Forgiveness: Living Out the High Calling of Our Faith


forgive

Hurt. Anger. Pain. Grief. Agony. Disbelief. Sorrow. These and a hundred different other words describe the powerful feelings that naturally flood our hearts when someone has wronged us. As common as they may be, if left unchecked, these emotions can easily mutate into the gravely destructive disease of bitterness. The only antidote for such a spiritually fatal ailment is… forgiveness.

The truth is we all need forgiveness. The apostle Paul declared, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). It then is painfully clear that we all have incurred an enormous debt of sin to God. However, the sum of that debt was graciously paid in full by God through the sacrifice of His own Son, Jesus. The penalty we deserve was paid by our Lord.

As Christians we celebrate the forgiveness we receive from our Father, but the rub comes from other people. It’s the apostle Paul who charges us to, “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). Surely, those who have been forgiven so much by God should, of all people, forgive the offenses committed against them right? One would think, but even the saintliest of saints can struggle to forgive those who have wronged them. The fact of the matter is, how we deal with those who wrong us is a matter of spiritual life or death. The goal of this series is to empower us to live out the high calling of our faith; to forgive as we have been forgiven (cf. Matthew 6:12).

Throughout our lessons we’ll explore the various facets of forgiveness in light of the scriptures. There won’t be any magic words or secret formulas to learn. In fact, it’s unlikely that we’ll uncover many, if any, profound or new insights. Simply stated, forgiveness is not a method to be learned, but a truth to be lived. For most Christians, the problem isn’t that we don’t know the truth about forgiveness, it’s that we don’t practice it as we should. To encourage us to be more forgiving the course of our study will be two-fold:

God’s Forgiveness of Us:

1. Our Forgiving Father (Luke 15:1-32)

2. Our Need for Forgiveness (Ephesians 2:1-10)

3. Confessing Our Sins (1 John 1:5-2:2)

4. Accepting God’s Forgiveness (Psalms 32, 51)

Forgiving One Another:

5. Saying I’m Sorry (Matthew 5:21-26)

6. Saying You Hurt Me (Matthew 18:15-20)

7. The Power Of A Forgiving Spirit (Romans 12:14, 17-21)

8. The Danger Of A Unforgiving Spirit (Matthew 18:21-35)

When printing lessons, set printer to double-sided w/ flip on short edge.

It has been said that forgiveness is like a door leading to peace and joy. But it’s a small door, and it can’t be entered without stooping – or kneeling. Yet, if we’re willing to humble ourselves and pass through that door, joy and peace awaits us on the other side. I’m truly convinced that when a person forgives another the transformation power of the gospel of grace is at work. Friends, this dark dying world needs more believers who will freely share God’s grace and thereby bring more joy and peace into the lives of others.

It’s my prayer, that as we search the scriptures together, our hearts will be open and receptive to God’s word concerning the grace of forgiveness and that we will be divinely inspired to live out these truths in our lives.

~Clay Gentry

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Rahab’s Persevering Faith


Rahabs Persevering Faith

Well I guess I’m officially old. Sure I turned forty last September, but that did not phase me; it was just another day. No, I am now old because of something far more damaging to my youthful-ego… the classic rock station is now playing songs from my youth. The soundtrack of my teens and early twenty’s is now old. Don’t get me wrong; I am flattered that my music made on the same station as my dad’s music, because he called it garbage. Ironic, is it not? Nonetheless, I was not ready for this to happen. 

Unfortunately, the trauma brought on by this realization has caused me to forget the song that pushed me over the proverbial hill. However, there is another classic song from my teens that I often hear on the classic station, R.E.M.’s It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine).

I really to like that song (even if it does make me classic). It is one of the tracks where the tempo demands you roll the windows down, turn the radio up and sing along with gusto. The gist of the song, at least the repeated chorus, is that the world as we know it is coming to an end, but that’s alright because “I feel fine.” The song will occasionally be featured in a post-apocalyptic movie (one of my favorite genres), usually somewhere in the opening scene. Its use foreshadows the impending disaster, but do not worry – humanity will prevail and survive.

Bringing this around to our lesson: if I were to put a sound track to the story of Rahab, I think I would choose this song for this particular scene in her life. It was the end of the world as she knew but she would be fine. Let’s explore why. Thus far in our study of Rahab’s faith, we have considered Rahab’s Working Faith and her Outreaching Faith. In this, our third installment, let’s turn our attention to her Persevering Faith 

The Pledge:

You will recall from our previous posts that under the leadership of Joshua, the children of Israel had ended their forty-year wondering and were poised to take the Promised Land. Just before their first invasion, Joshua sent two spies into the land (Joshua 2:1).

