Christianity 201

June 18, 2017

What Happened to Fearing God?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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by Russell Young

On the Exodus Moses told Israel, “And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees…” (Deut 10:12 NIV)

Fearing the Lord had, and has, a purpose, and the need is very much relevant today. Moses’ sought Israel be ever cognizant of their God and of his sovereignty, power, and authority so that they might live righteously before him. The requirement to walk humbly and obediently before God is an “expectation” because it is natural acknowledgement of the glory and worth of God in the lives of his created ones. The God of the Israelites is the same God who is to be honoured today and his being and expectations have not changed. God is God and he is to be worshipped according to his majesty and his glory. To not fear the Lord is to fail to recognize the power and authority that is his. He created for his good purpose and he will achieve his purpose regardless of the imaginations of people. Those who do not make use of his provision through humble submission will not find a place in his eternal kingdom. The hope given mankind and the opportunity to miss the mark should cause fear throughout humankind.

Fear is a motivator. Fear of the consequences of breaking man’s law compels people to strive to follow laws. Proverbs declares that fear causes evil to be avoided. “Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through fear of the LORD evil is avoided.” (Prov 16:6 NIV)

There does not appear to be much “fear” of God throughout his creation today. It is to be expected that those who do not accept the reality of God would not fear him, however, is fear of transgressing his rule being evidenced in churches? When God is presented as something that he is not, idolatry is taking place. Could idolatrous understandings have destroyed fear of God? Many who claim to love him and who are relying on his grace to provide for their eternal hope have abandoned any measure of fear as live their lives on their terms.

The misapplication of God’s grace has obfuscated the Lord’s requirement for obedience and has eliminated concern for righteous living and the coming judgment; consequently, fear of God has been replaced with an understanding of freedom that allows the “believer” to live as he or she wishes without consequence. God’s admonition to fear him in order to avoid sin’s practice and rebellion against his righteous requirements has not changed regardless of the deceptions that have invaded the gospel. (Gal 6:7─8; 1 pet 2:17) The writer of Hebrews has stated, “[H]e became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Heb 5:9 NIV) and that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Cor 5:10 NIV)

Relief from God’s laws, statutes and everlasting covenant has never been allowed by Christ despite man’s teaching. Judgment remains for those who rebel. It is through the practice of obedience that God will determine the humble hearts that please and honor him. In fact, it is the LORD’s prophecy that the world will be destroyed because of rebellion against his laws, statutes, and everlasting covenant. (Isa 24:5) Christ did not come to do away with the law (Mt 5:17), but to fulfill God’s righteous requirements as embodied in the law through his indwelling presence as Spirit. (Rom 8:4) Those who would honor God will humbly and fearfully seek to obey his Spirit.

Some will quote John’s writing, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 Jn 4:18 NIV) Caution must be taken not to apply a personal definition of ‘love.’ Love is made complete by those who live in God, those who are like him. (See v 16, 17) Those who walk in the light need not fear, but those who walk in the freedom that they have granted themselves need to be concerned; they need to ‘fear’ God and the judgment that will rest upon them. (John’s writing deals with a person’s perfect love for God and should not be taken to reference the love that Christ has for the believer.)

John spoke a great deal of the necessity of obedience to the commands of Christ as the expression of one’s love. (Jn 14:21, 15:10; 1 Jn 2:3, 5:2, 3; 2 Jn 1:6) His teaching did not rest in an emotional response to Christ but required the validation of love as evidenced through a person’s practices. Christ said, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” (Jn 14:21 NIV) And, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.” (Jn 14:23 NIV) Perfect love means perfect obedience and the one who accomplishes this need not fear judgment; however, peace should be far from the hearts of the disobedient.

Paul admonished the Philippians, and those of this generation, to “work out [their] salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil 2:12 NIV) Deceptive teaching has removed fear and concern for sinning from the hearts and minds of many people. Consequently, unexpected judgment will visit those who had failed to see God for who he is and had not recognized his expectations. Failure to admonish believers to fear God and to walk circumspectly before him has greatly weakened the testimony of churches as the righteous bodies that claim to present Christ to the world.


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

 

June 11, 2017

Becoming Like Christ

by Russell Young

How does a person become like Christ? John wrote, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 Jn 3:2─3 NIV) John’s teaching is that “we shall be like him.” Many accept, and have been taught, that the “we” refers to all who have made a confession of faith, those who have been identified as “believers.” However, “believers” are those who obey the commands of Christ. John completed his thought by adding, “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

Common teaching allows that Christ, by his mercy and grace, has done all that is needed to prepare the confessor for a place in his kingdom. There is no miraculous purification or soul transformation when this life ceases; the believer is to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling. It is for the sake of holiness and for the hope of being sanctified by Christ and made “an offering acceptable to God,” (Rom 15:16 NIV) “to become blameless and pure” (Phil 2:14) that God requires obedience to Christ. The Word reveals that without holiness no one will see the Lord (Heb 12:14) and that it is righteous living that produces holiness. (Rom 6:19) “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.” (NIV)

John’s teaching that “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is,” is the understanding that needs to be grasped. Our earthly understanding of Christ remains ‘foggy.’ Paul wrote, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Cor 13:12 NIV) One day the obedient will see him free of the distortions of word and mind.

The reality is that unless the believer becomes holy through slavery to righteousness they will not see him or know him. They cannot conform to his likeness. To “see” means “to gaze (i.e. with wide-open eyes, as at something remarkable)” (Strong’s Greek Dictionary #3700) It will be those in close proximity to Christ who will have the advantage of enjoying his image; they will see him and know him

During their earthy life believers have been called to be like Christ. Those who take this call seriously have learned to cast aside destructive practices. Paul wrote, “You were taught with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph 4:23─24 NIV) All who claim the name of Christ are to conform to his nature. Unless the confessor is changing in the attitudes of his or her heart, he or she is not a “believer” and will one day face the wrath of God since the hearts and practices of humankind are not acceptable to God. In Genesis it is recorded, “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the LORD said, ‘I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth.” (Gen 6:5─7 NIV) It is the heart of people that needs to be made acceptable to God. Holiness is not a gift to believers beyond their redemption. One’s body is to be “offered in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.”

If the “imaginations of the thoughts of one’s heart” are, and remain, offensive to God he or she will never achieve the glory that he offers. Knowing Christ through the Word and the revelations of his Spirit and through obedience to his commands (the application of his mind) allows believers to become transformed. “And we, 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 3:18 NIV)

Becoming like Christ depends on one’s willingness to allow him to transform one’s heart and practices through his Spirit as he or she walks this earth. Those who have been led to holiness will achieve a state of glory far beyond their understanding. To accomplish this requires a humble and obedient walk with Christ as Lord, and requires suffering as evil imaginations are purged. God is to be loved with all of one’s heart, mind, body, and soul as evidenced in a person’s practices. Paul wrote, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Rom 8:18 NIV)

Believers will be truly like Christ in matters of the heart and mind. They will be able to fellowship unashamedly with God and with others. They will bring joy to his heart instead of pain. While on this earth the beauty of that relationship cannot be known because purity and holiness in people and relationships does not exist. Concerning the New Jerusalem, Paul wrote, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people and he will be their God.” (Rev 21:3 NIV).



