Counseling One Another

Helping you grow in God's all-sufficient truth and grace

Counseling One Another

August 5, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Flashback Friday – Jesus Stands Between Us and the Father

Flashback Friday – Jesus Stands Between Us and the Father

Though Jesus has ascended back to the Father, his ministry to us continues. The door to God that the Son opened for us, through his death, he now keeps open in his role as our High Priest. “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:19-22).

To its original Hebrew readers this passage carried far more meaning than it naturally does for us. “Holy places,” “curtain,” “great priest,” “house of God,” “draw near,” “sprinkled clean,” and “washed with pure water” all make reference to Old Testament physical practices that foreshadowed New Testament spiritual realities. In this complex, layered passage we see reference to Jesus as Savior (“the blood of Jesus”) but also as our “great priest
over the house of God.”

Making a sacrificial offering. In ancient Israel the holy place was the exclusive, innermost room of the Temple in Jerusalem. It was open only to the high priest, only once per year, and only on the condition that he enter with the blood of an acceptable offering. As the ultimate High Priest, Jesus would later enter the true holy place in heaven, just once, to offer himself as the sinless sacrifice for his people (Hebrews 9:24-26; 10:1-14). By bringing his own blood to the throne of God, Jesus satisfied God’s holy standard and bore away God’s wrath against our sin (Romans 3:25). He achieved all of this “through his flesh,” that is, by his humanity, the “curtain” torn apart to gain our access to God (Matthew 27:51).

Interceding. In addition to offering sacrifice while in the holy place, the high priest of ancient Israel would also pray for the people, interceding on their behalf before God. Again, this was ultimately a foreshadowing of Jesus. As our “great priest over the house of God,” Jesus Christ is the eternal, living intercessor for God’s household, the church, and is uniquely qualified for this role as the only one who has lived both in flesh as man and in heaven as God.

[Excerpted from my book, Brass Heavens: Reasons for Unanswered Prayer]

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August 4, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on The Locus and Display of God’s Holiness and Beauty

The Locus and Display of God’s Holiness and Beauty

As I near the end of reading Isaiah By the Day: A Devotional Translation by Alec Motyer, I want to pass on to you some really important thoughts from the author which serve to challenge each of us. Today’s reading was Isaiah 63:15-64:12, which compares and contrasts the Lord’s heavenly habitation with His earthly dwelling place. Applying the passage to us, Motyer writes in his thought for the day:

“In the divine intention the earthly was meant to be the replica of the heavenly (cf., Exod. 25:40). The truth remains the same today: the Lord’s earthly people are themselves the temple in which he lives by his Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16), the locus and display of his holiness and beauty. Well may we mourn that our sinfulness, divisiveness, our failure in biblical distinctives, and our manifest lack of holiness have marred the image. Who, looking at today’s church—denominational or local—can see the likeness of Jesus? And this is not a matter only of denominational failure, though that is all too plain. The Bible knows nothing of our ‘denominationalism’, and if Isaiah’s wording prompts us to put our hand to reform and renovation then its proper focus is the local church to which we each belong. When we look at the merest sliver of a crescent moon we don’t say, ‘Oh, there’s part of the moon’. We say ‘Look, there’s the moon.’ In the same way each local church, however small—or in the eyes of onlookers, insignificant—is meant to be a mirror and image of the whole, an earthly replica of the heavenly reality where Christ is all. We should be able to look at the fellowships to which we belong and say, ‘There is The Church’, bearing the two outstanding marks of holiness and beauty; obeying the command, ‘Be holy because I am holy’ (Lev. 19:2), and displaying the beauty of Jesus in all its gatherings, relationships and individual characters.”

As we strive to be replicas of God’s holiness and grace we appear as lights in a dark and mean-spirited world, and our local churches display the heavenly reality that Christ is all in all. May we be strengthened in the inner man, by God’s Spirit, to reflect His glorious beauty!

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August 2, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on 3 Ways Suffering Helps to Make Us like Christ

3 Ways Suffering Helps to Make Us like Christ

The past two Lord’s Days, our congregation has been considering what the apostle had in mind when he declared his heart’s longing,  “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death” (Phil. 3:10).

What does the apostle mean by “know”? The word means to know personally by experience; it denotes personal relationship. To have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ requires both a one-time experience—that is when the relationship begins—and an ongoing experience—whereby the relationship never stops growing.

Last week, we considered the first part of his longing; that is, to know the power of His resurrection. This week, we thought about the second aspect, “that I may…share in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” Becoming like Christ was the apostle’s longing because he knew that this was also God’s will for him. Romans 8:28 teaches that God is God is working all things together for “good” for believers (v. 28). This is a wonderful truth; however, we often stop there. The next verse expands our understanding by defining “the good” as being conformed to Christ. This is God’s purpose and goal for every believer.