However, their clandestine operation was foiled, and with their covers blown the two spies took shelter in the home of “a prostitute whose name was Rahab” (2:1). With some quick thinking, Rahab concealed the two men and sent their pursuers on a wild goose chase (2:3-7). Once the coast was clear, she brought the two spies out from their hiding place and asked for her and her family’s safety during the coming invasion (2:12-13). The two spies pledged that she and her family would be saved if she followed these conditions: not telling anyone their mission, identifying her house with a scarlet cord, and no one could leave the home (2:14-21).

With the promise of safety secured Rahab let the two spies “down by a rope through the window, for her house was built upon the city wall, so that she lived on the wall” (2:15). The city wall probably formed the back wall of her house with a window opening up the outside. As we will see, this detail will play an important role in the testing of her faith. 

The Wait:

As soon as Rahab had helped the spies escape “she tied the scarlet cord in the window”(2:21). Then she waited. A close reading of Joshua 3:1-6:14 reveals that nearly a month passed from the time the spies left, to the day Jericho fell. (I’m allotting 2-3 weeks to heal from the circumcision.)

Do not discount the agony of her waiting. I have no doubt that while Rahab waited, fears and anxieties arose in her heart. Put yourself in her sandals! Imagine being locked up in your house fearful to leave least you die. The kids were crying, your dad is doubting, your sister is silently withdrawn and as usual your brother is no help. The tension is thick in the air. Then confusion and bewilderment really set in when the army of Israel comes against the city and does nothing but march around the city once a day for six days (6:1-13). Certainly, the stress of waiting tested her faith. 

The End:

The climatic fall of Jericho is recorded in Joshua 6:15-27. After marching around the city once a day for six days, the text says, 

“On the seventh day they rose early, at the dawn of day, and marched around the city in the same manner seven times. It was only on that day that they marched around the city seven times. And at the seventh time, when the priest had blown the trumpets, Joshua said to the people, ‘Shout, for the Lord has given you the city’… As soon as the people heard the trumpet, the people shouted a great shout, and the wall fell down flat, so that the people went up into the city, every man straight before him, and they captured the city.” (Joshua 6:15-16, 20)

With her house situated on along the city’s wall, Rahab’s home must have violently shook as Jericho’s wall came tumbling down (cf. 2:15). As I envision what it must have been like within the walls of her home, I feel fear all around and I hear ear piercing screams. The instinct to run into the streets must have been incredibly hard to squelch (cf. 2:19).

Then to compound matters, the roar of deadly battle exploded outside her door and the army of God stormed the city. So great was the annihilation we are told, “They devoted all in the city to destruction, both men and women, young and old, oxen, sheep, and donkeys, with the edge of the sword” (6:21). Finally, after the battle had died down and before the city was burned, the two spies went into the defeated city, “and brought out Rahab and her father and mother and brothers and all who belonged to her” (6:23).

As we have already noted, Rahab was a woman of great faith. What we must understand is that her faith was made great through testing (cf. Romans 5:2-5; James 1:2-4; 1 Peter 1:6-9). The risk she took in hiding the spies and accepting their word was a test of faith. Each day she anxiously waited for her salvation was a test of faith. Staying in her home as the wall fell and the battle ensued was a test of faith. Through each one of these tests, she did not give in or turn back; she persevered.  

To say Rahab had a Persevering Faith does not imply that she was never afraid or anxious about the future. She was human, to feel and experience those emotions is only natural. Rather, what it meant was that she did not succumb to those fears or worries. With each test, her faith grew stronger and served as an unshakable anchor for her life and for those around her. Only through testing could her faith, her great faith, produce the endurance necessary to hold onto the promises of salvation. In essence she lived out truth of James 1:2-4; 

“Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

As Christians today, we need, more than ever, to model Rahab’s Persevering Faith. When our faith is tested and negative emotions flood our hearts we must hold onto to the One in whom we have believed, and with His help rise above the chaos of this world (cf. 2 Timothy 1:12). Our faith should serve as “a sure steadfast anchor of the soul” (Hebrews 6:19). Sadly, for far too many Christians their faith does not impact their day-to-day lives and thus they end up being “tossed to and fro by the waves” (Ephesians 4:14) of fear and doubt. Therefore, they give in and give up.

