The Blessing of Being Accepted in Christ (Part II)

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:4-10

The blessing of salvation and our new relationship with Christ is that we didn’t do anything to earn it. God initiated this relationship and we just responded to His loving kindness towards us. It wasn’t our idea. We didn’t just decide one day that it’s a good day or a good age to accept the Lord into our lives. He is the one who placed the conviction in our hearts that we are sinners in need of forgiveness. Then as newborn babes, He put a hunger in our hearts to desire Him and grow in Him!

Paul reminds us that salvation is a gift of God. We have nothing to boast about or to become prideful about. We can’t look down upon others for not being saved. If it wasn’t for the Lord and His rich mercies, we would still be in sin and would be living in guilt and shame that was piled upon us from years past. Praise be to God and the Lord Jesus Christ whose rich mercy and grace freed us from sin and brought us to the Kingdom of God! We live this life in humility knowing that we are totally and utterly dependent on the Lord on daily basis!

The beauty and the blessing of being accepted by the Lord is that He is the one who started the good work in our lives and He will complete it! He didn’t leave us in charge of our spiritual lives. We continue to only respond and partner with Him in this journey called life. He has a plan for the work that He has for us before the creation of the world! This is a relief from striving or trying to figure out what we need to do!

Many believers including myself have struggled to figure out what good works we are supposed to do. How should we impact the Kingdom!? We want to be good stewards of our time, treasure, temple, and talents. The problem is that those kinds of questions sometimes lead us to strive We try to figure out with our minds how to please God and achieve His objectives. Sometimes, we come up with creative ways to do the work of the Kingdom, and at other times, we just join a group and try to do something to ensure we are serving and ministering. All along we may not be sure if the Lord is doing directing all the “good works” or if it is our restlessness that makes us just want to do something.

The above scripture reminds us that God has already prepared the good works that He has for us. He actually planned them long before we were born or accepted Jesus into our lives! The good works that He has for us are not separated from the good work that He does in our lives. They are the outworking and the byproduct of a life lived out under His Lordship and obedience. Just as God has planned for us to be transformed into the image of His son, He also has a plan how He will use us in the Kingdom to reveal that image to others. Isn’t that awesome!? We can’t transform ourselves into the image of Jesus. We only respond to His promptings and surrender our will, so He can develop and shape us in Jesus’ image. Similarly, we can’t conjure up good works for God. We don’t see Godly Biblical characters coming up with ideas to keep themselves busy in doing good works. The Lord directed them to it, and He will direct us to it.

In the meantime, we do the best we can with all the other responsibilities we have before us. We get to fellowship with the Lord, remain in His love, Listen to His voice, obey His word, and be available to what He asks us to do. We love our family, friends, neighbors, and strangers on our path. The above scripture tells us that we will walk in the good works that He has for us. In the course of daily life, we will come upon those people and situations that require our attention.

Our challenge is to believe that our good works for God will not always happen in the context of ministry. It is not a job, a role, or a task that needs to be done. It is a relationship with the almighty God who instructs and directs us to do certain things at certain times. When we don’t have a specific task to do, we can rest assured that God still loves us and we can be secure in His love not our works for Him.


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The Blessing of Being Accepted in Christ (Part I)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,  having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:3-6

Paul began the letter to the Ephesians by explaining our redeemed relationship with Christ. He explained that the Lord has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ and that He chose us before the foundation of the world! God’s desire for His people is to be in fellowship with Him and to live in His acceptance!

God created Adam and Eve perfectly to live and walk with Him! Because of the sin that they committed, Adam & Eve lost their relationship with a holy God and sin brought blame and shame into the world. By the time, it reached the next generation, murder had already entered the human experience through Cain (see Genesis 4:3-7).

After Adam and Eve, the blame and shame had grown to such a degree that Cain could not handle Able’s success and acceptance by God. Cain did not offer what the Lord had asked of him but instead of trying to make it right with the Lord, he became jealous of his brother and envied his acceptance. Consequently, Cain killed his own brother because he did not feel accepted by the Lord. His lack of acceptance had nothing to do with his brother. It was easier to push the blame on his brother rather than dealing with his lack of security before God and the shame and inferiority he felt!

Because we were all born in sin and shaped in iniquity, every person carries a sense of inferiority in them, which they try to compensate through various means such as performance, victim mentality, aggression, control, conformity, etc.  Unfortunately, the world’s voices including many parents’s voices is the voice of blame and shame, so people grow up not ever feeling good enough. There is nothing we can do to feel good enough and holy enough. The good news is that God never desires for people to remain in a state of sin, blame, and shame. Jesus, the holy Son of God,  was the only one who could bridge the gap and bring us back into the right standing with God and remove our shame, blame, and the guilt of sin.

As a matter of fact, Jesus made our relationship with God better than what Adam and Eve experienced! Adam and Eve were God’s creation but God did not call them son and daughter. Jesus came to open the door for a different kind of relationship. Jesus brought us to the Lord as adopted children, sons and daughters, inheriting all the spiritual blessings through Jesus’ work on the cross! Thank you Jesus!

In the original relationship, God gave Adam and Eve the dominion to subdue the earth. In the new relationship, we have the keys to the Kingdom of heaven (See Matthew 16:10) Jesus gave us authority over all powers and told His disciples that whatever they bind on earth will be bound in heaven and whatever they lose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Praise the Lord!

In the new relationship, we get to explore God’s majesty, goodness, kindness, mercies, and grace and grow up to become more like His Son Jesus. This is God’s pleasure to reveal Himself to us and to allow us to be partakers of His divine nature. The more we become like Him, the more the lost world will see God on the earth and His glory and moral attributes will be revealed through His children! All glory to His name!


