Why We Cannot Save Ourselves

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be continuing our church’s Advent series – The Light Has Come – preaching on “Rejection for Reception” from John 1:6-13. The truth of the gospel is that Jesus had to be rejected in order for us to be accepted. Jesus had to die in order for us to have life.

In studying for this message, Ephesians 2 kept coming to mind, as verses 1-10 are emphatic on the necessity of God’s grace and God’s rescue being necessary for our salvation. No sinner can save himself, and because we are all born sinners, we must recognize two reasons why this is our reality.

1. SINNERS ARE DEAD

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you previously walked according to the ways of this world, according to the ruler who exercises authority over the lower heavens, the spirit now working in the disobedient” (Ephesians 2:1-2).

Writing to believers who had been saved from their sins, Paul was reminding them of their previous condition before salvation. This is also a sobering reminder of the condition of all people apart from Jesus Christ. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:23), and “The wages of sin is death,” (Romans 6:23).

Sinners are dead – dead in their sin and dead for eternity if something does not change.

2. THE DEAD CANNOT REGENERATE

For the dead to experience life, they must be regenerated. They must be revived. The dead cannot regenerate themselves. They are dead!

Paul made clear in Ephesians (and in Romans, Galatians, and Colossians) that only Jesus can save us from our sins. Only He can bring the dead to life. As dead sinners in need of revival, we are in desperate need of God’s mercy and grace.

Without Christ, we are spiritually dead people walking on our way to hell, and only He can deliver us out of that death. Only He can revive us and give us new life, life that is eternal.

For you are saved by grace through faith, and this is not from yourselves; it is God’s gift — not from works, so that no one can boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

If a dead man was brought back to life because of someone performing CPR, he certainly would not brag about that revival. Rather, he would want to boast in the one who did the reviving. He would be grateful for the one who performed CPR. He would surely realize what a gift he received in being brought back to life because he would not have regenerated himself. Rather, he was saved by someone else.

BELIEVE AND RECEIVE

To all who did receive Him [(Jesus)], He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).

Salvation is not achieved by family, by our ethnicity, by our sincerity, or by our effort. Salvation is received by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Have you received Him? Are you telling others about Him?

If you recognize your need for new life and desire to turn from your sins and follow Jesus Christ, check out The Story.

What’s YOUR Good News?

Our third son, Silas, turned nine on Sunday. Like pretty much all nine-year-olds, he was pretty excited it was his birthday. He was happy to talk about it and thrilled to get some gifts, his choice of supper, and his favorite (and my favorite) dessert – cheesecake. No one who spent any amount of time with Silas this past weekend would have failed to realize it was his birthday. He was too excited to hold in that good news!

Really, is this not the way it is for all of us? I do not mean that we all love and talk about our birthdays like children do. What I mean is that we all talk about exciting, good news. If something is important to us, we are compelled to talk about that something.

So, what is important to you? What good news are you sharing with others?

LIGHT

If you have believed and experienced the Good News – the gospel of Jesus Christ – then you will long to talk about this Good News. Advent – the Christmas season when we Christians celebrate the arrival of Jesus Christ our Savior and longingly anticipate His Second Coming – begins Sunday. Do those who know you see in you a love for the Christmas story, the gospel story? If you have placed your faith in Jesus, the answer is surely yes.

On Sunday morning, I will begin a new Advent sermon series – The Light Has Come. Jesus, of course, is the Light of the world, and He came to our dark world to bring salvation to all who turn to Him. In this series throughout December, we will be considering the Christmas story according to the gospel of John and challenging one another to respond rightly to the Light.

LIFE

If you respond rightly to the Light by turning away from your sins and trusting in Him for forgiveness and eternal life, is there any better news in all the world to share with others? What would a close examination of your life tell others about your greatest convictions, commitments, and passion? Is new life – eternal life – in and through Jesus Christ, the Light of the world, at the center of top of those priorities?

Again, I sincerely believe that if you have experienced new life, the answer surely has to be yes. When you have new life in Christ, you are either passionately talking about Him, or you are convicted that you need to be talking about Him.

How is your passion? What is your good news?

What I am MOST thankful for with Silas right now is his sincere search for the Truth. He asks a lot of great questions about Jesus and seems to genuinely desire to know and follow Him.

Grateful Ones Give

A week ago tonight, I returned from a great trip overseas with a couple brothers from our church and some other brothers in the area. I had the wonderful opportunity to travel with friends to visit old friends in Turkey. Praise the Lord!

