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Three Notes

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Luke 19:8-10)

Now, it’s worth noting two things here: first, that Jesus declaring that Zacchaeus’ household was saved wasn’t because of his giving to the poor and returning what he had stolen. Also, Jesus isn’t talking about Zacchaeus being a physical descendant of Abraham, rather, Jesus was speaking Spiritually. We can see these two things by the following:

First of all, we know for a fact that someone cannot be saved simply by giving to the poor and returning stolen goods. No matter how you look at it, this remains true. So then, with that in mind, we can see from the previous couple of verses (namely verses 1-6) that Zacchaeus saw Jesus, rejoiced in Jesus’ company, then gave to the poor etc., and after all that was when his household was pronounced saved. In other words, we see the process of salvation here: first Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus; pretty much everyone who begins to want to become a Christian wants to see Jesus the word. Next, He rejoiced in Jesus’ company. Likewise, when someone finds Jesus, they too often rejoice. Finally, we see Zacchaeus evidence his desire to be made right by what he does; give to the poor, and return what he had stolen plus interest.

Also, we see that Jesus wasn’t talking about Zacchaeus’ physical relation to Abraham as being the cause of his salvation. Rather, Jesus is saying that Zacchaeus has now become a Spiritual child of Abraham; a Spiritual “Jew.” As Paul puts it in his epistle to the Galatians:

Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”[d] So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Galatians 3:7-9)

Jesus is saying that Zacchaeus’ being a descendant of Abraham is evidence of his household’s salvation. Now before Jesus had come, this may have applied in the physical sense, because back then the Jew’s were still the chosen people of God. However, Jesus made it so that now there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile;   he made it so that being a physical descendant of Abraham no longer meant you were somehow “qualified” for salvation. Rather, He changed it so that everyone (including you and me) can become Spiritual sons and daughters of Abraham, by having faith that Jesus came, died, and rose again.

With all that being said, there is actually a third thing that needs to be noted, and that is Jesus’ love and kindness. More than that even: His love, His kindness, His grace and mercy; all these are on display here. That Jesus would bring a vile tax collector (who were known for taking more “tax” than was actually required) to Himself, and save even his household, is simply amazing. Not only that, but that He would do the same for us today is even more amazing.-He gave up His very life to save us. Our response should be, therefore, to do what this tax collector did, and accept Jesus into our homes, to love Him, to rejoice in His presence, and to repent.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

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Posted by on August 10, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Tax Collectors and Pharisees

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:9-14)

Most Christians will tell you that, in this parable, they identify with the tax collector, and were disgusted by the Pharisee (myself included). And this is quite a good stance to have; the tax collector’s cry for forgiveness is something we should all relate to, while the Pharisee’s prideful speech to God is something we should all try to avoid. But how many of us really do relate to the tax collector?

Living up to what we say is important, especially when it comes to salvation. So, we should ask ourself: are we living lives where we demean other’s, or do we forgive and overlook things? Do we think that we can do anything to save ourself, or are we secure in the knowledge that Jesus’ death and Resurrection has paid for all of our sins? And finally, are we begging God for forgiveness, and asking Him to give us the strength to stop, or do we act like we can somehow forgive ourself by our own actions?

If we are living as the Pharisee was, it’s time we beg for forgiveness.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2012 in Delivered Through Love

 

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Out With the Old In With the New

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. (Romans 6:11-13)

Alright, we’re supposed to die to sin and be alive to Christ, be instruments of righteousness, all that stuff. Stuff which is certainly easy to say, but slightly harder in practice. After all, how is it that someone is to die to sin, and live to Christ? How is it that someone can make their “members to God as instruments for righteousness.”?

How is it possible? By something that seems even less possible: re-birth. The only way to die to sin, is to Spiritually die to it. Likewise the only way to live to Christ, is to live in a body not tainted by sin. In re-birth, our old, carnal self dies, to be replaced with a new, Christ-centered self. A “self” (some people would call it a new “man”) which makes us want to serve God. Jesus gave us this new self, when He became our old self, and died. He put all our sins, all our old, carnal, sinful nature unto Himself, and became it. Then He died, and through that death, killed our old self, and gave us His nature: one that desires to serve, and to live for God.