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.

June 5, 2017

Election and Eternal Salvation (Part 2)

by Russell Young

Romans 8 brings clarity to the issue of election. In verses 29─30 Paul wrote: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Earlier teaching in Romans 8 addresses the means of meeting God’s righteous requirements through living according to the Spirit (v 4), of being led by the Spirit to be a son (v 14), of suffering for victory over temptations (v 17), and of attaining the redemption of the body for adoption (v 23). Following these presentations, Paul addresses the intervention of the Father and the Spirit (v 26─27) which helps in bringing understanding to God’s “foreknowledge.” Clearly, God’s knowledge of a person is required before their particular need (weakness) can be addressed for the fulfilment of his plan with the destiny of glory.

The psalmist sheds some light on our understanding of knowledge. The psalmist wrote: “The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” (Ps 34:18 NIV) And, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken spirit and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (Ps 51:17 NIV) It could be that knowledge of the heart is the “foreknowledge” upon which his selection is made…a heart that lacks pride but is humble and receptive to his sovereignty-a teachable or trainable heart. Both the psalmist and Jeremiah reveal that God searches the hearts of all people. “I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.” (Jer 17:10 NIV) Psalm 139 elaborates on God’s knowledge of an individual. He uses that knowledge, foreknowledge, before he intervenes in a person’s life.

The Father searches hearts and it is he who gives the Spirit. (Jn 15:26; Gal 4:6; Lk 11:13) According to his mercy and grace the Father chooses or elects those whom he will bless with the Spirit so that his plan might be accomplished. Following this, he works with the Spirit in the lives of those whom he has elected. “In the same way (waiting patiently for the redemption of our bodies), the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts (the Father) knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.” (Rom 8:26─27)

It is in this process that further knowledge is gained. Although those to whom he has given the Spirit were chosen for it, not all will respond obediently. Jesus said, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord’ and do not do what I say?” (Lk 6:46) Some will deny the Spirit, and others will quench or thwart the Spirit but those who are obedient, those who love him, who have been called according to hs purpose God knows and they are predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son because he is faithful and is committed to working with them. Without obedience a person cannot fulfil the plan of God and it is through its practice that the Lord said a person would remain in his love (Jn 15:10) and would find eternal salvation. (Heb 5:9) Those who live obediently to the Spirit will be known by God and will have been predestined through his plan to be justified and glorified. These will be the elect or selected.

All, except those whose hearts have been “hardened” for the achievement of a specific purpose have the same opportunity to obtain eternal salvation. The heavens declare his glory so “men are without excuse.” (Rom 1:20) “Whoever is thirsty, let him come.” (Rev 22:17) “The grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men.” (Titus 2:11) “God wants all men to be saved.” (1 Tim 2:4) All have opportunity to gain knowledge of him and of him and his majesty but not all will humble themselves and their pride will be their undoing.

 

June 4, 2017

Election and Eternal Salvation (Part 1)

by Russell Young

Election refers to the selection by God of a people for a specific purpose. Quite often it is accepted as the designation of a person to enjoy God’s eternal kingdom. Election has taken place from the earliest of times with Noah and Abraham. Some accept that all people who will dwell eternally with God had been elected his people from before the creation of the world and this often accepted as an act of God’s “sovereign grace.”

Whenever it takes place election or selection of an individual is God’s act of determination. In speaking of Jacob and Esau Paul wrote: “Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad– in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls-she was told, ‘The older will serve the younger.’” (Rom 9:11-12 NIV)

God’s practice of “election” has a purpose, as in “God’s purpose in election.” This might be easier to understand stated as, “God’s purpose through election.” That is, God elects for a reason or to accomplish his ends. He has a plan and it can only be accomplished through his handiwork and through the expression of his sovereignty. Lacking either a plan or his sovereign authority, only anarchy and chaos would result. Election must be recognized as a means by which God fulfills his plan.

To the Ephesians Paul wrote: “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will.” (Eph 1:11 NIV) According to Paul, God has a plan and is working it out. Those who will have been elected will have satisfied his plan since his plan was destined to accomplish his goal.

Election has two distinct applications so that “his will” might be accomplished. These might be seen from macro and micro perspectives. His hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is an example of election’s macro application. Concerning Pharaoh, the LORD said, “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.’” (Rom 9:17 NIV) God’s purpose was to make a declaration for the benefit of his name and to all the earth. The selection or election of Israel as his special people is another example of a macro application.

Through Jacob’s election the Lord made clear his right of sovereignty over individual lives and human traditions. The traditional approach would have been to have God’s blessing rest on Rebekah’s elder son however, the LORD clarified that God’s purpose in the election of Jacob was so that his choosing would not, and could not, be based of the “work” of humankind but by determination of the one who calls…the LORD himself. The principle being revealed is that God is in charge! Later in Romans Paul recorded: “Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden,” (Rom 9:18) but this mercy and hardening of hearts is according to his purpose in or through election.

Ephesians 1:4-6 is often used as support for the thought that God elected his children before the beginning of time. Paul wrote: “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will-to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” (NIV) However these passages present several ideas and are really a presentation of God’s plan as is revealed in verse 11. “In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will…” God’s plan was that those “in him” would be holy and blameless in his sight” and would “be adopted as sons.” His plan was devised before the creation of the world, specific individuals were not elected at that time. The revelation of the specifics of his plan comprises much of the New Testament. In this instance Paul was specifically addressing the “faithful,” those who were adhering to his plan.

…continued tomorrow…

May 28, 2017

Eternal Hope through Honoring the Spirit

by Russell Young

These passages dealing with the Spirit are from Romans 8 (NIV). They should inform the reader of his or her need for the continued ministry of Christ as Spirit in their life (Col 1:27) for the accomplishment of their eternal hope.

8:2 “through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”
8:4 “[H]e condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.”
8:5 “those who live according to the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires”.
8:9 “You are controlled…by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit he does no belong to Christ.”
8:11 “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who lives in you.”
8:13 “[I]f by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live.”
8:14 “[T]hose who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.”
8:17 “Now if we are children, then we are heirs-heirs of God and co-heirs of Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.”

The “suffering” of Christ has been revealed in Hebrews 2:18. “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (NIV) Consider Hebrews 5:7: “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.” (NIV)

8:23 “[W]e ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.”
8:26 “[T]he Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express.”
8:27 “[H]e who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.”