Much like Rahab, we too have been given a pledge of salvation, and, like her, our faith is continually tested as we wait for the end to come. The question is will we give up or persevere to the end?

The Pledge:

The Lord Jesus has pledged to return and take us home to be with Him forever.

“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14:1-3)

The promise of the Lord’s return should bring comfort (cf. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-11) and provide a catalyst to endure amid the troubles and trails of life.

 The Wait:

However, it has been nearly 2,000 years since Christ Jesus pledged to return. Because it has been so long it would be so easy now, as some did in New Testament times, to question, “Where is the promise of His coming?” (2 Peter 3:4). As each day passes it can become harder to wait and resist the temptations of this wicked world. Thus we are admonished to have a Persevering Faith that will,  

 “Be patient… until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.”(James 5:7-8)

 The End:

As the last days approach, “times of difficulty” for believers will increase (cf. 1 Timothy 3:1-9).  Then suddenly,

 “The day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works are done on it will be burned up.” (2 Peter 3:10)

He then continued by asking,

“Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God.” (2 Peter 3:11-12a)

The pledge has been made; the Lord Jesus will return. The wait continues, but the end is near. What sort or people then should we be? People who demonstrate a Persevering Faith. Believers who do not give in or give up, but rather live lives of holiness and godliness as we wait for our blessed hope – the appearing of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus. For the Spirit has promised,

“Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trail, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him.” (James 1:12) 

The end of the world as we know it is coming. Will you be fine? If you have a Persevering Faith like Rahab you will. If I can help you with any spiritual need drop me a line at clay@claygentry.com. May God’s blessing be upon us as we keep sharing the good news. 

Rahab’s Outreaching Faith


Rahabs Outreaching Faith

During the 2008 Democratic presidential primary, one of the leading candidates was asked about their religious beliefs. In part, the candidate replied they were a Christian, however, their faith was deeply personal and something they did not talk about. Needless to say, this particular candidate was ridiculed by many for offering an insincere and hollow response.

Personally, I believe the candidate in question was trying to pander to religious voters and non-religious voters alike; so the criticism was warranted. Frankly, the very idea that we would not share our faith in Christ runs counter to New Testament teaching. The good news of Christ demands that we share it with others. That is the purpose of this blog and hopefully at the heart of every believer’s life. But sadly, there are too many so-called Christians who typify the attitude expressed by a certain presidential candidate; they simply want reach out to others and share their faith.

In our last post, we began a four part series exploring different facets of the faith of the Old Testament character Rahab. You will recall that she was a Gentile prostitute living in the city of Jericho who, at great personal risk, saved two Israelite spies from her countrymen. Consequently, she was rewarded and memorialized for her working faith (cf. James 2:14-26). In this, our second installment, I want to direct our focus to Rahab’s Outreaching Faith. The way she reached out to others and shared her faith is a model for us today as we seek to do the same.

You can continue Rahab’s story with part 1 – Rahab’s Working Faith, and part 3 Rahab’s Persevering Faith

The daring story of ancient espionage involving Rahab and the two spies is recorded in Joshua 2:1-24. With their covers blown, the two spies took shelter in the home of “a prostitute whose name was Rahab” (2:1). With some quick thinking, she concealed the two men and sent their pursuers on a wild goose chase (2:3-7). Once the coast was clear, she brought the secret agents out from their hiding place and asked,

“Now then, please swear to me by the Lord that, as I have dealt kindly with you, you also will deal kindly with my father’s house, and give me a sure sign that you will save alive my father and mother, my brothers and sisters, and all who belong to them, and deliver our lives from death.” (2:12-13)

Just before the spies departed, they confirmed their agreement with Rahab. Under the two-fold condition that she identify her house with a scarlet cord and no one leave the home. Then all who were gathered under her roof would be spared (2:14-21). A little over a week later, on the day of the miraculous taking of the Jericho (we’ll have more to say about this in our next post), Joshua reminded the people,

“And the city and all that is within it shall be devoted to the Lord for destruction. Only Rahab the prostitute and all who are with her in her house shall live, because she hid the messengers whom we sent” (Joshua 6:17).

