I still continue to see Christians over and over again say . 'yes, we are saved by grace, but...'. BUT (ha!) there are no buts! None...not even in the small print.
I did the above mixed media painting when I was thinking about how I would create a perfect paradise if it was up to me. In my thinking it would be on the edge of an ocean, in a natural village type setting, where it is quiet and there is a fresh smell and coolness in the air similar to a town north of SF called Bodega Bay. I was there about 16 yrs ago and I absolutely fell in love with it. (Yup, it's the town where the school is that was in Hitchcock's "The Birds"...remember where the kids came running out?) Anyway,....oh, it was exactly what was in my mind when I painted this.
But, I know that nothing I do or don't do could ever outdo or earn the real heaven that is to come. Nothing.
Now, how about the scriptures that make it sound like I'd better work really hard for my salvation and in obtaining heaven...yeah, how about those?? I know I've quarreled, been involved in dissensions and have had selfish ambitions like what's listed in one of the scriptures below...so, what now??
Galatians 5: 19-21
When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, making enemies, division, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
OK...we'll get to this, but lets look at the following first....
I want you to think about what happens when you or anyone accepts Christ....what happens?? Is it a real event? Does something undoubtedly happen? I mean, in reality...does something actually happen?? Does God truly make a home in me?
Ephesians 3:17 Then Christ will make his home in your hearts as you trust in him. Your roots will grow down into God's love and keep you strong.
Romans 8:9 You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.
OK, lets get back to the question above. As I spoke similarly about in another post...the answer to this question is but another piece in the puzzle that contributes to creating the whole picture of how the Kingdom of God works.
2 Peter 1: 3-11
3By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 4And because of his glory and excellence, he has given us great and precious promises.
These are the promises that enable you to share his divine nature and escape the world’s corruption caused by human desires. 5In 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,
6and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with patient endurance, and patient endurance with godliness, 7and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love for everyone. 8The more you grow like this, the more productive and useful you will be in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9But those who fail to develop in this way are shortsighted or blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their old sins.
10So, dear brothers and sisters,c work hard to prove that you really are among those God has called and chosen. Do these things, and you will never fall away. 11Then God will give you a grand entrance into the eternal Kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
This above section of scripture is one that answers the question and lays it out very clearly and literally. As you see it begins by saying that by coming to know Him we have been given everything we need for living a godly life. Everything.
OK, then from there in vs 4, He has given us the promises that enable us to partake in His divine nature. Meaning, that the promises that say, for instance in 1 John 4:4, "You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world."...and in Romans 8:9, "You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if
in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of
Christ does not belong to him.", are telling us that we have the ability/power in us already to begin having control over those things of the flesh in Gal. 5, instead of those fleshly things having control over us! Yes!
The ability is already there....just as the ability to produce apples is already in an apple tree. IF the tree is an apple tree, then in time it WILL begin acting like one.
Does the tree try hard to produce apples so it proves itself to be an apple tree? Or does it naturally produce apples because it IS an apple tree?
God is telling us that we now have a new nature, and therefore the power to overcome the carnal nature we were born with is already in us. The power to obey God is already in us. So, what I do now is (above in 2 Pet.1:5) respond to His promises. God has already given me a measure of faith...so, now I activate the power in me with that faith to accomplish His will...
As in Gal. 5...
16So I say, live by
the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17For the sinful
nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary
to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not
do what you want. 18But if you are led
by the Spirit, you are not under law. 22But the fruit of
the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24Those who belong
to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
25Since we live by
the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
So, because you have faith in the fact that God knows what He is doing...you intentionally live by...be lead by...and keep in step with...the Holy Spirit that is already in you!
When you get up in the morning for instance, start thinking about creating peace around you and showing love to those around you whether this makes sense to you or not...this is keeping in step with the Holy Spirit...and living by faith in God's ways! THEN in so doing, God says that you will NOT be gratifying your carnal nature....and isn't this what it is all about? We are living as tho the carnal nature is dead, by walking in step with the Holy Spirit...then this in turn pleases God and produces fruit for His kingdom.
Then, way up again, in verse 9, God says that if you are not growing in this way then something has happened to get you off track and forget what God has done for you and in you. Because, if you and I really do have God's Spirit inside us then we are to be aware and serious about what this means to God. And thankfully, we also have the promise that we can get back on track as well!!
If, indeed God is in us, then His power is in us as well....so as to do His will.
1 John 5:18 We know
that anyone born of God does not continue to sin; the one who was born of God
keeps him safe, and the evil one cannot harm him.
2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test? (If this is the case, the solution is as close as your heart and lips:)