Wording that refers to life in the flesh has been left out in order to bring clarity to the full and necessary ministry of the Lord as Spirit (2 Cor 3:17, 18). The reader can discern that a system of laws (“the law of the Spirit of life”) still exists and that the righteous requirement of the law can only be met by Christ as Spirit living through the believer. The law of the Spirit that is to be met is not recorded on paper; it is dynamic and is revealed by the Spirit according to the Lord’s desire and purposes as he transforms the heart and soul of the believer. Accordingly, believers become his “workmanship” (Eph 2:10 NIV) or, “masterpiece” (NLT)

In these passages, Paul makes it clear that the Spirit must be living in the believer; he cannot just be in the believer. The Spirit is not to be denied, quenched, or thwarted in his workings but must be honoured and obeyed. (Mt 7:21; Heb 5:9; 2 Thess 1:8; Rev 22:14 KJV) if the Spirit is to complete his work so that a person’s eternal salvation might result. (2 Thess 2:13; Titus 3:5─6; Rom 15:16)

Since the “misdeeds of the body” must be put to death by obedience to the Spirit, it cannot be accepted that the sacrificial offering of Christ on the cross completed the believer’s hope or his need; it is the continued transforming ministry of Christ as Spirit, and the believer’s submission to the Lord that is also required.

The passages above should inform the reader why Paul taught that baptism symbolizes death to self (Rom 6:5─7) and new life through Christ, as well as his revelation that he no longer lived but that Christ lived in him. “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in–obediently following–the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20) They also teach that believers will not be adopted as a son of God until the body has been redeemed of its sinful interests and practices.

The Lord came to fulfill the law (Mt 5:17) for himself, and for the believer through his indwelling presence. The believer cannot be passive in his or her spiritual walk; it must be committed and intentional and requires “suffering” to overcome fleshly interests and temptations.

Deceptive teaching has allowed easy-believism; those who have fallen prey to such teachings will have their hopes dashed in the end when judgment by Christ is rendered for the things done in the body. Believers are to “work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil 2:12 NIV)

May 21, 2017

The Children of Promise

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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by Russell Young

Paul wrote that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman following which he went on to teach about the hope that comes through the free woman, Sarah. Accordingly, he said that the women represent two covenants; the Old Covenant is the covenant of the Law (Hagar) and the New Covenant is a covenant of the Spirit (Sarah). This understanding is important when it comes to understanding his teaching concerning the “children of promise.” They are descendants of Abraham through Sarah and enjoy the New Covenant.

The promise of salvation comes through God’s promise given to Sarah concerning her son, Isaac. It is through Isaac that the Lord, Jesus Christ is descended. The promise and the hope for humankind is established in the New Covenant which comes through Christ from the line of Isaac. The children of promise are those who are honoring the New Covenant which is a covenant of the Spirit and which was availed through the blood of Christ. In addressing the church in Galatia, Paul wrote: “Therefore, brothers, we are not children of the slave woman, but of the free woman.” (Gal 4:31 NIV) He referred to the “children of the free woman” as “brothers.”

Paul has addressed much of his writing to those he calls “brothers.” Certainly, not all of those who attended the churches would fit his classification. Not all would have been fully committed to the New Covenant and to its requirements because he would have been delivering his message to a broad assortment of people. The distinction between brothers and others is important because many accept that Paul’s promises apply to them even though they lack knowledge of the New Covenant or lack commitment to satisfying its conditions. It is easy to accept that all who profess belief have been grafted into the line of the Jews and have become children of promise, however, Paul also wrote to the Romans, “Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either.” (Rom 11:21 NIV) The Lord also taught, “I am the true vine, and my father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that does not bear fruit.” (Jn 15:1 NIV) Concerning the Jewish family that bears the children of promise, Paul presented: “[A] man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.” (Rom 2:29 NIV) The children of promise from the Gentiles are those who will have been grafted into Israel.

When addressing his “brothers” in Galatia, Paul was speaking to those who were circumcised of the heart, the few (Mt 7:14) who are satisfying the requirements of the New Covenant. It is through this covenant that God’s righteous requirements will be met and through this covenant, the covenant of the Spirit (2 Cor 3:6), that the children of promise will be identified. “And he 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 8:4 NIV) Circumcision of the heart refers to those who have embraced the Holy Spirit to put to death the misdeeds of the body (Rom 8:13) so that righteousness might prevail. Circumcision of the heart requires “effort” (Lk 13:24) and commitment (Phil 2:12) so that sin is being removed from the believer’s practices. Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has not permanent place in the family, but a son–the one led by the Spirit (Rom 8:14)belongs to it forever.” (Jn 8:34─35 NIV)

The children of promise are those who are born of the power of the Spirit (Gal 4:28─2) and remain engrafted in Christ. Their state remains provided they honor the provision of the New Covenant and the Holy Spirit who empowers it. They may be “cut off” or removed from Israel if the natural spirit emerges once again so that sin takes possession, and the ministry of Christ– the fulfiller of all promises and the Seed of Abraham– is denied and fruit no longer produced.

Believers are those who are obedient and humble followers of Christ (Heb 5:9; Mt 7:21; Rom 6:16; Rev 22:14 KJV). They will be the circumcised of heart and “the children of promise.” Care must be taken to properly assign the promises of God only to the children of promise. They are not Hagar’s children, those who will be sent away; but to the legitimate family of Isaac and of Christ-to those who are led by him as Holy Spirit (2 Cor 3:17; Rom 8:14) so that the requirements of God through the New Covenant will be accomplished. All believers need to have certain understanding of the New Covenant. They do not have to obey the law but do have to obey Christ.

May 14, 2017

Contending for the Faith

by Russell Young

Believers are not called to a relaxed, passive life. They are called to fight, to contend for the faith. Jude wrote, “I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once entrusted to the saints.” (Jude 1:3 NIV) To contend literally means, ‘to compete for a prize, and figuratively means, ‘to contend against an adversary.’

Jude was encouraging believers to contend with “godless men, who change the grace of our God into license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.” (Jude 1:4 NIV) That is, he was encouraging them to fight against those who misrepresented God’s grace allowing believers to feel free to engage in immoral acts. Giving this freedom was the result of allowing them to deny, reject, or disavow the sovereignty and lordship of Christ. Christ never lived, tolerated, or taught the allowance of immorality but condemned it. There are many today who preach Christ as saviour and reject the need to honour his sovereignty and lordship in their lives. Jude presented his admonition to contend for the faith to those who are “kept by Jesus Christ”, to believers.

