He Will Accomplish

It’s a relief to know that I don’t have to manufacture even the wanting, let alone the strength.

I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.  And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Ezekiel 36:26-27 

God is promising his scattered and backslidden people here that he will bring them back and give them a new heart to follow him. What I found interesting as I studied the Hebrew word meanings in these verses is that the words translated “move” and “keep” are the same word. It is asah and means to do, fashion, accomplish, make. So, these verses say something like, I will give you a new heart and put my Spirit there and cause you, fashion you, accomplish in you, the ability to follow my decrees and be careful to accomplish, to do, my laws. 

This reminded me of this wonderful verse in Isaiah 26:12:

LORD, you establish peace for us; all that we have accomplished you have done for us.

Only he has the power to change us, make us new, and give us the ability to follow and obey Him. This also reminded me of a New Testament verse promising the Church the same thing. 

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed— not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence— continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Philippians 2:12-13 

And, again, here as in Ezekiel, the words translated “works” and “act” are the same word. The word is energeo, which means to be active, efficient, do, be effectual, fervent, be mighty in, shew forth self, work effectually in. The New Living Testament translates verse 13 this way: 

For God is working (energeo) in you, giving you the desire to obey him and the power to do (energeo) what pleases him. 

Isn’t that amazing grace? God will move you, give you a new heart, work in you, the desire, the will, the strength and ability to do what he asks you to do. He doesn’t even require us to come up with the will or the desire. And that’s a good thing, because so many times we are overwhelmed, feeling defeated, depressed, sucker-punched breathless by this life. It’s a relief to know that I don’t have to manufacture even the wanting, let alone the strength. He will accomplish in me what he desires.  

Surrender to him today. We can’t be righteous ourselves, we can’t do good alone. Let him work in you a new heart, a renewed mind. Let him breathe into you his breath, his life, his strength – that you might do his mighty works, love with his unfailing love, accomplish his good will for you and this hurting world. 

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21 

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

Captured

During a bible study at the jail I mentioned to a woman that we are all the same in God’s eyes, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. She responded, “Yeah, we just got caught.”

“No man’s really any good till he knows how bad he is, or might be; till he’s realised exactly how much right he has to all this snobbery, and sneering, and talking about ‘criminals,’ as if they were apes in a forest ten thousand miles away; … till he’s squeezed out of his soul the last drop of the oil of the Pharisees; till his only hope is somehow or other to have captured one criminal, and kept him safe and sane under his own hat.” Father Brown in G.K. Chesterton’s The Secret of Father Brown, 1927

The above quote reminded me of a conversation I had with a woman at the jail recently. During a bible study I mentioned that we are all the same in God’s eyes, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. She responded, “Yeah, we just got caught.”

Funny, but true. Jesus made it clear who the criminals are.

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’ is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” Matthew 5:21-22 (NIV)

But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Matthew 5:27 (NIV)

In our natural selves we are all caught. Caught in the act. We are all criminals. But Jesus came to capture us in our captivity to sin. He told Peter, “Do not fear, from now on you will be catching men” (Luke 5:10). That word translated “catching” is zogreo (ζωγρέω) and literally means to capture or take alive. At its very root is the Greek word ago (ἄγω ) which means “to lead by accompanying to (or into) a place.” “To take alive” sounds fearful, but his heart is always mercy and love. He captures us to lead us to that place of salvation and peace.

When he ascended to the heights, he led a crowd of captives (he led captivity captive), and he gave gifts to his people. Ephesians 4:8 (NLT)

He led captivity captive. He captured the captives – we who are captured by our sin, slaves to the enemy of our souls. Yes, it’s true we are all criminals that need to be captured, but Father Brown was wrong about one thing. We can’t do it ourselves. There is only One who can. There is only One who can keep us “safe and sane under our own hats.” Jesus – who was considered a criminal, though he never sinned outwardly or inwardly. He loved us and allowed himself to be captured and executed that we might be captured and set free as new creatures. We must surrender, wave the white flag, and let the Lover of our souls lead us away.

Lord, let me be in that crowd of captives. Captured by your grace.