Knowing this is God’s will for every believer, it is crucial for us to recognize suffering as an instrument in the hands of God to cause us to grow in our relationship with Christ so that we may know Him more deeply and be more useful in His work. Therefore, let’s think about three ways suffering helps to make us like Christ.

Here are the main points from Sunday’s sermon, which you can use for personal Bible study this week.

  • Suffering helps to make us like Christ by assaulting our pride in order to produce humility.

In Philippians, we are called to put on humility, to have the mind of Christ (Phil. 2:3-5, also Col. 3:10). Jesus is humble and, therefore, part of making us like Christ is the Spirit’s work of using suffering to humble us. Read 2 Corinthians 12:1-10 to see how God did that for the apostle.

  • Suffering helps to make us like Christ by exposing the hidden, controlling sins of our heart in order to produce holiness.

In Philippians, we are called to live holy lives as lights in the world, to live in a manner that is worthy of Christ and his gospel (Phil 1:8-11, 27; 2:14-15). Jesus is holy and, therefore, part of making us like Christ is the Spirit’s work of using the Refiner’s fire to purify us. Suffering helps to make us like Christ by ripping open our hearts in order to see the depth of our rebellion against the authority of God.

The OT patriarch Job introduced us to this pillar in a proper theology of suffering: “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there, and backward, but I do not perceive him; on the left hand when he is working, I do not behold him; he turns to the right hand, but I do not see him. But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold. (23:8-10)

Meditate on 1 Peter 1:6-9 to learn of the purifying benefits of suffering.

  • Suffering helps to make us like Christ by preparing us to receive God’s comfort in order to produce compassion.

In Philippians, we are introduced to Epaphroditus who is lifted up as a compassionate example for us to follow. In addition to the apostle and Timothy, who penned this letter, here is the love of Christ modeled for us to learn from (Phil. 2:25-26). Jesus is compassionate and the friend of sinners. Therefore, part of making us like Christ is the Spirit’s work of using suffering to fill us with the grace and compassion toward others.

Mark 2:15-17 describes how the Pharisees loved themselves and others who were just like them and had no grace toward sinners. Jesus; however, was totally the opposite. He loved sinners because He knew that He was sent for them, not for those filled with self-righteousness. Jesus is our empathetic High Priest (Heb. 4:15).

How does suffering make us compassionate? Read 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 and meditate on how God uses our experiences of receiving His comfort in suffering to minister to others.

We cannot know Christ deeply without sharing in His sufferings. And we cannot know the power of His resurrection without the suffering that leads to death. Our problem—many times—is that we want to experience resurrection power, but we are unwilling to experience the death that must precede new life. As those who are saved by the Risen Savior, we must be people who live in the hope of our own resurrection. This will empower us to rejoice in suffering, as we are transformed into the image of Christ.

You may listen to the sermon here.

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July 29, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Flashback Friday – 4 Fears that Block Forgiveness

Flashback Friday – 4 Fears that Block Forgiveness

Fear is a crippling form of unbelief that usually leads to many other sins, one of which is the unforgiving spirit that leads to resentment and deep-seated bitterness. How does sinful fear hinder the experience of true forgiveness? Answering this question, and coming to our aid in the struggle to truly forgive others, is my friend and fellow biblical counselor Jim Newcomer. In his mini-book, HELP! I Can’t Forgive, he expains how four common fears lobby against our forgiving someone when he or she asks us to do so.