The church has not done well at contending for the faith since the grace of God has been promoted as being a gifting that pardons all godless behavior that arises from the believer’s “doing” or practices, which results in freedom from judgment even for defiance of the Lord’s (Holy Spirit’s) right to their lives. The widely-promoted definition of God’s “sovereign grace,” as meaning ‘pre-creation election,’ has eliminated the need to recognize the practical lordship or sovereignty of Christ in the “believer’s” daily life; thus, it maintains that he or she will not suffer harm for any immoral behavior or unrighteousness of heart. Such teaching automatically gives license for ungodliness. However, Paul taught that God’s righteous requirements were accomplished through obedience to the Holy Spirit. “[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)

The church has not contended for the faith, but has endorsed the freedom derived from definitions of “belief” and “grace” that have given “licence” for immorality. Such allowance has been given to build numbers in the kingdom of God and to dispense with the need for personal righteousness. Jesus said, “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.” (Lk 16:16 NIV) It must be appreciated that no one can “force” or crowd himself into the kingdom. Entry comes through Christ alone as revealed in the truths of his Word; no one can enter without having satisfied the “righteous requirements” of the Law…not one “stroke” can be left out.

Why has the church not contended for the faith? The message that God’s “sovereign grace” has met a person’s needs is both appealing to teach and to receive. It seems, as well, that as people flocked to press their way into the kingdom, or were attempting to be pressed in by evangelists, proclamations of such hope became popular and its presenters were to some extent idolized and copied. Their gospel, even though not that of Christ, has become accepted.

Why have the students of God’s Word not raised a hew and cry about neglect of the need for repentance and the development of righteousness and holiness? Those who love the Lord and his gospel need to listen to Jude and make their voices known. Long-accepted teaching that licences the “believer” to fearlessly neglect the Lord’s sovereignty in life and that gives licence to ungodliness needs to be re-examined and rejected.

Paul taught that in the last days people would have a “form of godliness but denying its power,” and cautioned them to have nothing to do with them. (2 Tim 3:5 NIV) The “power” is the Holy Spirit (Christ in you) and his power for achieving a sanctified life is often ignored and its necessity denied. Paul also cautioned Timothy, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” (2 Tim 4:3 NIV) Has this time come? In these, Paul also proclaims the failure of the church to contend for the faith.

The LORD prophesied concerning the end times through Isaiah, “The earth mourns and dries up, and the crops waste away and wither. Even the greatest people on earth waste away. The earth suffers for the sins of its people, for they have twisted God’s instructions, violated his laws, and broken his everlasting covenant. Therefore, a curse consumes the earth. Its people must pay the price for their sin. They are destroyed by fire and only a few are left alive.” (Isa 24:4─6 NIV) God will bring his wrath on humankind in the last days, not because they have rejected his “grace,” but because the earth’s people will have rejected his government…his laws, statutes, and everlasting covenant. His prophesy should not be taken as referring to the non-confessing people but to all people. By the end a great deal of teaching from “learned” men and women will have set aside the need to satisfy God’s laws, statutes, and everlasting covenant. The licence of which Jude spoke will have been fully realized. If God’s requirements are not made know, those who are seeking him will miss the mark.

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) Matthew records this admonition as follows: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Mt 7:13─14 NIV) If an “effort” is required, its reality must be made known and not left hidden behind the curtain of God’s grace.

Believers must appreciate that their time on earth needs to be given to “contending for the faith” and the building of the kingdom of God. Judgment will befall those who neglect the service to which they have been called and for which they have been gifted. (1 Cor 3:14) That “contending” needs to be with those who have not heard the gospel, with those who have heard a misrepresented version of the gospel, and with those who are actively misrepresenting the gospel.


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.

May 7, 2017

Satan’s Great Deception

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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By Russell Young

Satan is known as a liar. “[The devil] was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (Jn 8:44 NIV) Believers need to understand that they, like the rest of the world, can be deceived and trapped in the lies of the evil one. The Word cautions against being deceived. (1 Cor 6:9; Gal 6:7; 2 Tim 3:13; Jas 1:16) There are many Christian “myths,” deceptions, that by repetition have come to be accepted as truths. The evil one has not left the body of Christ free of attack.

Consider the following:

1. Being redeemed means that a person has been eternally saved. Redemption is for gaining the Holy Spirit (Gal 3:14) who accomplishes the believer’s eternal salvation. (2 Thess 2:13; Titus 3:5─6; Jn 6:63)

2. Christ has won the victory for you. Victory over Satan comes through Christ ((1 Cor 15:57) and requires obedience to him. (Heb 5:9) Only those who “overcome” will gain a presence in the New Jerusalem. (Rev 21:7) The Lord’s victory over the devil gave him the keys to death and Hades and the right, through possession of the keys, to determine a person’s eternal destiny. (Rev 1:18)

3. No judgment befalls those who have confessed faith. All will be judged by God. (2 Cor 5:10; Heb 9:27, 10:30; 1 Pet 1:17, 4:17)

4. All believers will be rewarded equally. Rewards will be based on a person’s righteousness and ‘labour.’ (1 Cor 3:8; Rom 2:7; 1 Sam 26:23)

5. God’s heavenly kingdom will be ‘in heaven.’ His kingdom will be on earth. (Rev 21:2)

6. Confessing faith in Christ is all that God requires. Faith must be proven. (Acts 26:20; 1 Cor 4:2; 1 Pet 1:7; 1 Thess 2:4; Rev 3:10, 6:9)

7. Eternal salvation is all of Christ. The believer must obey Christ if he or she is to gain eternal salvation. (Heb 5:9; Rom 8:4, 14, 6:16; Gal 5:18; Jn 8:51; 2 Thess 1:8)

8. All sin has been forgiven. Sin committed before confession of faith (past sin) has been forgiven (Heb 9:15), and sins following which have been confessed. (1 Jn 1:7)

9. Being pardoned for sin is all that a person requires. A person must be a new creation (Gal 6:15) Believers need to be transformed into the Lord’s likeness. (2 Cor 3:18; Rom 8:29; Eph 4:24)

10. God’s grace covers all your needs. God’s grace gives the believer all that he or she needs for life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3), but not life and righteousness. Believers must obey the Lord. (Heb 5:9; Mt 7:21) Everything that causes sin and all who do evil will be separated from God. (Mt 13:41)

11. The believer’s eternal salvation was accomplished by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Forgiveness for sins committed under the first or Old Covenant’s jurisdiction were forgiven and the New Covenant was made available by his sacrifice, following which the Holy Spirit was given to enable a person’s eternal salvation. (Heb 9:15; Phil 2:12)

12. The law does not have to be kept. The Law of Moses does not have to be kept for those obeying the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:18); however, the law of the Spirit needs to be obeyed. (Rom 8:2)

13. “Freedom” means freedom to do as the believer wishes. “Freedom” is from the death all warrant for breaking the Old Covenant’s righteous requirements (Rpm 6:23), freedom from the Covenant of the Law (Heb 9:15), and freedom from the weaknesses of the sinful nature. (Rom 8:2)

14. All confessors are permanent members of the family of God. Only “believers” or those who “are believing” as demonstrated through their righteous practices and obedience to Christ throughout their lives remain “in Christ” and “in the family.” (Jn 8: 34─35; 15:1, 10; Mt 10:22, 24:13, Mk 13:13; Heb 3:14; Rev 2:26)

Warnings that have been given not to fall prey to deception and to Satan’s lies should be taken to heart. The evil one has not completed his work. In fact, it is because of the refusal of humankind to keep God’s eternal Covenant, to obey his laws and to honour his statutes that he is going to bring destruction to the earth. (Isa 24:5) The Lord prophesied that gaining his kingdom required a walk on the narrow road and that such a walk required diligence. “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because man, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” (Lk 13:24 NIV)

Believers have been cautioned not to fall into temptations and the evil one is constantly offering those things that are attractive to a person’s sinful nature and is still trying to deceive and lead many to his side and to destruction.


