Monthly Archives: January 2015

God’s Choices

We talked last week about some of the choices we can make in following God. Today, I’d like to focus on the fact that God the Father and Jesus Christ have also made choices, choices that they were also willing to live and die by, and They made all those choices for us.

I’ve run into quite a few people who think that I put far too much emphasis on Jesus Christ, and not near enough on God the Father … so, for their sake I’m going to concentrate mainly on the choices that the Father has made to lead us into the kingdom of God.   After all, the Father iS … THE … Supreme being in the universe, as Christ Himself said, “My Father is greater than I” in John 14:28.   So the choices that the Father makes are really the final, authoritative, and ultimate word we should rely on.   Right???

Anointed and Sent

God the Father chose to raise Jesus Christ from the dead, then He chose to exalt Him to His right hand. He chose to give Him the promise of the Holy Spirit, not in the way that it was given to us … to reveal things of the Spirit, but so that Jesus could be the One to “shed forth” the Holy Spirit to the rest of us.

This Jesus God has raised up, of which we are all witnesses. Therefore being exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He poured out this which you now see and hear.  For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he says himself: ‘The Lord said to my Lord,
“Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool.”’ Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:32-36)

In verse 36, it seems that now God the Father has made a choice once again, choosing to make this Jesus Christ both Lord (kurios, G2962, meaning owner, master, ruler) and Christ (Christos, G5547, meaning the Anointed or Redeemer). In the Bible, anointing was used to consecrate people for special offices. High priests were anointed, kings were anointed, regular priests were anointed, and prophets were anointed. This begs the question, “What was Christ anointed to do?”

The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound (Isa. 61:1)

God's Choices| BaptismForLife.wordpress.comAs “God’s Anointed,” Jesus Christ has been fulfilling this ministry since He was born of Mary . This didn’t just happen brethren. These things are the result of God the Father’s choices — there’s no other way Jesus could have been appointed King of kings and Lord (kurios) of lords.

 But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” (Acts 5:29-32)

Here we find the apostles making and voicing a right choice before the high priest, the captain of the temple and the chief priests. They declare Jesus to be their “Prince,” which is translated from the Greek word archegos (G747). It means the chief leader or author, and also used to describe Jesus as the “Author and Finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2) and “the Captain of our salvation” (Heb. 2:10).

Agreeing With God

Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our confession, Christ Jesus, who was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was faithful in all His house. (Heb 3:1-2)

What would you give to be included in this “holy brethren” group? All human beings want to be in the “in crowd,” right? I’d give just about anything to be “in” with this crowd. So we ask, what God wants of us to reach this level, and we see instructions to contemplate and think deeply about … to consider.

So also Christ did not glorify Himself to become High Priest, but it was He who said to Him: “You are My Son,
Today I have begotten You.” As He also says in another place: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek”; who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, and though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him, called by God as High Priest “according to the order of Melchizedek” (Heb. 5:5-10)

We are to recognize and confess and profess Jesus Christ as both Apostle and High Priest on the authority of God the Father, Who appointed Him and sent Him out (which is what “apostle” means). Before any other apostle was chosen, God the Father chose His apostle (John 17:3). How many times does God have to say something in the scriptures before human beings get the point? This word apostello (G649) is used in reference to Jesus Christ no less than 24 times in the 4 gospels. He was and is the “One sent” by God the Father. This is God the Father choosing and sending His Son for a specific job, and appointing Him to fill specific roles.

Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and of those on earth, and of those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil. 2:9-11)

Look at this brethren … the Father is glorified when we “agree with Him” (that’s what “confess” means) that Jesus Christ is our kurios. He’s the one who gave Jesus “all authority in heaven and on earth” (Matt 28:18) and that authority remains all His to this day.

Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him. (John 17:1-2)

Here we see another choice of God the Father, where He puts all flesh under the power and authority of Jesus Christ. Notice that includes the power to give His followers – the people who are chosen by God – eternal life.

The choices that God has made should lead us to make right and wise choices about our own course of life. If we make choices in line with God’s will, we won’t find ourselves regretting the choices we’ve made in the end with the words, “if I had listened, I wouldn’t be here today … living and dying with the choices I’ve made.” God speaks of our latter end, and that is what He is mainly concerned with. He wants us to live forever!

Choices of God, or Choices of Man?

This seems to be “one of those days” … when the title of an old country music song makes the best title for a blog post. In this case, a song entitled, “Choices” by George Jones. One line in particular stands out for me in today’s world, “living and dying with the choices I’ve made”.