One of the things all seven of us men wanted to do while we were in Turkey, was get gifts for our wives. Why? Well, not only because we love our wives but because we are grateful for their sacrifice in letting us go.

Five of us have small children at home, so our wives graciously agreeing for us to leave the country for two weeks is no small thing. And, when you realize that and are filled with gratitude, you want to give. While we did not have a lot of extra time while in the country, it seems like every little bit of extra time we did have was spent trying to figure out how we could bless our wives.

Although I do not believe I did a very good job in the gifts department, I am definitely reminded of the truth that grateful people are giving people.

On Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be finishing my short Thanks & Giving sermon series, preaching from Exodus 35-36 on how “Gratitude Leads to Giving.”

Do you desire to give of your treasures, your time, and your talents for the glory of God? Do you long for the gospel to advance and, as a result, long to be a part of that advancement (via your treasures, your time, and your talents)? If you cannot answer those questions with an enthusiastic yes, I believe something critical is missing in your life. Only a changed heart and life – a new heart and a new life – will generate what is necessary to experience this kind of passion for God’s glory and God’s gospel.

Turn to God and to His Word today. Surrender your all to Him. Let us be grateful people who, as a result, are giving people.

If you recognize your need for growing gratitude to God but have not yet received the new life that is required for such ongoing gratitude, check out the Story.

Two Steps to Attitude Transformation

No one wants to be known as someone who has a bad attitude. Well, at least no one in his right mind wants to be known as someone with a bad attitude. And, part of having a good attitude is having a grateful attitude.

Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will continue our Thanks & Giving sermon series and be preaching from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, talking about how “Gratitude Is Ongoing.”

1. GIVE PRAISE.

The Bible does not put conditions on God’s commands for us to be joyful and thankful. You will not read anything like, “Rejoice in the Lord sometimes. Again I say rejoice sometimes,” or, “Rejoice when you feel good and healthy, and rejoice when life is comfortable.”

Instead, you can read commands like, “Rejoice always!” (1 Thessalonians 5:16) and, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).

What does “always” mean? Well, it means always. In fact, we are to “Give thanks in everything, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

That sounds impossible, does it not? Rejoice always? Give thanks in everything? How can we possibly do that? We cannot, not in our own strength and ability. We cannot possibly, by ourselves, rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances. Unfortunately, we tend to be too quick to complain, be discouraged, and be ungrateful. For that reason – because of our sinful nature – we need the next step, too.

2. GO IN PRAYER.

Pray constantly” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). By this simple and yet critical command, Paul is reminding us of our constant need for God. To “pray constantly” does not imply that we ought to have a 24/7 quiet time. What it does mean, though, is that we are never in a situation in which we do not need the Lord’s help, the Lord’s wisdom, the Lord’s grace, the Lord’s mercy, and the Lord’s favor. Thus, we need to always be looking to Him, depending on Him in prayer.

Prayer is not our last resort; prayer is our first priority. And, when the Holy Spirit takes hold of your heart, you realize that. As God transforms our hearts, he transforms our attitudes. He grows in us a desire for fellowship with Him and with His church, growing in us a recognition of our need for constant prayer and dependence.

Pray on your own. Pray with your family. Pray with your church. We need to go in prayer – all day, every day.

WHAT NEXT?

If you are headed into the Thanksgiving holiday without much desire to give thanks, turn to the Lord. Seek Him through His Word, and pray His Word back to Him – prayers like Philippians 4:4-7, 1 Thessalonians 5:14-18, Psalm 5:11; 32:11; and 40:16.

Please realize, though, that none of the above is possible unless you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Only His sacrifice on the cross can take away our sins and make a way for us to truly rejoice and rightfully go to the Lord in prayer. Only His resurrection from the dead secures our victory from sin and death, giving us the ultimate reason for praise. If you have not yet surrendered your life to Jesus, please click HERE for more information.

If you have surrendered your life to Jesus, give praise and go in prayer – always.

If you recognize your need for attitude transformation but have not yet received the new life that is required for such a transformation, check out the Story.

God’s Will for Spiritual Growth

Finally then, brothers, we ask and encourage you in the Lord Jesus, that as you have received from us how you must walk and please God—as you are doing—do so even more. For you know what commands we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is God’s will, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality, so that each of you knows how to control his own body in sanctification and honor, not with lustful desires, like the Gentiles who don’t know God (1 Thessalonians 4:1-5).

Whenever God’s will is mentioned in God’s Word, His will always pertains to something specific God desires for His followers. God is not trying to confuse us in regard to His will. He spells it out clearly for us throughout the Bible.

