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In Step. In Unity. In Boldness.

Father of lights, Lord of Creation, Author of my life, Sovereign over me,
Please grant us the strength today to stand in service of You. Purify us from all the filth that clings to this sin-drenched, mortal life. By the blood of Jesus, poured out over us, cleanse us from human brokenness & chart a pathway through the wilderness of our hearts that they might become springs of life by the power of Your Holy Spirit at work in us. Remember our sins no more, as You have promised, and grant us confidence in Christ, united together, to step boldly into the day You have created and lay at our feet. We pray this in Jesus’ precious Name. Amen.

Hebrews 10:11-25
11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

15 And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

16 “This is the covenant that I will make with them
    after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws on their hearts,
    and write them on their minds,”

17 then he adds,

“I will remember their sins and their lawless deeds no more.”

18 Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Paul reminds Timothy (2 Timothy 1:7) that God has not given us a spirit of fear or timidity, but a spirit of power through Jesus Christ. There is boldness that should inherently come from being made pure by the blood of Christ, and by the presence of the Holy Spirit within us. There is a confidence (not an arrogance) that should come from knowing whose we are and what it is that we are up against. There is  a strength of character that comes from walking with Jesus, as He works His will in us day after day after day that should exhibit that handiwork and the Master Craftsman behind it.

If Jesus grants us the confidence to enter the holy places by His blood, how much more so those places where He already holds victory over the enemy? Why should we cower in fear? Why should we worry? If we have been washed with pure water, why would we not walk in that newness of life, throwing off the faithlessness that used to bind us, but that binds us no more?

This is one of the reasons why the author of Hebrews is encouraging us to continue gathering together. This is just one reason why it is good that we look other Christians in the eye, shake their hands and give them hugs. We need to be in the presence of other people who have seen victory at work in their own lives. We need to see people whose faces have been lifted up to heaven, whose eyes have looked upon the cross and we need to stand in boldness with them as we unite in Christ, our Great High Priest, and stand in bold assurance against the schemes of the enemy.

Standing alone is wrong & dangerous. God did not design us or example to us this stand-alone mentality. Instead, we are gathered together with our people to receive this encouragement: God has the victory. He is in charge. He loves us dearly. He has paid the price. He will bring change about in us. He will see change happen in the lives of others through the work He is doing in us today. We are meant to be together, walking in the rhythms of grace together. Praise God for that.

Father of lights, Lord of Creation, Author of my life, Sovereign over me,
Please grant us the strength today to stand in service of You. Purify us from all the filth that clings to this sin-drenched, mortal life. By the blood of Jesus, poured out over us, cleanse us from human brokenness & chart a pathway through the wilderness of our hearts that they might become springs of life by the power of Your Holy Spirit at work in us. Remember our sins no more, as You have promised, and grant us confidence in Christ, united together, to step boldly into the day You have created and lay at our feet. We pray this in Jesus’ precious Name. Amen.

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Jesus’ Pre-Passion Prayer Pt3

Father, unity with others comes at a price. Unity with You comes at an even deeper price. Give us strength to sacrifice our pride, nailing it to the cross with Jesus. Give us the strength to die, to see with eyes of one looking back over their life as we draw our final breath, so that we might have eyes to see those things that would fill us with regret, and let us lay those sinful inclinations down to die so that we might live. Let us live in unity with You. Cleanse us, refine us and let us walk in Your glory through the sacrifice of Jesus. Amen.

John 17:20-26
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. 22 The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.

24 Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given me, may be with me where I am, to see my glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world. 25 O righteous Father, even though the world does not know you, I know you, and these know that you have sent me. 26 I made known to them your name, and I will continue to make it known, that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.”

This High Priestly prayer of Jesus is arguably one of the most beautiful parts of all of Scripture. Of all the gifts that God has given us in His Word, this shines out as a gem on the crown of the Gospel message. Jesus did not have to pray this prayer out loud, but He did, and He did it for our benefit. He speaks frankly with the Father, He speaks plainly for His disciples, and He speaks plainly for us. We see the desire of His heart, and we see our deep need for Him. And where we stand unworthy, He seeks simply to redeem us from our unworthiness.