As the city and its inhabitants laid in ruins, Joshua honored the promise of safety to the household of Rahab by ordering the two spies to, “Go into the prostitute’s house and bring out from there the woman and all who belong to her, as you swore to her” (6:22). The record states,

“So the young men who had been spies went in and brought out Rahab and her father and mother and brothers all who belonged to her. And they brought all her relatives and put them outside the camp of Israel. And they burned the city with fire, and everything kin it. Only the silver and gold, and the vessels of bronze and of iron they put into the treasury of the house of the Lord. But Rahab the prostitute and her father’s household and all who belonged to her, Joshua saved alive.” (6:23-25a)

I do not know about you, but I think God is wanting us to see something here by repeating the fact that she saved her family. Four times we are reminded that because of Rahab her family was saved from certain death. She was not merely concerned with herself. Her concern included her family and household. Rahab did not keep her faith in God a secret, she shared it with others and consequently they escaped God’s judgment. This is God’s design for spreading the gospel; one person sharing with another person the good news of salvation. It is what every Christian should be doing.

I’m sure that you would agree that as Christian we should be sharing our faith with others, but frankly how many of us are doing it on a regular basis? I venture to say very few. So, why do we not purse this most fundamental Christian act? Well, I guess some folks still think STRANGER DANGER! Others think they do not know enough Bible. While with some there is the perception that evangelism is the preacher’s job. These reasons (and we could cite many others) help explain our inactivity. Nevertheless, it should not be this way. In the model of Rahab, we should possess an outreaching faith, one that we will not hold inside but must share with others. To help equip us for this task, I would like to use the commission of Mark 5:19 as a model for us to follow.

In the first half of Mark 5, we read of Jesus’ healing the demoniac of the Gerasenes (Mark 5:1-20). It indeed is a marvelous account of one of the Lord’s great miracles. Following the miracle, Mark notes that “the man who had been possessed with demons begged [Jesus] that he might be with Him” (5:18). However, Jesus had other plans for him, so He sent the man away commissioning him to: 

“Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (Mark 5:19).

Let’s break this verse down into three parts: 1) Where to Go; 2) Who to See; 3) What to Say.

Where to Go:

Too often missionaries are portrayed as people who leave home and go off to live and work in some far away land. No doubt, the church needs men and women who will do this kind of work, but more importantly Christians need to have a missionary mindset here at “home.”

Our mission field is where we live, work and play. We need not go across the seas to share the gospel, rather we need to go across the yard, the street, across town, the room, the table, or wherever we might find ourselves in this life. An outreaching faith goes home and shares the gospel with others.

Who to See:

I admire people who can easily transition a polite “hello” into a conversation about God and salvation. I do not have that gift and because it is a rare talent, I suspect you do not either. For the most part, most of us are uncomfortable talking to strangers about the gospel. Thankfully, the commission of Mark 5:19 does not require that of us, instead, Jesus sent the Gadarene home to those he knew best; his “friends.”

It is only natural that we share our faith with those who are closest to us. When Andrew found Jesus, his brother Peter was the first person he went to (John 1:35-42). When Matthew answered the Lord’s call, he invited his tax collecting friends to sit at table with Jesus (Luke 5:27-32). When the Samaritan woman concluded Jesus was the Christ, she brought her whole village out to meet Him (John 4:1-45). Then there is Cornelius (Acts 10:24), Lydia (Acts 16:15) and the Philippian Jailer (Acts 16:33) who made sure their family and friends heard the good news of Jesus. Tapping into our network of family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors is God’s number one plan for evangelism. If will open our eyes we will see that, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Luke 10:2).

What to Say:

It is a common practice in advertising to rely heavily on testimonials. Companies can give you all the technical information for why you should buy their product. But rarely does that hold any weight compared to a trusted friend saying this product is worth having because it improved their life. What is true in advertising is also true with the gospel.

Sharing our faith need not be a theological exegesis of the scriptures. Remember, the Gadarene was told to go, “tell how much the Lord has done for [him], and how He has had mercy on [him]” (Mark 5:19). His sharing of Jesus’ mercy and love would not be in technical jargon, but instead in personal tones. He could say, “Here is the man I used to be, here is who I am now, and here is how Jesus changed me.” That would have been a powerful message.

We all have a story of how our faith has transformed our lives; we need to simply tell it to others. “Here is the man/woman I used to be, here is who I am now, here is how Jesus changed me and here is how Jesus will do the same for you.” Couched in a personal story, your faith will be easier to share and your transformed life becomes a living testimony of the gospel’s power. One note: If you do not think you have a story, then you really need to do a serious gut check about your relationship with Jesus.