Isn’t that the way this world is? Whether on a personal level, or on a national level, our world today is what it is because of the choices we’ve made … and today, as it has been throughout history, people and nations are living and dying with the choices they’ve made.

Making Choices

We all make choices, and we all bear responsibility before our Creator for them. Not only that, but our choices don’t just affect our lives, but the lives of our children and grandchildren as well.

I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore choose life, that both you and your descendants may live (Deut. 30:19)

Something most human beings (myself included) would want is for someone else, who is totally reliable, to make their hard choices for them. You know the ones – the agonizing life-and-death choices that seem to carry your entire future in their hands.

Well what if I told you that many of the most weighty choices of our lives – the ones that can truly bring us to the fulfillment of what God’s great plan for mankind pictures – have already been made by just such a Being?

“Thy Will,” or My Will?

On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus Christ prayed, “let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, Thy will be done.” In other words, He said, “I will comply with Your choices for Me, Father, with no reservations. He came to do God’s will with the physical body that God had given Him, and we are supposed to follow that example.

He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” (Matt. 16:15-19)

This shows Peter voicing a right choice (though I don’t think he fully understood it) in compliance with the will of the Father. Now just think about what Christ tells him and how this would make you feel … would it appeal to your vanity a little? Well, just look at what happens next in the context.

Then He commanded His disciples that they should tell no one that He was Jesus the Christ. From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day.

Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, “Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!” But He turned and said to Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men.” (Matt. 16:20-23)

How cocky is this brethren? to rebuke the one whom he himself just identified as, “the Christ, the son of the living God”? Would we do something similar, and would Christ tell us we “savor the things of men”? Do we focus on our will, our power, our glory, our self-exaltation, our ideas, and maybe our interpretation of what God says? If so, then we are not making right choices. The alternative is to “savor the things of God,” and make the life-choice to focus on God’s will, His choices, His instructions, and His inspiration.Choices of God, or Choices of Man? | BaptismForLife.wordpress.com

When I say “thy will be done,” do I really mean, “my will be done”? Do I say, “Thy will be done,” and then wait, or do I say “Thy will be done” and do everything in my power to influence the outcome, so that my will is done instead? It really is hard for a man not to savor the things that be of men, isn’t it?

Whether we like to admit it or not brethren, all churches are built partly on the things that be of God, and partly on the things that be of men. The question we have to ask ourselves as individuals is, “What am I built on as one of God’s called out ones aspiring to the kingdom of God?”

God’s Energy For Us

We’ve spent the last two posts talking about God’s faithfulness to complete a good work in us, and the example of how this worked in Jesus Christ’s life. Our focus has been on the phrase “faith in the working of God” (Col. 2:12). The word translated “working” is energeia (G1753), which means efficient, active power. Today, for the final post on this topic, let’s look at the energia of God in His word and see if we can find grace to help us believe in God’s faithfulness in His process, and a faith that will carry us through our times of need.

Energeia and Energeo

that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places (Eph. 1:17-20)

In verse 19, the word translated “working” is energeia (G1753). Then in verse 20, the word “worked” is translated from the closely related word energeo (G1754). In fact, if you want to do an extended word study on this, there are a total of five related words – these two plus energema (G1755), energes (G1756), and ergon (G2041).

But back to verse 20 and energeo. This refers to the effect of energeia. It is what has been accomplished by God the Father’s operative, active power and energy when He takes notice of someone. He accomplished all of this in Christ when He raised Him from the dead, and set Him at His own right hand … in other words, “when He was glorified!” Also remember that in John 7:39 it states, “the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. ” God the Father’s operative, active power and energy  glorified Jesus Christ and made possible all of His “effectual working” in those of us who make up His church.

Working in Us

Christ lived His entire human life by the faith of the operation of His Father. He did this to set the example for how we are supposed to live by faith. Let’s notice how Paul spoke of this in regard to his own calling to minister. He says, “I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me by the effective working of His power”, thus crediting the energeia of God as the guiding force in his life (Eph. 3:7).

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works (energeo) in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Eph. 3:20-21)

In the phrase “power that works in us,” the word “works” is again energeo.  God seems to be saying that what He can do for us through His effectual working is literally limitless. We ought to trust that “above all that we ask or think” means just what it says!

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working (energeia) by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love. (Eph 4:11-16)

In these passages, Paul expands the type of work that he describes God doing in him to include the whole body. God and Jesus Christ are committed to “effectual working” in each of us, and They are more than capable of succeeding.

For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working (energeia) by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself. (Phil. 3:20-21)

Working For His Will

Jesus Christ works in us mightily as the High Priest in the temple of His spirit,  just as His Father  effectually worked in Him. Christ had faith in His father’s faithfulness, and He expects us to exercise the faith of the operation of God, as He did and as Paul demonstrates in his writings.