With all that said, it’s important to note this: we still have our flesh. We still have a frail, mortal body with flesh and bone. Thus, we are not entirely Spirit, but also, to some extent, of the World. Thus we’ll occasionally fall to sin. However, now we have a new nature, thus any sin we fall to is only temporary. Before re-birth, we’d have been forced to, “obey its passions.” But now Christ gives us the power to resist. Not only to resist temptation, but He only gives us the strength and perseverance required to spread His Gospel.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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The Big Three Tools of the Christian

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, (2 Corinthians 10:3-5)

Though we “walk in the flesh,” i.e. though we still have flesh and bone, and thus are of Earth, we can’t defeat our enemies as the World does; with physical weapons. Rather, Christ has given us divine weapons, known commonly as the Bible and prayer, which are capable of defending our minds, and warding off nearly all attacks… To put it another way: if you’re thinking about Jesus’ agony on the Cross, you’re certainly not thinking about sinning. In that way, Jesus’ cross is a shield around our minds. As Paul says:

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. (Ephesians 6:17)

Our helmet, the thing which protects our heads, and thus our minds, is salvation. We are to be constantly thinking of Jesus, and His suffering for us. He should be the focus of our lives. Yet, as we’re, as Paul pointed out earlier, still walking in the flesh, it’s impossible to always be thinking of Jesus. In fact, it’s difficult to do in even some of the time… And that’s where, “but God gives more grace,” is possibly most helpful.

Yes, we should be thinking of what Christ has done for us, but God knows that our pathetic, tiny little human minds are incapable of doing so for very long. Which is where he gives His grace and strength; grace for when we fall during that time, and strength to help us resist temptation. But the only time when we’re truly protected, is when we’re mediating on God’s word; on our Salvation, and how Jesus brought it about (i.e. through His death).

“But,” one may say, “what if I’ve already got sin struggles, and not only need to protect myself, but to also rid myself of the thought strongholds I already have? What do I do then?”

That’s where the other half of the above verse in Ephesians comes in; where the Sword of the Spirit comes in. A sword is both a defensive and offensive tool, a Christian is to use His sword, the Bible, in both ways. i.e. Scripture tells us how to be free from every sort of temptation; by, as previously mentioned, focusing on Jesus. And, in addition to that, by going to other Christians and getting help from them, and by prayer. The big threes in the Christian life:

  1. The Bible
  2. Christian Comrades
  3. Prayer

God’s given us these divine tools for one reason: to use them! To use the Bible to understand how we’re to live our lives, as well as several other things. To seek help from fellow Christians. And to pray to Him for strength, and His power.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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What Is the True Way to Be Right With God? …

If not, indeed, through legalism?

So far, we’ve established what exactly legalism is and what it isn’t, and why legalism is bad. Now we’ll discover the only correct way to be right with God: the cross of Christ.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

We know from John that all that’s required not to “perish” is to believe in “him,” i.e. to believe in Jesus. We don’t need to do a dozen “Spiritual things” a day to be right with God. Neither do we need to dig our own way out of the hole we’ve created. Rather, all we need is a child-like faith in Christ; all we need is to believe that a rescue team is coming to pull us up and out of the hole.

The only true way to be right with God is through “the way” that God created, not the way that we attempt to create:

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:5-6)

What is the way to the Lord? His son. It’s so simple; that sometimes our pride has a hard time accepting it. Our pride is the real problem here: it’s the thing that keeps us at a distance from God, trying to work for our salvation. It’s the thing that causes us to tear down others hatefully rather than build them up with kind words. In fact, that’s the paradox of legalism: it attempts to be perfect, yet the attempt itself is done in pride. It has to be done in pride; otherwise the person in question would have accepted Jesus to be their only savior. So than, what’s the solution to this disabling pride? Complete and utter submission to our Lord and savior Jesus.

For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. (Philippians 1:8-11)

It’s only through Jesus that we can let go of pride. It’s only through Him alone that we can be righteous. It’s not through what we’ve done, or what we will do, but it’s because of what he’s done, and what he will continue to do: intercede on our behaves before God. It’s not about us, it’s about Him, and the faster we come to the knowledge of that, the better off we’ll be.

yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (Galatians 2:16)

Only through the blood of the lamb can we be saved. It’s impossible to be saved through a set of laws, it’s impossible to be saved through some special code of conduct: it can only ever be through the way that the Father Himself has set up; it can only be through Jesus Christ! To say otherwise would be to completely discount the cross, and set yourself up as ruler of your own life:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Galatians 2:20-21)

Let’s review what we’ve learned in this section:

  1. It’s only by faith that we can be saved.
  2. Pride is a stumbling block to the believer, and can only be overcome through complete belief in Jesus.
  3. Legalism is taking Jesus out of the picture.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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Transquotation: Genesis 2:5-7

Hello again!

