Salvation Work

Noah-Builds-the-Ark-Genesis-6“Make for yourself an ark….” –Genesis 6:14a, ESV

Let’s revisit the first few words of this passage.

See that Noah was to “make.” In other words, he was “to work, labor, fashion” a means of salvation. Not that his work saved him, for it was “by faith Noah, when he was warned about things not yet seen, with reverent regard constructed an ark for the deliverance of his family,” (Heb 11:7a). Yet faith without works “is dead” (Jam 2:17). We hardly trust God’s warning of future judgment or His promise of deliverance if we do not act on His commands “to build” (Eph 4:12).

And let us note Noah was told to first build “for [him]self.” We cannot save another. We can only make all diligence to “work out [our own] salvation with fear and trembling,” (Phi 2:12), and “make every effort to add to [our] faith,” the attributes of the Spirit such as excellence, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly affection, and unselfish love, in order to be productive in our work (2Pe 1:5-8). We plead that our faith covers our whole household (ex: Act 16:31), but each is judged independently (Eze 33:20). So let us make our election sure (2Pe 1:10), and be found faithful, even if only we ourselves are saved (Eze 14:14; Luke 14:26).

“So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence, for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort—for the sake of his good pleasure—is God.” –Philippians 2:12-13, NET 

Billy Neal
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The Withered Fig Tree

withered tree

And when the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither away so soon?” So Jesus answered and said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.” — Matthew 21:20-22

Men, the disciples have watched as Jesus judges a fig tree and it withers away. Mark and Luke tell us, the following day the 12 noted that it was dead. Modern herbicides couldn’t do what Jesus has done. While the 12 marvel, Jesus answers, “Assuredly, if you have faith and do not doubt”… they too can do as Jesus has done. Again, faith and believing are 2 different concepts used together. Faith is “seeing” as Jesus would see, and then believing God will do it through us.

Jesus saw the tree as fruitless and dead. The next day, it was. He goes on and says mountains can be removed and cast into the sea. With the parting of the Red Sea during the Exodus, we recognize that there is a very real and literal component to this statement. More often, Jesus is speaking of the Spiritual. Mountains are often used to describe kingdoms in the prophetic. The sea often represents Gentiles. This is before Gentiles came to Jesus en masse. Kingdoms are often ideologies opposed to Godliness.

In short, Jesus may be saying that by seeing as He does, and praying without doubt, the oppression which comes against them will be turned back upon their oppressors. Jesus closes this lesson saying “whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive.”

Let’s be real a moment. We seldom pray. We petition. Prayer is a conversation. We mostly toss a request list at the sky and hope for the best. If we are praying, which is hearing and asking in agreement, and believe what we are hearing back from Him, God will engage with us.

I often cringe at writing this knowing too few can discern the voice of the Lord from any other spirit or from their own desire. Even so, the passage speaks and we need to know what is available to true believers. It’s not a magic show, it’s asking for what He is showing us. It is not by any power within us, but His power on display as we agree with what He wants to do.

Move forward men, asking to see, ask Him to remove the doubt and show you again.

Vance Durrance

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Unlocking Favor

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“Jonathan said to his armor-bearer, ‘Come on, let’s go over to the garrison of these uncircumcised men. Perhaps the Lord will intervene for us. Nothing can prevent the Lord from delivering, whether by many or by a few.’” –1 Samuel 14:6

Read 1 Samuel 13-15 and contrast these two men: Saul and Jonathan. It is startling to witness the way God demonstrates distinctions. And so it should not surprise us when later Jonathan humbly steps aside to let his rule pass to another (1Sa 23:17), while Saul becomes filled with bitter hatred (1Sa 19:1).

So see here where Saul continues to sit in disobedience (14:2), worrying about dwindling numbers (13:8), Jonathan is focused only on the victory (14:10)—boldly seeking to advance the kingdom without permission from men (14:1), and unconcerned with the fact it was just him and his armor bearer with only a single sword between them (13:22). Saul is so preoccupied with the need for a religious sacrifice to unlock favor (13:12), that he neglects obedience (10:8; 15:22). Yet Jonathan trusted in the greatness of the Lord and His promise of deliverance (9:16) and putting thousands to flight when He was the object of trust (Lev 26:7-8; Deu 28:7). Jonathan understood that it is God who fights for His people (Jos 23:10), and so he sought not the favor of his father (14:29), but only the true king of Israel—the LORD (14:12; Psa 24:8).

