Embracing Your Blessings This Side of the Cross

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The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) released its third estimate for the fourth quarter, 2017 real GDP. The nation's inflation adjusted output increased at an annual rate of 2.9 percent. The prior estimate was 2.5 percent, and the year-ago estimate was 1.8 percent. This was the highest fourth-quarter percentage increase in four years.

Inflation-adjusted personal consumption expenditures increased at an annual rate of 4.0 percent compared to 3.8 percent for the second estimate. Consumer spending contributed the most (2.75 percent of the 2.9 percent) to the strong GDP report. Strong consumer confidence translated into strong consumer spending during the fourth quarter.

Inflation, as measured by the GDP price index, was unchanged at an annual 2.3 percent. The inflation estimate was also in line with pre-report forecasts. Without inflation, fourth quarter GDP increased at an annual rate of 5.3 percent.

The week was filled with a lot of positive economic news in addition to the GDP report. The week's new jobless claims estimate, at 215,000, was the lowest in 45 years! February's wages and salaries increased 0.5 percent. Same-store retail sales increased 3.6 percent above the previous year in February. This week's mortgage applications increased 4.8 percent.

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The economy is strong, with indications that it will continue to strengthen. A strong economy is not assured. But an economic environment that has fewer regulations and lower taxes for businesses and consumers certainly increases the likelihood that the economy will be strong. Thus far, the United States has been blessed with a strong economy for more than a year.

At this time of the year, many Christians have been reflecting on Christ's ultimate sacrifice on the cross for us. This last Sunday, we celebrated His victory over death. After His resurrection, Christ spent the next 40 days teaching his disciples. He then returned to the Father. Ten days later, He sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.

Believers today are on this side of the cross and we should live like it. Christ has already achieved the victory for us. It is finished. Death and hell are defeated. Jesus is at the right hand of the Father and all authority has been given Him. Through the cross, we can approach the throne of grace with confidence in our time of need.

"When Jesus had received the sour wine, He said, "It is finished." And He bowed His head and gave up His spirit" (John 19:30b).

"Oh death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory?" The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor. 15:55-57).

"And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth" (Matt. 28:18b).

" Let us then come with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:16).

Let us remember that, through Christ, the victory is already ours. He bore our griefs and sorrows. Jesus was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. He was chastened for our well-being and peace. By His stripes, we are healed. For our personal victory, we still need to do appropriate His victory into our lives through faith.

Surely he has borne our grief and carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him,
and by his stripes we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray; each of us has turned to his own way,
but the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Not only did Jesus pay for our victories, Jesus empowered us to live a life pleasing to Him by sending the Holy Spirt. During His ministry, Jesus told the disciples that it was to their advantage that He go away so He could send the Holy Spirit. After His resurrection, Jesus told his disciples not to leave Jerusalem until they had received power from on high. Peter's life, before and after Pentecost, exemplifies the difference the Holy Spirit can make.

"Nevertheless I tell you the truth: It is expedient for you that I go away. For if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you" (John 16:7).

"But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you shall be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

We are a blessed generation. If Jesus is our Lord and Savior, our sins have been forgiven. If we are led by the Spirit, we are not under the law. If we want to be like Jesus, a good place to start is the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). His power is exemplified by the gifts of the Spirit (1 Cor. 12:7-11). Jesus taught that we glorify the Father by doing mighty works in His name. By living on this side of the cross, we have many opportunities to glorify and bless His name. Jesus paid a high price so we can be forgiven and empowered. Let us be thankful for His sacrifice. Let us take advantage of His many gifts to glorify His name.

"But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law" (Gal. 5:18).

"Truly, truly I say to you, he who believes in Me will do the works that I do also. And he will do greater works than these, because I am going to My Father. I will do whatever you ask in My name, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it" (John 14:12-14).

Dr. James Russell is a professor of economics at Oral Roberts University.

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