BOUGHT FROM SLAVERY

BOUGHT FROM SLAVERY

Eph. 1:7,8 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence,

The Lord loves to display His greatness, that’s what creation is all about. The universe exists, first, to put the Glory of God on display. True science unveils the spectacular wisdom and power of our God unveiled in His work of art called creation. There are some special glimpses of God in His handiwork. The immenseness of creation speaks of His eternal nature. We have seen some of His power displayed by the nuclear power released in an atomic bomb. His wisdom, power, and creativity are seen all around us. His greatest display of His glory is seen in His work of redemption in the purchasing of the sons and daughters of Adam from the grasp of sin. We were all slaves, bound by our own lusts until the grace of God appeared in the person of Jesus Christ. By His grace we are saved through faith. This is the greatest picture of our God, Christ died to save sinners. Here is something of what John Calvin said about this passage.

“According to the riches of his grace. He now returns to the efficient cause, — the largeness of the divine kindness, which has given Christ to us as our Redeemer. Riches, and the corresponding word overflow, in the following verse, are intended to give us large views of divine grace. The apostle feels himself unable to celebrate, in a proper manner, the goodness of God, and desires that the contemplation of it would occupy the minds of men till they are entirely lost in admiration. How desirable is it that men were deeply impressed with “the riches of that grace” which is here commended! No place would any longer be found for pretended satisfactions, or for those trifles by which the world vainly imagines that it can redeem itself; as if the blood of Christ, when unsupported by additional aid, had lost all its efficacy.”

Calvin makes note of Paul’s emphasis on the luxurious nature of the grace of God. He lavished His grace upon us. He did not just give us a casual reprieve, He heaped His grace upon us, grace upon grace poured out from the chambers of the riches of His glory. There is no lack, nothing held back, He gave Himself for us that we could enjoy intimacy and sonship for all eternity. It wasn’t just for us that He did this, not at all. He pours out His grace on helpless sinners to put His kindness and love on display. Fallen man becomes the tool for God’s greatest display of Who He really is. He is the One who became one of us. He didn’t have to, He could have destroyed everything and started over. Instead, he chose to take our rebellion and use it as an opportunity to display His matchless love. I am so glad He did !!!!

SHEPHERD’S MARK

SHEPHERD’S MARK

Eph. 1:13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,

Eph. 4:30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.

For people in Paul’s day, the seal was a mark of ownership. It was often attached to personal correspondence, clearly identifying whom the letter came from. Paul said we Christians are sealed, or marked by God. The Holy Spirit upon us and within us is the guarantee that we belong to God. At the time of the New Testament, shepherds would often mark their sheep individually. Just as the American cowboys would brand their livestock, the shepherd had an identifying mark on his sheep. We are also marked, marked by God. Paul said we were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise. Samuel Smith had some interesting observations about the Shepherd’s mark. Check this out.

“One property of a good shepherd is, skill to know and judge aright of his sheep, and hence is it that it is a usual thing to set mark upon sheep, to the end that if they go astray (as of all creatures they are most subject to wander), the shepherd may seek them up and bring them home again. The same thing is affirmed of Christ, or rather indeed Christ affirms the same thing of himself, “I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27. Yea, doubtless, he that hath numbered the stars, and calleth them all by their names, yea, the very hairs of our head, taketh special notice of his own children, “the sheep of his pasture”, that they may be provided for and protected from all danger.”

There is a major difference between the shepherd’s mark and the seal of the Holy Spirit. God has marked us all right, He has marked us with Himself. We have been sealed or marked, with God the Holy Spirit. His constant presence with us is the promise to our heart, He will never leave us or forsake us, He is with us until the end of the age. His abiding presence equips us for the purposes and plans the Lord has for us. His indwelling presence keeps us from straying off, actually His presence “leads us in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.” This mark is a sign to the forces of darkness that we are God’s property, that no weapon formed against us can prosper. This mark actually serves as a constant reminder to us that we are not our own, we are bought with a price. Our heart does not belong to the world, our heart belongs to God.
If the Holy Spirit is the mark of the Good Shepherd, then I want to be filled continually with the Holy Spirit. This is the clear distinctive in my life, I am different, I am marked by God.

A WORD FROM ZINZENDORF

ALL IN ALL

which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.
Eph.1:23

During the 1700’s there was a great move of the Spirit of God in Europe and in North America, one of the leaders in this movement was Count Zinzendorf, bishop of the Moravian Church. The Moravians were known for their powerful missions teams that went all over the world. It was the Moravians that witnessed to John Wesley on his first trip to America. It was a Moravian prayer meeting where Wesley’s heart was strangely warmed and he met Christ. What was the secret of their spiritual power and their love for the lost that sent them to the furthest parts of the known world in their day? Maybe you can catch a hint of their power in these words by Count Zinzendorf.