  1. The Fear of Insincerity This fear cries out, “How can I know this person is sincere?” Perhaps the offender in your life has a long pattern of wronging you in a particular manner. Perhaps you have been hurt by others too deeply too often, even after they had asked your forgiveness multiple times. Perhaps the offender is faking a remorseful spirit. How do you know that the offender is sincere? The fact is, you don’t know. Proverbs is painfully honest: A plan in the heart of a man is like deep water. (20:5; see also Psalm 64:6) The good news, though, is that you don’t have to answer for the offender’s sincerity; you only have to answer for your obedience.
  2. The Fear of Vulnerability This fear reasons, “If I get soft, I’ll get hurt.” Is this a possibility? Yes. Is this a bad thing? No, because it will place you in good company with others whose obedience left them vulnerable to further hurts. Jesus had already taught this to Peter earlier: Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy … Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matthew 5:7, 11–12) Being a merciful person does make you an easy target who stands out from the rest, but you will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of Jeremiah, David, Jesus, and Paul!
  3. The Fear of Change The fact is, you may have gotten comfortable not liking the offender. You have figured out a way to “do life” without intersecting with this person, looking him or her in the eye, or being concerned for his or her well-being. In your comfort, you have resisted the idea of forgiveness because it will require that something comfortable become uncomfortable. But you must remember that Christ has Christlikeness as his agenda for your life (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18). The change he requires of you is freeing you to live out love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control toward the very person who has wounded you (Galatians 5:22–23). Wow! That’s grace.
  4. The Fear of Exposure It is possible that you either participated in the sin with the offender or reacted in sin to the offender. Beginning the transaction of forgiveness would bring to light the repentance that is required on your part for your words, actions, and attitudes. Up to this point, most people in your life who know of the wrong deed believe it was totally the offender’s fault. Proverbs 18:17 is brutally honest: The first to plead his case seems right, until another comes and examines him. The fact also remains that you could be wrong in your understanding of the offense as well. Do not go out hastily to argue your case; otherwise, what will you do in the end, when your neighbor humiliates you? (Proverbs 25:8) Matthew Henry wrote long ago, “There is a proneness in our corrupt nature to stint ourselves in that which is good, and to be afraid of doing too much in religion, particularly of forgiving too much, though we have so much forgiven us.”

Newcomer concludes with this penetrating assessment: “These four fears paralyze countless believers to hold back in forgiving. Yet I suggest that all these fears have one common denominator: pride. Somehow, somewhere, we find a way to make an offense all about us.”

The Need for Twin Virtues: Love and Humility – What then is the answer? If pride is the problem, what is the remedy? What must we put on in place of putting off the pride we as believers are commanded to put aside? We need both humility and others-focused love. We need to humble ourselves before those whom we have wronged as well as those who have wronged us. We must clothe ourselves “with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE” (1 Peter 5:5). We also need to lay aside ourselves and love the other person(s). By loving God enough to obey His command to forgive others as we have been forgiven (Eph 4:32; Col 3:13), and loving others enough to release them from their sin debt, this love dissolves our pride. “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 Jn 4:18).

[The content for today’s flashback was originally posted in April 2012.]

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July 29, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on NUGGETS [7/29/16]

NUGGETS [7/29/16]

Why We Do Not Punish Our Children – Sara Wallace makes the same distinction that I’ve been making in my teaching and writing for several decades (HELP! My Toddler Rules the House, for example). So glad for this TGC post!

Why Angry Men Often Seek Out Conservative Churches – Andrew Naselli links to an excellent article by Douglas Wilson, as well as other related articles.

Six Reasons to Skip Tattoos – John Piper offers his recomendation in this 6-minute podcast.

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July 27, 2016
by Paul Tautges
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Transformed Into His Likeness

Tiffe bookYesterday, I found myself recommending this resource again so I thought I’d mention it to you. Transformed Into His Likeness is a unique resource. Its spiral-bound flip chart design makes it very useful in counseling and personal one-to-one discipleship.
This workbook addresses over 100 common problems facing Christians along with biblical solutions for each. It explains the biblical process of change (a good intro to the doctrine of progressive sanctification), and helps identify where personal change is needed and provides Scripture references for problem areas. Practical worksheet will help implement biblical change in your life. This is an excellent resource for Putting Off sin and Putting On the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

Cumberland Valley Bible and Books carries this resource at a great price.

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July 26, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on What It Means to Know Christ

What It Means to Know Christ

Sometime in the early months of 1984, I met Jesus Christ. Before that moment, I knew about Him, but I did not know Him. I had a religion, but I did not have a relationship with God. By God’s grace alone, the Holy Spirit used the Bible to open my eyes to the fact that knowledge without relationship does not save. That was the bad news.

But there was good news, too.

A sinner like me could indeed have a relationship with God through personal faith in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, who had died in my place and rose from the dead. The good news that I could have a relationship with the living God was very different than religion-without-relationship.

Religion is a never-ending quest for eternal life which, deep down, everyone wants. Everyone wants to live forever, and most people in the world think they will. Most people believe they will eventually get to heaven. Even those who believe in a fictional place called Purgatory, as I once did, also believe they will eventually leave that place and receive eternal life.

But eternal life is not about heaven. Possessing eternal life is not primarily about going to heaven when we die. It is about having a relationship with God that begins here—in this life—and continues for all eternity. That’s what Jesus taught, too. Jesus said it this way, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3).

How did Jesus define eternal life? He defined it as a relationship. As He prayed to the Father, He said, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). If eternal life is knowing God then we must believe there is a way to have a relationship with Him. The Bible says the only way to eternal life is through a relationship with God, and that relationship comes through the one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5). It is this living relationship that the apostle has in mind when he writes in Philippians 3:10, “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection.”