Rahab’s outreaching faith resulted in the salvation of her family. Her faith was deeply personal yet, rather than keeping it in, her faith propelled her to reach out to others so they could experience salvation as well. The question then is how concerned are you about the salvation of your friends and family? Do you have an outreaching faith like Rahab? If not, then I would encourage you today to pray to God asking Him to light a fire in your heart to share your faith with others. If I can help you with any spiritual need drop me a line at clay@claygentry.com. May God’s blessing be upon us as we keep sharing the good news.

One last thought: There’s an old hymn I remember singing as a youth. Its words paint a haunting picture that I hope will encourage you to exercise an outreach faith. The song is entitled, “You Never Mentioned Him to Me” written by James Rowe (1949):

When in the better land, before the bar we stand
How deeply grieved our souls will be
If any lost one there, should cry in deep despair
You never mentioned him to me

O let us spread the word, where-ever it may be heard
Help groping souls the light to see
That yonder none may say, you showed me not the way
You never mentioned him to me

A few sweet words may guide, a lost one to his side
Or turn sad eyes on Calvary
So work as days go by, that yonder none may cry
You never mentioned him to me

Chorus
You never mentioned him to me
Nor help me the light to see
You met me day by day and knew I was a-stray
You never mentioned him to me

 

Rahab’s Working Faith


Rahabs Working Faith

When my wife and I found out we were going to have our fourth child, people immediately asked us three questions: First it was, “Don’t you know what causes that by now?” Yes we’re well aware of what causes this. Then they asked, “Well, do you know what you’re going to have?” Yes, a girl. Immediately followed by, “Have you picked out a name yet?” Yes we have, but sorry I cannot tell you what it is. Finally, “When is the baby due?” End of May.


You can continue Rahab’s story with part 2  – Rahab’s Outreaching Faith and part 3 – Rahab’s Persevering Faith


I have to admit that it makes me happy to see others excited about our new addition. I do not mind all the questions one bit. In fact, I especially love the question about her name.  Like most parents, we take our children’s names seriously because names matter. Whether we will admit it or not, we subconsciously stereotype and form expectations of our peers and co-workers simply based on their first name. What do you think when you hear the name Mercedes or Bubba? Like it or not those names carry certain connotations.

While we are keeping our baby’s full name top secret, I can assure you that we will not bestow on our daughter the name of Rahab. We are not alone in this, according the U.S. Social Security Administration, Rahab has never made it into the top 1,000 girl names since 1900 (the first year for which data is available). I suspect it is based on the descriptive noun that is attached to her name throughout scripture, “harlot.” Time and again, the Bible reader is reminded of the fact that Rahab was a prostitute. (We’ll address this in the last post.)

Nevertheless, she was a woman of impressive faith. So much so, her story, that of a Gentile woman nonetheless, is recorded in the annals of Hebrew history (cf. Joshua 2:1-21; 6:17, 23, 25). Furthermore, the New Testament writers point to her faithfulness in an effort to fortify the fragile faith of Jewish believers (cf. Hebrews 11:31). Finally, James used her, alongside Abraham of all people, as a classic example of an active, working faith (cf. James 2:24-25). The only time we are not reminded of her past sin is when she makes a surprise appearance in the linage of Jesus (cf. Matthew 1:5).

Over the next few post, I plan to explore how this godly woman’s faith shaped her actions and life. It is my prayer that we will be challenged to a deeper and more faithful service for our Lord through this study.

As the book of Joshua opens, we find that after 40 years of wilderness wondering the children of Israel are poised to enter the Promised Land. Though it was a land “flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:8; et. al.) numerous battles were to be fought against the Canaanite inhabitants before the land could be conquered. The first such encounter would be a key city in the Jordan Valley, Jericho. It is here, along the massive walls of this fortified city, that the story of Rahab’s legendary faith is recorded for all posterity.

In preparation for the battle, Joshua dispatched two spies to, “Go, view the land, especially Jericho” (Joshua 2:1a). The spy’s intent to remain undercover was somehow foiled, and they took refuge in “the house of a prostitute whose name was Rahab” (2:1b-2). At some personal risk, she hid the Jewish spies from her own people, sending their pursuers on a wild goose chase (2:3-7). Then, when the coast was clear, “she let them down by a rope through the window, for her house was built into the city wall” (2:15-16). It was her protecting the spies that the New Testament writers point to as an example of a working faith.