“Our method in proclaiming salvation is this: To point out to every heart the Loving Lamb, who died for us. And although he was the Son of God, offered Himself for our sins, as our God, our Mediator between God and man, our throne of grace, our example, our preacher, our example of the law, our comforter, our confessor, and our Savior. In short, our all in all, by the preaching of His blood, and of His love unto death, even the death of the cross. Never, either in the discourse or in the argument, to digress even for a quarter of an hour from our Loving Lamb; to name no virtue except in Him, and from him, and on His account. To preach no commandment but faith in Him; no other justification but that He atoned for us; no other sanctification but the privilege to sin no more. No other happiness but to be near Him, to think of Him and to do His pleasure; no other self denial but to be deprived of Him and His blessings; no other calamity but ti displease Him; no other life but in Him.”

What an incredibly God centered message. What was the source of their passion for souls and their fervor that won Wesley to Christ? Why of course it was their love of Jesus, their message of the cross, their emphasis in the power in His atoning blood, and their desire to be as close to the Lord as possible. Nothing has changed in these three hundred years. We can still preach no commandment but faith in Him, no justification but that He atoned for us, no other sanctification but the privilege to sin no more, and no other happiness but to be near Him.

OCEAN OF HIS LOVE

The Ocean of His Love
Merry Monday
by Parris Bailey

When revival hit us in 1994, I heard the Lord speaking to me about His Love. He showed me that I didn’t understand nor did I comprehend the love of God.
Eph.1:18 in The Message says “you will be able to take in with all Christians the extravagant dimensions of Christ’s love. Reach out and experience the breadth! Test its length! Plumb the depths! Rise to the heights! Live full lives, full in the fullness of God.”
It was time for me to go on a great adventure, an adventure of learning how to swim in the ocean of His love. It’s funny, because many times since then, this ocean of love has become a very strong anchor in my life. Another comparison I like to make is the analogy in the book “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe”. There was a wardrobe that Lucy ventured into and in which she pushed past the coats, into the Land of Narnia where there were talking animals and a horrible witch and wonderful Aslan. I had to learn how to push the back out of my wardrobe. I had been living in the land of the earthlings far too long.
Edwards, when he speaks of heaven, says it like this: “Heaven is the place appointed for the most perfect expressions of complacence and endearment, and full enjoyment of mutual love. And accordingly the souls of departed saints with Christ in heaven, shall have Christ as it were unbosomed unto them, manifesting those infinite riches of love towards them, that have been there from eternity; and they shall be enabled to express their love to him, in an infinitely better manner than ever they could while in the body. Thus they shall eat and drink abundantly, and swim in the ocean of love, and be eternally swallowed up in the infinitely bright, and infinitely mild and sweet beams of divine love; eternally receiving that light, eternally full of it, and eternally compassed round with it, and everlastingly reflecting it back again to the fountain of it.”
Of course this speaks to us about love in the afterlife, but I knew that I could begin to experience His love here and now. It takes an effort on our part of course, a choosing so to speak or a pushing away from the shore. People, families, friendships, and yes even our spouses are but shadows, He is the sun. When Christ becomes unbosomed within us we learn not to place such a high emphasis on our earthly relationships. While they give us pleasure, they will not sustain nor satisfy.
Have you dived into this ocean? Have you plunged its depths, reached forth to the highest heights? Or are you still bound to the elementary emotions and setbacks on planet Earth? The angels told Mary at the tomb of Jesus, “why seek ye the living among the dead”? Go ahead, I dare you. Kick out the back of your wardrobe and experience the unthinkable, unspeakable joy and love everlasting.

ALL THE BLESSINGS OF THE SPIRIT

ALL THE BLESSINGS OF THE SPIRIT

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.
Eph.1:3

I love this verse of scripture. What does Paul mean by “every spiritual blessing”? Actually he is talking about all of the benefits that begin to flood into our lives when we receive the Holy Spirit. A.B. Simpson was a pastor in New York City at the beginning of the 20th century. He was touched mightily by the Pentecostal outpouring that happened about that time and became a leading teacher in that movement. Listen to his take on this passage.

” • This epistle is an unfolding of “all the blessings of the Spirit.” This is the true translation of this passage.
• There is a great difference between the blessings of the Spirit and spiritual blessings. This is a case where a single noun is worth a hundred adjectives. The person of the Holy Ghost is worth more than all His gifts.
• The apostle’s theme, in this sublime epistle, is the higher blessings of the Holy Ghost, which He makes known to those who enter into the fullness of Christ, May the Holy Spirit Himself enable us to see and enter into all the blessings of the Spirit!”