A thousand times I’ve failed
Still your mercy remains
Should I stumble again
Still I’m caught in your grace

From the Inside Out by Joel Houston

Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned; renew (repair, make new) our days as of old.  Lamentations 5:21 (KJV)

Can plunder be taken from warriors, or captives rescued from the fierce? But this is what the LORD says: “Yes, captives will be taken from warriors, and plunder retrieved from the fierce; I will contend with those who contend with you, and your children I will save. Isaiah 49:24-25 (NIV)

For it is by grace [God’s remarkable compassion and favor drawing you to Christ] that you have been saved [actually delivered from judgment and given eternal life] through faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [not through your own effort], but it is the [undeserved, gracious] gift of God. Ephesians 2:8 (Amplified Bible)

For more on being caught in his wonderful love read Imprisoned

Photo by Jack Bair copyright 2019

Completed

When it is accomplished that the way God sees things is how I see things, that when my heart and soul are woven together with the heart of God through Jesus to make one heart, then I will be completed.

My flesh and my heart (soul, understanding, mind) may fail, but God is the strength (Rock) of my heart and my portion (share, possession) forever. Psalm 73:26 (NIV)

This is such a wonderful verse – in fact my life verse – but still it has always had a slightly negative connotation to me. Flesh failing, mind going, like the decay and decline of old age. And it does mean that – this earthly body and mind will fail – but there is a hidden treasure in this verse. It’s kind of an opposite way of thinking. We usually think of getting old and dying as a bad thing, as losing things, a falling apart. But I think there is more here, and a very positive message too.

The word translated flesh in the above verse is the noun sheer (שְׁאֵר).[i] It means flesh, body, physical strength. The secret message is hidden in its root, which is the verb sha’ar (שָׁאַר). Sha’ar means to remain, be left over, be left behind. Yes! This failing body is what is left behind. I love that image, that my flesh may soon be left behind, like Elijah’s robe falling to earth from the chariot of fire on his way to glory. And I don’t think he looked back for an instant. He was on his way to his Strength, his Rock, his Portion, his God.

The second message of hope is the seemingly hopeless word translated “fail.” It is kalah (כָּלָה ) and it doesn’t mean stumble and fall, mess up, like we would think. It means be accomplished, finished, be completed. How glorious! My time here may be finished, but, hopefully, what God intended in my flesh and heart will have been accomplished. I will be complete.  If God is my Rock, it will be as the last strokes of the artist’s brush on his masterpiece, the signing of His Name in the corner of my heart.

Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed (renovated, made new, changed into a new kind of life) day by day. 2 Corinthians 4:16 (NASB)

Oswald Chambers described it this way:

There is nothing, naturally speaking, that makes us lose heart quicker than decay—the decay of bodily beauty, of natural life, of friendship, of associations, all these things make a man lose heart; but Paul says when we are trusting in Jesus Christ these things do not find us discouraged, light comes through them. [ii]

Light comes through them! Light comes through decay, this failing of the mind and flesh. I love that! It makes me think of a threadbare curtain, washed over and over, until it is so thin you can see right through it. You can see the light. Hopefully, you can see Jesus shining out of me.

The eye is the lamp of the body; so then if your eye is clear, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light that is in you is darkness, how great is the darkness! Matthew 6:22-23 (NASB)

The word translated “clear” in the above verse is the Greek word haplous (ἁπλοῦς ) which means “single.” When my eye is single my body is full of light. It comes from the word that means to plait, braid, or weave together into one. I believe this means that when it is accomplished that the way God sees things is how I see things, that when my heart and soul are woven together with the heart of God through Jesus to make one heart, then I will be completed. My earthly flesh and heart may get more and more threadbare, but that just means His Light will be able to shine through, brighter and brighter. Yes Lord, be the strength of my heart. Complete your work in me.

For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect (accomplish, finish, complete) it until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:6 (NASB)

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on …  Philippians 3:12 (NASB)

 

[i] All definitions from Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible

[ii] Oswald Chambers. The Place of Help

Image in the Public Domain from pxhere.com

3 + 3 = 1

 

“God loves messes.” Pastor Troy Gentz

“He changes things.” Reverend David Sidwell

 

The above three-word sermons-in-a-sentence were part of two teachings I heard lately. I think these six words equal one passionate, grace filled message. God is always whispering his love.

If your life right now seems like a ruin, trust in him; surrender it all over to him. God loves you in your mess. But he loves your mess too. It gives him the chance to demonstrate how much he loves you, and his redeeming power to transform. He changes things.

