Christianity 201

December 5, 2017

The Church of Sardis Needed Strengthening

by Russell Young

At the beginning of his revelation to humankind, the Lord pronounced blessings on those who would hear and take to heart the fullness of that revelation. Following this he commended the seven churches for their strengths and admonished them for their failures. At the end of his revelation he promised a presence in the New Jerusalem for those who overcome. (Rev 21:7) They were to do something to find eternal fellowship with him, not to passively rest in mental “belief” or in the “acceptance” of his gift of grace.

His address to the churches was not to the church corporate but to the body of the churches. To the church in Sardis he stated, “I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard: obey it and repent.” (Rev 3: 1─3 NIV) The blessing that the Lord had proclaimed rested in the need for those of Sardis to wake up and to obey what they had received.

It is easy for a church to have a reputation of being alive. A reputation is derived from the impressions of others. A church can be very active within itself and within the community, as was likely the church in Sardis. However, the Lord declared it to be “dead,” or perhaps, its members to be dead. He left them with the call to “obey” and dismissed their reputation of being alive.

The issue of concern to him appears to be that of personal righteousness, since he addressed the state of their coverings and commented that a few people had not soiled their clothes. These he proclaimed would walk with him dressed in white. “White” raiment stands for purity and holiness. Those who don’t wear white will be left shamefully exposed. He admonished the church in Laodicea to buy “white clothes to wear, so so[they] could cover [their] shameful nakedness.” (Rev 3:18 NIV) Apparently the need for personal righteousness had been lost in the church of Sardis and in the minds of its people. The Lord said that he or she who “overcomes” like them would be dressed in white, that their name would not be blotted from the book of life, and that he would acknowledge them before his Father and his angels.” He did not say that they needed to confess him as Lord but that they had to live out their confession through obedience–to do something, if they were to avoid death. Even though the church had a reputation of being alive, the Lord’s assessment was that most of its members were dead.

The need for personal righteousness is seldom declared; it is assumed to have been given as an act of grace by the Lord. Many claim to rest their hope “in the righteousness of Christ alone” without exploring the meaning of their pronouncement. Paul warned his readers not to be deceived. “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Gal 6: 7─8 NIV) Pleasing the Spirit requires obedience to him. The writer of Hebrews declared that “[Christ] became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Heb 5: 9 NIV, Italics added.) Those who have chosen to walk in darkness—apart from the Spirit, or who do not recognize the need for obedience due to deceptive teaching will reap destruction even though they may have attended church many times a week and have a reputation for being alive because of their busyness and activity.  The Lord commends his children for their righteous acts and gifts of mercy; however, without holiness no one will see him. (Heb 12:14 NIV)

There are many false doctrines being presented that bring comfort to the dead, but the Lord cautioned the church of Sardis, and his people through them, to “Wake up!” The promise of a place in the New Jerusalem is only offered to those who “overcome.” (Rev 21:7) Does your walk need strengthening? Do the teachings of your church need strengthening? The church in Sardis was found wanting and needed strengthening.


Author Russell Young’s column appears on alternate Tuesdays. His book Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo. 9781512757514

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.


Our Thursday contributor, Clarke Dixon, also looked at the church of Sardis earlier this year. Click here to read Dead Churches, Like Sardis.


Yes, today’s first scripture text did indeed form the basis of a Bob Dylan song, When You Gonna Wake Up.

November 14, 2017

“I Have Lost Everything!”

by Russell Young

I recently heard a committed believer lament, “I have lost everything!”  Perhaps as someone endeavoring to walk “in the light,” as John puts it (1 Jn1: 5─7), you are struggling through a valley experience; you feel that you are being attacked from all sides. The committed believer does not need be overwhelmed with loss, the only things that those “in Christ” can lose are sin, sin’s practices, right to self-determination, and your status “in Christ.”

The greatest fear that any believer can have is his or her failure to remain “in Christ.” Many teach that such a fear is unbiblical, that a person cannot lose his or her position in Christ. However, Christ presents this change in status as a very clear possibility. “[My Father] cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit.” (Jn 15:1; Italics added.) Further, the Lord spoke about the blessings that arise “If [a person] remains in him” (Jn 15:5, 7, 10), and promises that he will remain in the person who remains in him. (Jn 15:4) A person remains in him if he or she obeys his commands. (Jn 15:10) The believer—a believer is one who obeys him—need not fear loss, but all who claim his name need to be believing–belief must be ongoing. In another place Christ also spoke of the possibility of impermanence in the family. (Jn 8:35)

It is important for the believer, the person “in Christ,” to understand the reality of what is transpiring in his or her life. Valley experiences require that time be committed to prayer and meditation. Truth must be separated from feelings and losses from gains. Certainly, disappointment, the thwarting of dreams, and even the loss of “friends” or financial security can weigh down a sensitive spirit, but these may not be losses from the Lord’s perspective; consequently, they should not be considered losses from the believer’s perspective. This is easy to say for someone not involved, but reflection will reveal that losses, in fact, may not have been losses at all.  “Losses” bring a person up short. They greatly impact the progress of life and call for an alteration in some sense. However, the Lord is looking out for the good of those “in him.”  Paul encouraged, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28 NIV) It is easy to become distracted and to stray from the Lord’s will and it can hurt to become re-oriented, to have ungodly interests chipped away, and to be maintained on the narrow path.

The Word never taught that all things would go painlessly for the believer. In fact, he promised persecution (2 Tim 3:12) and trials (1 Thess 3:3; 1 Pet 1:6) and even discipline (1 Cor 11:32; Heb 12:5-7; Rev 3:19) and punishment. (Heb 12:6) Discipline and punishment apply to those he loves.  (Heb 12:5) “God disciplines us for our good that we might share in his holiness.” (Heb 12:10 NIV)

God tests hearts. He did it for the Israelites in the wilderness (Ex 12:25, 16:4, 20:20; Deut 8:2, 16, 13:3;) He tested Abraham (Gen 22:1), Job (Job 23:10), and Jeremiah (Jer 12:3). He even tested the heart of his Son (Mt 4:1; Mk 1:13; Lk 4:1) Those who claim the name of Christ will be tested also. (Job 7:18; 1 Chr 29:17; 1 Thess 2:4; Jas 1:12) God tests hearts and the faithful will be found walking obediently with him.

The only way a believer can “lose everything” is for him or her to abandon the Lord and the position that was provided for them. Trials must be faced for what they are…trials. This life is not easy. Imperfections must be cut away; holiness must be built through righteousness practices. (Rom 6: 19, 22) All those who want to remain in Christ and attain to the resurrection must live as he did. “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 Jn 2:6)

When you are counting your loses, it is important to consider them from an eternal perspective.  Jesus said, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Mt 16:25 NIV) Loss is often a very good thing.


Russell Young’s column appears on alternate Tuesdays. He is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo. 9781512757514

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.

October 31, 2017

Who Has Christ’s Sacrifice Made Perfect Forever?

by Russell Young

There seems to be common acceptance that Christ’s sacrificial offering has made the redeemed one perfect forever. Hebrews 10:14 is used to promote this understanding. “[B]ecause by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (NIV)

There are some observations concerning the placement and the contents of this passage that need to be considered. The writer has been presenting the efficacy of the “unblemished” sacrifice of Christ as compared to the need of the Old Covenant priests to offer a sacrifice for their own sins and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance every time they entered the inner room. He has presented that since the sacrifice of Christ was unblemished and offered once there is no longer any need for further sacrifices.

