Christianity 201

July 8, 2017

The Sender and the Sent

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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As You sent Me into the world, I have also sent them into the world. – John 17:18

Again Jesus said to them, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent Me, so also I am sending you.” – John 20:22

Today, a brief article which appeared on Fred Sanders’ website, The Scriptorium Daily on May 1st. Click the title below to read this there, and then navigate around the site to look at other articles.

So Send I You

At the end of John’s Gospel, the risen Christ says to the disciples: “As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.”

It’s such a stark statement that, when I get to preach on this text, I usually spend about half the sermon explaining what Jesus didn’t mean by it. Our sending-out from Jesus can’t be like the Son’s sending-out from the Father in every way, can it? Or at least we shouldn’t presume that every wild thought that rushes into our heads automatically corresponds to the thought Jesus was thinking when he spoke these words. It’s an incomparable sending that Jesus compares our sending to.

But eventually you have to get around saying what Jesus did mean by these clear and simple words. My favorite way to answer that is to cast the net wide to see what John’s Gospel tells us about the relation of the sent Son and the sending Father:

Jesus didn’t do his own will, but the will of his Sender (4:34; 5:30; 6:38).

Jesus didn’t please Himself, but his Sender (8:29).

Jesus didn’t seek His own glory, but the glory of His Sender (7:18).

Jesus was the visible representation of the invisible Sender (5:37; cf. 1:18).

Jesus lived by his Sender (6:57).

Jesus taught the words of his Sender. (3:34; 7:16; 12:49-50).

Jesus could do nothing apart from his Sender (5:30).

Jesus was not alone; his Sender was with Him (8:16,29).

Jesus was busy doing the work of his Sender (4:34; 9:4) and when his work was done, He went home to be with his Sender (7:33; 16:5).

All of these, I think, describe not only the relation of the sent Son to his sending Father, and also our relationship to our sending savior.

And if it’s not Trinitarian enough for you: With his next breath, Jesus said “receive the Holy Spirit.”

 

July 7, 2017

Knowing Your Spiritual Weak Links

So the one who thinks he is standing firm should be careful not to fall.” – 1 Cor. 10:12 Berean Study Bible.

Note: Some may find this article is built on a rather pessimistic or negative premise, but I hope you’ll buy in and see the lesson in this.

If you’ve read The Case for Faith by Lee Strobel you’ve seen a reference in the first chapter to Charles Templeton, once a leading Canadian pastor whose faith was suddenly shattered and he spent his prime years in agnosticism. There is a story that Billy Graham was once asked about his calling and said something to the effect, ‘I’m only doing what Charles Templeton started and didn’t finish.’

My father was a big part of the music ministry surrounding Templeton’s work, and said he felt that the trigger for Templeton’s atheism was a massive fire that took place at his Toronto church. (Parenthetically, my father was constantly reminding me that you can’t fix your eyes on an individual leader; the focus has to be on Christ.)

As I started thinking about that, I realized that a fire is a rather superficial reason for abandoning the faith, though I can’t say what bitterness could steal my heart in similar circumstances. I have often said to close friends that I become an atheist every night around 4:00 AM when after several hours of tossing and turning I can’t get into some deep sleep. I hope they know what I’m saying and don’t take it too literally. Again, superficial things.

Last month I started thinking what superficial factors could plunge me into a cycle of questioning the reality of the Christ story. I don’t mean this in the sense that I’m having a faith crisis, or that any such factors would be successful in knocking my faith off its moorings, but I wanted to better understand my own vulnerabilities. Here are two I came up with.

1. Natural disasters. This is of course a reason often used by non-believers for not embracing the idea of deity. “How could a loving God allow this to happen?” But as I watch World News Tonight with David Muir each evening and see peoples’ homes washed away, it does seem a great moment for divine intervention that didn’t take place. (Remember, we’re talking about potential vulnerabilities here.)

2. The actions of fellow Christians. This was the one C.S. Lewis said could prevent just about anyone from becoming a Christian. When I think of the hurt I’ve endured at the hands of fellow believers, I can very easily imagine a person of weaker faith abandoning ship.

So…what about you? Have you ever looked toward the horizon and imagined the proverbial straw that could break the proverbial camel’s back. As I said at the outset, some of you are perhaps reading this at the outset of the workday and it may seem like a very negative thing to consider, but I think it’s important to be aware of our vulnerabilities. I think it’s implicit in the warning of Proverbs 4:23, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” (NLT)

What personal circumstances or things in your life have the potential to eat at your core faith? What is the weak link in your faith chain?

July 6, 2017

On the Right Track: Love in John 13:35

Staying on the right track spirituallyby Clarke Dixon

How do we know that we are on the right track in matters of faith? How do we know that we are “good with God?” Some will point to life experiences. If everything is going well for you, and your prayers are being answered, then obviously you must be on the right track. Others will point to spiritual experiences and say that if you can speak in tongues or have experienced some form of miracle then you must be on the right track. Still others will point to religious activity, that if you are keeping up with religious observances and practices, then you must be on the right track.

But how would Jesus answer this question? Thankfully he answered it long before we asked:

34 I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35 NRSV

Notice that Jesus did not say everyone will know we are his disciples if our lives went smoothly, or if we showed ourselves to be be super-spiritually gifted, or really religious. Rather our love is the evidence we are His followers. John also links love with reassurance that we are on the right track:

18 Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. 19 And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him 1 John 3:18-19 NRSV

But don’t those who do not follow Jesus also love? My experience is that yes, people who have no interest in following Jesus are capable of being and often are loving people. So does this mean they are on the right track, living lives that please Jesus, and so are “good with God”?

