Let Him In

Jesus Stands At The Door And Knocks by Ain Vares, www.ainvaresart.com
Now pay attention; I am standing at the door and knocking. If any of you hear My voice and open the door, then I will come in to visit with you and to share a meal at your table, and you will be with Me.
-Revelation 3:20 (VOICE)

“Let the Son in.” Did you know that there are things Jesus wants to do, but he is waiting for us to invite him in to do them? Listen. Do you hear him?

He is calling you. He knows your name and is calling you. The fact that he knows your name and calls you is something so extraordinary that it touches your heart.

The text here does not say that he calls your name, but I believe he does know our names and he calls us by name. He is not disguised, but is personable; coming into our place and asking to be let in.

Will you let him in? Isn't it amazing that he is so gentle, that he knocks and waits for our answer. He calls and awaits our reply.

A great mistake or foolishness that we all make , is not to hear Jesus knocking, to not hear his voice calling.  Our world is a place of distractions, and we can become distracted and choose distraction over the Lord.  We have to train ourselves not to distract ourselves.

Salvation, the outcome of the gospel, is a relationship.  Faith is relational.  We are discipled by a person who is alive.  Every day is a continual letting him in.

The gospel, salvation, deliverance, and the healing of broken lives; is in and from a person: Christ.  It began relationally and continues on relationally.  Your life that is now hidden in him (Col. 3:3), is positional and relational.  

The Christian life is completely relational.  We relate to God and each other, in Christ, in an ongoing, living, in the now, relationship.  It is like this saying: "A wedding is not a marriage."  Weddings are important and wonderful, but they are the beginning of a marriage.

We must be students and learners or marriage, our spouse, and our selves; and work on and work out, together, a healthy, authentic, honest, whole, and fulfilling marriage.  And in christian marriage, it is a covenant, with God, who is the powerful partner.

Similarly the life in Christ is a life, that grows and forms, and must be nurtured or given attention.  Jesus does not make converts or members, but disciples, and discipleship is a life-long process that is relational.  

So, let him in; and keep letting him in.  Share your life with him, telling him everything.

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The picture above is by Ain Vares, found here.

Unregenerate

As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his foolishness.

Don't give what is holy to dogs or toss your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them with their feet, turn, and tear you to pieces.

Watch out for "dogs," watch out for evil workers, watch out for those who mutilate the flesh.

It has happened to them according to the true proverb: A dog returns to its own vomit, and, “a sow, after washing itself, wallows in the mud.”
-Prov. 26:11, Matt. 7:6, Phil. 3:2, 2 Pet. 2:22

We had a couple of dreams about dogs.  In the first dream, a full grown dog was unfriendly towards me.  It was threatening and intimidating.  In the second dream, I brought home a full grown lion and a little dog.  The small dog did not like the big lion.

In ancient times, dogs were simile's for unclean, scavenger, lowlifes.  It was a negative label to give someone.  Dogs symbolize unbelief or unbelievers who are not walking in God's way.  They represent people who are unregenerate, which is defined as: 
1.  Not renewed or reformed in heart and mind or reborn in spirit; unrepentant and incorrigible.
2.  Not reconciled to change; unreconstructed, cantankerous.
3.  Stubborn; Persistently unwilling to accept change: recalcitrant, bullheaded, pertinacious, intractable, or obstinate.

Dogs signify people who are unregenerate.  The dog way or the dog life-style is the refusal of discipleship and the pressing forward in life, without Christ at the center or core, as the dynamism.

What is sobering, and should give us pause, is that these lessons about dogs, given in each verse above, are given to and within the community of faith.  There is always the potential for those who believe, or seemed to have believed, to choose not to believe.  And, belief, according to Jesus, is shown by how you live: what you do.  It is not enough to know it, but we must put it in to practice in our living.

In Philippians 3:2, Paul says, Observe" or "Take a lesson from", "Those dogs".  The lesson to learn might be, that we all can become just like the very religious, yet unregenerate, people who preached, taught, evangelized, and acted as missionaries for their brand of religion, that was, to put it bluntly, wrong.  We need to observe the error of, "Holding to the form of godliness but denying its power" (2 Tim. 3:5).    We might believe in Messiah, but give Him no power over our lives.