Those days when we don’t feel worthy, when we don’t feel loved, lovable or worthwhile, Jesus calls out to us and says, “Listen to this! I asked God for you. I want you to believe in Me, and be drawn into this deep, abiding relationship with Me. You are worthwhile, and God will be glorified in this.” Because while it is ultimately all about God and His glory, we also see that God is glorified, and this pleases Him, when we walk in unity with the truth, and with Him. And this is what Jesus set about to do.

This relationship will stand as testimony to the whole world of His goodness, mercy, grace and loving-kindness. Your life and mine stand as a love letter, read out loud, just like this prayer was spoken out loud. God didn’t have to do things this way, but He chose to so that more and more might see and hear and be brought to salvation through Jesus Christ. He has made it known, and He will continue to make it known, because it glorifies God and it redeems us.

The world will reject us. They do not know Christ. Romans 3 reminds us:

What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, 10 as it is written:

“None is righteous, no, not one;
11     no one understands;
    no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
    no one does good,
    not even one.”


Even in the face of our sin, Jesus prayed this prayer. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. This is grace. This is the rhythm we walk in with Jesus as we seek unity, daily, with the Father, and the rhythm that brings joy into our lives. Let us pause, remember and seek His wisdom & glory for this day.

Father, unity with others comes at a price. Unity with You comes at an even deeper price. Give us strength to sacrifice our pride, nailing it to the cross with Jesus. Give us the strength to die, to see with eyes of one looking back over their life as we draw our final breath, so that we might have eyes to see those things that would fill us with regret, and let us lay those sinful inclinations down to die so that we might live. Let us live in unity with You. Cleanse us, refine us and let us walk in Your glory through the sacrifice of Jesus. Amen.

Jesus ‘ Pre-Passion Prayer pt2

Father, this life we live as sojourners can be difficult & troubling at times. We know we are called to something higher, but there is so much low hanging fruit, forbidden fruit. Give us strength to walk the path of sanctification, the path of Christ, consecrate us as Your possession. Amen.

John 17:12-19
12 While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scripture might be fulfilled. 13 But now I am coming to you, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have my joy fulfilled in themselves. 14 I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 15 I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one. 16 They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. 17 Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. 18 As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. 19 And for their sake I consecrate myself, that they also may be sanctified in truth.

When Jesus prayed for us knowing that we would be called apart from the world, apart from what people would be ready to accept. This is a narrow path, a difficult road. This is the path to Golgotha. He knew that we would be given a hard time, made fun of and abused, like He was getting ready to be. He was praying out loud about this support from the Father, and this fellowship with Him, so that we would have a foundation to weather the storms of life. Unity with God while we walk this path will sustain us, guide us and give us wisdom.

Jesus was getting ready to pay the price to see this through, that we would be able to draw near to God, finding our hiding place with Him. He also saw to it that we would become God’s possession, He consecrated Himself so that we might be made holy through the truth and His blood. Give God thanks for seeing to our every need in Jesus Christ. christ-2-lg-600x533

Jesus guards us, keeps us and gives us the joy of the Father through our relationships with Him. He is our blessing, our redeemer and He was willing to lay everything down so that we might find life & joy apart from the things and motivations of this dark and broken world. It would come through suffering, but He was willing. We must still endure suffering for His sake, but we count it as an honor that we might be refined by Him, grown in Him and matured by the heart & path of our Savior. We walk this path in the rhythms of His grace.

Father, this life we live as sojourners can be difficult & troubling at times. We know we are called to something higher, but there is so much low hanging fruit, forbidden fruit. Give us strength to walk the path of sanctification, the path of Christ, consecrate us as Your possession. Amen.

 

Jesus’ Pre-Passion Prayer Pt.1

Father, with You there are places where distinctions exist for good reason & there are other places where You remove distinctions according to Your good will. When it comes to the distinction of being in the world, or being in unity with You, give us the strength & faith to be distinctly Yours & separate from the world. Let us all who are Yours walk in unity with You, with Christ as our only distinctive. Amen.

