“A Renewed Challenge”
The Rev. Lou Tiscione, Pastor, Weatherford Presbyterian Church (PCA)
“Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name! For the LORD is good; his steadfast love endures forever, and his faithfulness to all generations.”
Psalm 100:4-5 (ESV)
We have been blessed with a New Year in which to praise God! Before thinking of “new” things, look back on God’s grace. Think of the blessings from Him in 2017.
My wife and I were blessed again by God in giving our family two new members. Granddaughters Frankie Lou and Dinah were born in 2017. My wife, Laurie and I now have seven grandchildren. We thank our Lord every day for His blessings. As King David wrote, 1Chronicles 29:14b, “All things come from (God)…”
So then, in the light of our merciful God, I offer a renewed challenge for 2018. I challenge myself and you all to deepen your passion for God. In other words, commit to pursue godliness; to obey the Lord’s command to “be holy”, Leviticus 11:44 and 1Peter 1:15-16.
This renewed challenge, the pursuit of godliness, is one resolution that will be kept for all who call upon the Lord. He will work in you and conform you to Christ! Philippians 2:12-13
Those whom God justifies are in Christ. Those who are in Christ pursue godliness. Those who are in Christ are so by God’s grace alone and the pursuit of godliness is God’s work of free grace that progressively makes the one in Christ more and more like Him.
In other words, the renewed challenge I lay before you is to live in Christ every day by dying to self and living for God. A genuine Christian will meet this challenge with joy in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Bible declares that those who are in Christ are chosen by God. “… He (God the Father) chose us in Him (Christ) before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.” Ephesians 1:4 Notice that God the Father acted by choosing men and women before He laid the foundation of the world. He chose them to be in Christ. This is all by the sovereign will and action of God. This truth revealed by God is called Unconditional Election.
Therefore, those who are in Christ are there solely by God’s grace, Ephesians 2:8-9. God makes Christians! It is necessary to be clear on what it means to be a Christian. A genuine Christian is a sinner chosen by God to be holy in Christ. God does this through the gospel. The gospel is God’s power to save, Romans 1:16. God raises a dead sinner to life and through God’s gift of faith the sinner places his trust in Jesus as He is offered in the gospel.
Salvation doesn’t end there. The renewed challenge engaged in and that will be kept is: Christians will be made holy. God made this promise, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful – for He cannot deny Himself.” 2Timothy 2:13 Further, God has said, “… He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” Philippians 1:6
God’s will for those who are in Christ is holiness, 1Thessalonians 4:3. God will complete what He starts but those who are in Christ are not robots. Christians are exhorted to work out their salvation because God is at work in them, Philippians 2:12-13. I have been made a Christian by God’s grace alone and He causes me to pursue godliness. I have the assurance that I am in Christ by my desire to obey Him. God confirms that I belong to Him by His Spirit speaking to my spirit, Romans 8:16.
So then, what is the renewed challenge? Simply put, the renewed challenge for professing Christians is: pursue the things of God! The desire to engage in this pursuit was given by God at conversion. All who are in Christ have this desire.
By God’s will we are called to engage with Him in this pursuit. “By the mercies of God… be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Romans 12:1, 2
Meet this challenge God’s way through a local church centered in the word of God. The church is God’s instrument by which His people “grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.” Ephesians 4:15
Happy New Year in the Lord!