The theme of his efficacy has been presented several times in preceding passages, but how does the writer’s teaching affect understanding of a person’s eternal perfection? Previously he had written that “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit, who have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away, to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.” (Heb 6:4─6 NIV) This does not support eternal perfection for those who “fall away.” The passage needs to be contrasted to, and considered along with his teaching about having been made perfect forever. Christ will not be crucified again; his offering was made once. Those who “fall away,” and there will be some, will be deprived of further hope. The writer’s point is that the confessor was made perfect and if he or she continues in the process of “being made holy” that perfection will remain.

The forever perfection that he references applies to only a select group of the redeemed. While one passage references those who fall away, the second references those who remain faithful to Christ, those who are progressing through sanctification and who are being made holy. The development of personal holiness following a person’s redemption is achieved by the Spirit’s ministry as he or she lives righteously in this world. Paul has written, “Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.” (Rom 6:19 NIV Italics added.) For those who accept that Christ’s imputed righteousness is sufficient, Paul has also written that “By faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.” (Gal 5:5 NIV Italics added.) The needed righteousness is being “awaited.” There are many passages that present the need to be led by the Holy Spirit if the redeemed person is to be eternally saved. (Heb 5:9; Rom 8:4, 8: 13─14, Jn 10:27; Gal 5: 18) Paul further admonished believers, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please the sinful nature from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Gal 6:7─8 NIV)

The point of the Hebrews 10:14 passage is that the sacrificial offering of Christ will only be made once and that it is sufficient to keep perfect those who are being made holy. John has addressed these people as those who are “walking in the light.” “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, the Son, purifies us from all sin.” (1 Jn 1:7 NIV Italics added.) Obedience is the practice of faith and only the obedient are believers (Heb 3:18─19); not all confessors.

Hebrews 10:14 should not be represented to imply or to affirm that the offering of Christ made the redeemed person perfect forever, but only the obedient (Heb 5:9) redeemed. It is from Christ’s single offering that perfection comes, and it is only effective for those who are being made holy.


Over the past year many of you have gotten to know Russell Young’s writing here at C201. He’s recently written a much longer piece, Have All Your Sins Been Forgiven?, which we’ve posted on its own page at this link.


Russell Young’s column appears on alternate Tuesdays. He is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo. 9781512757514

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.

 

October 30, 2017

Have All Your Sins Been Forgiven?

Filed under: — paulthinkingoutloud @ 2:11 pm

A special supplementary article by Russell Young

The Word of God does not reveal that all sins, including those that a confessor will commit have been forgiven, although this is a common understanding. Certainly, all of those committed before confession of faith have been forgiven and forgotten. (Col 2:13) The consequence of the confessor’s appreciation of this fact is great. Those who carry sin must answer for it at the judgment seat of Christ.

Hebrews 9:15 states, “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those called may receive the promised eternal inheritance—now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” (Heb 9:15 NIV, Italics added) Peter has presented that the believer “has been cleansed of his past sins.” (2 Pet 1:9 NIV) “Past sins” were cleansed so that we might receive the Spirit, who provides eternal salvation. (2 Thess 2:13; Titus 3: 5─6) “He redeemed us…so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” (Gal 3:14 NIV) It is the Spirit who is to lead in righteous living and the avoidance of further sin. The sins committed before confession of Christ’s lordship (Rom 10:9─10) were cleansed through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness; avoidance of sin following is availed through the life of Christ being exercised through his presence in the believer.

John has made the need for confession of sin following redemption clear in his epistle. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn 1:9 NIV) Confessed sin at this point is advocated by Christ as high priest. “I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense–Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.” (1 Jn 2:1 NIV) The first application of the blood of Christ was to remove the barrier of sin that separates from God so that the Spirit might be obtained; following applications of his blood are advocated or pleaded by Christ with the Father for sanctification and transformation. Sinning is rebellion against God and brings his wrath since he has provided everything that is necessary for life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3) and disobedience will bring God’s wrath. (Eph 5:6)

Some would like to believe that their cleansing need was solely satisfied by Christ through the imputation of his righteousness; however, the believer’s need is on-going and righteousness is being “awaited.” (Gal 5:5 NIV) Paul wrote: “Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!” (Rom 5:9─10 NIV, Italics added) It must be appreciated that Christ came to destroy the work of Satan…all of it. (1 Jn:3 NIV) That is, he had to cleanse the believer of his past sins and to fit him or her with the Spirit so that they might be competent to meet God’s “righteous requirements” concerning their practices, and have life. Paul wrote: “And so [God] condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:3─4 NIV) Further, he wrote: “We have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live by the sinful nature you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom 8:12─14 NIV) The life of Christ, as Spirit (2 Cor 3:17, 18; Col 1:27; Gal 2:20, 4:6), must be lived (Rom 8:4; Gal 6:7─8) within the believer. “Christ in you [is] your hope of glory.” (Col 1:27 NIV)

Through his baptism the believer pledges to maintain a good conscience toward God. (1 Pet 3:21) He or she has proclaimed that they are committed to practice death to sin. It indicates an intent through a pledge. This does not mean, as stated above by John, that the believer will not sin, but that the body is to be reckoned to have been crucified. This being so, he cannot sin because a dead body does not have life to sin. “If we have been united with him in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.” (Rom 6:5 NIV Italics added) The “if” makes this a conditional statement revealing that the resurrection is available if death to sin takes place. Paul affirmed this teaching concerning his own hope. To the Philippians he wrote, “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (Phil 3:10─11 NIV) Christ’s suffering was for victory over temptation. (Heb 2:18) Paul proclaimed that he had to “press on” to gain the resurrection (Phil 3:12 NIV); so must the believer. Those who “overcome” will inherit the New Jerusalem. (Rev 21:7).

To further this understanding, John has written, “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 Jn 2:6 NIV) The only way that a person can walk as Jesus did is to obediently submit to his leading. Christ lived without sin in the body that the father had prepared for him in the womb of Mary and he can do it in the body of the believer. There is both a life to be lived and a death to be lived if sin is to be avoided and victory gained.

Some might say, “We all sin! How can we avoid it?” To understand the means to victory over sin requires and understanding of the ministry of Christ as Holy Spirit and as High Priest. As Spirit, the Lord enlightens, leads, and empowers the obedient for victory. However, he or she must be obediently led. (Jn 10:27; Heb 5:9) When a person has been convicted concerning the commission of a sin, he or she is to confess it to be forgiven. When warned of its presence before commission, it is to be avoided. The believer is to “work out [his or her] own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil 2:12) The practice of sin cannot be taken lightly. The writer of Hebrews has admonished, “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth (including conviction by the Spirit), no sacrifice for sins is left, but only the fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire.” (Heb 10:26─27 NIV)

As high priest, Christ advocates for the one who has sinned (1 Jn 2:1), provided it has been confessed or is committed in ignorance. Those who deliberately practice sin—”walk in darkness” (1 Jn 1:6), who have been informed (convicted by the Spirit) of its presence and deliberately continue to sin, will not enjoy the advocacy of Christ. “No sacrifice for sins” is left for them. (Heb 10:26) When sin is recognized it is to be humbly confessed so that it might be forgiven. (1 Jn 1:9, 2:1) All sin is offensive to God and as high priest the Lord will intervene on behalf of the believer when he or she confesses sin or when he or she sins “in ignorance.” (Heb 9:7; see also 8:5) The believer cannot confess that which he doesn’t know.