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.

April 30, 2017

Joy in Testing

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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by Russell Young

James taught that believers should “consider it pure joy” when they face trials. (James 1:2 NIV) “Trials” in this passage is derived from the Greek peirasmos which means “a putting to proof (by experiment (of good), experience (of evil), solicitation, discipline or provocation); by implication, adversity: -temptation, X try.” (Strong’s Greek Dictionary) In essence he is saying that Christ-followers are to take calm delight in the opportunity given to prove their faith because through proving their faith they develop perseverance and perseverance produces maturity. That is, working through trials engenders maturity.

At first glance the thought of having to face testing is something that is not welcome. Who wants their peace and comfort removed, even temporarily? The truth is, however, that testing develops spiritual strength and confidence in the Lord. It also refines the skills needed to gain victory over temptations, provided that the one being tested perseveres to the end.

There is a challenge to the concept of eternal salvation present in James’ proclamation. That is, if a person’s eternal salvation was accomplished at confession of faith, how could faithfully persevering through trials benefit him or her, and if benefit could not be derived, how can joy be found in needless discomfort or pain?

Jesus taught that you must be born again if you are to have any hope of gaining God’s eternal Kingdom. (Jn 3:3) New birth is the production of a baby, not a mature adult. Being “born again” means a new beginning with the indwelling presence of Christ as the Holy Spirit. It is Christ in the believer that is his hope of glory (Col 1:27), but the born-again believer is still a spiritual baby. There are many basic or foundational teachings (Heb 6:1─2) that are needed to nourish the infant, however the writer of Hebrews has recorded: “Anyone who lives on milk (the foundational teachings) is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.” (Heb 5: 13─14 NIV) Teachings about righteousness are the ‘meat’ of the gospel and strengthen those who use them because they help believers learn to distinguish good from evil and through perseverance prove, demonstrate, or reveal their faith through righteous practices.

Why are trials considered to be “pure joy”? Why should the person undergoing trials accept them with an attitude of calm delight? Faith is not proven to God or to oneself through easy living. It is not developed in times of peace and comfort. Peter spoke of the inheritance to come for the faithful but states that “though now for a little while you may have to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come to prove your faith-of greater value than gold, which 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) Faithfulness, having been proven, will result in a person’s glorification. Those who do not faithfully persevere will not be found in God’s eternal kingdom. (Mt 10:22)

“Faith” means ‘persuasion’ and although most come to Christ having been persuaded of God’s reality, their need, and his life-saving ministry for them, their persuasion is often not sufficient to enable perseverance through difficult trials and the proving of his faithfulness. Persuasion in these regards is gradually built or put on through experience and trials.

After releasing the Israelites from captivity in Egypt, the LORD took them on a circuitous route to the Promised Land through the desert “to test their faithfulness to him.” (Ex 15:25 NLT) Given their inexperience with him the Lord was not about to put them under trial or testing early in their journey. He said, “If they face war, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.” (Ex 13:17 NIV) They needed to be victorious in trials and to learn of him if they were to become strong and committed to honoring him. The journey to the Promised Land could have been completed in eleven days but took forty years. Moses reminded 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 hearts, whether or not you would keep his commands.” (Deut 8:2 NIV) The life journey of the believer, even today, is a testing of his or her faith so that the Lord might know what is in their hearts. The reader is reminded of Jesus’ proclamation as recorded by Matthew: “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in your name and drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you (was not sure of, you had not proven faithful) Away from me you evildoers!’” (Mt 7:21-23 NIV)

A life lived free of concern for evil and lacking repentance concerning its practice will have eternal consequences regardless of deceptive teachings that promote otherwise. God will not be mocked! The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New Testament and the believer’s understanding needs to reflect that reality. It is through his mercy and grace that the Father through his Son has provided means for accomplishing his righteous requirements. (2 Pet 1:3) The believer should count perseverance through tribulations as opportunity to prove his or her faithfulness and commitment and should find joy as they gain victory through the trial of the moment by relying on the enlightenment, leading and power of their Savior. So, count it all joy when you face trials of many kinds.



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.

April 23, 2017

Unless You Repent

by Russell Young

Unless you repent you too will all perish.” (Lk 13:5 NIV) Jesus spoke these words while addressing the people of Jerusalem. The words sound very much like those that John the Baptist would have proclaimed. The need of God for repentance is very clear. Repentance requires a person to recognize an attitude or an act as being offensive to God, to seek forgiveness, and to discontinue its practice. Paul told King Agrippa, “I preached that they should repent and turn to God and prove (perform repeatedly) their repentance by their deeds.” (Acts 26:20 NIV) Paul did not teach that a single act of repentance was acceptable, but that a person’s life practices were to change.

In truth, there is not much preaching today concerning the need for repentance. One is more apt to hear proclaim the need to invite Jesus into his or her heart, following which he will meet their need for eternal salvation and a blessed life. The call to repentance during the “camp meetings” of past years has been displaced by the overarching love of God. Rather than admonishing “believers” to walk circumspectly, to “work out [their] own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12), to be humble before God, to honour and obey the Lord, believers are being told that they are to trust God because they are loved by him.

Repentance requires that the believer walk closely with his or her Lord so that his voice can be heard and his heart known. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice.” (Jn 10:27 NIV) He also said, “When [the Spirit] comes he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment.” (Jn 16:8 NIV) It is easy to restrict the Lord’s teaching of repentance to those who are acknowledged as not knowing him, who have not “invited him into their heart,” but the world includes those who have made a confession of faith as well. Sin is sin, it is rebellion against God’s government and those who do not repent of their evil deeds will one day do so on their knees before him. Sin is to be acknowledged as the Spirit leads to its awareness; it is to be acknowledged and humbly confessed. “John wrote, “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) Repentance is not conveyed merely by the mouth but is demonstrated by the deeds that follow.

