Christianity 201

March 22, 2017

I Now Live in a New Family

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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Today we are again paying a return visit to the writing of Elsie Montgomery at the blog Practical Faith. As I’ve stated before, she is one of the most faithful writers online, now in her 11th year of daily devotional studies.

I am adopted

Before believing in eternal life, I had to believe in eternal condemnation. Who needs salvation if there is no consequence for sin? Yet my condemnation was not ‘in place’ because I believed it, but because of the family line to which I (and everyone else) belongs.

As described in Romans 5, eternal condemnation began when sin began — through Adam. Sin results in death — which is separation from God, and because all humanity comes from Adam, then all are born into sin and separated from God. This is called spiritual death. We still walk around, but are dead to God and ignorant of sin. We needed a measuring stick and the Law of God did that, making us aware that we fall short.

Yet because of God’s great love and grace, He offered redemption — a free gift to sinners. This offer came through the righteousness of another man, Jesus Christ. Just as those in Adam were condemned in sin, those in Jesus Christ are made righteous in Him.

“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:18–21)

Salvation is about a change in family, about being taken from the line of those descended from Adam and placed in Christ, adopted into the family of God. This is something only God can do and did do because of His great love for us:

“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.” (1 John 3:1-3)

Living in the family of eternal condemnation is made evident by lifestyle. Sinners sin; it is as simple as that. Law reveals and defines the sin, but sin was there before the Law was given. People murdered people before God said it was not lawful, and people hated God before He told them “No other gods.”

Jesus came to take away that sin and enable sinners to live righteous lives. God actually made a trade; He put our sin on Jesus, and put Jesus’ righteousness on us:

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

This incredible swap means that I now live in a new family, the family of eternal life. That change is made evident by a lifestyle change. While not perfect in practice, I have a new identity; I’m no longer ‘in Adam’ but ‘in Christ’ and rejoice that God has adopted me.

“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him; and he cannot keep on sinning, because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother.” (1 John 3:4–10)

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
Dear Jesus, God imputed Your righteousness to my account as He imputed my sins to You. You became responsible to the Law of God for my sin, took its penalty and died under His wrath. As my sin was made Yours, and Your righteousness was made mine, so also were the rewards of Your righteousness given to me. This is substitution and astonishing grace. Because of it, the Father sees me in You, not in Adam. I am a new creation and a member of Your eternal family, loving that which once didn’t matter, and hating those things I once loved. The more I hear this incredible Gospel, the deeper it sinks into my heart and flows out into my life. This too is amazing grace, grace that I cannot earn or deserve, only respond to in grateful obedience. grateful obedience.

March 16, 2017

Feeling Condemned? Romans 8:1-4

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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by Clarke Dixon

Condemnation is in the air. Every day in law courts across this land verdicts are reached and sentences given. Whether fiction or reality, tv is full of stories of condemnation. Then there is the condemnation that shows up in our personal relationships, from friends and enemies alike. There is also the self-condemnation many of us face when we either step in front of a mirror or step onto the weigh scales. All too often we wear false verdicts as life sentences.

Perhaps this is the reason why many people are not bothered with church. “Just another place to face more condemnation.” Perhaps this is the reason why many people do not want to think about their relationship with God. “More condemnation.” Yet if we think one hundred years or so into the future, which verdicts will still matter? Will the condemnation we have faced from others, or even ourselves, matter? One verdict will matter. God’s. One sentence will matter. God’s. His verdict is a just verdict. His sentence is an eternal-life sentence. Given the supreme importance of that verdict, what can be said about it? Let is turn to the book of Romans to find out:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

The ‘therefore’ of Romans 8:1 points us back to consider what has been said earlier in the book of Romans. A thousand sermons could not do the first seven chapters of Romans justice, so let us attempt a quick summary. As we look back we find there is some good news, some really bad news, some really great news, some more really bad news and some more really good news.

So first the good news: God has given us the law as a gift. Without law society, and life along with it, devolves into chaos. God has given two kinds of law. There is the law that is written on the hearts of all people (Romans 2:14,15). That sense of conscience, of the difference between right and wrong. Further, to give a shining and clear example, The law was given to a specific group of people, the Hebrew people, through Moses. This was good news since this law helped people thrive together and was a proper yardstick for measuring up.

Now for the really bad news: As wonderful as it is to have this yardstick, God’s law just confirms that could never measure up.

What then? Are we any better off? No, not at all; for we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, as it is written: “There is no one who is righteous, not even one; Romans 3:9-10

Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For “no human being will be justified in his sight” by deeds prescribed by the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin. Romans 3:19-20

If you think that God has reason to condemn you. You are correct. That is really bad news.

Now for the really great news:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

Why?

But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:21-26

There is a lot to unpack in those few verses, but suffice it so say here that in the blood of Christ we have forgiveness of sin. The verdict has been arrived at, the sentence has been served by Jesus. This is a gift of God’s grace. Receiving that gift is a matter trust.