When Christ said that his burden was not heavy, he was referring to the fact that he works gently with the believer, the person who has faith in him and seeks to obey him. His purpose is to make the believer a sacrificial offering acceptable to God. (Rom 15:16) It is to transform the believer from having a heart and soul that brings pain to God (Gen 6: 5─6) to one that is acceptable. As Spirit he convicts of the sin that he is addressing in the believer’s life, although other sins might be being practiced through the believer’s ignorance. All sin is offensive to God and the Lord, as High Priest and knowing the weaknesses of people (Heb 2:17─18), will advocate for a person concerning those sins that are unknown or have not been revealed. Believers are God’s “workmanship” (Eph 2:10 NIV) or “masterpiece” (NLT) and through a re-birth he is re-creating them in his likeness. (Rom 8:29)

This is not the depiction of grace that is often presented. However, the life offering of Christ is a gift of grace, the pardon of past sins is a gift of grace. Release from the Old Covenant which kills and access to the New which gives life (2 Cor 3:6) is a gift of grace. The gift of the Holy Spirit along with his sanctifying and transforming ministry is a gift of grace. The advocacy of Christ as High Priest is also a gift of grace.

To make clear that not all sin has been forgiven, the Word has addressed the issue of hypocrisy. Hypocrites are those who like to live a lie (Rev 22:15), who walk in darkness (1 Jn 1:6). They say one thing, that Christ is their lord (Rom 10: 9─10), and live according to their own leading. Christ said that the servant who is unfaithful would be treated as the hypocrites. “He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Mt 24:51 NIV) They had confessed Christ as lord and had tasted his goodness; otherwise, they would not be classified as hypocrites. Their sin and disregard for righteous living will not be pardoned; the cost will be great.

Peter spoke of others who have left the straight way and have wandered off, loving the wages of wickedness. (2 Pet 2:15) They had escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior and have again become entangled in it and overcome. He says that they are worse off than they were at the beginning. (2 Pet 2:20).

John wrote, “If anyone sees his brother commit a sin that does not lead to death, he should pray and God will give him life.” (1 Jn 5:16 NIV) That prayer is to relieve his brother, a fellow believer, of the consequences of his sin. It appears that without such a prayer, death awaits. (See also James 5:20)

Paul concluded his first epistle to the Thessalonians with the admonition that it “was God’s will that they should be sanctified” and listed numerous unrighteous practices following which he cautioned his “brothers” that “the Lord will punish men for all such sins, as we have already told you and warned you.”

Paul admonished believers in Galatia not to be deceived. “Do not be deceived: God will not be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Gal 6:7─8)

Further, those who dismiss their sin with the understanding that it has been forgiven must make sense of Biblical teachings concerning judgment, the need for righteous living, unfaithful living, living by the natural spirit, the ministries of the Spirit and of Christ as high priest, of wrath following justification, and of separation from God.

Those who walk indifferently in the world supposing that their sins have been forgiven regardless of the things that they do will face consequences for their actions. “For we all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Cor 5:10 NIV) Those who encourage or allow rebellion and wickedness through their teaching will also bring destruction on themselves. (2 Pet 2:1)

Peter wrote of teachers who would introduce destructive heresies by denying or rejecting the sovereign Lord. If he is not seen as being sovereign over the believer and honoured through the

Spirit, he is not seen as being the sovereign Lord. This understanding is crucial. Adam and Eve did not recognize the sovereignty or authority of God and through Satan’s deception ignored his command. The Israelites would not accept his sovereignty and despite his constant chastisement and blessings, and the weakness of their flesh, went their own way. Christ has been availed to live his life in the flesh of believer’s and those who do not recognize his sovereignty will also join the many on the broad road that leads to destruction.

The epistle of 2 Peter reveals the fate of those who “despise authority” and live corrupted lives through their sinful nature, those who have rejected the leadership of the Holy Spirit, or sovereignty of Christ. Their failure to recognize the holiness of God and his righteous requirements will lead to their destruction. Peter has concluded his letter by reminding his readers that some people distort Paul’s writing, as they do other Scriptures, to their own destruction, and cautions them to be on guard not to be carried away by the error of lawless men–those who deny the laws of Christ (1 Cor 9:21) or the law of the Spirit of life. (Rom 8:2) — and fall from their secure position. (2 Pet 3:16─17; Jn 8:35) The adoption of lawlessness through the practice of sin (1 Jn 3:5), which is failure to obey his commands, will bring about the end of the known world. Isaiah prophesied, “The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left.” (Isa 24: 5─6 NIV) His commands were to be fully met by those who live according to the Spirit. (Rom 8:4)

Not all sin has been forgiven and as the Lord stated, blasphemy of the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven. (Mk 3:29) “Anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or alien, blasphemes the LORD and that person must be cut off from his people.” (Num 15:30 NIV)

Sin must be addressed; it will not be overlooked and has not been given full pardon; however, forgiveness can be availed through Christ for those walking in the light and seeking forgiveness for their transgressions.


Russell Young’s column appears on alternate Tuesdays. He is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo. 9781512757514

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.

October 17, 2017

Christ as Mediator

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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by Russell Young

What is the mediatorial ministry of Christ? In addressing the role of high priest, the writer of Hebrews has presented: “But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs (high priests of the Old Covenant) as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and is founded on better promises,” (Heb 8:6 NIV)

This passage reveals that Christ is mediator of a new covenant. The New Covenant is a covenant of the Spirit (2 Cor 3:6) and it is through these covenantal blessings that the believer is made competent to become a sacrifice that is pleasing to God and it is through Christ’s ministry within the believer that he is able to mediate by enabling the believer to become fit for the kingdom. (Rom 15:16)

The ministry of Christ entails more than is often recognized.  A mediator is a person who arbitrates between two people; he brings them together by removing the obstacles that separate. John has identified Christ as the “advocate” or “intercessor” for the person who sins; the same Greek word has been presented as “comforter” and references the Holy Spirit. The mediation of Christ involves his ministries as sacrifice, Holy Spirit, and high priest. Without any of these ministries humankind would remain separated from God, unfit for his eternal kingdom. People need to be conformed to the likeness of Christ (Rom 8:29) to become a sacrifice acceptable to God.

As sacrifice, Christ took the death penalty that awaits all humankind because of their sin, and provided access to God so that the believer might be given the Holy Spirit (Gal 3:14) and the blessings of the New Covenant. (Heb 9:15)

As Holy Spirit, he enlightens (Jn 14:26), leads (Jn 10:3, Rom 8:4, 14; Gal 5:18), and empowers (Acts 1:8; 2 Pet 1:3; Lk 4:14; Rom 15:19) for righteousness and conformation to the likeness of the Son of God, his own likeness. This mediation makes the believer suitable to God; it returns him or her to the state that God found “very good” in Genesis. (Gen 1:31)

As high priest, he advocates for the one who has sinned. (1 Jn 2:1) The redeemed person needs to be cautious concerning sin, however. Those who deliberately keep on sinning after they have been informed (convicted by the Spirit) of its presence will not enjoy the advocacy of Christ. “No sacrifice for sins” is left for them. (Heb 10:26) When sin is recognized it is to be humbly confessed so that it might be forgiven. (1 Jn 1:9) All sin is offensive to God and as high priest the Lord intervenes on behalf of the believer when he or she confesses sin or when she or he sins in ignorance. (Heb 9:7; see also 8:5)

Believers should not accept that the sacrifice of Christ on the cross is the fullness of Christ’s mediatorial ministry. Nor should they accept a passive or indifferent attitude towards his leading following their redemption. They are to be led (follow) and they are to be obedient. (Heb 5:9; Rom 8:4; Gal 6:7-8) An advocate can only plead for the believer’s pardon based on the elements of the situation. Deliberate disobedience can not be advocated; it is rebellion.

