Thursdays With Spurgeon—Blessed Discipline

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Blessed Discipline

Blessed is the man whom You instruct, O Lord, and teach out of Your law, that You may give him rest from the days of adversity, until the pit is dug for the wicked. For the Lord will not cast off His people, nor will He forsake His inheritance. But judgment will return to righteousness, and all the upright in heart will follow it. (Psalm 94:12-15) 

     First, I will ask you to notice that God’s children are under instruction. Other children may run about and take holiday. They may wander into the woods, gather the flowers, and do very much what they like, but God’s own children have to go to school. This is a great privilege for them, although they do not always think so. Children are not often good judges of what is best for themselves. … 

     Some of us have learned much from the Lord’s chastening rod! For instance, we have learned the evil of sin. ‘Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your Word’ (Psalm 119:67). … Do we not also learn by affliction our own frailty and our own impatience? We are wonderfully patient when we have nothing to suffer, and we are all great heroes and very courageous when there is no fighting to be done. … 

     Do we not, then, learn also the value of prayer? … Do we ever pray in such dead earnest as when everything seems to be sinking from under our feet and our sweetest cups are full of bitterness? … And then how precious the promises become! As we only see the stars when the shadows gather at night, so the promises shine out like newly kindled stars when we get into the night of affliction! …  

     And, oh, dear friends, how should we ever know the faithfulness of God if it were not for affliction? We might talk about it and theoretically understand it, but to try to prove the greatness of Jehovah’s love and the absolute certainty of His eternal faithfulness—this comes not except by the way of affliction and trial! … 

     O Lord, still use the rod if You see that it is necessary. But go on teaching us out of Your Word! We are slow to learn and poor scholars at best, but You may yet make something of us.

From Blessed Discipline

I have learned that there are many lessons that I can learn in no other way than to go through the furnace of affliction. During those dark times, I’ve learned the closeness and the sweetness of God—His presence and His promises became even more precious to me. 

In one of my darkest times of affliction, I stumbled upon this poem from Robert Browning Hamilton:

I walked a mile with Pleasure—
She chattered all the way
But left me none the wiser
For all she had to say.
I walked a mile with Sorrow
And ne’er a word said she,
But, oh, the things I learned from her
When Sorrow walked with me.

If you’re going through a difficult time, don’t try to get out of it, but get closer into God’s presence. He is teaching you invaluable lessons during this trial.

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God Loves Wicked People

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible.

The first two Selah pauses we see in Psalm 140 are pauses to remember two things: 

  1. There, but for the grace of God, go I. 
  2. God is doing something in me through wicked people and evil times. 

But there is one more Selah in this chapter that we need to consider—Do not grant the wicked their desires, O Lord; do not let their plans succeed, or they will become proud. Selah. (v. 8) 

Most of  us would probably agree with Abraham Kuyper who said, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’” 

But the amazing thing here is that God allows David—and you and me—to call Him mine! “O LORD, I say to You, ‘You are MY God’” (v. 6). David goes on to say that God is my strong deliverer who shields me against evildoers (v. 7). 

But isn’t David’s God also the God of the wicked? Aren’t they a part of “the whole domain of human existence” that is His? Yes! 

So that must mean that God wants even wicked people to call Him, “My God”! 

This is exactly what Jesus told us: For God so loved the world [including wicked people] that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever [including wicked people] believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world [including wicked people] through Him (John 3:16-17). 

Just before this third Selah in verse 8 David prays that the plans of the wicked might be thwarted so that proud people don’t become even more proud. That seems okay. But after the Selah David seems to be asking God to let everything that wicked people have planned to boomerang back on them (vv. 9-11).  

Isn’t that hateful? Not if we understand “hate” correctly. 

Hate isn’t the opposite of love, but apathy is the opposite of love. Hate is a very strong emotion that usually comes out when something we love or desire is thwarted or kept from us. 

Just as we learned last week that God allows evil people and their slander and wickedness to prune us and make us more fruitful, can’t God give back to evil people exactly what they need to get their attention? Can’t He use their own evil plans for them just as He used them for us? Yes! 

If God loves us—and He does—then He must hate anything that keeps us from Him. 

If God loves wicked people—and He does—then He must also hate anything that keeps them from accepting the atoning work Jesus did for them on the Cross. 

God is love. There is nothing you can do to make God love you any more. There is nothing an evil person can do to make God love them any less. 

