Thursday, September 20, 2007

Biblical Lists

"But now you must rid yourself of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language..." (Col 3:8; see also Eph 4:31-32) The problem with most Scriptures that give a laundry list of attributes to strive for is that we tend to misunderstand, misuse, and misapply them. These attributes have nothing to do with our salvation. They are all quite beside the point. Our salvation is not affected one way or the other whether we cultivate them or not. God will not love us any more if we acquire them and He won't love us any less if we don't acquire them. The point most people fail to grasp is that our salvation has absolutely nothing to do with our conduct. God cannot love us anymore than He already does. Our salvation rests solely on what God did at the cross. We needed to be saved and we were utterly helpless and hopeless at saving ourselves so God stepped in and saved us at Calvary. We were estranged from Him but He "reconciled" the world (us) to Himself.

It's so easy to fall into Satan's trap of thinking we have to be good to be saved and that if we aren't good then we aren't saved, that somehow if we "mess up" we lose our salvation. But that's simply not true and it's a lie that Satan tries to push down our throats because it's one of his lies that borders so closely to the logical truth it's almost believable. Our salvation is secure because it doesn't rest on what we did, are doing, or will ever do, but rests solely on what Christ did at the cross. If we have truly asked Christ to be our Lord and Savior, then He dwells within us and He'll never leave or forsake us. (Dt 31:6; He 13:5) No matter what we do, we must grasp this simple truth! Does that mean we could go out and commit murder and not lose our salvation? Does that mean we can live an adulterous life and still not lose our salvation? Yes, it does. We might temporarily lose God's favor and break His heart, but we will not lose our salvation. An even bigger issue is that we could live in adultery and we could murder our neighbor but why would we want to? That's the biggest question of all! After accepting Christ, why would we want to go back and continue living a life of defeat when we can live a life of victory?

Well, we might reason that, if it's true, then why are we admonished to live a "life worthy of [the] calling" we have received? (Eph 4:1) If we can live anyway we want, why would we want to live like that? That's just it, we wouldn't and it's because we've been changed. We are new creations in Christ ... "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, He is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (2Co 5:17) ... and we no longer have the same goals we had before accepting Christ. We wouldn't because we love the Lord and living a godly life glorifies and pleases our Creator. It demonstrates how much we love and adore Him. We wouldn't because a godly life now feeds our soul. It's the lifestyle that now better fits us. And we wouldn't because we like ourselves better this way. We are God's children and we will never be any happier than when we are living God-pleasing lives.

We must be extremely careful not to use biblical lists of character traits and behavior as a measuring stick. We tend to judge ourselves and others by the degree to which each one has acquired or avoided those traits listed. These lists were not written down to be used in that manner. Whereas they will show our Christian growth rightly, they can't and don't show our salvation. So there's no need to panic if someone we loves doesn't exhibit these changes or attributes. We needn't worry that they will be "lost" if they still smoke, swear, or do other things that aren't necessarily pleasing or appealing to God. If it was an honest acceptance of Christ then it is an honest salvation and we are secure in our salvation if we are secure in anything at all. Philippians 1:6 says, "... [be] confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Jesus Christ."

We are given our salvation as an act of God. And our salvation rests solely on the work of Christ, not on any work we might attempt. Jesus did all the work and all that's left for us to do is rest in what He has done. Oh, but we ask, what about Philippians 2:12: "... continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling"? Doesn't that show our works count? Sadly, many people believe there are things we must do to acquire and maintain our salvation and they will most often use this verse in their argument. But what we need to understand is that the Greek verb translated as "to work out," is better understood to mean "to express," or merely to "live out." It just means we are to live a life of reality. Understand this: We are new people now, loved of God, holy and righteous and we must act like it! Verse 7 says that all these negative things were the way we "used to walk ... in the life [we] once lived." (Also see 1Co 6:9-11; Ti 3:3; and Eph 5:8) It's not that godly activity and thoughts gains us our salvation. It's that our salvation gains us the power, which "brought Christ back from the dead," to enable us to turn away from all the negative things in Paul's lists and can bring out so many positive aspects of our life (Php 3:10-11). We aren't changed and then receive salvation. We receive salvation and are then changed from within. If it were any other way we would be condemned for all eternity.

Well, I did it. My blog is quite late but at least I got to it today when I was pretty sure I wouldn't get around to it. Michael left for Oregon with his kids this morning and he was one excited guy! I haven't seen him this happy in years! After they all left, I straightened up the house and put it back into order. I changed the bedding this morning too so I will have the luxury of slipping between crisp, cool, clean sheets tonight. Just me and my dog! It's been getting cold enough at night that he's crawling under the covers and snuggling against my legs. Feels good for both of us, I'm sure. Yesterday was cold and windy all day with a light rain shortly before dark.

I got my hair cut again this morning. I was a little nervous because I liked the way it styled and I was afraid it wouldn't behave the same way if I got it cut again. But I just had to remind myself that I loved it when it was first cut this short so I should like it this time and shouldn't have any problems styling it again. The biggest problem I have is thinning hair. It's getting REALLY thin in places. And that makes it hard to style because I have to cover up all the bald spots. Old age is not fun.

It's just Pepper and I for dinner and I think we'll have left over lasagna from last night. That was sooooo good. I'm grateful the kids brought it up with them. It didn't get done until almost 9:00 last night so we had a really late dinner. I just had a hot dog for lunch. I don't usually eat breakfast. Pepper is acting a bit lethargic today. He knows his daddy's gone and he's just moping around. He knew first thing this morning when they started carrying out the suitcases and stuff. Guess I'll go pop some popcorn, sit with my dog and turn on the TV and see what's happening in the world today.

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