Christ is merciful and faithful and is ready to help the believer “in his time of need.” (Heb 4:16) That need might be wisdom to avoid temptations or for strength to withstand and to defeat them, or it may be to seek forgiveness when defeated.

The mediation of Christ on behalf of the believer needs to be fully appreciated.  It is common to hear praise for the Lord for what he has done, but he also needs to be appreciated and praised for all that he continues to do through his indwelling presence as Spirit (Col 1:27) and for providing his cleansing blood as high priest. To become an offering acceptable to God the believer must be sanctified by the Spirit and transformed into the Lord’s likeness.


Russell Young’s column appears on alternate Tuesdays. He is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo. 9781512757514

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.

October 3, 2017

Obedience and Faith

by Russell Young

The connection between obedience and faith needs to be understood. One of the main themes of the Bible is that believers, the redeemed, need to walk in faith throughout their lifetimes if they are to gain God’s heavenly kingdom. Christ said, “he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Mt 10:22, 24:13; Mk 13:13) “Standing firm” is being steadfast in faith. Although many take faith to be a possession, it is also a practice. The great faith chapter of Hebrews 11 records the way many of the great heroes and saints of time past revealed their faith by their actions. James has recorded, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” (Jas 2:26 NIV) The writer of Hebrews has clearly presented that the disobedient lack faith. “And to whom did God swear that they would not enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.” (Heb 3:18 NIV) Those who rest their hope solely in a confession of faith once made need to consider these words.

  The Israelite Exodus, those “redeemed” from Egypt (Deut 7:8; Mic 6:4,) reveals the consequences that rested on the nation because of their rebellion against the authority of God, because they lacked faith in him. The first generation of those who left Egypt was condemned to die in the wilderness; they had disobeyed God and had tested him repeatedly (Num 14:22), treating him with contempt. (v. 23) Their children were to suffer for the “unfaithfulness” of their parents. (v. 33) The generation of those who had left Egypt were prevented from entering the Promised Land and from enjoying its riches. Like the Israelites of old, many of the redeemed today will be left to wander the dryness of wilderness life because of their disobedience; some will never cross the Jordan to gain the eternal rest promised in God’s Word.

Since the Reformation many teachers have offered that God’s grace is their only need and their hope and in making their presentations they have allowed a philosophical understanding of “God’s grace” to invade their thinking displacing any notion of obedience which is often considered to be “works.” In the only instance were “eternal salvation” is presented in the Word it is stated as being achieved through obedience to Christ just as God required of the Israelites in the Exodus. “[Christ] became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Heb 5:9 NIV, Italics added.) The disobedient are those walking in unbelief, who are lacking in faith. Knowing God, trusting him, compels a walk of obedience. Christ is to lead the way and believers are to humbly follow. Christ is the Holy Spirit and it is he as Spirit who is to direct their walk. (2 Cor 3:17, 18; Gal 2:20,4:6; Col 1:27)

Those who defy the Spirit through disobedient acts blaspheme him and will be cut from the body. “But anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or alien, blasphemes the LORD, and that person must be cut off from his people. Because he has despised the LORD’s word and broken his commands, that person must surely be cut off; his guilt remains on him.” (Num 15:30-31 NIV)

  Disobedience has been the sin issue that has separated humankind from their creator from the beginning of time.  God had told the Israelites, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all the nations you will be my treasured possession.” (Ex 19:5 NIV) As a nation they were to obey the Lord and follow his commands and decrees. (Deut 27:19) Of course, they could not accomplish the righteous requirements that the Lord had set forth in his law. Through the Holy Spirit believers have been enabled with “everything that is needed for life and godliness.” (2 Pet 1:3 NIV) They have been made “competent.” (2 Cor 3:6 NIV) Believers have not been given life and godliness but all that is needed for it. (2 Pet 1:3) Just as God had required the Israelites to obey him, he requires obedience to the Spirit, Christ in them. The Lord can do through his presence in believers what they can not do for themselves because of the weakness of their sinful nature (Rom 8:3), but their faith must be sufficient to obediently follow him.

Faith is persuasion of the promises and power of Christ, including his Spirit, to accomplish the believer’s eternal hope. Faith requires the practice of that faith through humble obedience to the only one able to accomplish it for them, the Lord.


Russell Young’s column appears on alternate Tuesdays. He is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo. 9781512757514

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.

September 19, 2017

Surviving a Valley Experience

by Russell Young

Every believer will be faced with a valley experience at some point. That is, something will come into his or her life that seems devastating and destructive. It might be the loss of a loved one, financial damage, health issues, the pain of a destroyed relationship, the hurt of perceived betrayal, etc. For those living in Florida or Texas, or those suffering through the destructive earthquake of southern Mexico the valley experience is very evident.  Bad things happen and those engulfed in them must find a way through if they are to once more find hope on the other side.

When bad things happen, a person needs to clearly understand what victory looks like to him or her since without it only defeat remains. Their appreciation of victory provides objectivity and the goal that offers hope and recovery. It provides direction for obtaining the mountaintop and the ability to confidently proceed with life.

Although overcoming disaster may look different and feel different for each person, it is singular and consistent for all believers.  Victory while in this life is the attainment of God’s eternal kingdom. Jesus taught, “The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” (Jn 12:25 NIV) This life and the glories of this world are not to be valued. There are lessons to be learned from all “misfortunes.” For believers, the lesson may be a reminder to rely on God and to live according to his priorities and purposes. The “consistent and singular” need of the Christ follower is to focus and remain focused on him.

Paul put difficulties into an eternal perspective. “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor 4:17─18, Italics added.)

Victory must not be accepted as triumph over a momentary event but seen from an eternal perspective with the finding a place in God’s kingdom. There is no doubt that loss brings hurt and causes pain, even great pain and help and compassion needs to be shown the suffering. No one enjoys such experiences but it is through them that faith is tested and proven.  “…you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory, and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Pet 1:6─7 NIV) The faith of all will be tested. God made the Israelites wander for forty years to test their hearts (Deut 8:2), and Christ was tested in the desert for forty days. Those who confess Christ should not accept that they will be provided a life free of tribulation, turmoil, and pain. Trials are promised to all believers.

Whether or not release can be found from the effects of the devastations of life depends entirely on a person’s perspective. Those who do not have an eternal hope will feel great loss; those who know the Lord can find their way up to the mountaintop by fixing their sight on the only one who can meet their eternal need. They can look past their circumstance and onward to a better hope. Valleys are necessary for spiritual growth. They test our mettle and either engender and prove faith or reveal its weakness. Contrary to the teaching of many, the believer must be made into an “offering acceptable to God” (Rom 15:16 NIV) and “conformed to the likeness of his Son.” (Rom 8:29 NIV) When the believer’s perspective becomes focused on the issues and pleasures of this life, it must be adjusted. That is not to say that all people who are walking in the valley need an adjustment.  Sometimes the valley experience becomes ours due to proximity of those around us…family members, neighbors, communities, etc. Few live in isolation.

Concerning God’s intercession Paul wrote, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28 NIV) This understanding can provide great encouragement for those who are suffering. Regardless of the believer’s circumstance he or she can accept that through humility and obedience all will be well.