John 17:1-11
When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,
since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10 All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

John 17 contains Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. It is a confession of deity & unity with the Father & a prayer of concern for unity within the people who would claim to walk in Him. This is a beautiful prayer of concern and it bears the stamp of the mission of Jesus Christ to save the lost for the glory of the Father. This is an evidence of the Trinity, and the relationship that God has with Himself, a direction toward eternity and the heart of God that exists there. There is depth and meaning and purpose in this prayer. There is mystery and wonder and praise in this prayer & I daresay that we cannot comprehend the whole of it.

So why does Jesus pray this mystery & praise out loud? Why does He speak of things that we cannot fully comprehend? Why give us this glimpse into the inner working of the heart of God? Well, whenever Jesus prays out loud, it is for our benefit. Every time.

The Lord’s Prayer? He was giving instruction on how to pray. The prayer over Lazarus at the tomb? Done totally and explicitly for our benefit (Jesus says so) so that we might see and hear what is going on. This prayer in John 17? This is a prayer of unity. And in the next section, Jesus is going to pray over all of us who would walk with Him from that time until He comes back. But before He prays about unity for us & over us, He prays to the Father and exhibits the unity that exists within the Godhead. He gives us an example of what He (God) desires to see within us (the Church) before He even prays about it. He is revealing the type of unity that exists between Himself so that we might catch a glimpse of the unity that should exist between us.

And why? Because God knew, before the church was even founded, that we would be prone to separate off into groups and cliques and teams of our own according to how we liked things, what our viewpoints were and how we would interpret scripture. And He didn’t want those distinctives to drive us apart like a wedge when His intention was that we would be united in Jesus Christ…the One who was praying unity over us to begin with.

Does ‘your’ church take communion every week? Do you worship in song with or without instruments, if yes, which ones do you use? Which are acceptable? What do you wear to church? What is the expectation? Does ‘your’ church family all look like you and live in the same racial/socio-economic bracket as you or not? What does ‘your’ church teach about baptism? The authority of Scripture? The marks of obedience and disciple-making? Do you all like pineapple on your pizza or not? We can draw lines all. day. long.

It is more important that people are brought to Christ so they might be restored to God than it is that I am seen as ‘right.’ We must trust in the truth & unity of the Gospel more than in the systems of man. As someone raised in the Restoration Movement, I have been raised with a few particular sayings:

  • We are not the only Christians, but Christians only.
  • In matters of doctrine, unity. In matters of opinion, liberty. In all things, love.
  • Where the Bible speaks, we speak. Where it is silent, we are silent.

Jesus is praying for unity. We should pray for and actively seek unity.
If this is His heart (and it is) then it should be ours as well.
Do not seek to see what divides, but seek to see what unites.
Jesus also said that the world would know that we were His disciples by the love that we have for one another. Good doctrine is essential, absolutely, all day long, yes.
But we can also be like Priscilla & Acquilla were to Apollos and teach correction in love according to the Scriptures rather than draw a line in the sand and get defensive.Let’s lift up unity in Christ, and live it, as well.

Father, with You there are places where distinctions exist for good reason & there are other places where You remove distinctions according to Your good will. When it comes to the distinction of being in the world, or being in unity with You, give us the strength & faith to be distinctly Yours & separate from the world. Let us all who are Yours walk in unity with You, with Christ as our only distinctive. Amen.

Mystery hidden, now known


Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening. Please give us life according to Your Word. Amen.

==

“For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles— assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.

This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.”‭Ephesians‬ ‭3:1-13‬ ‭ESV‬‬

==

It’s a mystery why God loves us as much as He does. I mean, He’s pretty clear in telling us He does, and we know that there is ample love in Him (as the Author of love) to provide the love we all need. We also know that God always seeks to glorify Himself, and rightfully so, and that He is glorified in loving us who have proved ourselves unworthy of His love. This is grace, intertwined with love, at work in us.

There are many mysteries that God has unfolded through Christ, and has yet to unfold as we await His return. The rejoining of Jew and Gentile together is another. God separated a people (the Israelites) for Himself from the rest of humanity, an exhibition of His love, a story of His grace, and an example of sanctification for all the world to see. And in the process, a line was drawn and a separation occurred. But in this rejoining of Jew & Gentile, God showed Himself to be the Great Uniter, to be the One Who Reconciles and the One Who Heals. There is mystery in this rejoining of peoples, a walking back to His original design, and what we find in Eden. One God, One people.

