Prove That You Really Are

So, dear brothers and sisters, work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away.
2 Peter 1:10 NLT

Life Application Study Bible
Peter wanted to rouse the complacent believers who had listened to the false teachers and believed that because salvation is not based on good deeds, they could live any way they wanted. If you truly belong to the Lord, Peter wrote, your hard work will prove it. If you’re not working to develop the qualities listed in 2 Peter 1:5-7, maybe you don’t belong to him. If you are the Lord’s-and your hard work backs up your claim to be chosen by God (“called and chosen”)-you will never be led astray by the lure of false teaching or glamorous sin.

So we should ask ourselves — if I say that I am a Child of God, is my life developing to demonstrate such an extraordinary claim?

In view of all this, make every effort to respond to God’s promises. Supplement your faith with a generous provision of moral excellence, and moral excellence with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone.
2 Peter 1:5‭-‬7 NLT

What does this look like?

But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.
Galatians 5:22‭-‬25 NLT

This isn’t a demonstration of our “worthiness” or our “earning” anything — because no man or woman is worthy in and of themselves, nor can any man earn his own way — all fall short of the glory of God.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.
Romans 3:23 NLT

God looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not a single one!
Psalms 53:2‭-‬3 NLT

The things that Peter describes in 2 Peter 1 that we should “Do these things, and shall never fall away” are:

faith…

moral excellence…

knowledge…

self-control…

patient endurance…

godliness…

brotherly affection…

love for everyone.

You see these are character/nature/ being and not a checklist of actions. So this is a demonstration of either Christ alive in us, God making His tabernacle with His people, in them and through them with those He has called and chosen — or the absence of such a personal and life altering relationship with Almighty God.

“I am the true grapevine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch of mine that doesn’t produce fruit, and he prunes the branches that do bear fruit so they will produce even more. You have already been pruned and purified by the message I have given you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. For a branch cannot produce fruit if it is severed from the vine, and you cannot be fruitful unless you remain in me. “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing. Anyone who does not remain in me is thrown away like a useless branch and withers. Such branches are gathered into a pile to be burned. But if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you may ask for anything you want, and it will be granted! When you produce much fruit, you are my true disciples. This brings great glory to my Father. “I have loved you even as the Father has loved me. Remain in my love. When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love. I have told you these things so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow! This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me. You didn’t choose me. I chose you. I appointed you to go and produce lasting fruit, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask for, using my name. This is my command: Love each other.
John 15:1‭-‬17 NLT

The fruit comes from God and is the trustworthy and true evidence of His indwelling His children. It isn’t how religious someone is, or how much they know “about” God — do you truly know and love God? Does He truly know you and live in and through you?

“Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’
Matthew 7:15‭-‬23 NLT

If you look at your life today, and you can see your need to be changed, your need to be reborn, to be washed from your sin and changed on the inside to sell after and grow and live in the ways of God, for His glory instead of for your own, I have Good News for you, friend.

If you have never truly repented and believed,

If you have always opposed God or just given Him lip service or Sunday service,

Never truly surrendered your whole life because you believe His way is the only way, the only truth, the only life,

Read this Good News:

Later on, after John was arrested, Jesus went into Galilee, where he preached God’s Good News. “The time promised by God has come at last!” he announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins and believe the Good News!
Mark 1:14‭-‬15 NLT

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him. “There is no judgment against anyone who believes in him. But anyone who does not believe in him has already been judged for not believing in God’s one and only Son. And the judgment is based on this fact: God’s light came into the world, but people loved the darkness more than the light, for their actions were evil. All who do evil hate the light and refuse to go near it for fear their sins will be exposed. But those who do what is right come to the light so others can see that they are doing what God wants. ”
John 3:16‭-‬21 NLT

And this is not a decision to be taken lightly, frivilously, or half heartedly, but with full commitment and surrender:

Dear friends, if we deliberately continue sinning after we have received knowledge of the truth, there is no longer any sacrifice that will cover these sins. There is only the terrible expectation of God’s judgment and the raging fire that will consume his enemies. For anyone who refused to obey the law of Moses was put to death without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Just think how much worse the punishment will be for those who have trampled on the Son of God, and have treated the blood of the covenant, which made us holy, as if it were common and unholy, and have insulted and disdained the Holy Spirit who brings God’s mercy to us. For we know the one who said, “I will take revenge. I will pay them back.” He also said, “The Lord will judge his own people.” It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Think back on those early days when you first learned about Christ. Remember how you remained faithful even though it meant terrible suffering. Sometimes you were exposed to public ridicule and were beaten, and sometimes you helped others who were suffering the same things. You suffered along with those who were thrown into jail, and when all you owned was taken from you, you accepted it with joy. You knew there were better things waiting for you that will last forever. So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. “For in just a little while, the Coming One will come and not delay. And my righteous ones will live by faith. But I will take no pleasure in anyone who turns away.” But we are not like those who turn away from God to their own destruction. We are the faithful ones, whose souls will be saved.
Hebrews 10:26‭-‬39 NLT

Count the cost and be fully decided today in your heart who it is that you serve.

A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, “If you want to be my disciple, you must, by comparison, hate everyone else—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple. “But don’t begin until you count the cost. For who would begin construction of a building without first calculating the cost to see if there is enough money to finish it? Otherwise, you might complete only the foundation before running out of money, and then everyone would laugh at you. They would say, ‘There’s the person who started that building and couldn’t afford to finish it!’ “Or what king would go to war against another king without first sitting down with his counselors to discuss whether his army of 10,000 could defeat the 20,000 soldiers marching against him? And if he can’t, he will send a delegation to discuss terms of peace while the enemy is still far away. So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own. “Salt is good for seasoning. But if it loses its flavor, how do you make it salty again? Flavorless salt is good neither for the soil nor for the manure pile. It is thrown away. Anyone with ears to hear should listen and understand!”
Luke 14:25‭-‬35 NLT

We are called to repentance and belief, dear brothers and sisters. Hear the call:

So Jesus told them this story: “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it? And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders. When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away! “Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’ In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.
Luke 15:3‭-‬10 NLT

And you, prodigal sons and daughters, who have been in the slop with the odds instead of in your Father’s house and you need to be drawn back in, read this:

To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living. About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve. He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs. The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything. “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger! I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’ “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him. His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. ’ “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet. And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.
Luke 15:11‭-‬24 NLT


Lord, grant us today the gift of repentance. Call us ot of sin and into the faithful lives that you have set before us. Come, live in and through us, as we surrender our lives to your way, your will, your purpose, your plan, and your glory. Hallelujah, Amen!

Tough Love?

And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.
Jude 1:22-23 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/jud.1.22-23.NKJV

With children, some situations call for compassion and some call for correction. If all we ever offer is compassion,  we will end up with selfish,  manipulative little devils. And if all we offer is correction,  we will end up with resentful,  rebellious little devils. It takes both to be an effective parent. And it takes listening to and receiving both to grow in maturity.

It is the same with the Kingdom of God. We must be willing to receive both His mercy and His discipline. Both are ingredients necessary for growth and survival.

A fool with little vision or understanding, looking at the strong heat of the sun bearing down on plants day after day, might see outwardly that the sun is causing them to bend under its power might, but not having any knowledge or understanding of what is going on inside the plant, this fool might completely misunderstand the purpose for the sun’s brightness shining down on the plants so they can grow closer to the sun.

This same fool might look at the soil of the earth and the rains that come down on the plant and bless the rain for providing the plant with mercy while cursing the sin for the harsh trials that it puts these plants through, not realizing that only through the sun – through its transforming the materials provided by the earth and rain to the plant – can any fruit be grown. Without the sun, no amount of water and soil will rise up to be anything more than water,  dirt,  or mud. It is the warmth of the sun,  and the power of its repeated, powerful shining down on the plants that awakens the seed to burst forth from the ground and reach towards the heavens as it grows.

And this is how our trials grow us. This is why both the mercy and the trials are important. If all we are interested in is the rain of His mercy and the resources of the soil of this earth – if we listen to the twisted message of the enemy and are interested only in receiving the rain of forgiveness and the wealth and comforts of this world,  but we refuse the trials and correction and discipline of repentance – don’t we understand that we are rolling in the mud like the pigs instead of reaching towards the heavens?