Here and now issues must not be permitted to cast the Lord aside. Things arise that require immediate effort and resources. Although the tendency might be for the troubled one to address the problem through his or her own resources without the Lord’s leading a wrong path might be taken and his purpose thwarted. In 2 Corinthians 11:23─27 Paul has listed many of his trials; however, he never gave in to defeat. He did not lose himself in their midst but set his sight on the bigger picture.

Whatever the struggles of life seem to be, they are temporal and must be seen as temporal. As bad as they are if the Lord leads they will eventually pass allowing the sun to shine once again and peace to be restored. The believer is to keep his or her eye set on Christ and on honoring him. That is faith in practice. He must be honored even in the midst of trials. Earthly possessions, health, and relationships may be lost never to be regained; but God is in control and will always remain sovereign over all things.

Paul suffered through despair but found assurance of victory through Christ.  “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us…” (2 Cor 1: 8-10 NIV)  Surviving a valley experience requires eyes set on God and a heart set on honoring him.

September 5, 2017

The Issue of Forgiving

by Russell Young

(scripture verses italics added for emphasis)

All of those who have come to know God have recognized their sinful state. They know that their wickedness has separated them from his holy nature and being. What a blessing it is to know that despite our rebellion, the Lord forgives the transgressions of those who call upon him and has paid the cost of sin through the offering of his life on the tree. “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him.”  (Ps 32:1─2 NIV) Not only did he forgive our sins, he forgot them. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Heb 8:12 NIV)

The writer of Hebrews has provided additional insight into the benefit of God’s forgiveness. “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God.” (Heb 9:14 NIV) The conscience of the believer has been cleansed. He or she does not have to carry the dark burden of guilt that beleaguers the conscience concerning the acts that would have brought about his or her death.  The conscience must be clear and clean since God uses it to direct his people in pursuit of righteous living. When the conscience is troubled by many things, the leading of the Spirit becomes obscured and difficult. It is through knowledge of the Lord’s will, his leading, that the living God may be served. It is only the clean heart, a holy person, that God can use for noble purposes. (2 Tim 2:20─21)

What does the Lord require of the believer concerning the practice of forgiveness? The familiar words in the Lord’s prayer read, “Forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.” (Mt 6:12 NIV) That is, our sins will be forgiven according to the measure that we forgive those of others. A few verses later the Lord clarified, “For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” (Mt 6:14─15 NIV) Judgment will remain for those who maintain hard and unmalleable hearts concerning a wrong once suffered.

A lot has been written about forgiveness and yet few people seem to understand its demands. Experience has revealed that many suppose forgiveness has been granted by making a pronouncement to that effect. Proclaiming forgiveness is easy; forgiving is difficult and a challenge to a person’s soul.  The practice of forgiving requires a poor memory.  The LORD said that he “would remember their sins no more.” Willingness to forget an offence, to never allow it to come to memory or to allow others to bring it to memory, is very difficult. It is easy to claim that a wrong has been forgiven but much harder to refuse to let it enter the mind further. In fact, forgiveness is a process not an event. When the wrong that has been forgiven wants to rouse itself in the mind, it must be blocked and dismissed. Wrongs can be painful and their effects even long-lasting.  To forgive demands commitment and perseverance to that end. Victory must be gained through battle.  The proclamation of forgiveness to an offender should not be repeated or need repeating (It is to have been forgotten after all.); however, reliance on the Spirit to produce the heart that truly forgives may need to be repeatedly sought. It is not a person’s words that testify of true forgiveness, but his or her heart attitude concerning the issue and it is the heart that the LORD will consider.

If the “forgiven” offence is ever raised again, the proclamation of forgiveness has been false.  Hurts are easy to remember. They can be used and repeated to gain the favor and sympathy of others or to infer an obligation from the forgiven one. They can be used to promote an attitude of personal righteousness. When the offence is repeated to others the motivation for “forgiveness” has not been to release the other from his or her sin, or to humbly honor the Lord, but for personal and selfish gain. Once an offence is forgiven it should never be allowed to resurface in mind or in word.

True forgiveness leads to the cleansing of the offender’s conscience. In fact, failure to forgive requires the offender to carry and to be subject to the penalty of his or her transgression. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven, (Jn 20:23 NIV) but neither will yours be. A clean conscience is very valuable. As stated, the conscience is the instrument that Christ uses to guide a person in the path of righteousness.

The offender must repent to enjoy forgiveness. The Lord stated, “Unless you repent (of your sins) you will all perish,” (Lk 13:3, 5 NIV) and he still requires repentance for unrighteousness acts. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn 1:9 NIV) Concerning the practice of forgiveness towards our brothers, the Lord admonished, “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.” (Lk 17:3 NIV) The Lord demands those who offend to repent. He also demands something of the one sinned against. He or she is to rebuke the offender, to make known the offence. Sin is not permitted to fester and engender malice. An offence that is unknown cannot be treated. Repentance acknowledges that a hurt has occurred and the offender’s sorrow for it. Where there is acknowledgement there is hope of a changed attitude and altered soul.  The one who offends and whose heart is hard and inflexible must remain in his sin as must the one who will not forgive; God knows the heart of both. (Ps 139)

The acts of true repentance and forgiveness should leave all parties with a cleansed conscience so that the hurt might not lead to death and might allow for noble service for the kingdom of the Lord. The offence is to be forgotten and never allowed to surface again, nor permitted to surface through the mouths of others. Offering true forgiveness is never easy; forgetting can be difficult. True forgiveness may require a struggle and power through the Spirit of life to accomplish. Only in the manner that we forgive others will we be forgiven. It was easy for those in the world to sin against God; the forgiveness that he offered was not so easy; his pardon cost the life of his Son and as he has forgotten your sins, you are to forget those of others.


Russell Young’s column appears on alternate Tuesdays. He is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo. 9781512757514

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.

August 22, 2017

“For God So Loved the World”

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by Russell Young

The verse proclaiming God’s love for the world, John 3:16, is probably the most recognized passage in the Bible.  It is used as a common source of entry into the passages used by evangelists to reveal hope to humankind. The passage is a declaration of God’s love and of his provision for the person who is prepared to reach beyond himself or herself for a greater hope. The evangelist would state that “For God so loved you that he sacrificed his Son so that you might have eternal life if you would only believe.”

This verse has much more to proclaim than his love for people, however.  Note that the passage reads, “God so loved the world.” “World” is translated from the Greek kosmos meaning cosmos or his whole creation.  Jesus did not limit his proclamation of God’s love to people but to the totality of his handiwork.  The book of Genesis records, “God saw all that he had made, and it was very good.” (Gen 1:31 NIV) Paul re-stated this thought to Timothy, “everything God created is good and nothing is to be rejected.” (1 Tim 4: 4)

God’s love for his world or creation has been made clear in his revelation to John concerning the visitation of his wrath. “The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your saints and those who reverence your name, both small and great—and for destroying those who destroy the earth.” (Rev 11:18 NIV) He does not look kindly on those who would treat his handiwork with disdain.

All creation, including the earth, was and remains to be of great value to God. We live in a disposable age when things are perceived to have a specific lifespan. When the usefulness of something is considered to have been spent, it is indifferently cast aside. Apparently, God will not treat kindly those who have destroyed or who have treated his creation callously.

Believers should take note of this fact. But, you may say, the world is going to be consumed by fire and a new heaven and new earth will be formed so what difference does it make? Of first importance is the display of a careless attitude towards what God put design and effort into creating and which brought him pleasure and about which he proclaimed his satisfaction and joy. The second problem is that the earth is going to be redeemed or renewed and it is on earth that God’s heavenly (heaven-like) kingdom will be established.