And He chooses to do this through His church. He made promises through Abraham, echoed them through the generations leading up to Christ’s 1st coming, but it doesn’t seem that anyone truly understood just what He was seeking to accomplish through His church (before He birthed it) and I think we still struggle with this work that He seeks to do through her. This hidden mystery, now known, is revealed through Christ & His bride. We are His servants, and He has chosen to reveal this mystery through us. This is a grace, and nothing that we have earned for ourselves. But we do need to be aware of this grace at work in us. We hold something that others lack. We have a sense of belonging that others long for. That God would, in His own way, in His own timing, in His own will, choose to bless the world through us (as He proclaimed He would do through Abram) we find ourselves as children living in the promise, and that is a great blessing to share, indeed.

We should never discount the mystery at work in us, or pass it off as something that belongs to paid ministry staff.

No this inheritance belongs to all of us who walk in Christ. This mystery and joy is something for us all to share in. And it needs to be shared. This is why Paul went on missionary journeys, started churches and found himself in prison and so often persecuted. This is why he still followed up, returned to places where he was accosted, and built relationships with people that had no spiritual foundation when they first met. He knew that the task was worth it, that God was worth it, that the people who needed Jesus were worth it, and so he simply obeyed, a servant of the mysteries, once hidden, now revealed.

We can share in this joy today. We can enjoy the sweet mystery of the Gospel as we watch God unfold Himself, through our testimony, through the example of Christ at work in us, in the lives and hearts of others who still stand in death and darkness.

“…so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him. So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.”

This is my task, and yours, too. We do not invest in this world, but in the mystery of eternity. Because, one day, this mystery will be unfolded to us, and we want to be sure that we have done well with all that He entrusts to us before that day comes to pass.

Acts 18:18-23 // The Work of the Greater Church

Acts 18:18-23The Return Trip to Antioch

“18 So Paul, having stayed on for many days, said good-bye to the brothers and sailed away to Syria. Priscilla and Aquila were with him. He shaved his head at Cenchreae because he had taken a vow. 19 When they reached Ephesus he left them there, but he himself entered the synagogue and engaged in discussion with the Jews. 20 And though they asked him to stay for a longer time, he declined, 21 but he said good- bye and stated, “I’ll come back to you again, if God wills.” Then he set sail from Ephesus.

22 On landing at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church and went down to Antioch. 23 And after spending some time there, he set out, traveling through one place after another in the Galatian territory and Phrygia, strengthening all the disciples.”

Acts 18:18-23 

==

As I look at the ministry of the Apostle Paul, I am reminded again and again of the divisions and separations that have occured over the last 2000 years. Granted, even in the early years and decades of the church, Paul & the other Apostles had to deal with separations and issues that divided the church in its infancy. Some separations were out of necessity. The church had to branch out from Jerusalem, & so disciples wouldn’t make the trip in from Antioch Psidia, Cypur or Rome every week just to attend services. That was quite impossible & so there would have to be separations that took place in the body as it grew & as the faithful multiplied. These separations still exist today. I have friends spread out all over the country and in different places around the world & so it isn’t really practical for us to all gather each week on Sunday for worship & that’s okay. Plus, we know that this separation is temporary. Our eternal gathering will be without these separations over miles. 

Some divisions occured because of culture & language. It wouldn’t make much sense for an Etheopian Christian to become a part of a church in Gaul. The cultures & languages would produce a number of hurdles to overcome, not insurmountable mind you, but enough that no one would blame our Etheopian brothers and sisters for gathering where the communication was easier. Again, this separation is temporary & we still view them as our brother & sisters in Christ, even though our heart languages are different. Even if we couldn’t speak together, we could sing a common song together (each oin our own languages) & participate in a meal or Communion together and understand well enough what was needed in order to spend time together as family. These barriers & separations are normal in this life & we look forward to the day when we all speak as one again in the perfected Kingdom of God. 

Other divisions simply shouldn’t exist and do nothing but separate the body. Sometimes it’s a disagreement over doctrine because one person or group has wandered from the truth & authority of the Word. Some exist over music preferences, instrumentation, dress, traditions & structure. People pick hills to die on that do not honor Christ & that promote division rather than put to death the desires of the flesh & pride. These divisions (not separations, but divisions, rightfully) are not in the plan and desire of God for the bride of Christ & need to be done away with. 