Again, unlike what we did when studying the New Testament, we’re going to go chapter by chapter instead of whatever verse stands out that morning. This is because, frankly speaking, Genesis alone is forty-nine chapters long, and if we studied it like the New Testament, it would probably take us a couple of months. — Anyway, this is what God gave me today in His word:

Verses:

When no bush of the field was yet in the land and no small plant of the field had yet sprung up–for the LORD God had not caused it to rain on the land, and there was no man to work the ground, and a mist was going up from the land and was watering the whole face of the ground– then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. (Genesis 2:5-7)

Transquotation:

When it was dry and there was no life God sent a mist which He had go up from the land and water the whole face of the ground– then the LORD God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.

Explanation of the transquote:

When we were dry and lifeless, when we were nothing more than a dry and dusty image of God. That’s when God choose to save us: He sent his cooling mist, Jesus, to bring wash us clean and then gave us life; making us a living creature. Not only that, but notice exactly how God choose to bring us to life. He breathed His breath of life into us. Though God evidently didn’t die and then three days later rise again from this act, it does suggest Him giving His life; or at least giving part of it, to bring Adam to life. A quick translation here: ‘Adam’ is Hebrew for ‘man’ or ‘mankind’. So God brought Man/Mankind to life by breathing His breath of life into him (us). Seeing the connection yet?

But again, with each transquote we make, we have to back it up both with a corresponding passage in the New Testament, and contextually (the context; verses in front of and behind, must support it):

New Testament Confirmation:

And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit. (Matthew 27:50)

When let out the last of His breath; when he gave a loud cry, He gave up His Spirit. Giving us life.

Contextual Confirmation:

So God blessed the seventh day and made it holy, because on it God rested from all his work that he had done in creation. These are the generations of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made the earth and the heavens. (Genesis 2:3-4)

First He rested from His work, then He made man. He separated the creation of the world from the creation of man, because man is special; the only creature with a soul. Because of this same reason (man’s soul) God choose to send His one and only son to save us. How did Christ do this? By giving up His soul and last breath of life for us.

And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. (Genesis 2:8-9)

After Christ saved us, all Christians flourished in the light. They sort of “sprung up out of the dry ground” if you will.

Because the general context supports the transquote and because it corresponds to something in the New Testament, it’s a valid transquote (interpretation/quotation).

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

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The Helmet of Salvation

Hello again!

This is what God gave me today in His word:

and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, (Ephesians 6:17)

Today we’ll talk about(/I’ll write about) the helmet of salvation, tomorrow we’ll talk about the sword of the Spirit:

The helmet of salvation

A helmet, pretty obviously, protects the mind. Another one of those parts of the body which if so much as gently poked, when cause serious damage. Here’s a hint though: the enemy won’t want to gently poke. Thus the helmet, bone, and skin protecting it.

A helmet was pretty much standard back in the day for any army who wanted to get anything done. But there’s more to a helmet than simply protecting the head. The Roman galea, which was their helmet, was also meant to mark the one wearing it as a fellow Roman. Have you ever seen some movie where someone was wearing a helmet with a red or blue “horse-ploom”? That’s a sort of helmet that a Roman centurion would wear. Yes, it was meant to protect. But it also told fellow Roman’s not to attack that guy; he’s a partner.

For the Christian, a helmet does give protection, yes; but it also distinguished us. It’s like a modern-day circumcision. But instead of being the “circumcision group” which gave Paul so many problems, we’re the salvation group. Distinguished from everyone else by… The fact that we, um, where our salvation on top of our head? What, should we all go buy toy Roman helmets and where them to church? It’s called the armor of God for a reason; that reason being that it is in fact, His armor. Which means its Spiritual and not physical. The difference between the two I believe is self-evident.

Our Salvation is Christ. He is our savior; the one without whom we would all be Spiritually dead in our sins and trespasses now. He is our helmet of salvation, because He is our salvation. Therefore it could be said Christ Himself is, in fact, our distinguishing mark. He is the one who protects our mind from harm as well as distinguishes us all others. But now a question comes, “How does Christ distinguish us?”

17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:[a] The old has gone, the new is here! (2 Corinthians 5:17)

He makes us a new creation. That’s how He “distinguishes” (or, “sanctifies” us, if you want to get technical) us. You see, the helmet of salvation serves one more purpose that no regular, human-made helmet could do: it changes us our mind. It changes us from longing for the Devil to longing for God. Thus the, “salvation” bit. — Christ, who is our helmet of salvation, does this by shedding His blood. By that sacrifice, the gap between us and God is closed and we become new creations; part of the salvation group.

Like ever other piece of armor we’ve talked about, we don’t put this helmet on. Rather, when Christ died for us and we accepted Him as savior, He Himself put it on our head.

You are Loved!

Joshua Cleveland

 

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