God’s heavenly kingdom will not be someplace in space but here. It will not be a spiritual sphere without substance. At his return, the Lord will be the king over the whole earth. (Zech 14:9) When his work has been completed, his enemies are under his feet, and all dominion, authority, and power has been destroyed, he will hand over the kingdom to God the Father. (1 Cor 15:24) Even prior to Christ’s reign many physical changes will have taken place. (Zech 14:8,10, 12; Isa 35: 6 – 10; Mic 4: 1; Eze 36:35) “The LORD will surely comfort Zion and will look with compassion on all her ruins; he will make her deserts like Eden, her wastelands like the garden of the LORD.” (Isa 51:3 NIV)

Paul has stated that “the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth.” (Romans 8:22 NIV) God’s creation has not been completed or brought to maturity; it is being birthed. It will not be completed until the sinful body has been redeemed and the people who will dwell with him have been revealed. (Rom 8:19) God’s creation has been frustrated and is waiting “to be liberated from its bondage to decay.” (Rom 8:20 NIV) It will one day be returned to its Eden-like state, will have a people who have willingly chosen to submit to God’s sovereignty and are holy in state (Heb 12:14)and righteous in practice, and with whom God will dwell forever.

God loves his people and he loves all that he has created. When his enemies have been defeated, his creation will be freed and will assume the state and glory that he had planned and which humankind had thwarted thus far. The Lord, Jesus Christ not only gave his life to redeem a people for God’s kingdom, the world will be redeemed. Christ will have enabled God’s creation plan to be completed and once more it will be “very good.”

 

August 8, 2017

Living as a “Mugwump”

by Russell Young*

God strongly condemns living as a “mugwump.” A “mugwump” is someone who lives with his mug on one side of the fence and his rump on the other. He or she is partially committed to living for Christ but has not divorced himself or herself from the world. A mugwump wants the pleasures or benefits they perceive as coming from the world as well as those promised by Christ…hope of an eternal life with Christ. Many are taught that a person can live as a mugwump. However, the Lord has prophesied, “[B]ecause you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Rev 3:16 NIV) James has described these people as being double-minded. “Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” (Jas 4:7 NIV) He has also proclaimed the inability of the double-minded to gain wisdom. (Jas 1:8)

Believers must be careful not to be deceived. Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Gal 6:7─8) The Holy Spirit and the natural spirit are opposed to each other so that the confessor must make a conscious decision to accept one and to repel the other. When he or she cannot accomplish this, that person might be considered to be a mugwump. The pleasures of the world, entertained by the natural spirit, will bring destruction; obeying the Holy Spirit will being eternal life. The Lord also admonished, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Mt 6:24 NIV) This passage is a caution against “mugwumpery.”

Belief without cost is often the connotation of freedom that has allowed for fence-sitting. Evangelistic efforts often proclaim the glory awaiting the one who would profess a commitment to Christ. Promise of eternal security, surety of a place in God’s eternal community, allows for diminished commitment. Understanding that all believers–defined as those who have made a profession of faith–will share in Christ’s glory and rule with him, allows for a relaxed and uncommitted lifestyle. The mugwump does not seek righteousness since regardless of his or her choices Christ is promised as his righteousness.

Life is “good” for the mugwump. He or she lives a life of promise while basking in the pleasures of the world. The promises are false, however. John has recorded, “Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (1 Jn 2:15 NIV) James depicts friendship with the world as adultery. “You adulterous people don’t you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.” (Jas 4:4 NIV) Living as a mugwump is the same as being married to a wife while claiming the right to flirt, or worse, with others on the side. God is a jealous God and will not delight in the person who is not prepared to love him with all his or her heart, soul, mind, body, and strength. A believer is a person who is fully committed to the purposes and objectives of his or her Lord; He or she does not walk the path of personal interest or convenience.

Those who live as mugwumps will live to regret their positioning one day as they find themselves separated (2 Thess 1:9) from the one that they had pledged as their lord but had not committed to live under his rule.


*Starting today, Russell Young’s column here moves to every other Tuesday, or the first and third Tuesday in months having five. He is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  9781512757514

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.

July 30, 2017

A Call to Help and to Encourage

by Russell Young

The walk of faith is not as easy as some might think. It is for this reason that believers have been called upon to help and to encourage one another. The Word records that all Christ-followers will be persecuted, and that they must go through many trials. It is during these times that help and encouragement is needed to pursue a walk of faith. The church of Christ is a community of believers through whom the Lord works to accomplish his purposes personally, locally, and globally. The idea of community should not get lost since strength exists in community.

The nation of Israel faced a great trial at Rephidim. Lacking water, they quarreled and complained to Moses, “Is the Lord among us or not.” (Ex 17:7 NIV) When trials strike it is easy to feel abandoned and alone. It is easy to question whether God is with us. The promises that are so readily uttered seem hollow. The Israelites questioned the intent of God—did he lead them into the desert to let them die? Anyone going through a severe trial can easily question the presence of God. It is during times of testing that believers need someone to come along side and encourage them in their faith.  Before entering the Promised Land, Moses told his people, “Remember how the LORD your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands.” (Deut 8: 2 NIV) Trials have a purpose. Those who are enduring them are having their faith tested; God wants to know what is in their hearts. They need to be encouraged in their faith. The Lord stated, “All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Mt 10:22 NIV) Standing firm to the end is a condition of eternal salvation. In a person’s weakness, he or she needs the help and encouragement of those who care for them and Christ has commanded his disciples to love one another. (Jn 15:17) His second great commandment is that believers are to love their neighbour as themselves. (M2 22:39) Paul has revealed that the law of Christ is to “carry each other’s burdens.” (Gal 6:2 NIV) A law is not a suggestion, but a command.

The need to help one another was made clear by the Israelites at Rephidim. Not only did they lack water but once provided it they were attacked by the Amalekites. Trial came upon trial. Moses sent Joshua to attack them and went with Aaron and Hur to the top of the hill and held up his hands to God. While they humbled themselves before the LORD and sought his help, they found themselves winning.  When Moses lowered his hands, the battle favored the Amalekites. Sometimes we do not have the strength, physical, emotional, or spiritual, to do what must be done.  Moses’ arms became tired and he had to lower them. As much as he desired, victory would have deserted him if he had been left to his own resources. Fortunately, Aaron and Hur came alongside and lifted his hands for him and victory was given.

There are Christian brothers and sisters about us who will fail if not supported.  They cannot help it. Fatigue, discouragement, and circumstances take over. Some will not even humble themselves before their God as he required of the Israelites; they presume that victory is their right. They will not metaphorically lift their arms to God. These also need encouragement and teaching. Aaron and Hur did not accompany Moses by accident. God had placed them in a strategic position. They were to help Moses in his weakness.

Trials and persecutions in the believer’s life are not accidental. They are to test faith and every confessor will have his or her faith tested to discern its measure. Based on such testing the Lord will become knowledgeable or “know” (become certain) of those who are his. This will happen! Some are walking astray and need encouragement to walk in the light. Others might be struggling through discipline and punishment so that they might share in his holiness (Heb 12:10), while others might be suffering through health problems or as a life relationship causes them to share the tribulations of a loved one.

The Lord equates ministry to the needs of others as having been done for him. “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’” (Mt 25:40 NIV)

The family of believers is to share in the burdens of their brothers and sisters in the Lord and are to encourage and help them in their trial. They should not to be left to feel abandoned and alone. Both pain and joy ought to be shared experiences, community experiences. A person’s position in the life of another is not an accident; through the church community the hands, feet and mouth of Christ should always be available and exercised.