David’s third Selah is really his reminder that he must leave evil people to the only One who can discipline them in perfect measure. We have to leave evil people to God’s care—the only One who can rescue them. That’s why Jesus told us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44). 

David’s prayer in verses 9-13 does leave evil people in God’s hands, and it’s a prayer you and I can personalize for those whom we desire to know Jesus as their Savior. 

It’s not God’s desire that any should perish. So let’s Selah to call God, “My God,” but to also pray that even the wicked people around us will come to the realization that through faith in Jesus, they too can cry out, “My God!” 

God gave me a unique story when I was walking through a challenging time with a friend that I needed to leave to God’s care. I called the story The Parable of the Lifeguard. You can watch it in the video below, or you can read it by clicking here. 

If you have missed any of the messages in our Selah series, you can find a list of all of those messages by clicking here. 

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Poetry Saturday—The True Aaron

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

See Aaron, God’s anointed priest,
Within the veil appear;
In robes of mystic meaning dressed,
Presenting Israel’s prayer.

The plate of gold which crowns his brows,
His holiness describes;
His breast displays, in shining rows,
The names of all the tribes.

With the atoning blood he stands,
Before the mercy-seat;
And clouds of incense from his hands,
Arise with odor sweet.

Urim and Thummim near his heart,
In rich engravings worn;
The sacred light of truth impart,
To teach and to adorn.

Through him the eye of faith descries,
A greater Priest than he;
Thus Jesus pleads above the skies,
For you, my friends, and me.

He bears the names of all His saints,
Deep on His heart engraved;
Attentive to the state and wants
Of all His love has saved.

In Him a holiness complete,
Light and perfections shine;
And wisdom, grace, and glory meet;
A Savior all divine.

The blood, which as a Priest He bears
For sinners, is His own
The incense of His prayers and tears
Perfume the holy throne.

In Him my weary soul has rest,
Though I am weak and vile
I read my name upon His breast,
And see the Father smile. —John Newton [Levitcus 8:7-9]

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Proof Of God’s Love

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Proof Of God’s Love

I have written for him the great things of My law, but they were considered a strange thing. (Hosea 8:12) 

     It is no mean proof of His goodness, that He stoops to, rebuke His erring creatures. It is a great argument of His gracious disposition, that He bows His head to notice terrestrial affairs. … He might dwell alone, far, far above this world, up in the seventh heaven, and look down with calm and silent indifference upon all the doings of His creatures. He might do as the heathens supposed their Jove did, sit in perpetual silence, sometimes nodding his awful head to make the Fates move as he pleased. But Jove never thought of the little things of earth, disposing of them as beneath his notice, engrossed within his own being, swallowed up within himself, living alone and retired. … 

     We see from our text that God looks upon man, for He says of Ephraim, ‘I have written for him the great things of My law, but they were considered a strange thing.’ But see how when He observes the sin of man He does not dash him away and spurn him with His foot? He does not shake him by the neck over the gulf of hell until his brain does reel and then drop him forever. But rather, He comes down from heaven to plead with His creatures. He argues with them, He puts Himself, as it were, upon a level with the sinner, states His grievances, and pleads His claim.

From The Bible

In my sermon this last Sunday I was leading my congregation through Psalm 89. I noted that there were two important blessings that Ethan the Ezrahite tells us of: 

  1. The blessing of God’s favor on our obedience 
  2. The blessing of God’s discipline on our disobedience

Yes, the fact that God disciplines us—that He “stoops to rebuke His erring creatures”—is positive proof of His immense, unending love for us. The opposite of love is not hate but apathy. If God didn’t love us, He wouldn’t personally involve Himself in our lives because neither our obedience or disobedience would mean a thing to Him. 

Consider this passage—

In all their affliction He was afflicted,
and the Angel of His Presence saved them;
in His love and in His pity He redeemed them;
and He bore them and carried them
all the days of old.
But they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit;
so He turned Himself against them as an enemy,
and He fought against them
. (Isaiah 63:9-10)

In His love, God both carries us in our adversity AND turns to confront us in our waywardness. BOTH of these actions are proof of His love. My friend, wherever you are and whatever you may be facing, be assured of God’s unquenchable love for you!

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Links & Quotes

C.S. Lewis identifies one of the harmful effects of pornography. “For me the real evil of masturbation would be that it takes an appetite which, in lawful use, leads the individual out of himself to complete (and correct) his own personality in that of another (and finally in children and even grandchildren) and turns it back: sends the man back into the prison of himself, there to keep a harem of imaginary brides. And this harem, once admitted, works against his ever getting out and really uniting with a real woman. For the harem is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no woman can rival.” —C.S. Lewis

“Joy is not a requirement of Christian discipleship; it is a consequence.” —Eugene Peterson

Dan Reiland has an excellent post for leaders entitled 4 Layers To Gaining Wisdom.