Before we jump to conclusions we will want to remind ourselves of the important role Christianity has played in lifting up an ethic of love in our society. Thanks to the influence of Christianity our society has been “marinating” in an ethic of love. Christianity has added flavor to our nation and many others. So when the Beatles sing “All you need is love,” or when Katy Perry sings “I will love you unconditionally,” there is a Christian ethic shining through. People who have no time for Jesus are nevertheless enjoying a certain flavor he has brought to society.

There are societies which have not had so thorough a permeation of Jesus’ love ethic. You can think of areas rife with militant Islam where a strict interpretation and application of sharia law is seen as more honorable than an ethic of love. We all know where that has led and is leading. Or you can think of where a belief in karma can lead. If you are brought into life as an untouchable, born into a sorry state of affairs, you must deserve it. That’s karma. Jesus teaches grace. Jesus loves us regardless of merit and went to the cross for us. Though Christians can get it wrong, one cannot deny that Christianity has lifted up an ethic of grace and love in some societies in a way that other religions have not in others.

Still, we may be wondering if a person who rejects Jesus as Lord and Savior is on the right track by living a life of love. Actually, yes, they are on the right track. But they have not got on the train. We cannot love enough to go the distance and bring ourselves into the presence of God. We can devote ourselves to a life of love all we want, but when we refuse God’s love for us, we refuse God’s offer to carry us for the distance. We would rather walk, though the destination is far. Too far.

“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Love is powerful evidence that we are on the right track. But being on the right track is not enough. This destination requires getting on the train.

18 Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. 19 And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him 20 whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 21 Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; 22 and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him. 23 And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 1 John 3:18-23 NRSV emphasis mine


If the graphic looks familiar, yes it is an Amy Grant album cover, a supposedly rare cover without her name on the front (that we can see).  This article appeared previously at C201 in April, 2015 under the title Staying On Track. Clarke Dixon is a pastor in Cobourg, Ontario, Canada. Read more at clarkedixon.wordpress.com

July 5, 2017

When the Flood Waters Run High

Just two months ago, we introduced you to the website Dust off the Bible, which contains news, reviews, quizzes and a daily devotional. We thought we’d give you another opportunity to explore this excellent website. Click the title below to read this at source. (Often the passages are covered by two writers, which is the case today.)

Daily Bible Reading Devotional [Psalm 69:7-18]-June 28, 2017

Psalm 69:7-18

69:7 It is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that shame has covered my face.

69:8 I have become a stranger to my kindred, an alien to my mother’s children.

69:9 It is zeal for your house that has consumed me; the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.

69:10 When I humbled my soul with fasting, they insulted me for doing so.

69:11 When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword to them.

69:12 I am the subject of gossip for those who sit in the gate, and the drunkards make songs about me.

69:13 But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me. With your faithful help

69:14 rescue me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters.

69:15 Do not let the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the Pit close its mouth over me.

69:16 Answer me, O LORD, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.

69:17 Do not hide your face from your servant, for I am in distress–make haste to answer me.

69:18 Draw near to me, redeem me, set me free because of my enemies.


Much like yesterday’s reading, this passage calls for the Christian to stand up for the name of Christ. This however, is a prayer that God would give strength to those who are enduring persecution and mocking for the sake of following after God. We cannot live this Christian life alone and we are not meant to. Jesus is always there to give us peace and strength, especially when are facing hard times.

The Psalmist here is recognizing that yes, there has been some very hard times for being a follower of Christ. He names how family no longer cares for him, the people around him gossip, even those who are at the lowest form of the social ladder, are making fun of him. The sacrifice to follow after Christ is great and costly. Yet, there is no cry about frustration and bitterness. There is a cry for strength and a means of being sustained as he goes through this.

Whenever we are mocked and questioned about our faith, let us remember that Jesus Christ endured the greatest form of mockery in spreading the Gospel. He was beaten, humiliated, spit upon, mocked and killed. Our strength comes from the one who has endured it all and we can rest assured that He will answer us during times of persecution and hardships. He gives strength to the weary, peace to the anxious heart and joy to the sad.


Sometimes, the storms are what make us seek God the most. They are times where we need to seek something outside of ourselves and our surroundings. We need a supernatural event. While we should encourage others to call on God daily, know that it’s normal to call on the Lord more in our times of need. In fact, this is what King David often did and that is why so many Psalms are written from a place of despair. However, there is no need to despair. God is listening to us already. He is listening before we even speak.

If you are in a place of need at this moment, go find a quiet place and pray the words of King David;

With your faithful help rescue me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters.

Do not let the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the Pit close its mouth over me.

Answer me, O LORD, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.

Do not hide your face from your servant, for I am in distress–make haste to answer me.

Draw near to me, redeem me.

 

 

July 4, 2017

If God Could Have Your Attention for Just a Moment

We’ve linked to Ed Cyzewski many times at Thinking Out Loud, but this is his first appearance at C201. This is the first part of a longer article; you’re encouraged to click the title below to read the full piece.

What Would God Shout at You from a Cloud?

In the Gospel of Matthew, there are two instances where a cloud appears over Jesus and God shouts two brief, identical messages. I have often wondered what God would shout at me in a similar situation.

Honestly, I tend to think God would shout negative things at me. I imagine God telling me to stop doing something or to do more of something. In either case, the message would focus on the ways I’m falling short and have been inadequate.

I have struggled to imagine a loving and merciful God. It’s much easier to imagine a God who is either disappointed or really, really angry.

Bringing up this disappointed/angry image of God with people tends to strike a nerve.

What would God shout at you?  

-volunteer more!
spend less money!
stop obsessing about your body image!
share the Gospel more!
stop lusting!
help more people in need!
read the Bible more!
pray more!
go to a different church!
spend less time on social media!

We can’t imagine that God the Father is for us and loves us. We can only imagine God showing up in a cloud and telling us to get our acts together, to start doing something different.

God the Father isn’t typically imagined as being on our side. God the Father is somehow joined with Jesus in the Trinity but remains disappointed in us and in need of a blood sacrifice to make us acceptable in his sight, working out a loophole in his infinite holiness and justice.