What does the apostle mean by “to know him”? The word “know” means to know personally, by experience. The word denotes personal relationship. To have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ requires both a one-time experience—that is when the relationship begins—and an ongoing experience—whereby the relationship never stops growing.

To know Jesus Christ means to meet Him in the experience of conversion, being transferred from darkness into light.

Earlier in the third chapter of Philippians, the apostle listed the religious achievements he had to forsake in order to obtain Christ (read Philippians 3:4-9). What happened to Paul? What would cause him to turn his back on the religion that he once gave his life to perform and defend? He met Jesus Christ. That’s what happened. Read about in Acts 9 as well as Acts 25:24-26:29.

What does it mean to know Christ? To know Jesus Christ means to meet Him in the experience of conversion, being transferred from darkness into light. Conversion is a one-time event. However, it is also the beginning of something completely new. It begins a relationship which never ends.

To know Jesus Christ means to walk with Him in the experience of a growing relationship, being transformed from self into His image.

Paul wanted to know Christ “and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death.” Paul grew in his relationship with Christ by setting his mind on the risen life and walking in its power (Col. 3:1-4). What does it mean to know Christ as the power of His resurrection? To start with, reflect on just two necessities.

  • To know Christ and the power of His resurrection means to pursue holiness (Read Romans 6:1-4). The New Testament repeatedly calls us to live in the power of the risen life, to put off the old self and put on the new. Why? Because the resurrection of Christ secured for us the power to say NO to sin and YES to righteousness.
  • To know Christ and the power of His resurrection means to live in the light and walk away from the darkness (Read Romans 13:12-14). Believers have been transferred out of darkness into the light, out of the dominion of Satan into the kingdom of God (Col. 1:11-14).

Clearly, to know Jesus Christ—in relationship—means to cooperate in the ongoing process of being transformed into His image. But how does that happen, practically speaking? It is impossible to be growing in your relationship with the Lord without maintaining regular communication with Him. How do we communicate with the Lord and, thereby, grow in our relationship with Him? There are four primary means:

  1. Prayer: we talk to God.
  2. Bible reading and meditation: God talks to us.
  3. Fellowship in the church: we encourage the growth of each other’s relationship with Christ.
  4. Witnessing: telling others about this One whom we have a relationship with.

Scripture is the written words of the risen Word. It is impossible to have a vibrant relationship with Christ without spending time in His Word. Prayer is our speaking to God in worship, praise, and the submitting of our needs. Fellowship in the church is our growth in Christ-like love. Without being part of a local community of believers, a professing Christian becomes increasingly proud and self-reliant. Witnessing is telling others what Christ has done in our life. It is giving verbal testimony of His saving grace, which they may receive through faith in the risen Savior. All four of these means need to be active for our relationship with Christ to grow. This describes the life of faith.

What did Paul mean by revealing his heart’s longing to know Christ?

  • To know Jesus Christ means to come to him, by faith, as a sinner who desperately needs Him.
  • To know Jesus Christ also means to walk with Him, by faith, as a child of God who never stops growing in your relationship.

Is this the way you desire to know Christ? Like the apostle, do you long to know Christ?

[This post is based on last Sunday’s sermon. You may listen here.]

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July 22, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Flashback Friday: 4 Privileges of Adoption

Flashback Friday: 4 Privileges of Adoption

Today’s flashback was first posted in March 2013. May the Lord use these biblical reflections to nourish your faith!

The doctrine of the believer’s adoption into God’s family is rich with assurance of the continuing love and commitment of the Heavenly Father. We may define adoption this way: Adoption is the gracious act of God by which He places the believer in Jesus Christ into His family, giving him the full rights and privileges of mature sonship.

From this blessed position in the family of God flow 4 grace-supplied privileges.