The warning of the dog returning to it's vomit in foolishness, is taken up by Peter in 2 Peter 2:22, as a pastoral critique (to put it mildly) against unregenerate false teachers.  One thing that is shocking is that Peter says that these unregenerate people once knew the way of righteousness, but turned back from it (2 Pet. 2:21).

Choices are made to not walk with Christ and yield to his life in ours.  Christ wants to touch us, but we may choose to be out of touch.  2 Peter, chapter 2 is a warning, that it can happen to any of us.  We can make selfish choices and become unregenerate.

The NT is full of warnings to carefulness, watchfulness, and being on guard.  We have to watch out that we don't deceive our selves.  The simple antidote to deception is to stay close to the truth, have an intimate relationship with Him.  Tell Him everything and ask Him all your questions.  It is impossible to bear fruit, be regenerated, when you are not in the vine

Beware of the unregenerate people, the unregenerate pathway, or the unregenerate lifestyle that is not in Christ.  Observe the "dog's life" and know that it is the choice people make, who choose not the Lion's life.  The dogs are opposed to the lion and to His life in us.  Choose Christ's life.



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The picture above is from chapter 3 of Charles Spurgeon's Autobiography, wherein he wrote:
I once learnt a lesson, while thus fox-hunting, which has been very useful to me as a preacher of the gospel. Ever since the day I was sent to shop with a basket, and purchased a pound of tea, a quarter-of-a-pound of mustard, and three "pounds of rice, and on my way home saw a pack of hounds, and felt it necessary to follow them over hedge and ditch (as I always did when I was a boy), and found, when I reached home, that all the goods were amalgamated,-tea, mustard, and rice,-into one awful mess, I have understood the necessity of packing up my subjects in good stout parcels, bound round with the thread of my discourse; and this makes me keep to firstly, secondly, and thirdly, however unfashionable that method may now be. People will not drink mustardy tea, nor will they enjoy muddled-up sermons, in which they cannot tell head from tail, because they have neither, but are like Mr. Bright's Skye terrier, whose head and tail were both alike.

What is the gospel?

He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. As usual, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath day and stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to Him, and unrolling the scroll, He found the place where it was written:

The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent Me to proclaim freedom to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.

He then rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. And the eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fixed on Him. He began by saying to them, “Today as you listen, this Scripture has been fulfilled.”
-Luke 4:16-21 (HCSB)


What is the gospel? The gospel means "good news". We are supposed to follow Jesus and preach the gospel, right? We preach it with our lives, ministering to a lost world that needs life.
Then He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation.
-Mark 16:15
What is the gospel or good news that we minister in? I think the the gospel is Jesus, the Lord Jesus Christ, Messiah. He is the good news.

Some people take a part of what Jesus did and make that the gospel. The common one is, "Justification by faith". We have heard of the "health and wealth gospel", or the "God loves a winner gospel", and there is the "gospel of baptism", that says you have to link immersion in water by man with God's work in Christ for the message and the work of salvation to be complete.

Most all evangelicals (people who proclaim the good news) can probably agree that justification by faith is important, but is that the gospel or is that part of the gospel?

The "justification by faith" gospel message, it seems to me, is the message (good news) that folks need to realize they are sinners and to see the cross as the way to be saved.

But, do you imagine that this is the message that Jesus spoke and the message that he taught his first disciples to speak and that they passed on to the next generations, all the way to today? When we look at the gospel Jesus gave, his good news, in Luke chapter 4, does he articulate justification by faith, or something else?

And hold onto your hats: Did Paul, Peter, and the Apostles preach justification by faith, or did they preach the good news (gospel) that Jesus preached? Is it possible that since the reformation, we have taken something from Paul (justification by faith) that is part of the gospel and made that part the whole or centerpiece?

And if the good news we are calling people to is not the person of Messiah, Christ Jesus who is Lord; but something he did, then we are saved, but kind of left, waiting to die and go to heaven. And that is what is wrong with making an important piece the centerpiece and forgetting or being ignorant of the whole package.

Have we made the gospel, "The plan of salvation", and narrowed salvation as to mean justification by faith?