In spite of teaching that negates a walk of righteousness or of “walking in the light” (1 Jn 1:7 NIV), the Lord requires righteousness leading to holiness. (Rom 6:19) The God of the Old Testament is the God of the New. The God that punished sin in the Old is the same God who will punish it even at the end. “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) Christ’s admonition was that unless a person repents, they too will die. Do not be deceived!

Christ also revealed that “[The brothers] have overcome [their accuser] by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” (Rev 12:11 NIV) Overcoming Satan requires the word of their testimony as well as the blood of Christ. The testimony of their lives, their deeds, loudly proclaimed the word of God. (Note that he did not say, ‘the testimony of their word,’ but “the word of their testimony.”) The righteous manner in which the believer lives his or her life is important.

When asked if only a few people were going to be saved, Christ replied, “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) Note that the Lord required an “effort” to enter his Kingdom. Some will not put forth the required “effort” an will be left outside. The effort requires a victorious walk using all that the Lord has provided, especially his indwelling presence as Spirit. “He who overcomes will inherit all of this (life in the New Jerusalem), and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Rev 21:7 NIV) Victory can only be accomplished by defeating those practices and by disposing of those attitudes that are offensive to God through repentance and the demonstration of that repentance through a person’s deeds. God’s love does not cover defiance and rebellion which is blasphemy of the Spirit. In the end the believer is to be conformed to the likeness of Christ (Rom 8:29) by walking as Jesus walked. (1 Jn 2:6)


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.

April 16, 2017

Why Good Friday is Good?

by Russell Young

This being Easter weekend, I was compelled, like most, to consider the events that took place more than two millennia ago. The immense importance of the passion of Christ can never be taken for granted, but perhaps the exact events, those hidden from view, can escape our appreciation. I have discovered that reflecting on the sacrificial offering of Christ has given clarity to other biblical teachings.

Accepting that Christ died for my sins is humbling and awe-inspiring. Appreciating the unseen dynamics is enlightening. For instance, how did his death “destroy the work of Satan”? The Lord’s death was not a simple trade of his life for mine.

Christ came “to destroy the devil’s work.” (1 Jn 3:8 NIV) Trading lives would not have accomplished the destruction of Satan’s power. His power rested in his ability to make people sin, bringing about their death and ultimately defeating God’s plan to have a kingdom of priests, a holy nation. The defeat of Satan’s work could only be accomplished by eradicating sin and the death that accompanied it. It is transgression of the law that comprises sin-the law of Moses. Paul wrote, “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.” (1 Cor 15:56 NIV) And, “Where there is no law, there is no transgression.” (Rom 4:15 NIV) The law had to be satisfied and terminated. That is what Christ accomplished.

It is true that I deserved death for sin just as do all of humankind. I had been caught in Satan’s deceits and those practices that were offensive to my creator and sovereign. Had justice been served neither I nor anyone else would have survived. Satan would have won. There would not have been a single person suitable for God’s presence. Had Christ died for my sins and for those of all of humanity, the devil’s work would still not have been completed since sin would have reared its ugly head again during the remaining part of my life.

Some teach that all sin was forgiven at the cross but this is not so. According to Hebrews 9:15, “[Christ] died as a ransom to set [believers] free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” If at confession of faith, only my past sins had been forgiven, I would have still been at the mercy of the devil since my evil nature would have compelled me to continue in sin.

Christ not only provided my pardon, he defeated sin by destroying the law that defined it. Christ brought to an end the Old Covenant, the covenant of the law of Moses, the covenant that kills. (2 Cor 3:6) There can be no more sin under its jurisdiction. (see again Rom 4:15) This is Christ’s great victory over the devil. He robbed Satan of his power. Again, the writer of Hebrews stated, “For this reason (to cleanse our moral consciences from acts that lead to death) Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.” (Heb 9:15 NIV) The writer also stated, “By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first obsolete.” (Heb 8:13 NIV) Believer’s are no longer under the righteous requirements of the Old Covenant and the evil one can no longer use its laws to cause sin and to bring about death.

That is not the end of the matter, however. John wrote of The Lord’s victory and of his proclamation: “I am the first and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Rev 1:18 NIV) The one who holds the keys has the power to control their use. That is, Christ has the power to determine who will die, who will be sentenced to Hades, and who will find eternal life. These are his determination!

The sacrificial death of Christ, in itself, does not fully meet the need of believers. The Lord holds the keys, and the matter of righteousness has not been concluded as some suppose. God still has requirements for those who are to dwell with him throughout eternity and the issue remains a “law” issue, not the law of Moses but the law of the Spirit. (Rom 8:2) “For the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.”(NIV) The issue remains one of obedience, and God’s righteous requirements still exist; Christ is the means of accomplishing them, however. Paul wrote: “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so, he 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) The New Covenant is a covenant of the Spirit. The Lord is the Spirit (2 Cor 3:18) and he must be obeyed. (Heb 5:9) Fortunately for me and for all who claim the name of Christ, the law of the Spirit is embodied in the Spirit and he gives the power to accomplish his law and to achieve victory over Satan for the believer. (2 Pet 1:3) I have been freed from the death I deserved and from the weakness of my sinful nature. I walk cleansed and in the power and authority of the Spirit of Christ. Greater is he that is in [me] than he that is in the world.” (1 Jn 4:4 NIV) I have a better hope of victory because I have Christ and his presence in me. (Col 1:27)

In the end those who have claimed belief will face Christ at judgment to determine their reward or judgment in compliance to his rule. Freedom from judgment comes from allowing the Spirit to enlighten, lead, and empower the believer so that he or she does not commit practices that are offensive to God. Believers are compelled to walk in the light-in obedience to the Spirit-or as Christ walked. (1 Jn 2:6)

The great work of the cross was the destruction of Satan’s power by instituting a new and better covenant empowered by Christ, and the cleansing of believers from the sin that they carried while under the Old Covenant.

April 9, 2017

Their Hearts Were Hardened

by Russell Young

The Lord had hardened the hearts of Pharaoh and his officials when Moses asked for the freedom of God’s chosen people being held captive in Egypt. This hardening was done to accomplish his purposes. The purpose for hardening their hearts was so that the story of his miraculous signs would be relayed through the generations of Israel that they might know that he is the LORD. (Ex 10:1) He has hardened hearts throughout history in order to accomplish his purposes. However, Christ also spoke of the hardness of people’s hearts that inhibited or prevented the furtherance of the gospel and the hope of salvation.

Having a “hard” heart or a hardened heart means that a person’s heart is fixed on an issue as engraved in stone. It is not a heart of flesh that is malleable and can be influenced. A hard heart is not sensitive to anything other than its own interests and goals. It is not a humble heart but is often one that is prideful. As stated, God can harden a heart, but so can individuals. People can have hard hearts in relation to the Word and in relation to others.