Starting next week, we introduce Sunday Worship, a weekly feature publishing at the end of your worship day and focusing on time spent in God’s presence. Each article in the series will have the same title. Writer suggestions and contributions are also appreciated.

Russell Young‘s writing moves to alternate Tuesdays, starting August 8th and 22nd, and thereafter on the first and third Tuesday of each month.


Russell Young is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

9781512757514

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.

July 23, 2017

The Humanity of Jesus, the Christ, and Eternal Salvation

by Russell Young

Before the sacrificial ministry of Christ can be understood, the fullness of his ministry as man must be appreciated since it is as man that he lived among humankind and that he died. It is easy to allow one’s mind to miss the extent of the Lord’s ministry on behalf of people and to fail to perceive the extent of his love, and even the means of eternal salvation without knowledge of his humanness.

Jesus was born from the womb of Mary possessing the human characteristics of all humankind. He had the same limitations and suffered the same temptations.  He came to help humankind, and to be effective in doing so he had to endure the flesh and its trials just as must all people. “For this reason [to help people] he had to be made like his brothers in every way in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.” (Heb 2:16─17 NIV. Italics added.) There was nothing about the humanity of Christ that would distinguish him from anyone else. He was fully human. He hurt when his flesh was wounded and agonized over the death of friends.  He went hungry and became tired. His body exerted the same desires and demands as does that of all men.

The above passage goes on to say, “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Heb 2:18 NIV) The temptations that afflicted the Lord caused him distress and suffering. A temptation is something that has a draw on the flesh and motivates for its appeasement. The writer of Hebrews has revealed the effect of temptations on Christ. “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” (Heb 5:7 NIV) The Lord fought his flesh and its draws; his interest in living a holy life and in pleasing his Father was greater than interest in his body.

Christ experienced the humanity of people and he understands it. His experience was necessary so that he could become our merciful and faithful high priest.  A high priest offers sacrifices for sins committed “in ignorance.” (Heb 9:7) Known sin is to be confessed in order to be cleansed (1 Jn 1:9); however, unknown sin, that not recognized as sin by the sinner, must also be cleansed.  According to his knowledge of the flesh and his mercy, Christ offers his blood to meet one’s need in this regard.

The human body and its interests are so prone to evil that Paul calls it “the body of death.” (Rom 7:24) The Lord’s experiential understanding is a blessing for those who seek righteousness, but is a curse for those who are willing to submit to carnal interests.  Paul wrote, “Now if we are children [of God] then we are heirs—if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may share in his glory.” (Rom 8:17 NIV Italics added.) The requirement for sharing in his glory is that people must suffer to gain victory over those unrighteous practices and thoughts that tempt the body and soul.  Paul taught, “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.” (! Cor 10:13 NIV) John taught, “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 Jn 2:6 NIV) The Lord triumphed over temptations so he knows that victory can be gained and the redeemed need to appreciate that he knows their commitment, or lack of it, to defeat sin.

The Spirit of Christ is there to help during times of temptation (Heb 2:18), but they, like the Lord, must seek it.  “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need,” (Heb 4:16 NIV) Believers are not called to live a passive life. They are to contend for victory, just as Christ did, and they are to help one another in that battle.

Jesus came to defeat the Old Covenant requirements for righteousness’ sake and he had to accomplish these in his own flesh to be an acceptable sacrifice. The Lord now dwells in the bodies of those who have professed his lordship. The secret that had been kept hidden for so long is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col 1:27) Just as he gained victory over the temptations that afflicted the body that the Father had prepared for him in the womb of Mary, a body like our own, he is able to accomplish such in the bodies of the remainder of humankind provided they are willing to listen and to obediently follow his leading. He has provided all that is necessary for victory (2 Pet 1:3) but just as he had to suffer to gain it, so must those in whom he indwells.  He does not over-rule a person’s will. Those who truly desire to dwell in his presence throughout eternity will strive with him. They are to put forth every effort (Lk 13:24), are to die to self-interest (Lk 17:33; Gal 6:7─8), and are to follow him. (Jn 10:27)

It was the humanity of the Lord that enabled him to be an acceptable sacrifice for humankind and it was his humanity that allowed him to appreciate the trials of the flesh arousing his mercy and grace so that he might intercede for those seeking to walk in the light and to pursue righteousness. Many accept that his ministry for them was completed at the cross, however, it is on-going and will only be completed when his life in the confessor is quenched, thwarted, or denied or when death occurs. He is the second Adam, the victorious one, and the one that enables victory.


After next week, Russell Young’s articles will appear here on alternative Tuesdays. We’re introducing a recurring feature starting August 6th with all articles appearing under the title Sunday Worship. Feel free to recommend any writers or articles you think would fit here.



Russell Young is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

9781512757514

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.

July 16, 2017

Make an Effort

by Russell Young

How disturbing it is to hear the proclamation that everything has been done for the believer and that all that is required of him or her is to sit back and enjoy the ride. The Lord said, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” (Lk 13:24 NIV)

The teaching of God’s “sovereign grace” has pervaded the thoughts and teachings that are being directed to those who sincerely want to gain God’s eternal kingdom. The term “sovereign grace” does not exist in the Word; consequently, its understanding is a construct of man. Certainly, God is sovereign over all things and over the application of his grace. In this sense, God’s grace is really God’s sovereign grace. The problem is that the interpretation and application of grace has evolved into an understanding that may not be biblical.

The Hebrew word often accepted as applying to grace is chen which means,

1. Favor, grace, charm
• a. favor, grace, elegance
• b. favor, acceptance (biblestudytools.com)

The Greek term for grace is charis and has been defined as, “the unmerited or undeserving favor of God to those who are under condemnation.” (Paul Enns, Moody Bible Handbook of Theology, 196) A common understanding may be “unmerited favor,” but that can have a very broad application, or a very narrow one. Many New Testament scholars have accepted that God has completed the eternal salvation of the confessor because of his or her belief. Even in this, however, the understanding of belief varies from person to person.

The Lord taught that an “effort” was required. This thought is often dismissed because an effort is not consistent with the understanding of God’s sovereign grace, and implies “works” which is clearly presented as being ineffectual in the achievement of the believer’s eternal hope. Somehow the requirement of ‘effort’ must be understood in relation to both grace and works.

Peter wrote that “[Christ’s] divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Pet 2: 3─4 NIV) He has identified that it is through his “precious promises” that we may “participate in” the nature or soul-likeness of Christ and by so doing escape the corruption caused by evil desires. It is through the knowledge of his promises that a person can become like him. Knowledge in itself does not accomplish anything; knowledge must be used or correctly applied before it can have an effect. The application requires “effort.”

Although many teach that eternal salvation was accomplished at the cross through belief in the efficacy of the blood of Christ, Paul taught that through his sacrifice Christ “redeemed us from the curse of the law…so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” (Gal 3:13─14 NIV) Every person carries the sentence of death because he or she has transgressed the law. Christ bore our sins and the penalty attached, restoring fellowship with God so that he might gift the Spirit. The Spirit is Christ in the believer. (Col 1:27; 2 Cor 3:17, 18) This is grace! Freedom from deserved death and the gifting of Christ as Spirit.

