JOHN SHIRK – Ephesians 2, verses 8 and 9-“For it is by grace you have been saved through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God-not by works, so that no one can boast.”
God’s grace is a gift to be received, not a paycheck that can be earned. At Christmastime, we often exchange presents with loved ones. But imagine if you offered a gift to a family member, and that gift was refused. Would that person benefit from the gift?
Not all gifts offered are received, and this especially applies to the gift of God’s grace in the person of Jesus Christ, who came to save His people from their sins. John 1:11 says about Jesus, “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become the children of God.” Faith in Jesus is identified in this passage as receiving Him as Savior and Lord. When we believe in His name, we are given the privilege of belonging to His family.
A Receptive Heart to Jesus as Lord and Savior is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK- From Psalm 86, verse 7.
“In the day of trouble I will call to you, for you will answer me.”
What kind of person would be prepared to call on God in times of trouble? We find insight in verses 1 and 2 in this chapter. It’s the person who perceives themselves as poor and needy, and someone who is devoted to God.
This is a statement of faith in a loving God, who answers our prayers and cares about us in our times of need. He might take us out of our trouble, or He might bring us through it. The important thing is that He will always be with us and for us as we live a devoted life to Him. That means, that He is our source of strength when we feel weak. He is near enough to hear the cry of our heart, and to weep with us when we feel sad. He is also able to rescue us from our greatest enemies. The assurance of God’s love for us is a motivating influence for us to pray to Him.
Reliant faith in God in times of trouble is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
2012 is the Year of Transformation at WJTL. Listen for stories of changed lives by the Gospel and life application truths from God’s Word.
Today’s Life Application Truth comes from Hebrews 12:6 and 7.
“The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son. Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons.”
We would probably question the love of a parent for a child if that parent gave that child everything they wanted, never had them do chores around the house, and never corrected them when they made wrong choices. That child would never be motivated to grow up.
Hebrews 12 talks about the value of God’s discipline on those people who do not ignore it or become discouraged by it. Verse 11 says, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” The implication is that God’s discipline is an opportunity to grow into spiritual maturity. That is one of the reasons He allows us to experience hardship.
Spiritual maturity, learned out of hardship, is a vital sign of a changed life in the Year of Transformation.
JOHN SHIRK – To have noble character is to possess qualities of high moral character such as courage, generosity, or honor.
When God sent Jesus to the world, He chose Joseph and Mary to raise Him in their home. They were not perfect, but they were persons of noble character. Mary was a virgin who was willing to serve God by carrying Jesus to birth. Joseph was a righteous man who would become a loving husband and father and look after the well-being of his family. When the time was right, their character was in place to be used of God with a heavenly mission.
Living with high moral character is God’s will for our lives too. Colossians 3:12 says, “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.”
Noble character is a quality that enables us to represent Jesus in the world today.
JOHN SHIRK – One definition of praise is to joyfully thank and adore God.
There are many expressions of praise among God’s people surrounding the birth of Jesus.
Mary, the mother of Jesus, said, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.”
Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist said, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come and has redeemed his people.”
The heavenly host said, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
And after seeing Jesus, the shepherds returned to their fields, glorifying and praising God for what they had heard and seen.
This Christmas season is an opportunity for us to praise God for His precious gift of grace available through Jesus Christ.
Praise is a quality that enables us to represent Jesus in the world today.
JOHN SHIRK – To have a sense of wonder is to marvel or have a feeling of awe or admiration.
Sometimes, we see the glitter in the eyes of children enjoying the Christmas season with a sense of wonder.
The first child to capture the wonder of the true meaning of Christ’s birth was John the Baptist. His response to the presence of Jesus is recorded for us in Luke 1, verse 41. He leaped in his mother’s womb. Even before John the Baptist was born, he was filled and moved by the Holy Spirit.
The example of John the Baptist reminds us that the birth of Jesus is a reason to jump for joy with a sense of wonder. We are not alone. Immanuel has come. God is with us. Through the gift of Jesus, we have the opportunity to experience God’s peace and grace forever.
Wonder is a character quality that enables us to represent Jesus in the world today.
JOHN SHIRK – Optimism sees the favorable side of events or conditions. Optimism also anticipates the best possible outcome.
Winston Churchill described the difference between a pessimist and optimist this way: The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.
Based on this description, we can be motivated by the optimism of Paul’s faith in the Bible, which propelled him forward in God’s plan. In Second Corinthians 4:8, he said, “we are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted; but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” As we can see from Paul’s statement, optimism does not mean that we deny reality. However, we do view reality through the lens of God’s effective grace being our source of strength in the midst of life’s difficulties.
Paul also had an optimistic view of the future. In verse 16 of the same chapter, he said, “Therefore, we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly, we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that outweighs them all.”
Optimism is a character quality that enables us to represent Jesus in the world today.
JOHN SHIRK – Sometimes, meekness is seen as a timid characteristic. We sing of the Christ child being born meek and mild. Because a baby is frail by nature, we might tend to equate meekness with weakness. But according to author Dave Harvey, ‘meekness has nothing to do with being weak or passive. Meekness is power harnessed by love.’
This is a particularly strong characteristic when it comes to responding to sin. With meekness, we entrust ourselves to God, and do not let the sin of others lead us into a sinful response. This involves restraining angry outbursts, keeping a check on the words we use, and refraining from seeking revenge.
Psalm 37:7 says, “Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret-it leads only to evil.”
Meekness is a character quality that enables us to represent Jesus in the world today.
JOHN SHIRK – To be effervescent is to be vivacious, bubbling with energy and enthusiasm.
In the Christian life, effervescence flows out of a daily, vibrant relationship with Jesus. Out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. As God’s Spirit moves in us, there is fruit in the form of godly characteristics. Love, joy, peace, patience, and kindness, to name a few. The influence of Jesus stirs us to be a radiant witness for Him.
Jesus says in John 7:38, “Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water flow from within him.”
Effervescence is a character quality that enables us to represent Jesus in the world today.
JOHN SHIRK – With a childlike faith, we live with the wonder and awe of what Christ has done for us. We rely completely on His grace. We trust hopefully in His promises. What He tells us, we will believe. Where we lack understanding, we ask questions with the sincere desire to learn what Jesus wants to teach us.
Oftentimes, adults think of ways they can be an example for children, but when it comes to faith, Jesus tells the adults to learn from the example of children.
In Matthew 18:2, Jesus called a little child and had him stand among them. Then, He said, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”
A Childlike faith is a humble character quality that enables us to represent Jesus in the world today.