In my personal devotional time, I came across a sobering idea in the book of Amos about God’s love. I am reading through the Bible in Halley’s Study Bible, where I also read this: “The basket of ripe fruit [Amos 8] is another symbol that the sinful kingdom was ripe for ruin. And Amos reiterates the causes: greed, dishonesty, and merciless brutality toward the poor. Over and over, through many images, the Bible makes it plain that there is no possible way to escape the consequences of persistent sin.” —Dr. Henry Halley

The Institute for Creation Research has a powerful post explaining how seafloor spreading matches Creation predictions.

J. Warner Wallace wrote, “The historic development of language and communication prepared the way for the birth of Jesus. God orchestrated this timing, along with the development of roads, postal services and a 200-year period peace within the Roman Empire (known as the Pax Romana) to prepare the world for the arrival of Jesus.”

Our church is taking time on Fridays to fast and pray. Here is a reminder of the expected results that I shared with our church family—

The Comfort And The Terror Of God’s Love

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

The Book of Hosea is a love story. It’s a real story telling a much grander story. 

The real story is between a man named Hosea and his wife Gomer. Sometime after their marriage, Gomer became unfaithful to Hosea and became entrapped to someone like a pimp, because it required a rather large payment from Hosea to redeem her. Gomer was restored to Hosea and they lived together faithfully from that point on. 

The grander story is the relationship between God and His people. God’s faithful love redeemed us, but our sin is like that of a cheating wife who has abandoned her husband for another lover. 

God’s love sounds like this:

  • “Let My tender words woo you back to Me” (2:14) 
  • “I will betroth you to Me forever” (2:19) 
  • “My compassion is aroused toward you” (11:8) 
  • “I will not carry out my fierce anger against your sin” (11:9) 
  • “I will care for you in the wilderness” (13:5) 
  • “I will feed you until you are satisfied” (13:6)

But God’s love also sounds like:

  • “I will block your path with thornbushes” (2:5) 
  • “I will ignore you” (4:6) 
  • “I will hide Myself from you” (5:6) 
  • “My sword will flash in your cities” (11:6) 
  • “I will terrify you like a roaring lion” (11:10) 
  • “I will attack you like a mother bear robbed of her cubs” (13:8)

(Check out all of the above references by clicking here.) 

We love the first list—and, indeed, that’s where God would desire us to stay—but the second list is just as loving. 

The opposite of love is not hate, but the opposite of love is apathy. 

God loves us too much—His Son paid too high of a price for us—for Him to let us head down a path that leads to eternal destruction. Listen to how the prophet Isaiah says this:

In all their distress He too was distressed, and the angel of His presence saved them. In His love and mercy He redeemed them; He lifted them up and carried them all the days of old. Yet they rebelled and grieved His Holy Spirit. So He turned and became their enemy and He Himself fought against them. (Isaiah 63:9-10) 

We need both the comfort and the terror of God’s love. 

We need Him to roar His lion’s roar and flash His terrible sword when we are on the path of destruction so that we can return to the path of life and experience His tender voice and bountiful provision. 

When we pray for our wayward loved ones, pray for both God’s sword and His loving words. He knows best which to use. And for ourselves, when we are stricken with fear, use that as an opportunity to ask why we have heard God’s roar or seen His sword flash. Then, if needed, repent and return to His tender embrace. 

God’s love speaks tenderly and roars ferociously because He loves you so very much! 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—My Element

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

My Element

But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, Who, by the power that enables Him to bring everything under His control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like His glorious body. Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends! (Philippians 3:20—4:1). 

     Do you know what it is to feel that the life that is in you is first in Christ and still flows from Him, even as the life of the branch is mainly in the stem? ‘I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me’ (Galatians 2:20). This is to be in Christ! …     

     This expression is very short but very full: ‘In Christ.’ Does it not mean that we are in Christ as the birds are in the air that buoys them up and enables them to fly? Are we not in Christ as the fish are in the sea? Our Lord has become our element—vital and all surrounding! In Him we live, move, and have our being. He is in us, and we are in Him. We are filled with all the fullness of God because all fullness dwells in Christ and we dwell in Him.