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It’s Time to Change! (Part I)

Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature.  So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way.  And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.”  So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.” Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham;  for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19:1-10

Through His journey through various towns and villages, Jesus passed through the town of Jericho. Jericho was the Promised Land that the Israelites received when the Lord instructed Joshua and his people to march around the city seven times. Through their obedience, God made the walls of Jericho fall! However, over the centuries and due to Israel’s disobedience, they lost sovereignty of those lands, and now it was under the Roman Empire.

In this passage, we need find Zacchaeus who was a Jewish man living in Jericho shunned by his own people because he had decided that his success was going to come from collecting taxes from his fellow Jewish people. He used extortion as a means of living in the so called Promised Land. In reality, he had lost his true identity until he met Jesus! 

Despite Zacchaeus’ sins against his countrymen, Jesus chose to spend time with him in his house. He saw Zacchaeus as a lost sheep who needed to come back to the flock. Jesus did not seek the Pharisees because they did not see themselves as sick or in need of help. They probably had the respect of people even if it was superficial, so they did not find themselves in desperate need to change anything in their lives! However, while Zacchaeus had his wealth, he did not have the respect of his countrymen. I wonder if he had any friends except his fellow tax collectors. His only friendships may have come from those who also had had chosen to sell themselves, for a bowl of proverbial stew, to the Roman Empire. 

When Jesus called Zacchaeus’s name and went to his house, it changed everything for him! On the one hand, Zacchaeus must have felt special and accepted, but on the other hand, his sins must have been right before his eyes. What if he used the beautiful dishes of a widow who had to given up her wedding gift to pay her taxes!? What if the rug they were sitting on came from a family of six who could not afford to pay their taxes!?  What if the beautiful picture on the wall had have come from a son who gave up that which he had inherited from his father to pay his taxes!? Every place Jesus looked upon, could have brought to Zacchaeus, the memory of how he obtained those beautiful items. Finally, Zacchaeus could not stand it any longer. He wanted to get his life right with the Lord and enjoy the peace and the rest of God. Jesus’ acceptance had caused all these beautiful things to lose their value and luster. He was ready to give it all up and keep the joy and acceptance that he received in being with Jesus!

This is how Jesus works in our lives as well. He doesn’t come making demands of us to give up our sins, but He comes with His piercing eyes and a heart of love! He looks at us with acceptance and concern. In His eyes, we see that we are far more valuable than selling ourselves to a worldly version of success and acceptance! His concern is that we are genuine and vulnerable with God and are not just trying to play the role of a good Christian!

When we give Him room to come into our hearts, we cannot stand having Jesus walk around the various rooms and see the stuff that are contrary to His desires. The conviction rises up and we feel like it’s time to change! I don’t want Jesus to look at things that make Him uncomfortable to be here! He is worthy for me to let go of anything that does not please Him! How about you? If Jesus were to come to your home, what will he see? What has to change for Jesus to feel welcome in your life?


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The Quest for Acceptance (Part II)

In the last devotional, I shared about Cain and how he felt rejected when his sacrifice was not accepted by the Lord. The Lord gave him the opportunity to do right, but Cain took his anger out on Abel. Instead of taking responsibility for his wrong, he killed his brother for doing right and being accepted. 

We all have a God-given desire to be accepted. Acceptance brings security in our relationships. However, the true acceptance that we are looking for comes from God and does not happen on our terms. The Lord has a standard, and He will not change it or diminish because we don’t agree with it. The world has misconstrued the issue of acceptance, and it tries to tell people that regardless of what they believe and how they live, they should be well-received and accepted. 

People used to advocate for tolerance a couple of decades ago. If you were not in agreement with certain habits or lifestyles,  you were considered intolerant back then. However, things have changed over time.  Being tolerated is not enough anymore.  Nowadays, people are demanding inclusion and acceptance. They take it even further by accusing others of hatred towards a certain race, gender, lifestyle just because someone does not condone their actions or lifestyle. 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ,  just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,  having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will,  to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved. Ephesians 1:3-6

The world has deceived people into thinking that the rejection they feel is due to others’ disapproval of them. The truth is that their real problem is with the Lord and not with people. We all need to be accepted by God. This acceptance is not based on our performance, but it is based on the work of Jesus on the cross. Sin has caused a chasm between us and God. We are aliens to Him until we admit that we are sinners and accept that Jesus suffered for our sins on the cross.

When we admit that we are sinners in need of forgiveness, the Lord opens His arms to us and accepts us into His fold just as the father in the Parable of Prodigal Son received his son. This acceptance is a priceless gift that no money can buy. God adopts us into His family. This brings rest to our spirit and healing to our souls. When we realize that we are accepted in the beloved, our desires begin to change and we want to please the Lord. This is the place of security and love in our relationship with the Lord.

People are on a quest for acceptance, but, unfortunately, they are looking for it in all the wrong places. They are also too confused and distracted with their own desires to understand that being accepted is not something you demand! In addition, true acceptance does not come from people’s agreement nor does it come from changes in civic laws. Those may make someone feel more comfortable temporarily, but man is still lonely and insecure apart from the love of God. People are still orphans in need of the acceptance from Abba Father!

Let’s not get caught up with the world’s definition of acceptance. We all need to find out what God desires in our lives and live at peace with Him. Furthermore, let’s love people by pointing them to Jesus for acceptance. Laws or opinions of others cannot change people’s soul and spirit. It is only in communing with a Holy God that they will come to rest in their souls and be accepted in the beloved!