So what set Rahab apart from the other inhabitants of Jericho? She reported to the spies how all in Jericho had heard of the Lord God’s drying up of the Red Sea and His destroying the two kings of the Ammonites (Joshua 2:10; cf. Exodus 14:21-31; Numbers 21:21-35). Moreover she added, “And as soon as we heard it, our hearts melted, and there was no spirit left in any man because of you, for the Lord your God, He is God in the heavens above and the earth beneath” (2:11). Everyone in this great city believed (or had faith if you will) in God and His mighty works, yet, their faith lead only to fearful trembling. (Their faith was useless, akin to the faith of demons cf. James 2:19). However, Rahab was different. Her faith lead to action and in turn, those actions led to the saving of her life and the life of her family.

Spend any time in church and hopefully, sooner rather than later, Ephesians 2:8-9 will be emphasized in a lesson:

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is a gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

As Christians, this passage is a cornerstone belief of our faith. Our works cannot save us, rather, it is by God’s grace through faith we are saved. However, while we are not saved by works we are saved to work. Paul makes this abundantly clear in the next verse, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (v. 10). Thus, good works are the subsequent and resultant fruit and evidence of faith.

This is the point that James drives home in 2:14-16 of his epistle. “Faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead” (2:17). Faith that is not accompanied by works is stone-cold dead and frankly is no faith at all. A mere profession of faith is unworkable without that faith being put into practice. The godly works of a believer proves the existence of their faith. He sums up his argument in verses 24-26 noting:

“You see a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.”

Rahab demonstrated the reality of her faith when she protected the messengers of God. Thus, she became a model of faith completed by works. A model we as Christians today should follow.

But we need to recognize that a working faith like Rahab’s is more than sitting in the pew each Sunday and fulfilling our weekly spiritual duty. Do not get me wrong, that is important, but having a working faith like Rahab’s is so much more. Staying in James’ epistle we find a definition of a working faith called religion in this passage:

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle the tongue but deceives heart this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:26-27)

All Christians should be challenged by these two verses because it demands that our faith extends beyond our assemblies and worship services to the point it permeates our day-to-day lives.

James catalogs three characteristics of the truly religious person who has a working faith. First, they keep a tight rein on their speech (cf. James 3:2-6; 1 Peter 3:8-17). Second, they demonstrate sacrificial love by helping the helpless (cf. Matthew 25:34-36; 1 John 3:17-19). Finally, they keep themselves unstained by the world’s sinfulness (cf. James 4:4-10; Romans 12:2). This is the essence of the working faith.

God could have made the spies invisible or smote the people with blindness or used angels, but He chose to use a Gentile woman with courage to act on her faith. While our culture may not memorialize Rahab by naming our daughters after her, we as Christians should model our faith after hers. If I can help you with any spiritual need drop me a line at clay@claygentry.com. May God’s blessing be upon us as we keep sharing the good news.

What’s Your Story?


Blessed Assurance This Is My Story This Is My Song

If the story of your life was written for all to read, what would it reveal about you? Or, what if a song was sung to celebrate you, what would it say?

Let me encourage you friend, if you enjoy the blessed assurance found in Jesus, then make the story of your life the praising of your Savior all day, every day.

Why would you not praise Him? Fore it is through the Lord Jesus that you are an heir of salvation, purchased by God. Remember, it is through Him, you are born of His Spirit when you were washed in His blood.

Oh friend, give your life to Him with perfect submission and enjoy the foretaste of glory divine. Allow Him to purge evil from your heart and fill you with His goodness as you lose yourself in His mercy and love. Turn away from the allurements of the world they have nothing lasting to offer. Only in Him can you find the perfect delight of rest, happiness and blessings.

He is coming again one day to take you home. So tell the author now and say to the composer, “This is my story; this is my song, Praising my Savior all the day long!”

If I can help you with any spiritual need drop me a line at clay@claygentry.com. May God blessing be upon us as we keep sharing the good news.


Many of you who have been in church, for even the shortest amount of time, recognized that I weaved together the words from “Blessed Assurance” (Fanny Crosby 1873) for this post. But just in case you are not familiar with the lyrics of the song they are as follows:

Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine!
Oh, what a foretaste of glory divine!
Heir of salvation, purchase of God,
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

Refrain:
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long;
This is my story, this is my song,
Praising my Savior all the day long.