From The Watchword For Today: “Stand Fast”

Years ago I was taking a class, and the teacher asked us to write down some of the different roles we had in our life. I wrote down things like son, brother, employee, team captain. After everyone had finished their lists, the teacher asked the students to share some of their roles. As each one listed a role, the rest of the class would raise a hand if that role also applied to them. One person said, “Christian,” and nearly every hand in the classroom went up. Except mine.

Being a Christian is not a role I step into; it’s who I am. It impacts everything I think and everything I do. 

Birds don’t step into the air when they want to fly. Fish don’t run to the water when they want to swim. Birds and fish always live in their element. We are in our element in Christ when we can always say, “In Him I live, and move, and have my being.” 

The devil has always used doubt and uncertainty—“Did God really say…” he asked Eve, and “Are you really the Son of God,” he mocked Jesus. He wants to do the same thing to you today, making you think you have somehow missed out on being in Christ. 

But if Christ is your Savior and your Lord, stand fast in that. Let nothing move you. Counteract the devil’s doubt-inciting accusations with truthful as-it-is-written statements from God’s Word. Immerse yourself in Christ and make Him your constant element—just as a branch connected to a stalk, or a bird in the air, or a fish in the ocean. You are in Christ, Christ is in you, and Christ is in the Father. Which means Jesus has taken you into the Father with Him. Live, and move, and have your very being in His presence every single moment!

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The Gift Unmistakably Seen

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

We saw last week that John 3:16 tells us of God’s greatest Gift—Jesus! 

This Gift was not an after-thought. God didn’t say, “I’ve tried everything else and nothing has worked so I guess I have to send My Son.” NO! The Gift was foretold right from the very moment Adam and Eve sinned (Genesis 3:15, 21). In fact, we can even say it was planned before the beginning of Time, as John describes Jesus as “the Lamb who was slaughtered before the world was made” (Revelation 13:8). 

John also writes for us one of the most beautiful and succinct statements of God: God IS Love (1 John 4:8). 

Paul wrote an inspired definition of love. Check out what happens when we put “God” in place of “love” in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

God is patient, God is kind. God does not envy, God does not boast, God is not proud. God does not dishonor others, God is not self-seeking, God is not easily angered, God keeps no record of wrongs. God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. God always protects, God always trusts, God always hopes, God always perseveres. God’s love never fails. 

This description of God means that He wasn’t forced to send Jesus as the ransom for our sins, but rather that His love foreknew the perfect moment to send this Gift for us. 

Neither did Jesus feel trapped by this plan His Father made. Calvary didn’t happen to Jesus, but Jesus came to make Calvary happen (John 17:24; Hebrews 12:2; John 10:17-18). 

Jesus made His Gift unmistakable:

  • He predicted the unmistakable events leading up to Calvary—Matthew 20:17-19, 26:2; Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-33; John 13:19 
  • He predicted the unmistakable way He would die—John 3:14, 12:32-33 
  • And His Father unmistakably confirmed all of this—John 12:27-28

(check out all of the above verses by clicking here) 

Just before His crucifixion, Jesus gave His followers an unmistakable example of love to follow. He said that His love radiating out of His followers would show the world an unmistakable picture of His love (see John 13:3-5, 12-17, 34-35). 

I may say, “Thank you so much” when I open someone’s gift, but my true gratitude is seen in what I do with their gift after that. Do I put it on a shelf and forget about it? Or do I cherish it, use it, and tell others all about the one who gave the gift to me? This is just as true with how I treat the Love Gift that I was given in Jesus. 

Q: How unmistakable is my gratitude for the Gift of Jesus? 

A: It is unmistakably seen in how I love others. 

Here’s the test: Can I put my name in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8—

Craig is patient, Craig is kind. Craig does not envy, Craig does not boast, Craig is not proud. Craig does not dishonor others, Craig is not self-seeking, Craig is not easily angered, Craig keeps no record of wrongs. Craig does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. Craig always protects, Craig always trusts, Craig always hopes, Craig always perseveres. Craig’s love never fails.

The Holy Spirit wants all Christians to be able to truthfully insert their names in that statement. He wants to help us make necessary changes that will allow the amazing Gift of Jesus to be unmistakably seen by everyone. 

God’s plan is unmistakable. The death of Jesus is unmistakable proof of God’s love. Now, let’s make sure that our love is also empowered by the love of God shining unmistakably out of everything we say and do. 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our series Christmas Unwrapped At Easter, you can find the complete list by clicking here. 