Before Jesus launched his ministry and before Jesus ventured to Jerusalem where he would be killed and then rise from the dead, God the Father spoke the same message over Jesus:

This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.

Matthew 3:16-17

 “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!

Matthew 17:5

On both occasions, God the Father affirmed the Son. On the first occasion Jesus had not even started his ministry.

I have tended to write off the significance of these moments between the Father and the Son. However, I now think that this was a big mistake on my part.

Jesus came to unite us with God, adopting us in God’s family. Paul writes that our identity is hidden away in Christ. In the midst of this union with Christ, we dare not overlook the love of God for us that goes beyond our comprehension:

I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Ephesians 3:17-19

Through the ministry of Jesus and our union with him, we have a new way of thinking about God. If God is our Father through our union with the Son, then it isn’t far-fetched to say that God’s first thought of us is love and a desire for deeper union with us. God desires to heal, redeem, and restore his children.

Failing to believe that I am a child of God is the most important obstacle for prayer. Once I believe that God loves and accepts me like Jesus is loved and accepted, prayer becomes a moment to rest in God’s love rather than a game of hide and go seek with God or a proving ground for my spirituality…

July 3, 2017

Praying for Healing

Once again we’re visiting Biblical Proof, the blog of Alfred Shannon, Jr. There are some great articles here dealing with subjects that should interest you. Click the title below to read this one and then navigate the site to look at other topics. Also, note the writer’s perspective on healing vs. miracle healing. A cessationist might believe that the day of miracles is over but still adhere to the admonition in today’s key scripture passage. For such people, definitions have to be adjusted to fit with an overarching theology. What’s important here however is the importance of asking God for help.

Praying For The Sick

Is any sick among you? Let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him (Jam 5:14-15).

I have noticed that when we pray for someone who is sick, frequently the prayer goes something like this:

“Our Father in heaven, we thank you for the many blessings you have given us. . . . We come to you in prayer especially at this time in behalf of our brother who is sick. We pray that you will bless the doctors and nurses who are attending to him. We pray that you will be with his family in this hour of crisis that they might minister to his needs and be a source of comfort, consolation, and strength to him”.

There is nothing in this prayer that should not be prayed for. However, the prayer frequently comes to an end without the one leading it ever asking the Lord to heal the sick body of the person who is suffering. In my observations at the hospital, I see the doctor in pretty good health, not worried about how to pay his medical bills, and doing quite well. The nurses attending to the needs of my loved one also look cheerful, in good health, and generally doing better than the one lying in the hospital bed. The family and friends who come to cheer and comfort the sick also seem relatively in good condition. Any of these can properly be the objects of our prayer. However, in this situation, who is most in need of our prayers? Obviously, the sick person who is in such poor condition that he had to be admitted into the hospital. Why should anyone be so reluctant to pray for him?

Have we so studiously avoided the errors of modem Pentecostalism that we are afraid to ask the Lord to heal the body of someone who is sick? I hope that we have not reached a point in our faith that we no longer believe that prayer does any good. Before proceeding any further, let me close a couple of doors. There are two erroneous concepts of the present operation of the world:

(1) The Pentecostals are wrong when they promise miraculous healing to those who are sick. There are no miracles being performed today. Faith is not a condition to physical health.

(2) The naturalists are also wrong who teach that everything is governed solely by natural law. The deistic concept of the universe teaches that God created and empowered the universe; ever since creation everything has occurred as a result of natural law. The naturalists deny that God even created the world, but are agreed with the deists in believing that all things that happen are the result of the operation of natural law. Neither believes that God intervenes in the affairs of man. Neither of these concepts are true. God does work in the affairs of men, as is expressly stated in such passages as Daniel 4:32. I am afraid that some Christians may be approaching the deistic concept of the world. That would be the case if one were to conclude that prayer does not change things.

When Hezekiah became aware that he was sick with an illness that would lead to death, he prayed to God and wept (2 Kin 20:3). The Lord answered his prayer and extended his life for fifteen years.

The 116th Psalm records the praise of a saint delivered from death. He described his condition:

The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell got hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.

Then called I upon the name of the Lord; 0 Lord, I beseech you, deliver my soul (3-4).

The psalmist brought his plight before the Lord and asked for his divine assistance and aid.

If we cannot directly ask for God’s help when we are sick, how can we praise and glorify him when we are healed? If we believe that he has nothing to do with our recovery, why praise him for deliverance? Why not solely give thanks to the doctors, nurses, and natural laws that enable us to recuperate? Most doctors will tell you that they cure no one, but that information evidently hasn’t gotten into the minds of God’s children. Doctors are not God and it is impossible for man to heal anyone. Only God heals! (Jer 17:14)

I plan to ask for God to heal me when I become ill. I am not asking him to perform a miracle, but I am asking him in his providence to heal my sick body. There is not a father or mother among us with a sick child who has not unabashedly taken their prayer directly to God and asked him to let the child live!

Why are we afraid to say in public what we pray in private? Let us not hesitate to ask God to extend the life of our loved ones, to heal their sick body that they might resume their role in the home, and to strengthen them during the hours of their sickness. Let us also recognize that the God who has the power to heal also has the privilege of saying to me like he did to Paul, “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor. 12:9). I will pray earnestly until I clearly see that the answer to my prayer is “My grace is sufficient for you.” When I so perceive his reply, I will quit asking for healing and ask for the strength to accept what has come to me.

In the meantime, let us avoid the tendency of allowing our reaction to Pentecostalism to drive us away from asking God to heal the sick.


Here is our runner up from Biblical Proof which looks at the prayers of sinners (not to be confused with the sinner’s prayer.) Does God Hear A Sinner’s Prayer?

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.

