Friday, May 20, 2011

God, His Plan and His Gifts (Part 5)

Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.  James 1:17-18

Saved By His Action
James emphatically declares, “He brought us forth by the word of truth.” We sometimes make the statement, “So-and-so was ‘born again’ last week.”  Often as that term is used it refers to the decision made on the part of the person recognizing his need for Christ, so that he repents and believes.  But the biblical use of this term refers to an action taken by God on behalf of the sinner to give him the capacity and desire to believe.  It is an action by God that brings the enslaved will into freedom and the darkened understanding into light and the dead heart into life.

If we keep in mind that man is spiritually dead, then it makes sense that in order to believe (or to “decide for Christ”) he must first be made alive.  While James simply makes the statement, other biblical writers amplify on its meaning. 

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). Ephesians 2:4-5
Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; ... I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. Ezekiel 36:26-27

Saved By His Word of Truth
The agency for this action, according to James, is the word of truth. The gospel of Jesus Christ is applied first inwardly, then externally by the Holy Spirit, bringing the sinner to life. Therefore, our salvation is all of God. It is not our good intentions or great minds or fair motives that bring us to Christ. It is God’s doing through “the word of truth”; through the gospel.

Saved With His Purpose in Mind
James states that the purpose of God in this work is so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.  The first fruits were always the best of the harvest that was reserved for the Lord.  God has set apart those he has regenerated as the first fruits, or the best of the creation for himself.  It is not that we who are regenerated are better by our labors, but our worth is due to the work of God in our hearts. We are therefore, as the first fruits, to be the evidence of God’s gracious work, care, and purpose for his creation. 

The great significance of the “first fruits” is that they belong to the Lord. They were not for common use, but for God’s own purpose. Is that not what happens when we are born of God? We become “holy to the Lord,” “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession,” “children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation,” “a holy temple in the Lord,” “a dwelling of God in the Spirit.”

Because the Lord does not change and because he has done a regenerating work in everyone who is a believer among us, then we can press forward in dependence upon him.  Neither trials nor temptations can change the work of God in our hearts.  Let us live as those who have been raised from the dead by the power of the word of truth, knowing that our salvation is all of God. That which he does lasts forever!

Scripture to Claim:
Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude. Colossians 2:6-7

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