me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life. 7

I am the gate; whoever enters through Me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. 8

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 9

I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies." 10

I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. 11

I am the vine, you are the branches. If a man remains in Me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from Me you can do nothing. 12

God initiates & we respond 13

God is the initiator of our salvation and every good and perfect gift. 14 Jesus told Nicodemus that unless you are born again, you can never see the Kingdom of God. Nicodemus wanted to know how an old man could go back into his mother's womb and be born a second time. Jesus told him the truth is, no one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the spirit. Humans can reproduce only human life, but the Holy Spirit gives new life from heaven. 15

God our Father showed us His kindness and love. He saved us, not because of the good things we did, but because of His mercy. He washed away our sins and gave us a new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out His Spirit upon us because of what Jesus Christ our Savior did. He declared us not guilty because of his great kindness. And now we know that we will inherit eternal life. 16

We are the responder to God's gift of life. God planned before the foundation of the world to take care of everything we need by cleansing us with Christ's blood and filling us with the life of the Holy Spirit. We can either believe in the plan of salvation He initiated, or we can reject salvation by not responding to His free gift. For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, so that whosoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. 17

Listen to my friend...

Dr. James Richards asks: "Did you know that God put man on Earth to love? The Garden of Eden was a paradise, but Adam and Eve sinned. God never desired the world to be like it is today. Now, since God is holy, He has to judge sin. But since God put man here to love, He does not want to judge him.

Let me show you how much God loves you. In order to keep from punishing you, He sent His son Jesus into the world to be crucified. While hanging on the cross, God poured all the sins the world would ever commit on Him. Jesus took all the sin and the punishment for sin. That means every sin you have ever committed, as well as any sin you will ever commit, Jesus has already taken the punishment for you. God loved you so much that instead of punishing you for your sin, He let Jesus take the punishment.

After Jesus died, God raised Him from the dead, and He overcame death. God desires to give us all that Jesus received at the Resurrection. You have a wonderful inheritance available from God. All He asks of us is to believe that God raised Jesus from the dead and confess Him as Lord. Do you believe that God raised Jesus from the dead? All your past will be forgiven and behind you, and you can start life over as a new person free from sin." 18 Would you like to become a child of God?

Enter God's Rest

Our heavenly Father desires for you to enter into His rest as a child of His. Jesus expressed His Father's will like this: "Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke fits perfectly, and the burden I give you is light.19

The children of Israel under the Old Covenant were not able to enter into the promised land of God's rest because of their unbelief. 20 The writer of Hebrews says, "For the gospel was preached to us as well as to them [the children of Israel], but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in
those who heard it
." 21

God has initiated, under the New Covenant, a Sabbath rest for us to enter into. Our response must be by faith alone in the finished work of Christ. There is nothing we can do to add to the work Christ did for our salvation at Calvary. So let us stop trying to earn our salvation. Let us simply believe and receive what Christ alone has provided for us. For all who enter into God's rest will find rest from their labors, just as God rested after creating the world. 22

A Prayer For You...

Father, I thank You for Jesus, Who died on the cross for the forgiveness of my sins and for providing me Your Son's righteousness and resurrected life. I now confess Jesus as Lord and accept by faith Your free gift of Salvation. Through Your Holy Spirit, I pray You teach me how much You love me and about the power of Your resurrection. I want to grow in Your grace and in this new life You have given me. Thank You for Your loving kindness. Amen!

Footnotes:

1) John 16:33
2) 1 Tim. 4:10; 1 Jn 2:2
3) John 10:10
4) 2 Pet. 1:3
5) John 1:10-13
6) John 6:35
7) John 8:12
8) John 10:9
9) John 10:11
10) John 11:25
11) John 14:6
12) John 15:6
13) Realanswers.net
14) James 1:17
15) John 3:6
16) Titus 1:10-13
17) John 3.16
18) Impactministries.com
19) Matt. 11:28-30
20) Heb. 3:19
21) Heb. 4:2
22) Heb. 4:10

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