 

 

July 1, 2017

God’s Direction for the Rest of Your Year

Though the Lord gave you adversity for food and suffering for drink, he will still be with you to teach you. You will see your teacher with your own eyes. Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go,” whether to the right or to the left. Isaiah 30: 20-21 (NLT)

The year is half over. What’s next? Ever wish you could see God’s entire plan for your life like a giant road map?

Back in the day, if you were heading on a vacation trip to a place in the U.S. or Canada where you’d never been before, if you were a member of AAA (or CAA) you could request a trip guidebook. Using previously printed pages representing different highway sections, someone would assemble a series of these ‘strip maps’ into a booklet that also provided commentary on places of interest, restaurants and motels.

Hard to imagine in a world of MapQuest and GPS tracking.

These ‘strip maps’ are a closer representation as to how life presents itself to us. We’re given direction that is sufficient for the day, but don’t always know how the pieces of the journey are going to form an overall story. It’s not unlike walking across a stream using stepping stones, and stopping on each to determine where to put your feet next.

Chuck Smith says of our key verse: “How glorious to be led of the Spirit and having God say, ‘This is the way, walk in it.’ What is the way? The way of waiting upon God and trusting in Him.”

As C.S. Lewis once suggested, to understand how God sees time, draw a line with two ends in a blank sheet of paper, then look at the entire paper. We see the line as a progression, but God sees it as a whole. We live within time, but God is eternal and separate.

Another way to say this is that the difference between our perception of time and God’s might be compared to having a travel atlas where the journey across a country or a continent reveals the beginning and the end. This is the type of “big picture” that God has. Our perception would be more flipping through the strip map, getting the journey in small bite size pieces.

I’m told Lewis also compares our perception and God’s perception to the difference between sitting at a level crossing waiting for a long train to pass by. Each car passes sequentially, one after the other. But miles above, as seen from an airplane, the entire train is visible from beginning to end, and as it slowly snakes its way through the mountains and valleys, seems to almost be standing still.

The problem is, we want the big picture. We want to know where the story is going. But often information is supplied on a day-to-day, hour-by-hour and even minute-by-minute basis.

And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness. Evil-minded people will never travel on it. It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways; fools will never walk there. Isaiah 35:8 NLT


I heard a story once from someone who was unimpressed with the Christian bumper stickers which proclaimed, “God is my Co-Pilot.” He proposed this amendment: “If God is your Co-Pilot, you need to switch seats.”

If anyone can find a link to the Lewis/train story, or knows an equally good time analogy, feel free to add it in the comments.

June 30, 2017

From Sea to Sea

Today’s is a special post in honour of Canada’s 150th birthday, celebrating tomorrow, July 1st. I am grateful for the research done on this by my pastor, Rev. André Turcotte who shared this recently at a public service in our town park, and was willing to share his notes with me.

September 1, 1864
Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley, Premier of New Brunswick and one of the Fathers of Confederation, rose each morning to start his day with prayer and Scripture reading. As the 33 fathers gathered in Charlottetown to discuss and draft the terms of the British North American Act, there were many suggestions on what to call this new “United Canada.” That morning, as Tilley read from Psalm 72:8, he became so convinced that Canada should be a nation under God, that when he came down to the Conference session, he presented the inspired “Dominion of Canada.” The other Fathers readily agreed and accepted. Today, The following words hang in the corridor near the confederation Chamber in Province House: “In the hearts of the delegates who assembled in this room on September 1, 1864, was born the Dominion of Canada. Providence being their guide they builded better then they knew.”

Psalm 72 (NIV) Of Solomon.

Endow the king with your justice, O God,
the royal son with your righteousness.
May he judge your people in righteousness,
your afflicted ones with justice.

May the mountains bring prosperity to the people,
the hills the fruit of righteousness.
May he defend the afflicted among the people
and save the children of the needy;
may he crush the oppressor.
May he endure as long as the sun,
as long as the moon, through all generations.
May he be like rain falling on a mown field,
like showers watering the earth.
In his days may the righteous flourish
and prosperity abound till the moon is no more.

May he rule (have dominion) from sea to sea
and from the River
to the ends of the earth.

Canada’s official motto comes from Psalm 72:8, “He shall have dominion from sea to sea.”  Until not many years ago, July 1st was called “Dominion Day” which was a recognition of the sovereignty of God. Today, it is called “Canada Day.”

Canada’s coat of arms, adopted in 1921, stands upon the Latin phrase A Mari Usque Ad Mare, which when translated means “from sea to sea” a reference to Psalm 72:8.

The spiritual heritage is reflected in the country’s educational system and laws.

The Education System

Bishop John Strachan, a leader who helped form our public education system, stated that “the church must continue to play a central role in education. You cannot divorce religion from education because schools will inevitably reflect the philosophical and religious or (irreligious) biases of those who direct them.”

Egerton Ryerson, father of public education in Canada, wanted a “common patriotic ground of comprehensiveness and avowed (or maintain) Christian principles.” He wrote the textbook First Lessons in Christian Morals which was published in 1871. Ryerson clearly said that the Ontario school system was to be a “Christian public school system.

Many of our greatest Canadian universities were founded as denominational seminaries to educate future church leaders.

The Ontario Public School Act of 1896 stated that “It shall be the duty of every teacher of a public school to teach diligently and faithfully all of the subjects in the public school course of study; to maintain proper order and discipline in his pupils in his school; to encourage his pupils in the pursuit of learning; to include, by precept and example, respect for religion and the principles of Christian morality and the highest regard for truth, justice, love of country, humanity, benevolence, sobriety, industry, frugality, purity, temperance and all other virtues.”

The Laws of The Land

In 1960, Prime Minister John Diefenbaker introduced the Canadian Bill of Rights. It begins with, “The Parliament of Canada, affirming that the Canadian Nation is founded upon principles that acknowledge the supremacy of God…” The Canadian Bill of Rights can be found here.