In wrestling with these questions, I have tried to figure out what the message, the gospel, the good news is today that the church is supposed to offer. And I have wondered if Jesus preached anything like we do today, telling about how he was going to die for all the sins of the world to save us and reconnect us with God. I know that Jesus spoke about these things, but I cannot find him proclaiming them as his prototypical message, as the good news.

Jesus did go to the cross and he did pay for the sins of all and he did rise from the dead and he was fully human and fully divine, having set aside his divinity during his earthly life. All that is true, but what was his message and what was the main message that he taught his first disciples to proclaim that they have passed on all the way through time to today?

When I grew up in the evangelical church, my young understanding of the gospel was having my sins forgiven by God through Jesus Christ and having a ticket to heaven. I made him my personal savior. I resisted the Lord part. I heard this message ("get forgiven so you can go to heaven and also be in the rapture") hundreds of times, and raised my hand or stood or bent the card many many times, to make sure I was saved, and I was emotionally thrilled with this and wanted all my friends and family to be saved too.

But, I have come to understand that the message, the gospel, or the good news is more than this. First and personally, I had to incorporate the "Lord" part and make Jesus my Lord. This gave me a big clue about what was missing from the gospel message, from my own experience.

Lord is equivalent to King. He's my Lord or my King. He is the King that I come under and serve as Lord. His Kingship is a part of the gospel that we have lost if we define the gospel as justification by faith or making Jesus your personal savior. What if, "Jesus is Messiah" and "Jesus has come to establish and inaugurate the kingdom of God", is the good news?

I have become aware that it is very common or even the normal to give Jesus lip service as being Lord, while not living a life under his Lordship or kingly rule. This is the fruit of "the gospel of salvation" that has been so popular in evangelicalism. We have people today in Christendom or the world of the church who believe they are Christians based on the fact that they have had the "salvation experience" of asking Jesus into their hearts.

I have tried to imagine Jesus getting up on some rocks, standing above a crowd, or at the front of a synagogue, saying, "I am going to die on the cross for your sins and rise on the third day! You must ask me into your heart to be saved! Then go into the world and tell others about how I will be dying on the cross for their sins and they also need to ask me into their hearts! Be saved! Be saved by me! I will save you if you ask me into your hearts!"  Did he say, "Make me your personal lord and savior"?  I don't think so.

What Jesus did say was, "give up everything and start your life over in me", and "continue giving up everything for me throughout your lifetime". Jesus said to his original disciples, "come follow me".

If you follow him, he will take you to his cross and your cross. If you follow him, he will take you to death and resurrect you. He will take away your fears, he will comfort you, and he will empower you to let him live his life through you.

He is the good news. He has come, he is here. God has fulfilled his will to redeem humans and the whole creation through him. He came to give us life and to empower us, his followers, to change the world through him.

He forgives our sins and heals our diseases and delivers us from all bondage. He came to transform, renew, and redeem every aspect of our lives. He did not come to hand out tickets to heaven for those who "get" the justification message, and say, "see you later... it's gonna be great!"

A mistake we have made is to make the Christian, evangelical message about something (justification by faith) that he accomplished, rather than about him. And we have ended up leading people to a doctrine rather than a person. We end up with people who are "saved", but don't know the savior. We end up with church members who are not disciples. We have pastors who are not disciples, teaching people how to talk about the life, but not live it and then come back and talk some more...

But the good news is not just that your sins are taken care of on the cross and you will go to heaven when you die. It is so much more.

Jubilee

One aspect of Jesus coming is that it (he, his coming) heralds (proclaims) jubilee for the time or age of salvation, like a door that is open. That door stays open until this age is over.

We are now in an open season of Jubilee. The year of Jubilee happened every 50 years in Ancient Israel. Isaiah prophesied that the Lord's Servant would bring a permanent Jubilee (Isa. 49:8-9, 61:1-2). Websters dictionary states that Jubilee is:
...a year of emancipation and restoration provided by ancient Hebrew law to be kept every 50 years by the emancipation of Hebrew slaves, restoration of alienated lands to their former owners, and omission of all cultivation of the land...
Jesus announced that Isaiah 61 has been fulfilled in his life, and his life still goes on today, through our lives. We have been in a time of God's redemption, "the year of God's favor, since Jesus began his ministry.