This understanding of this verse of scripture can change everything for us. We are no longer looking for various blessings from the Lord, we are after God Himself. All of the blessings; healing, provision, changed life and lifestyle, flow out of our relationship with the Holy Spirit. When He comes into our lives, He doesn’t come alone, He brings all of the “blessings of the Spirit” with Him. I love what Simpson said about the results of receiving the Spirit, “the person of the Holy Ghost is worth more than all His gifts”. Simpson had discovered the true gift of Pentecost. It was not the receiving of a new formula or the secret to success in life, but the reception of a new person. The Lord is offering us more than wonderful gifts, He is offering us Himself. Actually, that is the greatest expression of love. We are not so much interested in gifts from our loved ones, we are interested in the loved ones themselves. The gift of the Spirit is God’s greatest expression of love, His best gift. What is that gift, it is God Himself. When you receive this gift of love, you may just receive more than you ever imagined, you might just step into “all the blessings of the Spirit.”

THE SMELLS OF HEAVEN

THE SMELLS OF HEAVEN

In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.
Eph.1:13,14

It was Saturday afternoon and my house was filled with the delicious smell of roasted pork. Parris wasn’t home, but dinner was obviously cooking in the oven. The smells were almost irresistible. I was hungry and the aroma was driving me crazy. I was waiting for dinner, but I already had a good idea of what the delicious meal would be like, the smells had given me a clear indication of what was to come. That is exactly what Paul was describing in today’s verses. Inside of all of us is a longing, it could be described as a hunger, to be in heaven with the Lord. The outpourings of the Spirit provide a fragrance or even a foretaste of the pleasures we will experience in His presence. This joy is not only promised, but the measure of His presence that we receive in this life is a clear indication of the “pleasures evermore” that we are about to step into. Jonathan Edwards spoke often of the attraction of the Spirit. His church had been deeply impacted by outpourings that had begun in his church in 1734. Listen to his take on the earnest or down payment of our inheritance.

“The Holy Spirit is the purchased possession and inheritance of the saints, as appears, because that little of it which the saints have in this world is said to be the earnest of that purchased inheritance, (Eph. 1:13,14; 2 Cor. 1:22, v.5.) ‘Tis an earnest of that which we are to have a fulness of hereafter. The Holy Ghost is the great subject of all gospel promises, and therefore is called the Spirit of promise, (Eph.1:13.) He is called the promise of the Father, (Luke 24:49.)”

The Holy Spirit is the great subject of all gospel promises, I love that. God Himself, in the person of the Holy Spirit, is the fulfillment of all God’s promises given to us in Christ. What could be better, what could He give us more valuable than Himself? He is the foretaste of the joy of heaven. Do you smell that heavenly fragrance? I think the gospel feast is almost ready. If the heavenly banquet is anything like these smells, heaven is going to be quite a place.

EYES OF OUR HEART

EYES OF OUR HEART

I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened.
Eph.1:16-18

Paul had a life changing experience on the Road to Damascus. His eyes were opened when Christ revealed Himself to Paul, it was something that carried Paul the rest of his life. What actually happened to Paul? I guess it can be described many ways, but one of the things that happened to Paul is that he got a sense of the reality of God, it could be said that the eyes of his heart were opened. The puritans spoke of having a spiritual “sense” of spiritual things. They often spoke of an experiential Christianity. Have you experienced Christ for yourself? This is how Jonathan Edwards describes this experiential Christian life.

“​Thus there is a difference between having an opinion, that God is holy and gracious, and having a sense of the loveliness and beauty of that holiness and grace. There is a difference between having a rational judgment that honey is sweet, and having a sense of its sweetness. A man may have the former that knows not how honey tastes; but a man cannot have the latter unless he has an idea of the taste of honey in his mind. So there is a difference between believing that a person is beautiful, and having a sense of his beauty. The former may be obtained by hearsay, but the latter only by seeing the countenance. When the heart is sensible of the beauty and amiableness of a thing, it necessarily feels pleasure in the apprehension. It is implied in a person’s being heartily sensible of the loveliness of a thing, that the idea of it is pleasant to his soul; which is a far different thing from having a rational opinion that it is excellent.”

When Christ comes into your life there is an awakening of your soul. Your spiritual senses are energized, the spiritual world becomes alive to you, there is literally an awakening of your inner man. Your faith is made alive, and you begin to taste for yourself the reality of God. Honey is sweet but can never be fully explained what the taste is like. How do you know that honey is good? You have to have a taste for yourself.