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Mining the Gems of Life-Changing Application

Many years ago, I had the privilege of serving my home church as a brand-new, green, associate pastor fresh out of seminary. My granddad had retired from his role as senior pastor a number of years prior to my arrival, but by the time I joined the staff, he came out of retirement to serve as the senior-adults minister. Maybe he wanted to keep an eye on me. My dad was also on staff as the administrative pastor which gave him the challenging job of serving as my boss. So we had three generations serving on the same church staff, and it was wonderful, at least for us.


One of my cherished memories of those days was when my granddad would invite me to my grandmother’s and his apartment for weekly training. That’s right: weekly training. My seminary years and educational degrees just weren’t enough in his mind, and he was right. One-on-one mentoring gave me a whole new level of how to counsel people, study the Scripture, and pray. My granddad would share new insights he discovered from his own daily study time, which always amazed me, because I thought that at his age he surely had it all figured out.


He instilled in me a passion to study the Bible, to excavate the truths of God’s Word, and to mine the gems of life-changing application. Even this morning I came across a Scripture I had read many times before but never plumbed. In Galatians 4, we read that we are adopted as God’s sons and daughters through Jesus Christ. “And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, `Abba! Father!” (Galatians 4:6). Notice what the text says. Because we are God’s children, He sent Jesus’s Spirit into our hearts. We have the Spirit of our resurrected Lord indwelling us—not just around us, going before us, watching our backs, but indwelling us. It is by the Spirit that Christ lives in our hearts. We are “strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:16-17). In fact, without the Spirit, no one can belong to Christ (Romans 8:9).


Did you notice what the Spirit does when He indwells us? He cries out, “Abba! Father!” Abba is the Aramaic word for the usual, intimate name called out by a child to his or her father. Jesus used this word when He cried out to His heavenly Father in Mark 14:36. So in Galatians 4:6 we have the SPIRIT of the SON crying out to the FATHER within US the most intimate name used in reference to a dad. Amazing.


When I reflected upon this Trinitarian expression of intimacy within us, I asked myself this question: Is MY spirit joining THE Spirit in crying out to Abba, Father? The Spirit does His work. He joins with the work of the Father. But we are not simply vessels emptied of our spirits passively watching the Holy Spirit cry out to Abba, Father. We are to enter in to that joyous intimacy as well! Our spirits are to engage fully in the activity of praise, celebration, and connection with the Spirit of the Son to the Father.


Indeed, we are works in progress. Just as emotional and spiritual intimacy in marriage takes time, so does the development of an intimate relationship with God. Later in Galatians 4, the Apostle Paul describes how he is “in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you” (verse 19). Christian spiritual formation is a process, but it begins with the simple truth that we are not on our own. We have the Spirit of Jesus already in our hearts crying out to our Abba, Father. Now it is time for us to join in. Let the Spirit of the Son teach us and be our guide in getting to know our heavenly Father not just as the Omnipotent One (which He is) but also as our Abba who has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Wiped Clean – Moving Forward in a Grace-Filled Life

This past week I upgraded my smart phone, and in the process I had my old phone wiped clean in order to trade it in and get a small refund. The clerk who helped me through this process asked me, “Are you sure you want your old phone wiped clean?” He told me that everything on my old phone was backed up on iCloud, but once he wiped the phone clean, everything on that phone would be completely gone. I told him to go for it, and he did. Clean. Gone. No data, notes, pictures, contacts. When I went to retrieve everything through the iCloud, though, guess what? Some of the data didn’t make the transfer. Since my old phone was completely wiped clean, I had no way to retrieve my old notes. And I had a lot of notes.


As I bemoaned my loss, I thought about how many of us struggle with the belief and conviction that when we confess our sins to Jesus, He completely wipes them clean. Gone. Removed from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103:12). “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool” (Isaiah 1:18). We struggle with this, because we can retrieve our old data, mistakes, memories, sins, and we often do. We remember our sins, and we condemn ourselves.


The liberating message of grace is that God “will remember [our] sins and [our] lawless deeds no more” (Hebrews 10:17). The Hebrew concept of remembrance is to recall past deeds or actions into the present. This is more than just thinking about something in the past; it is bringing the implication of that past into the present. For example, when Jesus said we are to take of the bread in communion in remembrance of Him (Luke 22:19), we are not just thinking about Jesus, we are bringing the implication of His death on the cross into our present reality. The past sacrifice of Jesus’s life brings the present reality of grace and transformation. “And by that will, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10).


This truly is good news. Amazing news. Incredible news. If God chooses to remember our sins no more, then the implication of our past actions will no longer be held against us. If God were to remember our sins, we would stand condemned. But since God remembers our sins no more, then our sins are no longer held against us. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).


Now the question becomes, what do we do with that freedom? The writer of Hebrews gives us three actions. First, “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith” (Hebrews 10:22). Second, “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering” (verse 23). Third, “Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works” (verse 24). Three verses, three challenges, three actions of moving forward in the grace-filled life. Draw near to God. Hold fast in your faith. And take the focus off yourself in order to stir up others to love and good works. Good words to live by as you live out the freedom found in Jesus Christ.


 

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