In 1981, Pierre Elliott Trudeau signed his name to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The Charter begins with, “Whereas Canada is founded upon principles that recognize the supremacy of God and the rule of the law.” The Charter of Rights and Freedoms can be found here.

Where does Canada stand today?

At the end of Pastor André’s notes was the full text of Psalm 78 which provides an interesting contrast to what you’ve just read. As we’ve written several times before, people tend to forget.  Secularism, skepticism, materialism, cultural and religious pluralism; all of these over time have contributed to the present situation where Christianity is no longer at the heart of public or family life.

I do believe that alongside various factors, it is the Christian foundation, still embedded in many of our institutions, which makes this a great nation.

God, keep our land glorious and free.

 

June 29, 2017

Good Grief! And a Lack Thereof

by Clarke Dixon

Expressing emotion during a time of grief is a very natural thing to do. To not grieve, and to suppress emotion, is a very unnatural thing to do. If we understand that, then we are well on our way to understanding why God told Ezekiel to show no grief over the death of his wife:

Ezekiel 24:15-18 (NRSV) The word of the Lord came to me: 16 Mortal, with one blow I am about to take away from you the delight of your eyes; yet you shall not mourn or weep, nor shall your tears run down. 17 Sigh, but not aloud; make no mourning for the dead. Bind on your turban, and put your sandals on your feet; do not cover your upper lip or eat the bread of mourners. 18 So I spoke to the people in the morning, and at evening my wife died. And on the next morning I did as I was commanded.

So why is Ezekiel told not to grieve? Ezekiel’s lack of grief becomes a lesson in grief for God’s people during the exile. They have been demonstrating a lack of grief over something very important. We find the clue as to what in these following verses:

Thus says the Lord God: I will profane my sanctuary, the pride of your power, the delight of your eyes, and your heart’s desire . . . . And you, mortal, on the day when I take from them their stronghold, their joy and glory, the delight of their eyes and their heart’s affection, . . . Ezekiel 24:21-25 (NRSV)

Do you notice something about the loss God’s people are experiencing? Where is the mention of the presence and glory of God? Remembering that the temple was to be known as the place of God’s presence, and remembering the need for humility in approaching God’s glory and presence, it is strange that the temple should be called “the pride of your power”. The temple has become “the delight of your eyes, and your heart’s desire,” and their “joy and glory.” The temple has taken the place of God in the lives of His people. The temple itself has become for God’s people nothing more than another idol. Yet there has been no grief over the fact that God has already “left the building.”

When God’s people lose the temple they are told they ought not to grieve, for all along they have not shown any grief over losing what should have been most important to them, the presence and glory of God. In fact God’s people have been actively doing the very things that take them away from the presence and glory of God: “you shall not mourn or weep, but you shall rot away in your iniquities and groan to one another” (Ezekiel 24:23 ESV). In other words, this is the status quo. God’s people have not been grieving over the sin that has led them away from the presence and glory of God.

What are we to learn from this for our day?

There are two things:

First, we learn about what ought to elicit deep emotions in us. When you have an understanding of the reality of the presence and glory of God, then anything that would take you in the opposite direction should make you feel sick. What are those things? We learn them from God’s Word, but let Jesus summarize for us:

Matthew 22:34-40 (NRSV) 34 When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, 35 and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

When we know the Lord, when we have a mature understanding of His greatness and glory, we will naturally grieve when we see a lack of love, both for God and for neighbour. When we see God mocked, and when we see people suffer injustice, we ought to grieve.

Second, is it possible that our grief as God’s people is misplaced in very much the same way it was misplaced in Ezekiel’s day? We grieve over the loss of churches and church buildings. A recent local newspaper article lamented the closure of churches in the rural areas. To quote one church member: “When I was a kid, there would be square dances and community meals here” (Northumberland News, Thursday, June 22nd 2017). What about the prayer there, the digging into the Word of God there, the care of the soul there, the presence of God among God’s people there, the worship of God there? To quote a clergy person from the same article: “When I was a child everyone went to church – why do people go to church? For the community. It was the only game in town for some communities.” Again, does no one go to church for prayer, for the Word of God, for the presence of God, for the worship of God, for the glory of God?

The sentimentality around losing churches and church buildings is completely natural and understandable. But are we grieving more over the apathy towards Christ, and active pushing away from God in our day? Are we getting emotional over God’s presence and glory? To do otherwise is unnatural and we may be lacking in good grief.


Read more from Clarke at clarkedixon.wordpress.com

June 28, 2017

5 Messages in The Lord’s Table

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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Do this in remembrance of me – Jesus in Luke 22:19

Normally we wait six months before returning to a particular source, but this article at Parking Space 23 grabbed our attention a few days ago. The author is William Barrick.

Why Do We Observe the Lord’s Supper?

God appointed two ordinances to the church: believer’s baptism and the Lord’s Supper (also called the Lord’s Table and Communion). Baptism consists of the declaration of one’s salvation, of being “in Christ Jesus” by faith.

Baptism symbolizes our commitment of faith;
the Lord’s Supper symbolizes our obligation to brotherly love and to the “one anothers.”

Baptism is our Godward obedience;
the Lord’s Supper is our brotherward obedience.

The Lord’s Supper provides a picture of the full program of redemption:

  1. It requires Christ’s incarnation: “My body . . . My blood” (Matthew 26:26–29).
  2. It demands Christ’s substitutionary sacrifice: “for you” (Luke 22:19).
  3. It indicates Christ’s inauguration of the New Covenant: “the new covenant in My blood” (Luke 22:20).
  4. It identifies the believer as united to the body of Christ, the Church: “we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1 Corinthians 10:16–17).
  5. It demands that we live for one another: “wait for one another” (1 Corinthians 11:17–22, 33).