I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me? Jeremiah 32:37 (NIV)

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NIV)

For nothing is impossible with God. Luke 1:37 (NIV)

 

Image in the public domain

Sawdust

God may be doing a demolition and rebuilding in your brothers and sisters, but you won’t be able to see it if you have not started your own demolition. All you will see is the sawdust in their eyes. The beams in our eyes hold up self-made structures that become the prisons of our souls. The beams need to be pulled out, as from a Jenga tower, so the structures can collapse and be rebuilt.

Why do you look at the speck of sawdust (karpos) in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank (dokos) in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take (ekballo) the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye. Matthew 7: 3-5 (NIV)

It’s easy to think of the first person (with the speck) in the above verse as having a little problem or sin, and the second person (with the plank) as having a bigger problem or sin. But, the three Greek words, karpos, dokos, and ekballo, tell a deeper story – a story of redemption.

Karpos (κάρφος) is a small particle, as a splinter of straw or wood; a dry stalk, a chip of wood, twig, splinter, or chaff. These small particles are usually the resultant left-overs from carpentry work or from threshing and winnowing wheat – unimportant garbage that is swept up or blown away.

There are a lot of sawdust and splinters flying around in the Carpenter’s shop. There is a lot of chaff blowing in the wind when the wheat is being winnowed, or refined and cleansed, until only the good grain is left. Like the first person, it would be easy to get a speck of it in your eye. To stick with the first metaphor, the Carpenter is building something in a person, or in us, but sometimes all we see is the mess the process makes – or we can’t see what he’s doing at all because of the sawdust in our eyes. We have to trust that he knows what he’s doing.

The second person has a dokos in his eye. Dokos (δοκός) is a beam of wood. It comes from a word that means “to hold up.” This beam is “a large beam (joist) of wood; “a beam of timber[i]; “a log on which planks in the house rest … joist, rafter, plank.”[ii] ”The term beam of wood refers to a very big piece of wood, the main beam of a building, in contrast to the speck in the other’s eye.”[iii] These beams sound essential, holding up a structure. Jesus says the person with the beam needs to ekaballo (ἐκβάλλω), pluck, pull, take, or thrust it out of his eye – this beam that is holding up the whole structure! It reminds me of a giant Jenga game where you pull out the wrong block and everything crashes down. But Jesus says the structure must be dismantled in order for us to see clearly to help our brother with the speck.

But what is this structure? Jesus calls the plank-eyed brother a hypocrite, or “an actor under an assumed character, a stage-player.”[iv] So maybe the structure is a stage, or even an elaborate theater, a self-made structure where a self-chosen part is played. We may build these theaters to make us feel good about ourselves, to protect a fragile ego, to hide a broken heart. We may play the part of smug self-competence, better-than-you self-righteousness, hard invulnerability, a discerning Judge dispensing well-meant criticism or confident condemnation. Or the structures could be those of racism or prejudice or assumptions, long-held, long-built. Whatever it is, the parts we play, the structures we build and cling to, blind us to the needs of others, and blind us to our true identities.

Jesus wants to tear them down and start a very messy demolition. He wants to re-make us.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new (kainos) creation (ktisis); the old has gone, the new has come! 2 Corinthians 5:17 (NIV)

The Greek word kainos means new, recently made, fresh (can you smell the wood shavings?). Ktisis means a building or creation. A new, recently made, building or creation. We are all in the process of redemption. God may be doing a demolition and rebuilding in your brothers and sisters, but you won’t be able to see it if you have not started your own demolition. All you will see is the sawdust in their eyes. The beams in our eyes hold up self-made structures that become the prisons of our souls. The beams need to be pulled out, as from a Jenga tower, so the structures can collapse and be rebuilt.

Lord, show me if I have a beam in my eye, and if I do, what structure it holds up. Help me to pull out the beam and let that building fall so you can start re-building me today.

We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:5 (NIV)

“Look, I am making all things new!” Revelation 21:5 (NLT)

 

Photograph, Granada Theater, Chicago, 1990, taken by Genial 23, from flikr.com

 

[i] A Manual Greek Lexicon of the New Testament by G. Abbott-Smith.

[ii] James Moffatt’s New Testament Commentaries.

[iii] Louw, Johannes P., and Eugene Nida, eds. Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains. New York, NY: United Bible Societies, 1988.

[iv] Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.