Isaiah gave words to what Messiah's Jubilee would look like. Messiah's Jubilee is proclaiming good news. Proclaiming good news also means evangelizing or preaching the gospel. These words or phrases are interchangeable.

The gospel is good news

It is interesting to note that it is good news. The word good was not tacked on, but good and news is interwoven. Think of the worst sinners that come to your mind or think of your self. They and we need the good news.

Do we preach or proclaim bad news, just news, or good news? Our message, the message from God in Jesus Christ, is inherently good. Jesus did call for repentance and call people to believe the good news and that also is preaching the gospel:

After John was arrested, Jesus went to Galilee, preaching the good news, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe in the good news! ”
-Mark 1:14-15
Jesus' good news is for the poor. Everyone who does not have Christ is poor. Some know it and some do not.

Jesus comes to make an emancipation proclamation, announcing freedom to those captive. Some of us are captivated by something that we need to be set free of.  Jesus is here to set you free.

Jesus still comes to heal blind people. This is a neglected ministry of his church today. Jesus also talked about spiritual blindness (Matt. 15). Paul wrote that the god of this world blinds unbelievers to the gospel message (2 Cor. 4:4).

In Luke chapter 4, Jesus recites Isaiah 61, unpacking what the good news, the gospel is, that he preaches that he is all about and what his disciples will preach about:
  • Preach good news to the poor. 
  • Proclaim freedom to the captives. 
  • Proclaim recovery of sight to the blind. 
  • Proclaim the year of the Lord's favor. 
  • To set free the oppressed. 
We can deduce that "preaching the good news", means the other three points above, plus the action of freeing the oppressed. Note that Luke strongly associates the gospel message with healing and deliverance.

Note also that Jesus' audience would have in their minds the idea that the one whom God sends, does not just speak a message, but signs and wonders follow them.  We should also expect signs and wonders to follow the proclamation of the gospel today.  Why do we preach or share a powerful message and not expect God's power to confirm it?

I am studying Philippians for my next post and I read this about the gospel from Witness Lee:

I am concerned that some among us still hold to an understanding of the gospel which is not adequate. The preaching of the gospel includes more than the fact that Christ is our Savior and that by believing in Him we shall have forgiveness of sins, salvation from hell to heaven, and regeneration. Actually, the whole book of Philippians is a definition of the gospel. The gospel is the proclamation of the move of God on earth according to His economy. This means that the gospel is the preaching of God’s economy. Thus, the gospel includes the matter of magnifying Christ and living Christ. It includes every aspect of the experience of Christ covered in this book. For the Philippian believers to participate with Paul in the furtherance of the gospel meant that they were partaking in the move of God’s economy on earth.
God’s economy is not simply to have a group of people who are forgiven of their sins, justified, washed by the blood of Christ, regenerated, saved from hell, and destined for heaven. Such things are just part of God’s salvation for the carrying out of His economy. The gospel includes the economy of God in its entirety. We should not try to define the gospel by taking a few phrases from Paul’s writings out of context. We need to consider the whole book of Philippians with all the major points. If we put these points together, we shall have the totality of the gospel, and we shall see that the gospel involves God’s move according to His economy. How blessed were the Philippian believers to participate in the furtherance of such a gospel! The gospel in which they had a share was not the low, narrow, superficial gospel preached by many Christians today. The Philippian believers had the privilege of sharing in the spread and furtherance of the gospel that is according to God’s economy.

The gospel is not just "God's escape hatch", but so much more. The gospel is the proclamation of the kingdom of God. The reason Jesus came was to destroy the works of the devil. He reversed the curse of sin that Adam brought, but he also came to defeat the devil in every area of people's lives.

Jesus came to break the curse of death and also to break every other curse and free us from every bondage and to heal us of every disease. This is the whole gospel, all the good news. Healing, deliverance, and salvation are in the gospel.

Remember the prayer, "thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven"? There are no sick people, or bound people in heaven. The Lord taught us to pray that prayer and he meant it. "May your kingdom come" is God's economy that turns the world upside down.

The gospel is a person. 

The good news is that Jesus is alive. He is risen and he is on the move. Are we in the kingdom? In the kingdom means living under the reign of the King.

The coming of Christ, the coming of Messiah is part of God's story, His-story. God's story, told in the Bible, has Messiah at the center. We Christians are in the story because we have come to and now are in Christ. He is the center.