To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. To this end I also labor, striving according to His working (energeia) which works (energeo) in me mightily. (Col. 1:27 – 29)

God's Energy For Us | BaptismForLife.wordpress.comIn John 5:17, Christ told the Jews, “My Father has been working until now, and I work.” That’s what They do, and They are faithful in Their work, in Their commitments, and in Their promises. They are engaged in a loving and effectual task with their creation.

So we have this “effectual inner working of God” (His energeia) as a process that He has designed to bring us to the goal (the effect of his energeia) which is “above all that we ask or think” — eternal life.

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. (Rom. 8:18-27)

Look at all of what we just read, and think about how much of this depends on God’s “effectual working.”

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (Rom 8:28-30)

Here we are back where we started in the first post, and I hope we can see more clearly that “all things” of every kind, sort, and variety really do “work together” (sunergeo – G4903). God is at work all the time, and through “all things” that happen in our lives, and it doesn’t sound like He expects to fail does it?

Parting Thoughts

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent (energeo) prayer of a righteous man avails much. (James 5:16)

Brethren, I’ve always felt that my own intercessory prayers were not as effective as I would like them to be, and I’ve always wondered what might be lacking in them, but perhaps if we more fully understand the effectual working of God, we may be able to approach what it says here in this verse. The word used here in the Greek is energeo. In the uses of the word we’ve looked at so far, it refers to the effect of God’s energia — of His inner work inside of us over time, through suffering and trial … feeling the effects of “all things” that we experience in life.

I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)

Will He find the kind of faith that He is looking for? Faith in His faithfulness to effectually work out salvation in us through the indwelling presence of His spirit … with the constant oversight and guardianship of Jesus Christ … who, himself overcame all things through the faith of the operation of God?

God’s Faithfulness to Christ

Last week, we talked about God’s faithfulness to make sure that the word He sows into our lives has a good outcome. He is committed to making “all things work together for good” in the lives of “those who love God” and “are the called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). To further ensure success in this operation, He sends another type of “the Word” into our lives to perform a miracle in us.

Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” And He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures. Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.” (Luke 24:44-49)

No man can open his own mind, or the mind of another to the true meaning of God’s word, but this Being does it at will. In John 6:29, Jesus said “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” Here, “the work of God” as defined by Jesus Christ is obviously talking about something that goes on within our heads and our hearts that no man can do for us, nor can we do it for ourselves. If we really believe in the One Sent, the work of God that He is doing in us is yet another piece of evidence of God’s “inner, effectual working” – His energia (G1753) that we defined and discussed in last week’s post.

Follow in Suffering

God's Faithfulness To Christ | BaptismForLife.wordpress.comThere are many things that contribute to our ability to understand and react in the right way to God’s word – our life experiences, frustrations, our failures to “overcome” on our own, our failure to impose our will upon God (that’s a big one!). All of that adds up to one word: suffering. Jesus Christ submitted Himself to suffering as an example to us, and I really don’t think anything contributes as much to God’s end goal for us as our suffering while we follow the example of Jesus Christ.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name (Phil. 2:5-9)

A great reward followed this suffering, but look at the mindset that it took to achieve that end. This is the mind of Christ, which is supposed to be in our minds as well.

who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him (Heb 5:7-9)

Notice again, the reward follows the suffering. We can’t follow Christ’s footsteps toward the reward without following His footsteps through suffering.

For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Pet 2:21- 25)

So we see again this example, and we see again the mind of Christ revealed. I like the wording in verse 23 … He “committed Himself” with complete faith and trust to the One who was working out His end goal to accomplish good things in Christ’s life.

Come In Faith

Let’s go to Hebrews 4, and look at a part of that end goal for Jesus Christ that is now contributing mightily to our own quest to achieve God’s end for us.

Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Heb. 4:14-16)

I recently read an article in one of United Church of God‘s publications that pointed out that Jesus Christ is simultaneously the “great shepherd of the sheep” and “the lamb of God” (a description used 27 times in the book of Revelation). He understands both the role of the guide and of the follower. He knows what it is like to be in our shoes, having been tempted in all points as we are, and having followed His “shepherd” – the Father – as we are to follow Him.

So let’s do just as we’re told in Hebrews 4:16, and come boldly to the throne of grace to see if we can find grace to help us in our times of need. If anyone knows “the faith of the operation of God” it is Jesus Christ, and we can follow Him with full assurance that God will be faithful to us as well.