And if we will speak to others about Christ, if we will call ourselves teachers of His one way,  one truth,  one life – aren’t we called to follow Him in that way and to share the whole truth of this Christian life – not just the same story of the rain and the soil that even the pigs know how to get excited about – but singing praises of His trials and tribulations and discipline and chastisement and correction and redemption and delivery from the soil to reach for the heavens, yearning to escape the mud and grow closer to the sun?

Yes,  even the pigs get excited about rain and soil. Even the pigs get excited about forgiveness and prosperity. But only the living and growing plants appreciate the heat of the trials and sufferings and persecution that we as, Christians are promised in this life – because we understand that is where the growth happens,  that is where the escape from the ways of this world occurs, that is what draws us closer and closer to the source of our life even while we are still planted in the ground.

The Lord has made the sun shine down,  the rains fall down, and the earth to break open and allow room for our roots to grow deep – not so that we can cling tightly to this world,  but so that we can grow taller and higher and closer to the heavens. But if we are only grounded in the soil and mud, the storms of adversity would tip us over and we would only be useful as wood for the fire. We look to grow upward.

And we are meant to be those who abandon the ways of this world – those who follow Christ faithfully – those who are not just called to grow – those who have been chosen to be grafted into the strong and sturdy vine of Christ. Once we are tapped into that strong vine of Christ, when we are a branch that has been grafted into His tree, when we have Him as our foundation, we are not only growing towards the heavens,  but living alongside and with our Savior daily.

So we should ask ourselves where we are in this journey? Are we still rolling in the mud? Are we just bursting forth from the ground? Are we cursing the strong heat of the trials, wishing we were back in the mud? Are we shooting up fast and high above the mud in pride of our own accomplishments only to be withered away and fruitless because we are looking down on others and not up at the sun? Have we grown in the past,  but we’ve let ourselves become stunted in our growth because of our concern over whether we’ve gathered enough soil and water at the base of our roots,  worried about our toppling over instead of expecting to be grafted into a new vine? Have we been grafted in and we’re excited to see new buds growing on our branches? Have we been bearing fruit for some time but we’re wondering where it all went?

Yes, we are each at a different place in this journey – but we all have the opportunity to continue growing instead of turning back to the mud. There is something much better than the mud, friends, isn’t there? Don’t you know the truth? Tell someone else,  and find out if they also know that there is something better than the mud. Yes,  we all played in the mud at one time, but we have a better destination and purpose available. Are you Called? Following?  Chosen?

Why me, Lord?

Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t share the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The others accepted his advice. They called in the apostles and had them flogged. Then they ordered them never again to speak in the name of Jesus, and they let them go. The apostles left the high council rejoicing that God had counted them worthy to suffer disgrace for the name of Jesus.  And every day, in the Temple and from house to house, they continued to teach and preach this message: “Jesus is the Messiah.”
Acts of the Apostles 5:40-42 NLT
http://bible.com/116/act.5.40-42.NLT

There are some in the high councils of today’s religious bodies that tell people they can’t share the good news about Jesus Christ. They point to a lack of formal training. They point to someone’s past – that has not been hidden and made to appear perfect on the outside – as a disqualifier for sharing the gospel. Do they mistakenly believe that followers of Christ who seek to show Christ to the world are seeking the same titles and positions that they long for?

Continue reading “Why me, Lord?”

God says, “Tag, you’re it!”

just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved.
Ephesians 1:4-6 NKJV
http://bible.com/114/eph.1.4-6.NKJV

There is a lot in this verse:

1) He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world

2) His purpose is for us to be Holy and without blame before Him in Love

3) He predestined us to adoption as sons to be reconciled by Christ to Himself

4) He did this out of the good pleasure of His will

5) to the praise and glory of His grace

6) by which He made us accepted in the Beloved

The first thing that I want to point out is that the gospel is about what God can do in us and through us. If we are working for it ourselves, we might have missed the forest for the trees.

Continue reading “God says, “Tag, you’re it!””