Paul tells us that “the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:4 NIV) Living according to the Spirit takes effort. The Spirit is given to enlighten (increase knowledge), to lead and to empower for righteousness. The writer of Hebrews states, “[Christ] became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Heb 5:9 NIV) Obedience requires commitment and effort. Paul also taught that “if you are led by the Spirit are not under the law,” (Gal 5: 18) and that “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom 8:14 NIV) Further Paul wrote that we shouldn’t be deceived because the way we live could result in eternal life or destruction. {Gal 6:7─8) There are many other commands for obedience and by definition, obedience requires effort.

Obedience should not be confused with “works.” Works refers to unassisted efforts of humankind, and specifically refers to the works of the law or the completion of the law of Moses. Paul wrote that because of the weakened sinful nature humankind could not complete it. The hope of the believer is accomplished through faith in Christ, through conviction of his ability to meet the believer’s need.

The great requirement of humankind is to be transformed into the divine nature of Christ so that we become like him. (Rom 8:29) This transformation demands the practice of death to self-interest and to the evil interests of the flesh as availed through Christ and by the submission of the believer to his rule so that the law of the Spirit of life (Rom 8:2) might prevail and the narrow door entered.

July 9, 2017

Confusion: The Command to “Obey the Gospel”

by Russell Young

Paul wrote: “He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among those who have believed.” (2 Thess 1:9─10 NIV)

Only through obedience to the gospel will the believer find a place in the presence of the Lord. There is a divergence of understanding on what “obedience to the gospel” means however, because there are different understandings of the gospel.

The passages that speak of the need to obey the gospel –2 Thess 1:8; 1 Peter 4:17—refer to the issue of not keeping it. Peter infers that keeping the gospel implies righteousness and Paul implies that it is accomplished by those who believe.

“Gospel” means “good news.” The good news is that the opportunity for eternal life exists and that God has provided the way through Christ. Within the Jewish nation there had not been agreement on the hope of eternal life. The Sadducees had rejected such a hope and the Pharisees accepted that eternal life came through obedience to the Law. Christ revealed that the hope of eternal life was real and came through him. “Jesus answered, ’I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (Jn14:6 NIV)

Those committed to Christ readily accept that he is the way and the truth, but there is disagreement concerning the nature of his “life” in relation to the gospel. It is commonly accepted that “the life” refers to the sinless life that Christ lived while on this earth. Such acceptance rests in the understanding that his sinless life or righteousness was imputed or applied to the believer; accordingly, obedience to the gospel means believing that Christ has died to pardon and cleanse the believer of his or her sins leaving them righteous. Belief does not mean to suggest merely a mental activity regardless of the intensity of belief.   James wrote: “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” (Jas 2:26 NIV) Faith or belief requires the application of that which a person believes; consequently, judgment will rest on the things done in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Cor 5:10) The deeds of the confessor prove whether his or her faith or belief is genuine or not.

The Lord did not say that believers were to obey his command (singular), but “to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Mt 28:20 NIV) Paul taught that “they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” (Acts 26:20 NIV) He told the Romans, “[Christ] condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be met in us who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:3─4 NIV) And Paul admonished, “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please the sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Gal 6:7─8 NIV) (He did not teach that eternal life came at the cross.) Obedience to the gospel requires obedience to the Spirit who was given for the purpose of enabling righteous living.

Many quote the Lord, “Then they asked him, ‘What must we do to do the works God requires?’ Jesus answered, ‘The work of God is to believe in the one he has sent,” (Jn 6:28─29 NIV) and limit “belief” to head knowledge. The Lord is the Spirit (2 Cor 3: 17, 18) and the righteous requirements of the law will be fulfilled as he lives his life through the obedient believer. The confessor must believe sufficiently to obey the one he or she called “Lord.”

The command to obey gospel in order to avoid being shut out from God’s presence refers not to accepting that the Lord suffered and died for the repentant, but to honoring his provision of the Holy Spirit and through obedience to the law of the Spirit (Rom 8:2) becoming a sacrifice acceptable to God. (Rom 15:16).



Russell Young is the Sunday contributor to Christianity 201 and author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

9781512757514

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.

 

July 2, 2017

Correcting a Serious Misunderstanding

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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by Russell Young

This writing is dedicated to dealing with a very serious misunderstanding concerning eternal salvation. It is commonly accepted that Christ died for our sins, taking our place in judgment, and fulfilling God’s plan to reconcile us to him. This is completely true, but reconciliation or redemption does not accomplish a person’s eternal salvation. The Word is clear, “He redeemed us in order that the blessings given Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” (Gal 3:14 NIV) Redemption or reconciliation to God through the removal of the sin that separates allowed the believer to receive the promise of the Spirit, it did not provide for a person’s eternal salvation, nor does it remove all judgment.

Consider the following points:

  1. He died as a ransom to set [those who are called] free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” (Heb 9:15 NIV) The ransom provided by Christ did not set the believer free from all sin that he or she would ever commit. Although his blood is the only source of cleansing from sin, his blood offering directly covered all sin that had accumulated—and would have brought death–during life under the domain of the first or Old Covenant. Repentance and confession is required for sins committed following this cleansing. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn 1:9 NIV, Italics added)
  2. The sacrificial death of Jesus fulfilled God’s plan for reconciliation, but did not fulfill God’s plan for eternal reconciliation… eternal salvation. The fulfillment of his plan has several elements that need to be grasped.
    1. Now that he has died, “Christ is the mediator or a new covenant.” (Heb 9:15) Just as the righteous requirements of the first covenant had to be fulfilled, those of the new must be fulfilled. Mediation comes through his ministry as Holy Spirit and as High Priest.
    2. The Holy Spirit is Christ, or the Lord, and following his resurrection, as Spirit, he is given by the Father to indwell the believer. “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col 1:27 NIV) “Now the Lord is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:17 NIV) “[W]e, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 18 NIV) The ministry of Christ can not be considered completed through his death on the cross. To do so robs him of the full glory that his ministry warrants.
    3. Salvation (eternal) comes through the Spirit. “From the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” (2 Thess 2:13 NIV, See also Titus 3: 5─6, Romans 15:16; Jn 6:63)
    4. The righteous requirements of the law are now satisfied by living according to the Spirit’s leading. “[H]e condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:3─4 NIV, See also Gal 6:7─8, Rom 8:13─14, Gal 5:18)
    5. Eternal salvation requires obedience to the Spirit. “[H]e became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Heb 5:9 NIV) “Eternal” salvation comes through obedience following the gifting of the Spirit and not through the pardon of sins committed under the first covenant.
  3. Although judgment for sins committed under the first covenant has been eliminated, judgment for sins committed under the new remains. “For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet 4:17 NIV, See also 2 Cor 5:10; Heb 4:13, 10:30; 1 Pet 1:17, etc)
  4. The faith that that completes the first covenant is faith in the existence of God and that he rewards those who diligently seek him. This faith is in persuasion of the heart and soul to a reality. The faith that brings about “eternal salvation” must also be sufficient to compel obedience or the practice of that faith, the proving of it.

The misunderstanding that has pervaded the gospel is that the sacrificial death of Christ has accomplished all the believer’s needs leaving him or her to enjoy life as he or she pleases. The believer has been given right to the New Covenant, a covenant of the Spirit (2 Cor 3:6) and this covenant must be satisfied for a person to gain “eternal” salvation. The Word says, “His divine power (the Holy Spirit) has given us everything we need for life and godliness…” (2 Pet 1:3 NIV) When studying the Scriptures, it is important to discern which covenant is being referenced. The New Covenant or the Covenant of the Spirit avails “eternal” salvation.



Russell Young is the Sunday contributor to Christianity 201 and author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

9781512757514

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.

 

 

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