  1. We are delivered from the penalty of the law. Galatians 4:4-5 teaches us that at the very perfect time—God’s time—the Father sent the Son to be the Savior of the world. He did this “so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.” The sacrifice of the Lord Jesus on the cross for our sins was fully accepted by the Father as the demands of His righteous law were fully met. As a result, those who find refuge from the condemnation of the Law in the “accepted One” find themselves fully accepted by the Heavenly Father as members of His cherished family.
  2. We receive the Holy Spirit as a pledge of our inheritance. Ephesians 1:13-14 teaches us that at the moment we believed the gospel we were sealed in Christ “with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is given as a pledge of our inheritance, with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession, to the praise of His glory.” The Holy Spirit, who right now indwells us, is God’s down-payment on His own promise. As fully mature adopted sons we are the rightful heirs, in Christ, of an unspeakable inheritance. The Holy Spirit’s presence is proof.
  3. We are placed into a family where we do not naturally belong. Ephesians 2:3 teaches us that before we were regenerated by the Holy Spirit and faith came from the hearing of the gospel (Rom 10:17), we were “children of wrath.” Now, according to 1 John 3:2, “we are children of God.” No longer are we “children of the devil” (1 Jn 3:10), but fully accepted and adopted sons and daughters of the King of Kings. We belong to Him. We belong in His family.
  4. We have an intimate father-child relationship with God. Romans 8:15 teaches us that we “have not received a spirit of slavery leading to fear again, but [we] have received a spirit of adoption as sons by which we cry out, ‘Abba! Father!’” As a result of this relationship:
  • We are invited to pray and to call Him ‘Father’ (Matthew 6:9).
  • We receive His compassion (Psalm 103:13-14).
  • We are assured of His love as He disciplines [trains] us for righteousness (Hebrews 12:5-10).
  • We are forgiven, released from the punishment of our sins (Matthew 6:12).

Of our ongoing need of forgiveness, Wayne Grudem writes, “This daily prayer for forgiveness of sins is not a prayer that God would give us justification again and again throughout our lives, for justification is a one-time event that occurs immediately after we trust in Christ with saving faith. Rather, the prayer of forgiveness of sins each day is a prayer that God’s fatherly relationship with us, which has been disrupted by sin that displeased him, be restored, and that he relate to us once again as a father who delights in his children whom he loves.”

Our adoption by God in Jesus Christ is one of the most comforting doctrines in the Word of God. If you are born again, take time to consider the richness of your position before God, as His child. Remember Christ. Remember the love of the Father in sending His Son. Remember the love of the Son in giving Himself as our ransom. Remember the love of the Holy Spirit who has sealed you—for God—unto the day of redemption (Eph 5:30).

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July 20, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on A Good and Wise Politician

A Good and Wise Politician

What does a good and wise political leader look like? There are many qualities revealed throughout Scripture, in both precept and example, but let me simply draw your attention to a forgotten passage, Proverbs 31:1-9. Proverbs 31 is almost exclusively remembered as the “Virtuous Woman Psalm,” but its introduction reveals a godly mother’s counsel to her son, the king. There is much to be mined from here, but just a quick glance reveals at least three qualities of a good politician, which came to the mind of this king as he remembered his mother’s teaching, and what we may call bare bone essentials. How good it would be for the nations of the world if even just these qualities were considered important!

The words of King Lemuel, an oracle that his mother taught him:

What should I say, my son?
What, son of my womb?
What, son of my vows?

A Good and Wise Politician Is Not an Adulterer
Don’t spend your energy on women
or your efforts on those who destroy kings.

A Good and Wise Politician Does Not Get Intoxicated
It is not for kings, Lemuel,
it is not for kings to drink wine
or for rulers to desire beer.
Otherwise, they will drink,
forget what is decreed,
and pervert justice for all the oppressed.
Give beer to one who is dying
and wine to one whose life is bitter.
7 Let him drink so that he can forget his poverty
and remember his trouble no more.

A Good and Wise Politician Believes in Justice and Defends the Poor and Helpless
Speak up for those who have no voice,
for the justice of all who are dispossessed.
Speak up, judge righteously, and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy.

As we look at the political scene of our day, surely one of the things that stands out more than others is the absence of strong, God-fearing leaders who possess wisdom and integrity. At the very least, this should drive us to become people of prayer who obey the admonition:

First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for everyone,  for kings and all those who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. (1 Tim. 2:1-2)

The pathetic state of human government is meant to remind us that this world is not our home and spur us on to look with anticipation for the return of King Jesus.

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July 15, 2016
by Paul Tautges
Comments Off on Flashback Friday: 75 Astonishing Things that Happen at Conversion

Flashback Friday: 75 Astonishing Things that Happen at Conversion

A pastor in Texas contacted me earlier this week to request permission to use a blog article in his church. The article was originally published in September 2013, and is entitled 75 Astonishing Things that Happen at Conversion. His inquiry caused me to select that article for today’s flashback.

What words could we use to describe God’s grace toward sinners like us? Amazing? Yes. Extravagant? For sure. Astonishing? Absolutely!

The apostle Paul was a man who never got over the grace of God…and neither should we. As the Holy Spirit guided him along, he edified the believers at Ephesus by expounding on “the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:7). I want to do the same in today’s post.

Recently, I spent some time thinking about all that God accomplishes in an instant, at the moment of conversion, and what He continues to work to its ultimate completion in the day we see Him in glory (Phil 1:6). The result was a list of 75 amazing works of God.

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