And so how often is our advance halted when we, like Saul, look to earthly evidence of strength (13:5-6), seeking greater numbers to give us confidence? How often do we cause ourselves and others to blunder (14:32) and lose sight of love (14:39) by exalting our own will above God’s (14:24,32). How often do we limit our own victory (14:30), by making the battle about us (14:24), seeking to honor ourselves (15:12).

Oh, Lord, help us to live as Jonathan, not depending on any religious practices to garner favor with You, but help us to activate the favor promised us by moving forward in obedience through faith. You have promised us the victory!

Billy Neal

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Impossible to Possible

impossible-possible
tick possible

When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?”  But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” — Matthew 19:25-26

Men, earlier, Jesus has spoken to a rich man who was not willing to give up possessions to follow Jesus. Jesus said it was easier to pass a camel through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God. The disciples, hearing this, were astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Some think they can inherit the Kingdom upon their own merit, riches, or efforts, but when presented with the truth of where that line of thinking ends, the disciples are disheartened and fearful.

We too become embroiled in doubt and fear when we hear such passages. Perhaps that is good for many of us. If doubt creeps into one’s mind, it is reasonable to ask Holy Spirit for affirmation. It is also good to ask Holy Spirit to search out our hearts, if there be anything hindering “a closer walk with thee”. The disciples are not rich any longer. They have walked away from trades and positions. They now wonder what this all means for them. Jesus answers their hearts. “With men, this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.”

The rich man, the 12, you sir, and myself as well, we can accomplish no good thing to inherit the Kingdom upon our own strength, wisdom or resolve. But! Praise the living Lord God, that through Him a provision is made, a way has been given unto men to be called children of God. The impossible: the cleansing of tainted hearts and unclean hands, the repair of a severed connection to the Spirit of God, the appointment of dominion which had been forfeited earlier by our common earthly father Adam, has been restored, and made possible by the Lord God of Heaven.

This is a passage to sing and shout about. What was lost, stolen, cut off, and removed has now been returned, restored, and given unto us all to share in abundantly. Entering the Kingdom of Heaven is no longer restricted for those who call on the name of Jesus.

Move forward men, as sons, and if sons then heirs. Walk into the “possible” which has been supplied to us.

Vance Durrance

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Drawing Out Faith

Drawing Out Faith

Then Jesus went out from there and departed to the region of Tyre and Sidon. And behold, a woman of Canaan came from that region and cried out to Him, saying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David! My daughter is severely demon-possessed.”

But He answered her not a word.

And His disciples came and urged Him, saying, “Send her away, for she cries out after us.” But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Then she came and worshiped Him, saying, “Lord, help me!” –Matthew 15:21-25.

Men, Jesus leaves Gennesaret for the region of Tyre and Sidon. These are Pagan territories, and a Canaanite (Gentile) woman comes to Him crying out for mercy. Her daughter is severely demon-possessed. Jesus doesn’t answer her. The woman cried out so much that the disciples ask Jesus to send her away. Jesus replies, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of Israel”. The “Lost Sheep” is a good study of its own. But then, she came and worshipped Him, begging Him, “Lord help me!”

We read this and find Jesus uncharacteristically cold and distant. Remember, this is Pagan lands and a Gentile woman. To grant her request without then being filled with Himself would leave her daughter vulnerable to a worse condition (12:43-45). Jesus is basically on a retreat here from His primary mission. He will soon leave with only this occasion recorded.

We are told to pray continually, to ask, seek and knock, it is written that many prayed day and night to God, others fasted with prayer. As with this woman, Jesus is drawing out our faith. Jesus could have healed the daughter without all this drama. It would have been cheap and forgettable. Jesus drew out her focus on Him as her only hope. This woman won’t be allowed to come and make a private plea for help and walk away to her other gods without a life changing moment to reflect back on. She is challenged to appeal to Jesus’ mercy from beyond any merit of her own. The woman now acknowledges Jesus beyond a resource to her need. V25 says she worshipped Him. “Lord, help me!”

This is our lesson today. How many of us will continue to pray while Jesus seems silent? How many will pray when we feel we’ve been denied His answer? How many will worship Him before we get what we want?

Move forward men, identifying Jesus as Lord regardless of how He responds. He is not God, because He is merciful to us. He does not belong to us that we should make drive thru value menu prayers to satisfy our wishes. Is He Lord God of your life?

Vance Durrance

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