We have distilled the gospel down to, "Jesus died for your sins", and built on that to say, "Jesus died for you, so that you could go to heaven and live forever!" That is good news.... But, it is not the whole, and it is pretty "me" centered and it leaves out everything God wants to do here and now, before we die and go to heaven.

A better way to give the good news, the gospel, is to say that Jesus came and died for your sins to restore you and I to relationship with God, so that we can follow Jesus in our lives here and now, and go to heaven and reign with him in the future. Get the we part. We are corporate, a family, many tribes united in Messiah, God's Christ, as his body, whom he is the head of.

The gospel is that you all (we) can experience Christ now and forever.  That means salvation and his life, now and forever.



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For further study:

The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited, By Scot McKnight

Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (The IVP Bible Dictionary Series), by Joel B Green (Editor), Scot McKnight

The Gospel of The Kingdom, by George E. Ladd

Working with Him Through Grace In Time

But by God’s grace I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not ineffective. However, I worked more than any of them, yet not I, but God’s grace that was with me.

Working together with Him, we also appeal to you, “Don’t receive God’s grace in vain.” For He says:

I heard you in an acceptable time,
and I helped you in the day of salvation.

Look, now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation.
-1 Corinthians 15:10 & 2 Corinthians 6:1-2

I have been sharing that I have been experiencing God's grace in an increased way.  God's grace has been with me more in every dimension or avenue of my life.  While I have been growing in grace for a long time, it seems to be pronounced right now.

I see three things in the Corinthian verses above:  Grace, Working, and Time.  We have a limited time here to work with unlimited grace.  Grace is dynamic, which I will explain a bit below.  The Christian life is not passive.  It's all by grace, but you must work, and the work is with him and it is in time.

Time

I do believe in seasons and times.  God is always seeking to prepare us for tomorrow and that preparation will not happen unless we participate in it.  Then, there is the, "Ready or not, here I come", time when God's comes.  When that happens, we want to be ready.

There are times like "life times", seasons, and "now" times.  "Now" times are special, unique times.  The birth of your child or your birth, the day you got married, the day you met Christ, and the day of pentecost are examples of special days.

We need to be aware of special times and make the most of each day, looking for the graciousness of God to manifest.

God stands outside of time, but works in time.  Today is very important to God:  "This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it", and, "Today if you hear his voice do not harden your heart as they did in the rebellion". (Ps. 118:24, 98:5; Heb. 3:15)

Grace

What is grace?  I grew up on the definition, that grace is God's unmerited favor.   There is an enhanced definition of grace, brought forth by James Ryle:
Grace is the empowering presence of God enabling you to be who God created you to be, and to do what God has called you to do – right where you are.
James also notes that if we take the common definition of grace (God's unmerited favor), we have to ask, "What about 1 Peter 5:5, where it says that God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble?"  I would say that we only have grace, personally, by faith and through humility.  We humble our selves and God lifts us and gives us grace (1 Pet. 5:6, Jas. 4:10).

Humility is an action and grace is more than a definition, but a dynamic.

The "unmerited favor" definition of grace, that some of us are very familiar with hearing, was popularized by B.B. Warfield, in his book, "Augustine & The Pelagian Controversy: The Theology of Grace".  His exact words are:
"When, then, it is asked, on the ground of what, grace is given, it can only be answered, 'on the ground of God's infinite mercy and undeserved favour.'  There is nothing in man to merit it, and it first gives merit of good to man.  All men alike deserve death, and all that comes to them in way of blessing is necessarily of God's free and unmerited favour."
In his book, God's Grace Revisited, James McClure challenges Warfield's definition of grace, critiquing it as follows:

  • It places unacceptable boundaries on the meaning of the word.
  • It insufficiently defines the true meaning of grace. 
  • It is incapable of being used in every translation of the word as it is found in the New Testament.
On a positive note, McClure opines that unmerited favor is positive in that it:
  • Affirms that God is the source of grace.
  • Communicates the idea of something freely given by God.
Nevertheless, McClure tells us that, "it is a definition that diminishes the rich and unfathomed depth of meaning of the word and substitutes it with a partial truth, wonderful though that truth may be.  Many New Testament passages, in which charis is found are quite meaningless when read with Warfield's definition in mind..."(p.48)

Unmerited favor brings to mind an "action of God on a person's life and which, as far as the recipient is concerned, is a passive experience." (p.49)  But in the NT, the word grace is something that "evokes an active response in individuals, a response that is dynamic and radically life-changing, but is also the agent of that response." (p.49)

Grace is far richer and meaningful than the Warfield definition.  We are saved by grace (not by works), but in that same grace, we do good works (Eph. 2:8-10).  That grace is not simplistic, but a multifaceted kaleidoscope (Eph. 2:7).