The Lord stated that the hearts of his disciples were hard at times in referring to their lack of comprehension or understanding. (Mk 6:52; 8:17; Jn 12:40; Eph 4:18) It is troublesome when the hearts of believers have become hardened and fixed concerning others in the family of God so that they will not even examine the convictions of one another to discern underlying truths. God does not want his created people to have hard hearts and no one can come to him whose heart cannot be molded into the likeness of that of his Son. (Rom 8:29)

It is easy to find people with hardened hearts. They cannot conceive of the truth of God’s sovereignty over the world and all that is. They are not willing to see the divine hand of God in creation or in the miracles about them. They have trouble listening to or considering others and their opinions. They are often selfish and self-centered. We should be careful about applying the label of hardheartedness to others, however, until we have considered our own state. Most people have areas in life where a stubbornness and dogmatism persists and where the heart is no longer malleable and the Spirit’s influence is resisted. This does not mean that a person’s values and “truths” should be easily altered. The gospel is truth, after all, along with the rest of God’s Word; however, only God knows pure truth.

Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (Jn 10:27 NIV) ‘Listening’ is the sign of a receptive heart, a heart eager to absorb or accept the Lord’s teachings and directions. Obediently ‘following’ is indication of a sensitive heart. Paul told the Ephesians that they must “no longer live as the Gentiles do in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their heart. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more.” (Eph 4:17─19 NIV) Their hardening prevented the knowledge of truth and the presence and leading of the Spirit for righteousness.

Every believer should examine himself or herself to check for hard spots in their heart. Honesty might reveal that there are more than they would like to accept. Regardless, Christ condemned blindness and ignorance to his teaching. He requires obedience to the Spirit; hearts that are sensitive and able to be led. It is easy to dismiss one’s ungodly attitudes and behaviors if they are common to those around, even the ungodly. Society gives many permissions that the Lord does not and one day all of those who call themselves by his name will have to answer for their rejection of his righteous standards. He knows because he is in the believer trying to lead and to gain victory. “[T]hose who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom 8:14 NIV) Victory cannot be gained by those who have hardened their hearts to sin, and particularly to a favorite sin.

The hearts of the Israelites were hardened and they could not understand or accept God’s righteous requirements. The writer of Hebrews cautioned his readers: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion during the time of testing in the desert.” (Heb 3:8) Accept it or not, those who belong to Christ today are wandering in the desert with the aridness of sin and deceit all around them. They have pledged that Christ was their Lord (Rom 10:9) and he desires to lead them to victory to the promised land, but they must have hearts that are sensitive and are prepared to obediently follow. (Heb 5:9)


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

April 2, 2017

Sin Separates

by Russell Young

David wrote of the agony of his soul and pleaded for the Lord’s mercy to be restored after his adultery with Bathsheba. He knew that he had transgressed God’s law. He knew that God desired righteousness. He wanted joy and gladness to be restored to him through a pure and cleansed heart. (Ps 51) His sin had brought him unrest, sleepless nights, and separation from the closeness that he had enjoyed with his God. Sin separates; it did then and it does today.

Many suffer from the same discomfort that plagued David. Their lives have become empty and unfruitful for the kingdom. They even find it difficult to bless their families or their friends. It is easy to get caught up in disillusionment and loss of hope when God seems quite distant and prayers are left unanswered.

Modern teaching would dismiss the possibility of a spiritual separation from God. Those teaching would cover sin with God’s grace and “unconditional love.” However, the Word reveals that destruction can come from sinful practices. Paul wrote, “Do not be deceived: God will not 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) And, “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.” (2 Thess 1:8─9 NIV) God expects his people to walk fearfully before him, to be righteous in his sight. The believer is a slave to God. (Rom 6:22) Righteousness must be lived.

James wrote, “The prayers of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” (Jas 5:16 NIV) James did not say that the prayers of “Christians” are powerful and effective but that their efficacy rests with the righteous. John taught, “Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did.” (1 Jn 2:6 NIV) The grace of God provides all that is needed for life and godliness and the Lord’s blessings rest on those who are seeking his kingdom and his righteousness through an obedient walk.

The Lord has made many promises to the righteous. Matthew has recorded his words: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Mt 6:33 NIV) These things are food and clothing. They are fruits of seeking to live righteously and of seeking God’s kingdom. Some do not consider that their favorite sins are keeping them from enjoying the fullness and richness of God. Believers are cautioned against loving the world and the things in it. “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) Those who are surrounded by riches feel entitled to pursue them. In God’s sight such interest is sin. Believers are to perceive the world as from mountaintop to mountaintop with the world in the valley below. The Lord does not bless the one who craves the things of this world or their pursuit, but honours the person whose heart is established on righteousness, on him, and on kingdom purposes.

This truth needs to be taken seriously. God does not bless those who defy him. “For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer, but the face of the Lord is against those who do evil.” (1 Pet 3:12 NIV) David had felt abandoned following his act of disobedience. His bones felt dry. Although we would not like to admit it believers can be too ready to excuse ungodly thoughts and actions especially considering the wickedness about them. God is not so generous, however. That lesson will be learned through his punishment and discipline either today or at his judgment seat. Distress in life is not caused by sin alone; however, those who are walking with Christ, even though suffering through tribulations will never feel abandoned but will recognize his presence and peace.

David repented and could find joy again. In fact, God described him as, “a man after [his] own heart.” (Acts 13:22 NIV) Believers are to be men and women after God’s own heart. They are to enjoy fellowship with him, never feeling the dryness in spiritual life that comes from separation. The point is that God does not bless wickedness regardless of the utterances of those who would profess otherwise. He demands righteous practices from his people and blesses those who forgo sin and pursue his kingdom purposes.


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.

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

March 26, 2017

The Prodigal Son and God’s Love for the Repentant Sinner

by Russell Young

Luke relates the parable of the lost or prodigal son. (Lk 15:11─31) The story is quite well known. According to its presentation, a wealthy father had two sons and the younger wanted his inheritance even while the father lived. Having been given it, he squandered it in “riotous living” until he had nothing left. Starvation caused him to humbly return home where he was compassionately and enthusiastically greeted by his anxious father. The older son had remained home and had worked the remaining part of the estate for his father. Seeing his father’s delight in the return of the reckless son and the celebration that was taking place, the older son became upset since his faithfulness to his father had never been recognized.

This parable is often presented to show the “forgiveness” and love of the father and/or the hard-heartedness of the brother who had faithfully toiled for so long. Regardless, the revelation of God’s heart concerning the repentance of a sinner is highlighted within the parable. The verse leading to the parable (Luke 15:10) reads that “there is much rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” Repentance shows humility rather than pride. It indicates that the sinner has recognized the sovereignty of God and his laws and that he or she is subject to them. God loves the repentant person who is prepared to honour him and his creation.

