Sunday, July 5, 2015, 4:58 p.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song, “Full Release.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Titus 3:1-7 (NASB). Obeying our Rulers (vv. 1-2) Remind them to be subject to rulers, to authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good deed, to malign no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men. The Bible teaches much on the subject of obeying those in authority over us, whether they be kings (government rulers) or elders, deacons, or any man in position of overseer within the church (the true church), within the realm of their authority over us. This includes evil kings and leaders in the church who we may believe are not walking with God. Yet, there are exceptions. We never obey when we are told to do what is clearly sinful. We don’t obey if they tell us to deny Jesus, or to compromise our faith, or if they tell us we must stop speaking in the name of Jesus. Basically, if they ask us to disobey God and His Word, then God trumps. God’s laws are always to be adhered to over man’s laws. In other words, we don’t disobey God in order to obey man, thinking we are obeying God in the process. Some examples of this are Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. Daniel was ordered not to pray to God, but he did just as he had always done, and he was thrown into the lions’ den because he disobeyed the king. Yet, God rescued him. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were told they must bow to a golden statue. They refused, and they were thrown into a fiery furnace. Yet, God rescued them, too. God does not always physically rescue us from persecution, though, or from being killed for our faith. Sometimes he rescues us by giving us strength and courage to stand strong in the face of persecution, as a testimony for him, and sometimes he rescues us by taking us home to be with him through death. And, sometimes he does shut the mouths of lions for us, i.e. the mouths of those who are lying against us and who are persecuting us. And, then there were the Lord’s apostles who were ordered to stop speaking in the name of Jesus. Peter and John said, “Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God’s sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard.” Later Peter and the other apostles said, “We must obey God rather than men!” (Ac. 4:19-20; Ac. 5:29). There are many in our world today who are trying to silence the gospel and those who are sharing the gospel, but we must not yield to them. The gospel must go out. Yet, I believe we should obey unless we are being asked to disobey God and His Word. For example, quite a few years ago now I was in a church congregation (institutional church). The pastor had just preached this glorious sermon on spiritual gifts, and he taught us how to recognize what spiritual gifts we had been given by God. My child-like faith heart responded, “Yes! I want to use the gifts God has given me to be used within the body of Christ.” So, I filled out their form, indicating in what areas of ministry I would like to serve, based upon the gifts God had placed within me. But, I heard nothing. For a year I heard nothing. So, I called the pastor, and I invited him over to our house, with my husband’s permission, and I asked him about it. To make a long story short, he and the elders of the church had judged me falsely based upon appearance, and based upon their own prejudices and personal experiences, and so they concluded that anyone who was anxious to serve God must be doing it for the wrong reasons. So, they would not allow me to serve. For a while I just retreated. I pretended to be ok when I wasn’t. I truly believed these men had power over me and that there was nothing that could be done to change it. Then, one day God spoke to my heart as I was reading the story of Jonah to my children. He told me to get back in there and to fight this thing through. My response? “But God, you don’t understand!” Yet, it was I who did not understand the sovereignty of God over my life. I met with a friend, who was the wife of one of the elders, and we talked and prayed it through. She contacted the pastor, who then called me. He apologized. He said, “As your pastor I am to be your spiritual father, but I need to be an approachable one.” So, he asked me if I would trust him. I shared with him my story, and he asked me if I would be willing to sit underneath another teacher, as a trainee, of sorts, before they would put me in a position of teaching the Bible to children. I agreed. I had not done anything wrong, mind you. But, I submitted to their authority. And, I did what he asked, because it was reasonable. And, the end result was I was given an assignment within the church to teach a girls’ Sunday school class. Yet, God had other plans for us. During this time my husband’s employer transferred him to another state, so I never did teach that class. But, it all worked out for good. My relationship with the elders was healed, and I learned to trust God with my circumstances, and to do what he said, even if others had treated me unfairly. He Saved Us (vv. 3-7) For we also once were foolish ourselves, disobedient, deceived, enslaved to various lusts and pleasures, spending our life in malice and envy, hateful, hating one another. But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. We are all born with sin natures, separate from God, without hope, and destined for hell, apart from the grace of God and his great mercy to us. All have sinned and have come up short of attaining God’s approval (Ro. 3:23). So, God the Father, who loves us, sent his Son Jesus Christ to take on human form and to die on a cross for our sins. When he died, our sins died with him. They were buried with him. When he was resurrected from the dead, he conquered sin, hell, Satan and death on our behalf. It is by God’s grace we are saved, through faith – and this not from ourselves, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast (Eph. 2:8-9). We can do nothing to earn or to deserve our salvation. Yet, we must believe in Jesus Christ to be Lord and Savior of our lives in order to receive God’s grace to us. This faith in Christ Jesus involves dying with Christ to sin, and being resurrected with Christ to new life in Christ Jesus, “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:20-24; cf. Ro. 6-8; Gal. 2:20). Jesus died that we might die to sin and live to righteousness (1 Pet. 2:24). He died that we might no longer live for ourselves but for him who gave himself up for us (2 Co. 5:15). He died in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us who no longer conduct our lives according to the flesh, but who walk according to the Spirit (Ro. 8:1-14). In other words, faith in Jesus Christ is not a ritual we perform, or an emotion we feel, or a one-time experience we have at a church altar. We are not saved (past), then we live our lives how we want, and then we go to heaven when we die. Regeneration means we are reborn, we start over, and we have a new life. We don’t add Jesus on top of our old lives. We are now born of the Spirit to walk according to the Spirit, and to put to death the deeds of our sinful flesh. We have not just been cleansed of our sins so we can go to heaven when we die. Jesus saved us from slavery to sin so that we would now be slaves to righteousness. God’s grace, which brings salvation, is not a free license to continue in a sinful lifestyle. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions and desires, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives while we wait for Christ’s return. It is not true grace if it does not deliver us out of bondage to sin and free us to walk in Christ’s righteousness. Full Release / An Original Work / April 15, 2012 Walking daily with my Savior brings me joy. Loving Father; precious Jesus; He’s my Savior and my Lord. Gently leads me; follow Him. I’ve invited Him within. Now abiding in His presence, oh, what peace. From my self-life He has brought me, By His mercy, full release. Hope and comfort, peace and safety Jesus brings When I daily bow before Him; Obey freely; do His will. Follow Him where’er He leads. Listen to Him; His words heed. Now obeying his words fully, oh, what love That He gives me through salvation, By His Spirit, from above. Loving Father; precious Jesus, He’s my friend. With my Savior, by His Spirit, I will endure to the end. Share the gospel, tell what’s true. Witness daily; His will do. Tell the world of how their Savior bled and died. On a cruel cross He suffered So that we might be alive.