Grace is dynamic.  The old definition leaves the dynamism out.  Grace empowers you to live the Christian life and become who God wants you to be.  

We are living in the age of grace, between the first and second comings of Christ.  And now, today, God is on the move.  God is saving people, and touching people.

God's grace is here now, in our lives.  We can either work with that grace, or not.  God wants to dynamically work in and through each one, all week, and when we gather together.

Gracious Gatherings of The Church

If grace is more than something bestowed, but is something that dynamically transforms, renews, and gives us locomotion, then we are going to be "on the move" with God.  We are going to be activated and active Christians.  We will be participating with God.

If this is true, then our "church services" or times of gathering with other Christians, will be active for all.  There will be no passivity or inactivity.  Church cannot be like going to a concert, lecture, or sporting event; because by its very nature, all Christians are part of the activity, rather than consumers or spectators.

Imagine going to a church meeting.  Imagine if you showed up and a leader got up and announced that, "we are going to do it together today, rather than passively just talking about it".  Then, the person explains that "doing it" is "working with the grace of God."

Then, the person announces that we are going to break up into groups of 3 to 5 and head out the doors, into the surrounding community and work with God for a couple hours, then come back to the building and share stories and eat lunch.

Or, your congregation might be directed, by a leader, to sit at tables and do "table talk", sharing what God is doing in your lives.  The tables would have bread and juice in the middle and you would have communion together while you share Christ's life with one another.

Or, your congregation might have "kaleidoscopic worship" (1 Cor. 14:26, Eph. 5:19), where we edify each other.  If God's grace is working through all of us as we work it out in a dynamism, the life of the Christian, including the "church service" are not going to be a passive experience.

These are just three ideas or alternatives that answer God's call that, "We have to stop meeting like this."  There are endless other alternatives, including an occasional sermon.  But most often, if there is any monologuing, we need to hear people (plural) share what God is doing in their lives.

We need leaders who do not hog the mic or the spotlight, but who are "impresarios", who organize and skilfully deploy people, for the glory of Christ.  "Pastors" need to be re-positioned from "sages on stages" to "guides at the side".

Working With Him

An important question is, "Will we work with him?"  Will you be reconciled and work with him, reconciling others?   Will you work hard with the grace of God?

Everyone is "in the ministry".  You might work on a church staff, lead a global missions organization, or mow lawns.  In your ministry, are you working with Him, or have you been trying to get Him to work with you?

Are you following the invisible, living, powerful Christ, who holds the universe together and is head of the church?  Are you taking your ideas and your plans, and living your life by them and calling others to follow you, rather than simply working with Christ, and calling others to work with him?

Are you working with him or are you living out a ministry where you want Him to work with you?  I believe that we often try to persuade God to work with us, when all along we have it backwards and God has invited us to come out and work with Him.

Paul worked hard and is an example of a man in Christ, a true disciple.  We love to read Paul as history and learn theology from his work.  But what if Paul's life was a message from Jesus Christ?   What if his assignment was to impart that life of Christ to everyone that be ministered to, including us today, who read his papers?

"Working"  God wants us to work.  That is how he designed us.  He does not call us to the "do nothing" life of sitting on the couch or lazyboy and passively consuming.

The one all powerful God takes us, as proverbial horses, to the water, but does not make us drink.  He shows us the plow, but we have to push it.  And he points to the harvest, but does not make us go work in it.

"Are you working with Him?"  That is a question for all Christians, all people in Christ.  There is a time in the Christian life, when we are babies, who can not work.  We just need milk and to be held.  What do we say to folks who claim to be Christians, but they don't want to do any work with God, but just drink milk and be held?