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—Forgiven And Forgiving

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

Forgiven And Forgiving  

Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32) 

     Now observe how the apostle puts it. Does he say, ‘forgiving another’? No, that is not the text. If you look at it, it is ‘forgiving one another.’ One another! Ah, then that means that if you have to forgive today, it is very likely that you will, yourself, need to be forgiven tomorrow, for it is ‘forgiving one another.’ … Let us begin our Christian career with the full assurance that we will have a great deal to forgive in other people, but that there will be a great deal more to be forgiven in ourselves! … 

     Note again: When we forgive, it is a poor and humble business compared with God’s forgiving us, because we are only forgiving one another—that is, forgiving fellow servants. But when God forgives us, the Judge of all the earth is forgiving, not His fellows, but His rebel subjects, guilty of treason against His majesty! For God to forgive is something great—for us to forgive, though some think it great—should be regarded as a very small matter. … What we owe to God is infinite, but what our fellow creature owes to us is a very small sum. …  

     If anyone here who is a Christian finds a difficulty in forgiveness, I am going to give him three words that will help him wonderfully… Here they are again: ‘For Christ’s sake.’ … 

     I do not know how to put this next word I am going to say. It is a paradox. You must forgive or you cannot be saved. But at the same time, you must not do it from compulsion, you must do it freely. … Remember, it is of no use for you to put your money into that offering box as you go out unless you remember, first, to forgive your brother. God will not accept the gifts, prayers, or praises of an unrelenting heart. … The very prayer that teaches you to ask for mercy bids you say, ‘And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors’ (Matthew 6:12). Unless you have forgiven others, you read your own death warrant when you repeat the Lord’s Prayer!

From Forgiveness Made Easy 

We honor the forgiveness that God has extended to us by liberally forgiving others. And our forgiveness of others shows them just how loving and forgiving our God is too! 

Make no mistake, it’s hard work to forgive. As C.S. Lewis said, “We need to forgive our brother seventy times seven not only for 490 offenses but for one offense.” But that hard work develops our maturity as Christians. In fact, a mark of a maturing saint is one who is closing the gap between being injured and forgiving the offender. 

I add my prayer to Charles Spurgeon’s that you would grasp the truth that we can forgive one another for Christ’s sake because God has forgiven us for Christ’s sake. Let’s all grow in this Christian maturity!

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Thursdays With Spurgeon—“All” Means All

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on iTunes or Spotify.

“All” Means All  

Forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you. (Ephesians 4:32) 

     We pass on to observe what it is that we are told in the text has been done for us and to us, for Christ’s sake: ‘God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.’ … Have you put your trust in the atoning sacrifice? Then God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you. You have not begun to be a Christian, I hope, with the idea that one day, at some future period, you may obtain forgiveness. No. ‘God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.’ … Pardon is not a prize to be run for, but a blessing received at the first step of the race. If you have believed in Jesus, your sins are all gone—all gone. All your sins have been erased from the records of the past, never to be mentioned against you forever! …  

     I have sometimes heard it said that we were so forgiven when we first believed that there is no need to ask for further forgiveness. I will reply, we were so completely forgiven when we first believed that we ought continually to ask for the perpetuity of that one far-reaching act, that the Lord may continue to exert toward us that fullness of forgiving grace that absolved us perfectly at the first, that we may continue to walk before Him with a sense of that complete forgiveness, clear and unquestioned. … 

     O you believers, think of this, for the ‘all’ is no little thing. It includes sins against a holy God, sins against His loving Son, sins against gospel as well as against law, sins against man as well as against God, sins of the body as well as sins of the mind, sins as numerous as the sands of the seashore and as great as the sea itself, and all are removed from us as far as the east is from the west!

From Forgiveness Made Easy 

Let me drive home Charles Spurgeon’s point with two passages of Scripture and a stanza from an old hymn. 

[God] does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is His love for those who fear Him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. (Psalm 103:10-12) 

For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more. (Hebrews 8:12) 

When satan tempts me to despair 
And tells me of the guilt within, 
Upward I look and see Him there 
Who made an end of all my sin. 
Because the sinless Savior died, 
My sinful soul is counted free; 
For God the Just is satisfied 
To look on Him and pardon me, 
To look on Him and pardon me. (Charitie Lees Bancroft) 
 

So I think this is a good conclusion—In this freedom Christ has made us free and completely liberated us; stand fast then, and do not be hampered and held ensnared and submit again to a yoke of slavery which you have once put off. (Galatians 5:1 AMP)

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