The Lord’s Supper associates Christ’s future Kingdom with His institution of this ordinance and the church’s observance. At the conclusion of 1 Corinthians 11:23 – 26, Paul reminds us that by our observance of the Lord’s Table we “proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” Jesus is coming again! Jesus referred to the Kingdom of Christ being on the earth “in My Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29; see Luke 22:18). When He comes, He will bring the kingdom of His Father with Him (Luke 19:11–15). And, that future Kingdom is associated with the coming resurrection and glorification of believers: “until the day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom” (Matthew 26:29). When He comes, we will have fellowship with Him.

The Lord’s Table presents multiple messages. Note the following:

  1. The focus of the Lord’s Supper rests on our Savior: “do this in remembrance of Me” (1 Corinthians 11:24).
  2. The Lord’s Supper testifies to the fulfillment of prophetic revelation and to divine faithfulness with regard to our future: “the Son of Man is going as it has been determined” (Luke 22:22).
  3. The Lord’s Supper declares divine grace and mercy in the forgiveness of our sins: “for many for forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).
  4. The Lord’s Supper speaks of the future glory of the Kingdom as our hope (see the discussion of the Kingdom relationship above).
  5. The Lord’s Supper emphasizes our union with the body of Christ, the Church (1 Corinthians 10:16–17).

Concluding Thoughts

The Lord’s Supper presents the full redemptive work of Christ—past, present, and future. The observance of this ordinance provides a mini-catechism regarding our salvation in Christ and His work. The Lord’s Supper calls us to live in unity with one another and to exercise our spiritual gifts for one another—note how closely the instruction in spiritual gifts comes (1 Corinthians 12–14) after the section concerning the Lord’s Supper.


The Lord’s supper is a recurring theme here. Click one of the tags associated with this post to read more.

June 27, 2017

The Waterfall of Grace

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Today we’re paying a return visit to Living by Faith blog by Steve Fuller. This is their all-time most popular post, from 2013. Click the title to read this on the blog itself, and then check out the right-hand column for other popular posts.

Can I Deliberately Keep Sinning And Still Be Forgiven?

A Waterfall Of Grace

Imagine that it’s 120 degrees outside.  Hot.

But then imagine that you are standing under a waterfall — cool, clear, and refreshing.  Aaaah.

Through trusting Jesus Christ you are standing under a waterfall of grace —

  • All your sins are forgiven — past, present, and future.
  • You are seen by God as clothed in Jesus’ perfect righteousness.
  • God is your Father — loving you, guiding you, providing for you, satisfying you in Himself.
  • God continues to forgive your sins day after day, year after year — forgiven, forgiven, forgiven, forgiven.
  • God will keep you persevering in faith so you will surely enter heaven.
  • God will supply everything you need for the rest of your life.
  • God will ordain everything in your future to bring you the greatest joy in Him.

A waterfall of grace.

But This Raises A Question

Does grace mean someone can deliberately keep sinning and still end up in heaven?

One passage that speaks directly to this question is Hebrews 10:26-31.

Verse 26 is sobering —

For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins.

What Does That Mean?

What does it mean to go on sinning deliberately?

“Sinning” means disobeying clear commands of Scripture — which would include unforgiveness, sexual immorality, and love of money.

So — if yesterday you harbored unforgiveness against someone, does that mean you can never be forgiven?  Not at all.

Notice that the author is not just talking about “sinning.”  He’s talking about “going on sinning deliberately.”

The words “going on” and “deliberately” mean that you are continuing in this sin without confessing it, without sorrowing over it, without battling it.

So if yesterday you harbored unforgiveness against someone, but today confessed that to the Lord and by faith fought to overcome it — then you are NOT “going on sinning deliberately.”

But — if yesterday you harbored unforgiveness against someone, and today you are continuing in that unforgiveness without confessing it and without fighting by faith to forgive them — then you ARE “going on sinning deliberately.”

Which means that unless something changes, there no longer remains a sacrifice for your sins.

What Does That Mean?

The author explains in the rest of the passage.  If, after receiving the knowledge of the truth, you go on sinning deliberately, then —

  • V.27 says you would face “a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire.”
  • V.29 says you would face a “worse punishment” than death.
  • V.30 says you would face God’s “vengeance,” and that He would “judge” you.
  • And v.31 says “it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

I don’t see any way around it.  If, after receiving the knowledge of the truth, you go on sinning deliberately, then you will not end up in heaven.  You will face God’s judgment forever.

But Be Careful

At this point you could draw a very wrong, and very dangerous, conclusion.

Let’s say you are NOT going on sinning deliberately.  Not that you are perfect, but you are trusting Christ, which includes fighting sin by faith.  You often overcome sin.  And when you do sin, you turn back to Christ, confess your sin, and return to the fight.

So you are NOT going on sinning deliberately.  But you could let this passage make you fear that someday you might start going on sinning deliberately, which would mean facing God’s judgment forever.

But I’ve got good news for you.  If today you are trusting Christ — then YOU WILL NEVER FACE THIS JUDGMENT.

Because if today you are trusting Christ, which includes fighting sin by faith, that shows that God has saved you. And because God has saved you, He will —

  • complete the good work He started in you (Phil 1:6),
  • keep you from stumbling so far that you face eternal judgment (Jude 1:24-25),
  • not let anything (not even you) snatch you from His hand (John 10:28-29).

So no one who is saved by God will experience the judgment described in Heb 10:26-31.

But you might wonder — hadn’t the people described in Heb 10:26-31 been saved?

Hadn’t they “received the knowledge of the truth” (Heb 10:26)?  Yes, but that does not mean they were saved.  Because the parable of the four soils shows that there is a shallow way to receive the word that does not include faith in Christ (Mark 4:1-20).

And hadn’t they been “sanctified” (Heb 20:29)?  Yes, but that also does not mean they were saved.  Because the word “sanctified” can mean something less than salvation (see 1Cor 7:14-16).

