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Grace Notes

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NO EXCUSE
by Philip Owen

          1. “And He [Jesus] came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, ‘Young man, I say to you arise!’ The dead man sat up and began to speak” (Lk. 7:14, 15).

            2. “’But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—then He said to the paralytic, ‘Get up, pick up your bed and go home.’ And he got up and went home” (Matt. 9:6, 7).

            3. “He [Jesus] cried out with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth.’ The man who had died came forth, bound hand and foot with wrappings, and his face was wrapped around with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Unbind him, and let him go’” (John 11:43, 44).

            What do these three passages have in common—in addition to the fact that each records a miracle that the Lord performed? There might be other characteristics they share, but the one I wish to note is the nature of the Lord’s command and the response to it by each recipient of the miracle. Observe that each of the three commands required something of the recipient that was impossible for him to do. It was impossible for the dead man to rise from his coffin; impossible for the paralyzed man to stand up, pick up his pallet, and walk home; and absolutely impossible for Lazarus, already dead for three days and bound up hand and foot in long swaths of a burial shroud, to move a muscle. Yet each one did exactly what the Lord commanded. The dead young man sat up and started to talk. The paralyzed man leaped up, picked up his pallet, and walked home. And Lazarus somehow managed to come out of his tomb.

           We certainly will not be the recipients of such miracles, so what is the point? The point is that these historical accounts dramatically illustrate the fact that inherent in a command of Christ is the power to obey that command. And although the Lord’s commands to us will not involve the miraculous in the sense that the laws of nature will not be set aside to empower us to fulfill them, it is, nevertheless, true that what the Lord commands us to do He also enables us to do—a truth that holds at least two implications regarding obeying God’s Word.

            1. We have no excuse. There is never a legitimate reason for disobeying, failing to live up to, or not fulfilling a command of the Lord. With every command God provides enablement. We cannot deny that it is impossible in the flesh to obey the Lord. But what is impossible for the old man to do is possible for the new man as energized by the Spirit of God. Addressing the believers in Philippi Paul commanded: “work out your salvation with fear and trembling”; then he explained: “for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12, 13). When we fail or when we disobey, it is never because we cannot do what God commands but because we will not do so. God’s demands would be unreasonable if He did not provide the power to accomplish them—but He does.

            2. We need no excuse. God always pays the bill. He always enables us to perform His will. The writer of Hebrews prayed: “Now the God of peace . . . equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ” (13:20, 21). We may echo the testimony of Paul to the Corinthian believers: “But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me” (1 Cor. 15:10). And Peter affirmed that God’s “divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness” (2 Pet. 1:3). We can rejoice because God has equipped us to live victorious lives through Him. We can live faithful, obedient, successful lives because, as the hymnwriter said, “Yea, all I need in Thee to find.” God has not saved us merely to stumble through life then to escape hell by the skin of our teeth but “to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (Tit. 2:12, 13). What wonderful salvation. What a wonderful Savior.

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