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  • From the Cedar Street Times, Pacific Grove

What does God say about the heart of the matter?

If Jesus is some fictional character and did not die on a cross for our sins, what is the point of Christianity? Paul tells us that without the resurrection, we would all be wasting our miserable lives following a lie, 1 Cor 15:17-19, “And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.” God wants us to know our hope of eternal life is real. So, Jesus spent forty days with His people, after His resurrection, to leave us eyewitnesses proving He was not some fictional character, Jn 15:27, “And ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning.” and 2 Pet 1:16, “For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” and Acts 1:3, 8, “To whom also he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God…But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.”

Matt 20:18-19, “Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be betrayed unto the chief priests and unto the scribes, and they shall condemn him to death, And shall deliver him to the Gentiles to mock, and to scourge, and to crucify him: and the third day he shall rise again.” Jesus told His disciples what was going to happen to Him when they went to Jerusalem. He wanted them to be able to reflect on this prophecy when they were face to face with Him after His resurrection. He knew they would need to call on this additional piece of evidence, to strengthen their resolve when they were on the road completing the great commission He was about to give them.

Rom 8:1-39, “1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” the Spirit calls us toward good and away from sin, “2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” We no longer seek our own, and we no longer work to fulfill the law, for we are already freed from sin, when we live in the Spirit of life in Christ, “3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:” For Jesus lived the perfect life, without sin, dying to provide us a path away from sin and death. “4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” we cannot fulfill the law by trying to follow it; we must rather follow the Spirit, which fulfills the law for us, “5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit.” As we follow the Spirit, the life of the flesh begins to dim, “6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” eventually, we no longer seek the flesh, and all that we willingly do is no longer subject to the law of sin and death. “8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.” It is the love of God that leads us away from the flesh and into a pleasing spiritual relationship with God. And, to prevent any misunderstanding, God explains what the fruit of the Spirit is, Gal 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.”

Romans 8 continued, “9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his. 10 And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.” It is God who straightens us and releases us from the bondage of the flesh, “12 Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 13 For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.” for we become sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus, “15 For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father” crying out to our Father, as His Spirit bares witness to our adoption, “16 The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: 17 And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.”

Romans 8 continued, “18 For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” and whatever we suffer in this life will pale when compared to the eternal glory He will reveal to us. “19 For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God. 20 For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, 21 Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.” We can witness the groaning and the travails of this world if we would only be honest enough to look at this dying world through the lens of God’s perfect eyes. He created everything and pronounced it perfect, only to watch us destroy it with sin. “23 And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body.” yes, we hunger for His return. “24 For we are saved by hope: but hope that is seen is not hope: for what a man seeth, why doth he yet hope for?” It is the hope He offers us of something better, something greater, that calls us to change. This is the reason we all know something is wrong with this world. None of us honestly believes this world is perfect. It is His hope that calls us to be patient enough to wait for what is to come, “25 But if we hope for that we see not, then do we with patience wait for it.” It is His hope that sustains us when all looks bleak, it is His hope that draws us to stay the course when others feel hopeless, it is this hope Jesus brought us that changes our hearts and draws us to the only love that can save us.

Romans 8 continued, “26 Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” It is God’s will that moves His plan toward completion, and He has told us that all things work together for good for those of us who love Him, “29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” When God chose His plan, He looked into the future and saw us, those willing to return His love, and He made sure all things work together for our good. He faithfully steps in to protect us, His future family, from much of the evil the devil would bring, “31 What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” God allowed His own Son to suffer to guarantee His plan would be completed, “32 He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” We can be assured that all of our suffering is allowed only because it is the best way, as Jesus proved when He suffered for us. “33 Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. 34 Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” It is Christ who died for us and our salvation, who then is able to separate us from His family, “35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” Nothing can separate us from His love, “36 As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. 37 Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. 38 For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39 Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Rom 10:9-10, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” This is how we are saved, and it is only possible because Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected, and it is this truth once believed, which leads us to God’s love and His eternal family. It is the heart of the matter!

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