So how can anyone know for sure they have been saved?  We are saved by faith alone in Christ alone (Eph 2:8-9).  So, to be assured of salvation, turn from whatever else you have been trusting to satisfy you, and trust Jesus Christ to forgive you, strengthen your weak faith, help you battle sin, and satisfy you in Himself.

If your trust is sincere, then you will want to fight sin by faith, and you can be fully assured that God has saved you.  Which means He will keep you persevering in faith to the end.  Which means you will never face the judgment described in Heb 10:26-31Never.

But What If You Are Not?

What if you are not fighting sin by faith?  What if you are going on sinning deliberately?

Lord willing, I’ll talk about this more in my next blog post.

But for now, understand that if you are going on sinning deliberately, then unless something changes, you will face God’s judgment forever.

But — if you will turn to Jesus now and confess your sin, admit your helplessness, ask His forgiveness, and trust Him to forgive you, strengthen you, help and satisfy you — He will.

And you’ll be under the waterfall of His grace — and kept there — forever.

June 26, 2017

The Devil is a Liar

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
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We’re back for yet another visit to Blogos. The featured writer this time is Anthony Barbato. Click the title to read at source and then check out some of the other articles.

Satan, Father of Lies

For you are the children of your father the devil, and you love to do the evil things he does. He was a murderer from the beginning. He has always hated the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, it is consistent with his character; for he is a liar and the father of lies.
  – John 8:44

Honestly, there’s not enough time in the world to tell you all the ways Satan lies to us. Just as there’s no limit to God’s goodness, there’s no limit to Satan’s deceit. And no wonder, as he’s the “father of lies.” Christ tells us in John 8:44, “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

One thing Satan continually does though, is cast doubt upon God’s word. Let’s take a look at his exchange with Eve in the garden.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “From the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but from the fruit of the tree which is in the middle of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat from it or touch it, or you will die.'” The serpent said to the woman, “You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:1-5

After this Eve eats the fruit and gives some to Adam to eat as well. You see, first Satan calls into question God’s word. And then, even when it’s affirmed, he twists its meaning. This is essentially Satan’s primary desire. Since the Lord is the only source of truth (Ecclesiastes 12:11), it’s of course where Satan is focused. He doesn’t care which lie you believe, just that you don’t believe the truth. People who are part of a false religion are just as doomed as the atheist (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 2 Peter 3:16; Revelation 20:15).

Satan doesn’t care which lie you believe; people in false religions are just as doomed as atheists. tweet

Aside from that, here’s a quick list of the most attacked beliefs of God’s truth as revealed in Scripture:

1. The Depravity of Man — This is the clear Biblical teaching that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Men are fallen creatures (Romans 3:10-18), wretched beings (Romans 7:24), and in need of a new birth (John 3:1-21). Because of our sin we face eternal separation from God, and nothing apart from belief in Christ through the drawing of the Father can save us (John 6:44; Acts 4:12). In short, men are sinners, incapable of saving ourselves from God’s judgement without the intercession of the Son by God’s immeasurable grace (Genesis 8:21; 1 Kings 8:46; 2 Chronicles 6:36; Ezra 9:6; Job 9:2, 15:14; Psalm 14:1; 51:5; 53:1; 58:3; 143:2; Proverbs 20:9; Ecclesiastes 7:20; 9:3; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 3:17; 17:9; 22:21; 32:30; Micah 7:2; Mark 10:18; Luke 18:19; Romans 3:10-18, 23; 7:18; 1 John 1:8).

2. The Deity of Christ — The deity of Christ is the belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God the Father, the image of the invisible, co-eternal, and equal to Him as the Word become flesh (Deuteronomy 18:18; Isaiah 9:6-7; 16:5; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Daniel 7:13-14; Micah 5:2; Mark 14:61-64; John 1:1-14; 5:18-23; 8:58-59; 14:7-9; 10:30-33; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Philippians 2:5-6; Colossians 1:15-19; 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 1:8).

3. The Sacrificial work of Christ — This is the belief that Christ died for our sins, taking our place in judgement and fulfilling God’s plan to reconcile us to Him (Isaiah 53:4-5; Romans 3:25; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13; 1 Peter 1:18-19; 1 John 2:2; 3:5; 4:14; Ephesians 1:7; Hebrews 9:14).

4. Christ’s Resurrection — The belief that Christ was raised on the third day “according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:4), showing His victory over death (Matthew 12:39-40; Mark 16:6; Luke 24:6-7; John 11:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:16-17; Romans 1:4-5; 4:25).

5. Salvation by grace through faith alone — The belief that we are saved only by the grace of God, through our faith in the sacrificial work of His son, Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Acts 15:11; Romans 3:24-28; 5:6-9; 9:16; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:4-9; Philippians 3:9; 2 Timothy 1:9; Titus 3:3-7).

Again, I can’t tell you all the ways Satan lies. What I can tell you is he will disguise himself as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14), and twist God’s truth in a way that appeals to our own sinful nature (Genesis 3:5). The good news is, as Christians we are not ignorant of the Devil’s schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11). And because of the sufficiency of Scripture (2 Samuel 22:31; Psalm 12:6; 18:30; 119:89; Proverbs 30:5; Isaiah 40:8; 55:10-11; Matthew 5:18; 24:35; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; Hebrews 4:12; 2 Peter 1:20-21), we can test everything against God’s word (Acts 17:11). Also, we can trust the Spirit to lead and protect us (John 15:26; Ephesians 1:13-14). In closing, we are not to fear the Devil, but we are to be mindful and aware of him (1 Peter 5:8). The Lord is perfectly able to lead and protect us as His children (Colossian 1:21-23; Jude 1:24-25). I’ll leave you with a passage I think sums it up perfectly:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 1 John 4:1-4


June 25, 2017

An Unholy Collection

by Russell Young

The Word speaks of a collection of people that is going to take place at “the end of the age.” The gathering will be done at the command of the Son and will be carried out by his angels. In explaining the parable of the weeds Jesus said, “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom, everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” (Mt 13:41 NIV) The collection will be of those who have defied his commands and have either caused sin to take place or have practiced sin. Only the holy will remain.