Vanity

"Don't receive God's grace in vain."  What that means is "Don't squander God's grace."  We squander it by not partnering with God to appropriate (spend) that grace.

Let's end with a prayer:
Open the eyes of our hearts to see your grace.  Help us to partner with you God, working with your grace in our lives.  Let grace flow through our lives to others, so that our lives are not vanity fairs, but fruitful vineyards.
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Choose To Not Gossip

Without wood, fire goes out; without a gossip, conflict dies down.
-Prov. 26:20

I love to talk, share, catch up, and hear all the news about people that I know.  But, I don't want hear gossip, nor do I want to spread gossip.  I don't want to sin, myself; nor do I want to lead others to sin.

Gossip can be destructive, which is why God says not to do it.  Is what comes out of my mouth life-building or not?  Sharing and news is fine, but I don't want to stir the pot of a destructive quarrel.

I want reconciliation,  God's viewpoint, and forgiveness.  I want love and grace and truth and mercy.  I want the fruit of the Spirit.

"What is gossip?'  Gossip is a loaded word.  It might just mean "news".  Or it might mean telling someone else's secrets or violating their confidentiality.  It is malicious when we bash, judge, and condemn another person.

If there is a quarrel involved, does telling about it make it better or worse?  How can we talk about a conflict, especially if we are in the conflict, with grace towards the other person?  But, you might hurt because of what they did, said, did not do, or did not say.

When we share about the other, it is very easy to render judgement and violate Jesus' command, "Judge not"(Matt. 7:1 & Luke 6:37), because in our hurt, we are condemning.  Instead we need to talk about our hurt, our disappointment, our disillusionment, and our loss.  You can heal from all these, but talking about the other person only makes you feel hurt, because that is not and never is the path to healing, but protracted pain.

To clarify that the gossip is more than news, we call it malicious gossip.  Some Bible translations say "talebearer".  That is different from someone who just gives you news about what someone is up to or how their endeavor is going.

Some people are "non-malicious talebearers", or "town crier's".  It is very common to bring in a distant (not in the room) third party, in a conversation, which is called "triangling".  We talk about or ask about the third party, when we are uncomfortable with the "I and thou" intimacy of the one-to-one conversation.

The words "fire" and "conflict" give us a clue as to what the proverb above is teaching us.  If you are in a conflict with someone, gossip fuels the conflict.  As Christians, in Christ, we want reconciliation.  But gossiping has the opposite affect.

If Tim and Joe are in a conflict and they talk about the other person, to a third party, in any manner that is not loving, gracious, merciful, and forgiving; then they are probably adding sticks to their fire of conflict.  Venting or raging is not in the Christian life.  We "talk down" other people and then say, "Thanks for letting me vent."

But, anger is in the Christian's life.  In the Bible, it says, "In your anger do not sin.  Don not let the sun go down on your anger." (Prov. 4:4 & Eph. 4:26).  We get angry.  We need to release our anger.  Many Christians are angry people because the do not know how to release their anger and let the sun set on it.

When we are tempted to gossip and it is not just the neurotic need to triangle, because of fear of intimacy (being truly known); it is often because we are angry.  We say that we hurt or the other hurt us or we are just pained by what the other said or did, so we need to tell the tale to the third party.

This kind of 'sharing' makes things worse.  We need to own our anger and get beneath it, rather than gossiping, which is destructive.  We end up saying (or thinking), "Well, I guess relationships are just too hard and it's no use", or we are perpetually involved in conflict ridden, broken relationships; marked more by our suffering in them, than mutual edification.

When we are in conflict with another person and feel angry at them, we need to get underneath that anger to feel the hurt, fear, or loss.  "Tell me how you hurt", "Tell me what you fear", or "Tell me about your loss".  That is where the conversation needs to go, rather than "venting".  When the person wants to talk about the other, we continually need to bring the conversation back to the "I and thou" or me and you and as "How do you feel?" or "How is that for you."

A better way is to pray for that person.  Maybe you do need to share your feelings, but after you share your feelings, then pray.  You are moving in the opposite spirit of conflict, division, bitterness and so forth, when you pray.  Pray for the one you are in conflict with.  Discipline your self to live Jesus way, following him.