Perfect submission, perfect delight,
Visions of rapture now burst on my sight;
Angels, descending, bring from above
Echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

Perfect submission, all is at rest,
I in my Savior am happy and blest,
Watching and waiting, looking above,
Filled with His goodness, lost in His love.

 

 

The #1 Reason Not To Sin


The #1 Reason Not To Sin

What motivates you to not give into temptation? Now, I realize, depending on the situation several different reasons might be cited. For example, an unhappily-married couple facing the temptation of divorce might stay together for the sake of the kids. Or, an employee may not steal because he or she is afraid of getting caught. Or, a teenage couple may abstain from sex because of the fear of pregnancy. These reasons are all well and good, however, there is one fatal flaw they all share… the motivation for not sinning is temporal in nature.

When the kids get older or leave for college, the marriage ends. When the employee figures out how not to get caught, he or she steals. When the teenagers no longer fear pregnancy, they will have sex. In essence, so long as our reasons for not sinning are solely based on our ever-changing circumstances, we will eventually yield to temptation and thus sin.

However, there is another approach to overcoming temptations; a motivation that will keep us from sinning. What is this reason you ask, well consider with me the example of young Joseph from Genesis 39:6b-10. In this reading, we find Joseph as a slave in the house of an Egyptian named Potiphar. But trouble is at hand in the form of Potiphar’s wife.

“Now Joseph was handsome in form and appearance. And after a time his master’s wife cast her eyes on Joseph and said, “Come sleep with me.” But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Look, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except yourself, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God? And as she spoke to Joseph day after day, he would not listen to her, to go to bed with her.” (Genesis 39:6-10 ESV)

Did you notice what motivated Joseph to resist what must have been an intense time of temptation? It was not merely his position or the kindness of his master; but more importantly, it was his relationship with God. Read it again, “How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?” For Joseph, his relationship with God was the #1 reason not to sin. He would do nothing to compromise that relationship.

Consequently, if we want to overcome temptation then we have to see our relationship with our Heavenly Father as the #1 reason not to sin. He has saved us and thus calls for us as His children to live lives of holiness before Him (cf. 1 Peter 1:15-16). Therefore, may our prayer echo that of the Psalmist, “[Lord] may [we] store up Your words in [our] heart, that [we] might not sin against You” (Psalm 119:11).

If I can help you with any spiritual need drop me a line at clay@claygentry.com. May God blessing be upon us as we keep sharing the good news.

In What Way Are God’s Ways & Thoughts Higher Than Ours?


Isaish 55.9

“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:8-9 ESV)

Whenever someone is going through any of the inexplicable tragedies of life (you can fill in the blank ____________ with your tragedy de jour) sooner or later somebody will attempt to comfort the confused soul with the above words from Isaiah 55:8-9.

The idea of invoking this passage is to say that God must have a glorious plan in allowing the tragic event(s) to occur. Granted, we cannot wrap our feeble minds around those plans but they must be wonderful and glorious because God knows what He’s doing. (On a side note, I think many unwittingly use this passage as a thought-terminating cliché.)

However, upon closer examination of the immediate context, we learn these words speak to nothing of the sort. The prophet is not addressing the bewildering heartaches of life, but rather, he is expressing something joyful and uplifting. This is plainly seen when vv. 6-7 are considered,

“Seek the LORD while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near;  let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that He may have compassion on him, and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6-7)

What our feeble minds cannot comprehend is how freely and graciously God pardons the sins of the penitent! Taken together, Isaiah 55:6-9 is one of the clearest, most uplifting invitations to salvation in all the scriptures. The chapter opens with the fervent cry, “Come, everyone who thirst come to the waters” and enjoy the grace of God (55:1). Forgiveness is liberally offered to anyone who would seek the Lord God; call upon Him and depart from evil.

If any would doubt God’s willingness to freely forgive them (especially when they can’t forgive themselves) the prophet reminds us, God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, nor His ways our way. He forgives when others will not, and His love knows no limits going far beyond our comprehension (cf. Psalm 103:11).

So friend, turn to Father, forsake evil calling upon His name and accept His limitless love for you! If I can help you with any spiritual need drop me a line at clay@claygentry.com. God bless.