In the example above, God’s will for His followers is our sanctification, that we be set apart for Him. He desires that our lives reflect His goodness, holiness, and purity. And, this remains God’s will for His followers, without exception.

Of course, in order to be sanctified – set apart for God – you must receive the Spirit of God. Only He is able to truly set you apart to live the life He has created you to live. If you have not yet begun to experience this sanctification, please seek to know and embrace the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Then, be intentional about praying specifically for God’s will like Paul taught the Thessalonians. Pray that God would help you to be sanctified and grow in purity. That is a prayer, if you are sincere in your faith, you can expect God to answer!

Suffering with Joy

Today is the first day of November, which is the month of “Thanksgiving” in our country. Sunday is the International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. In a couple weeks, Lord willing, I will be preaching a message from 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18. And, 1 Thessalonians has persecution as one of its major themes. Yet, 1 Thessalonians also has a strong message of hope and joy in the midst of that suffering and persecution.

All that to say – the next few weeks on DrakeCity are related to those three topics: suffering, gratitude, and 1 Thessalonians.

You know what kind of men we were among you for your benefit, and you became imitators of us and of the Lord when, in spite of severe persecution, you welcomed the message with joy from the Holy Spirit. As a result, you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia (1 Thessalonians 1:5b-7).

THE MESSAGE

The message they welcome was the message of the gospel. If you have believed and embraced the gospel, you understand why such a message is welcomed with joy, no matter the cost. If you do not understand, I ask you to begin with the gospel. Cry out to Jesus today, and trust in Him to take away your sins and give you new life.

THE JOY

How in the world, despite the persecution the Thessalonians were facing, could they welcome the cause of that persecution with joy? How in the world can our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ today endure with such joy? Again, the answer to those questions can only be known, understood, and embraced when you know, understand, and embrace the gospel. When Jesus saves our souls, He changes our lives. He transforms us from the inside out, giving us the kind of joy, peace, and hope only He can give. They are the kind of joy, peace, and hope that endure the trials of this life because the treasure of what is to come is so sweet.

THE EXAMPLE

And so, when you welcome the gospel with joy, your life is changed. When your life is changed, you become an example to others. People will see a difference in you that can only be explained by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in your life.

Do you see that difference? Do those who know you best see that difference? Of what are you an example?

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“What do you saaaaay?”

Now, after the birthday party at your friend’s house, make sure you do not say, ‘Thank you,’ or express any kind of gratitude. Take things like this for granted. I don’t want you to be known as someone who’s well-mannered and appreciative,” said no parent ever.

We all want our kids to be thankful for what they have. We want them to have good manners, saying things like please and thank you. If they do not, we are naturally disappointed and are usually quick to correct them. When a child says, “I want some,” we are quick to reply, “What do you say?” When a child receives something with no words of appreciation, we are quick to chide him, “What do you say?

Yet, how are our attitudes? How thankful and appreciative are we? Parents (and everyone), we need to practice what we preach.

Sure, you might have very good manners and might be very good about saying please and thank you to others. How is your attitude toward God, though? How grateful are you to God? How often do you take Him and His blessings for granted?

THANKS AND GIVING

Sunday morning, Lord willing, I will be starting a short new sermon series on how we can develop a heart of gratitude to God and what that then looks like in our daily lives. We have so much for which to be thankful, no matter our lot in life, and at the top of that list of gratitude, of course, is the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I cannot help but wonder – if we really thought deeply about the truth of the gospel throughout each day, how much better would our attitudes be? How much more joy would we have? How much less complaining would we do?

THANKS AND GOSPEL

If all this sounds unrealistic to you, my first question is, have you truly believed the gospel and surrendered your life to Jesus Christ? Having given my life to Jesus as a young adult, I remember very clearly the difference between gratitude from my relationship with God and temporary gratitude from the things of the world. There is a huge difference, a life-changing difference.

While we are all sinners who obviously fail at times to have the proper perspective of gratitude, those who have the Holy Spirit are unable to continuously live with an ungrateful heart. Instead, we will regularly respond to God’s goodness just like the Samaritan man in Luke 17:11-19, who “seeing that he was healed, returned and, with a loud voice, gave glory to God. He fell facedown at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him” (verses 15-16).

Are you grateful to God for what He has done in your life? Do you have both inward and outward gratitude? If not, will you turn to the Lord today and ask Him to change your heart and your life?

I am grateful for THIS view from my office window, and Micah is grateful when he gets to kill flies (what he was on a mission to do when this picture was taken).