The Lord’s words should cause those who teach and those who claim his name and who presume eternal salvation to fully consider his revelation. That is, the gathering will not be according to a pardon for sin, but will be based upon one’s doings following the pardon…their causing sin or doing evil. This proclamation is consistent with the many teachings concerning the need for obedience. (Mt 7:21, 28:20; Jn 14:23; 1 Jn 2: 3─4, 3:7,24, 5:3─4; Rev 22:14 KJV)

Many accept that Christ’s righteousness was imputed to them and that obedience is a non-issue. They accept that he washed away all sin that they will ever commit. It is correct that he took the believer’s sin leaving him or her righteous through the imputation of his righteousness; however, this act was to bring them back to God so that they might gain the Holy Spirit. (Gal 3:14; Eph 1:4; Col 1:21─22; Rom 5:10) The imputation of his righteousness did not provide pardon for sinful acts beyond the point when the point of redemption unless the believer repents and seeks forgiveness. (1 Jn 1:9) If it did, the Lord would have to continue to bear any sins committed and he would remain separated from his Father due to his unholy state just as he was at the time of his crucifixion.

Further, the Word reveals that those who will be gathered will have been placed in Christ’s kingdom by the “enemy.” That is, some will be counterfeit “believers,” who have claimed faith but who have chosen to live on their own terms and according to their own purposes. 2 Peter 17─21 references these people as does the writer of Hebrews. “And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were unable to enter, because of their unbelief.” (Heb 3:18─19 NIV) The purpose of the weeds, those who cause sin and those who do evil, is to disrupt and negatively impact those who had a legitimate place in his kingdom and were endeavouring to live in the light. Such an approach by the enemy of Christ indicates that he can and desires to destroy those who are in the kingdom. These enemies can be discerned both by their incitement to cause sin and by their practice of it.

Paul taught: “For as I have often told you before and say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.” (Phil 3:18─19 NIV) They are seeking to satisfy the flesh rather than the Spirit. Even though Paul condemned the practices or doings of these people and identified their end as being destruction, many hold to the understanding that Christ expects nothing of them other that to believe-“belief” as determined by themselves; they dismiss commands to live righteously and to defeat the practice of sin because they accept that Christ has done that for them removing all concern or fear.

People will be weeded out because of their actions. Judgment will come for the things done in the body whether good or bad. (2 Cor 5:10) Those who have despised the life of Christ in them, rather than for them, will be among those who have been plucked from his righteous kingdom. Paul taught, “continue to work out your own salvation, with fear and trembling.” (Phil 2:12 NIV)

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 13:34) Entering through the narrow door requires effort and those who do not put forth the necessary effort will be part of the angel’s “unholy collection.”

June 24, 2017

Paul as Mediator

This year instead of simply paying a return visit to Bible Study Magazine, I decided to look into the website more clearly. This is actually print magazine to which you can subscribe, and seems to feature a number of name-recognizable writers. This article is by Michael F. Bird, author of Jesus the Eternal Son, What Christians Ought to Believe and Jesus is the Christ. Click the title to read it at source, and then look around; we had a hard time choosing among several great items.

Paul the Pastoral Mediator

The challenges that faced the church in Rome would be staggering for any leader to deal with—deep ethnic and legal battles were threatening to split the community. Paul addressed these issues in a letter—to a church he had never visited.

Paul had been through vitriolic debates before in Antioch, Galatia and Corinth, and he didn’t want the Roman churches to experience the same conflict. He needed to show them that, despite their different convictions, they could still accept one another and serve God together.

Romans 14 and 15 are often treated like an after-dinner mint to a theological feast. But these chapters are the pastoral climax of Paul’s letter. Here, we find Paul’s picture of the church becoming a reality.

Several issues fed the conflict in Rome. Originally, the gospel had come to Rome, independently of Paul, through Jewish Christians. An influx of Gentiles (non-Jews) into the church had resulted in tensions over issues like vegetarianism (because meat could be tainted with pagan religion), wine consumption (because of its use in drink offerings to Roman gods), and observance of special days (like the Sabbath).

Paul identifies the “weak” and “strong” in this conflict. While it’s easy to assume that the weak were exclusively Jewish Christians and the “strong” were exclusively Gentiles, Paul (a Jewish Christian) numbers himself among the strong (Rom 14:14). Also, some Gentile converts to Judaism may have had conservative views on Law observance.

But however the lines were drawn, they were drawn. Those who were weak in the congregation were easily offended by those who were strong. The strong looked down on the weak.

Paul addresses this internal conflict by differentiating between areas of conviction and areas of command. Paul encouraged the Romans to allow flexibility and withhold judgment in matters where the gospel was not threatened: “One person believes he may eat anything, while the weak person eats only vegetables. Let not the one who eats despise the one who abstains, and let not the one who abstains pass judgment on the one who eats, for God has welcomed him” (14:2–3).

While Paul allows freedom for matters that are “indifferent,” he says that each person should judge their own convictions: “Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (14:5).

He also encourages the strong to exercise convictions in wisdom. They still had the responsibility of not causing the weak to stumble in their faith: “For if your brother is grieved by what you eat, you are no longer walking in love. By what you eat, do not destroy the one for whom Christ died” (14:15).

Ultimately, Paul wanted those who disagreed to mutually affirm each other: “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up-building” (14:19). The basis of this was their status as fellow servants of the Lord Jesus Christ. Paul points them to Him as the ultimate example of how we should act and why we should accept others: “Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God” (15:7). God is glorified when we accept each other as Christ accepts us—despite our differences.

Biblical references are from the English Standard Version (ESV).

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