We should all be accountable to the Word itself and not the traditions of men. We need to be sensitive to cultural identities, but at the same time, we must be conscious of the freedoms we have in Christ and the bigger picture of the church universal & our witness to the world. Jesus told us that the world would recognize that we were His by the love that we shared with one another. Division doesn’t work toward that witness. Unity builds and enhances that reputation. Unity must come under the authority of the Word, the doctrines of the faith that are clearly laid out there and in the blood of Christ Himself. We cannot add to it, modify it or subract from it and still be faithful to Him. 

Paul’s journeys between the churches reflected this unity. They cared for one another, took care of each other’s needs, prayed for one another & sought Christ for their cities in a unified effort to take the good news of the Gospel to the nations. Paul encouraged them, and they in turn encouraged him. We should be actively engaged in strengthening one another, pointing hearts and minds back to the Word, living under the authority of God laid out there for us to see. As we GoLove others in Jesus Name, it is crucial that they see a God-honoring & proper example from us as we interact with other believers. They need to see the way we esteeem Christ & His Word & His exmaple of service, grace & love for others. Our integrity comes from this & not from anything that we would do to try to bolster the message, as if it needed our help. 

The Glorious Promise of Grace // Ephesians 1

“In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”
Ephesians 1:7-10 ESV

Unity is something we conceptually understand but have a difficult time experiencing. For the Christian. We struggle daily between the call of God on our life and the sin that acts and moves within us. Our hearts and minds are rarely unified. We know what we ought to seek, we know what we ought to do, but as Paul says, the thing we know we ought to do isn’t what we do, and the thing we ought not do, that we keep on doing. He even says, “What a wretched man I am! Who will save me from this body of death?” And the answer, of course, is Jesus.

Again, from above, everything finds it’s unity in Christ. God’s Master plan, brings everything together in Him. He is the unifier. He is the central point, the hub, of the redemption of Creation. And in the fullness of time,a god will see that work completed. Each of us must decide to seek unity with God through Him. There is no other way.

Also, as Christians, we should be unified together under His banner. Singular in purpose, discipling the world in His Name, we are called to ‘go.’ Not trying to conform to the world, but standing in stark contrast to it. Not trying to meld the two into one, but to bring the world to Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit at work in us. There are far too many divisions, too many schisms within the bride of Christ. The Church is not schizophrenic, she is to be of one mind, one heart with Christ as her head. But too many people try to sculpt her into their own likeness, rather than after the model of Christ.

Unity does not stem from selfishness or personal agendas. Unity does not come from vitriol or pointed fingers. Rather than seeking our own way. We should all humbly submit to the Word, and the wisdom that. God affords us there. He is mystery, but He has not left His will as something mysterious that is hard to discern. Solomon said it in Ecclesiastes, after trying everything there was to experience in this life, he determined that the purpose of life was to fear God and obey His commands. And God has said that our command is to love Him with all our heart, mind and soul, and to love our neighbor as ourselves. And the way this love is accomplished is through the spiritual sacrifice of self for Him, and the sacrifice of self in the pursuit of others in Jesus’ Name. We ‘go’ out daily as the living stones that make up the church. We live and move and share are serve and teach and equip and love others in everything we do. Unified under the banner of the cross, we seek to honor our Redeemer and live lives of thanksgiving.

We have been forgiven, loved, shown wisdom and had knowledge shared with us. God has revealed the mystery of His will to us which is His plan to do this work of unification in Christ. God will be glorified, and He is glorified. He will complete His plan and there is no question of ‘if’ but ‘when.’

The question we must ask ourselves is if we have been unified with Christ, if we are walking as Jesus walked, according to His Spirit and purpose. Are we spending our lives in an effort to GoLove others on His behalf, seeking unity in our heart, mind and soul through Him and for them? Is our life a sacrifice for Him or a seeking after self? Unity must come from a singular purpose. You cannot have a divided unity, it just doesn’t make sense. Either we walk with Christ, on His terms and according to His example or we are doing something different of our own design.

This is not about earning our salvation or saying that our works save us. This is the evidence, the fruit, of God at work in us. Our faith is proven by the life we live each day.

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