Perhaps writings that have attempted to apply meaning to all aspects of this parable are confusing the issue. The father’s joy at the return of his son has been made clear. He loved his son and wanted fellowship with him. Without doubt, he had misused his inheritance and had done many foolish things, but he had learned some valuable lessons. His misadventure had taught him a great deal. From the parable, it seems that he had returned ready to be a committed and faithful son. Does our heavenly Father want anything less? Could he expect anything more?

Jesus had engaged his earthly ministry to redeem a lost people and was amid a people who had rejected God’s righteous requirements for thousands of years. His sorrow for Jerusalem was expressed as follows: “Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate.” (Lk 13:34─35) His heart was breaking because of the bleakness that sin had brought upon God’s chosen people. In this parable he is bringing the need for repentance to the lost sons of Israel and expressing to them the joy that the Father feels when truth is finally recognized and appreciated.

The issue of repentance applies to humankind today. God’s lamentation over the state of wickedness that exists in the hearts of his created people was expressed early following the tenure of people upon the earth. “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain.” (Gen 6:5─6 NIV) God loves his creation and it was for his pleasure that he had created in the first place. Hearts have become thoroughly evil in his estimation and there is no good thing in them. God wants repentance! He wants hearts committed to him and to doing good. Perhaps, like the father in the parable, the church of Christ should rejoice more exuberantly with God when a repentant sinner acknowledges hurt to humankind and to God and returns humbly to meet the heart of God.

For those who want to direct the parable to address the father’s rejoicing over the wayward “believer’s” return it needs to be appreciated that the prodigal had no inheritance and no recourse to attaining any. He had returned home having wasted it. The inheritance that belongs to the believer is the same inheritance that Christ will receive since the believer is a co-heir with Christ. (Rom 8:17) God will not be mocked, the “believer” cannot truthfully be repentant and act otherwise. Concerning the nature of his preaching, Paul told King Agrippa that his preaching to the Gentiles was that “they should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds.” (Acts 26:20 NIV) The writer of Hebrews has recorded: “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” (Heb 10:26─27 NIV) God will not be mocked and “believers” who repent after deliberately continuing to sin will not enjoy the celebration that the prodigal received.

Those who want to find meaning in the parable through reflecting on the attitude of the elder son through his hesitancy to rejoice at the return of the lost son need to understand that the elder has been presented as having been fully obedient to his father and the father did not chastise him but conveyed his heart over the return of his lost son. He desired the son to rejoice, as well. The elder son was to get all his father’s inheritance and was to be with him always. (Lk 15:31)

This parable was an attempt to reach out to the children of Israel to encourage repentance and a return to the family and perhaps it should not be considered beyond this point. There is great rejoicing in heaven when a sinner has been convinced of the pain he has brought to the heart of God and returns contritely and committed to live a life of humility and obedience. As depicted in this presentation by Christ, believers can cause rejoicing in heaven and can “shine like the brightness of the heavens” (Dan 12:3 NIV) through encouraging repentance and a walk of righteousness by believers. The father shared his heart that you might bless him.


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

March 19, 2017

The Wrath of God

by Russell Young

Even though it is not popular, consideration needs to be given to the issue of the wrath of God. The Word presents it as being a reality and the experience that some must face. The church needs to be more forthright in dealing with the consequences of disobedience and defiance, and of the rejection of God, both of which have consequences.

The redeemed belong to Christ; they are his servants and he is their sovereign. He has purchased them with his blood. Consequently, he cannot be accepted as savior without being accepted as their sovereign and lord. Believers are not permitted to live under their own rule. A condition of salvation is the declaration that Christ is Lord. (Rom 10: 9) Christ queried some of his followers, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Lk 6:46 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) Being saved from God’s wrath is a process undertaken following a person’s “reconciliation” to God and it comes through “the life” of Christ. Christ in the believer is his or her hope of glory. (Col 1:27)

Contrary to some modern theological teaching, reconciliation to God does not prevent God’s wrath. Paul wrote that the manner of a person’s living was important. “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)

Contemporary Christian music along with much teaching has emphasized and exaggerated the “freedom” and “unconditional love” that exists for the confessor. (There is a distinction between a believer and a confessor. A believer recognizes God’s sovereignty in his or her life and obediently responds to his calls.) Reconciliation to God is for gaining forgiveness for past sins, those that had separated the sinner from God and from certain death, allowing him or her the promise of the Spirit. (Gal 3:14) It is living through the Spirit that prevents the visitation of God’s wrath.

Many proclaim that the Lord in his mercy and grace has released confessors from both judgment and negative consequences. After all, they would say, all sins have been forgiven so there is nothing to be judged. Careful reading of God’s Word makes it clear that it is all sins committed while under the jurisdiction of the first or old covenant from which they have been released, not the sins that follow, unless they are confessed. “[H]e has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” (Heb 9:15 NIV; 2 Peter 1:9) The Lord has given all confessors everything they need for life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3) and it will only be through neglect or rebellion that sinning will be continued, prompting his wrath.

As servants, all of those who have pledged his lordship will one day be rewarded for their obedience or suffer wrath for their disobedience. Not only will confessors be judged by Christ, so will all of humankind. (Rom 14:10; 2 Cor 5:10; 1 Pet 4:17) Those who have honoured his calls upon their lives will be rewarded while all others will suffer destruction from his presence, either outside the walls of the New Jerusalem or in the lake of burning sulphur. Many will quote John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (NIV) Of course, this is true but the promise belongs to those who believe (are believing).

Belief is revealed by adherence to that which a person claims to believe. In the case of eternal salvation, the avoidance of God’s wrath is revealed as coming through obedience. The writer of Hebrews stated, “And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed. So you see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.” (Heb 3:18 NIV) It is through lack of obedience that judgment will come, failure to honor Christ as lord. “He will come with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know (understand) God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus.” (2 Thess 1:7─8 KJV)

The church has failed to ring the alarm concerning the visitation of the Lord’s wrath through the judgment to come, and its avoidance through the practice of personal righteousness. The admonition has been given for believers to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling so that they might become blameless and pure. Fear is a great motivator, just as is love. When John wrote that “perfect love drives out fear” (1 Jn 4:18 NIV), he was talking about perfect obedience since those who love God obey him. Paul cautioned the Ephesians not to be deceived by empty words for because of immorality, impurity, and greed God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. (Eph 5:6)

Despite modern theological presentations, God’s wrath will be visited upon those who have pledged Christ’s lordship and have not lived it. God’s grace is evidenced in his workmanship (Eph 2:10) as the Lord transforms the obedient into his likeness; his wrath will be based on a person’s ‘doing’ (Jn 5:28─29), on the rebellious and disobedient who resist his transforming work.


Russell Young is a Sunday contributor to Christianity 201 and 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

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