But now for some more really bad news: There is a second kind of sentence to deal with; a sinful life. To understand this we can think of a drug addict who has served time for being in the possession of hard drugs. A verdict has been reached, and the sentence has been served in the eyes of society. However, the addict is still that, an addict. Addiction can be a life sentence, and for some that life sentence is worse than jail time. It would be an awful thing if we were given assurance of a positive final verdict before the judgement seat of Christ, yet nothing changed for us in this life. Though looking forward to freedom, we would still be serving a life-sentence to a life in the service of evil in the here and now. Paul speaks about this problem in the very verses that precede Romans 8:

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin. Romans 7:21-25

And now for some more really good news: we are freed from this sentence also!

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Romans 8:1-4

To say that sin was condemned “in the flesh” is akin to saying that the full sentence of the addict was served, not just the jail term, but the life-sentence of bearing the disease of addiction as well. The addict’s identity would be forever changed, no longer being known as an addict. Likewise, our addiction to sin is broken, our identity changed forever, as we are now “in Christ,” people who walk “according to the Spirit.” Paul has more to say about this in the verses to follow, and so will we next week.

We are guilty sometimes of speaking of salvation as if it is only a matter of what happens at the judgement seat of Christ. It is more than that. Because of the love and grace of God in Jesus there is no condemnation for those who belong to Him, neither a guilty verdict at the judgement seat of Christ leading to an eternal-life sentence, nor a life-sentence to  slavery to sin here and now. God rescues us from both. That is really great news!

(Scripture references are taken from the NRSV)

Clarke Dixon is a regular midweek contributor to C201 whose material can also be seen at Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon.

February 22, 2017

Why did the Messiah Die as a Roman Criminal?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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…and Where did the Israelites Come From?

Deut. 29:29
“The secret things belong to the Lord, but the things revealed  belong to us and our children forever.”

1 Cor. 13:12
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.

This is our 5th time visiting the writing of author and theologian Peter Enns. His writing style is always lighthearted but the things he discusses can be quite serious. In the two questions before us today, he doesn’t quite solve either of them, but wants us to embrace the idea that we don’t really have a complete understanding of such things. The Bible just doesn’t tell us. Click the title below to read this at source.

Two Issues in the Bible that are Really Really Important and Really Really Not Clear at All

This is no official word from above (unlike most of my blog posts). Just my opinion.

Here are the two issues that I think are very important for how we think about Christian faith and how the Bible fits into that. Many would like absolute clarity on these issues, but that clarity does not exist.

The two issues, one from each Testament, are (cue dramatic music):

Israelite origins and the meaning of the cross (atonement)

Israelite origins

The question is, historically speaking, Where did the historical group of people called “Israelites” come from?

That question is not answered by biblical scholars and historians with, “Just read the Bible.” The biblical story, which begins with one person Abraham and leads through Egypt to the Promised Land and a monarchy, is fraught with many well-known and often insurmountable historical problems.

It seems that the biblical account of Israelite origins is not so much a history as it is a story, with historical echoes of various sorts, but a story nonetheless.

The further back in time we go in Israel’s history, the more complex and mysterious the matter becomes. Certain events in the Old Testament are ones we can, generally speaking, hang our historical hat on. They include (working backwards):

  • the Babylonian exile and return (586-539 BCE),
  • the siege of Jerusalem by the Assyrians (701),
  • and the fall of the northern kingdom by the Assyrians (722),
  • the division of the monarchy into north and south (around 930),

Similarly, the existence and reigns of David and Solomon (10th century BCE) can (and I think should) be assumed as generally echoing historical events, even if the details of the biblical accounts raise some significant questions for historians.

But if we continue pressing backward in time, before the monarchy, the historical nature of the biblical accounts is either utterly unclear or in direct tension with the general outline of history that has come to light in the past century or so. Historically speaking, we really don’t know where the Israelites came from, and the exodus and conquest stories, which are so central to the biblical account, are particularly problematic.

And, of course, here’s the real problem and why I am singling out this issue above all others: Israelite origins is sort of a big deal in the Old Testament. You know, Abraham, Moses, Mt. Sinai, and all that.

Engaging the historical study of Israelite origins from a position of faith in the God of Israel is a challenge, and not one that I am going to solve in this post, other than to say, “Welcome to the journey; it’s really no that bad once you get used to it.”

The Cross

If Israelite origins is a core Old Testament issue for Christian faith, the meaning of the cross is überimportant.

“Why did Jesus die? What is the significance of Jesus’s death?” Christian theologians have been discussing these questions for as long as there have been Christian theologians, beginning with the New Testament writers themselves, and I suppose we should take some comfort in that.

Yes, Jesus died on the cross, and yes, that changed everything. But exactly what the cross changed and how it changed it can easily begin barroom fights (assuming that biblical scholars and theologians hang out in bars, which most of them do and if not they probably should).

There have been in fact a number of “atonement theories” out there for centuries that try to explain the significance of Jesus’s death on a Roman cross. And the reason why these theories abound isn’t because theologians are looking for attention or have daddy issues they are taking out on God, but the fact that the Bible doesn’t speak with one voice on the matter.

Actually, when reading the New Testament, you get the impression that the writers were actually trying to work it out themselves. “Why did the Messiah die as a Roman criminal?” can’t be answered with a few Old Testament prooftexts—as if, “Oh yeah, duh. Obviously.” The matter of a suffering and executed Messiah was a surprise that posed a deep theological challenge for the early Christians, but one they took up with gusto.

The crucifixion of Jesus is of central importance to the Christian faith, but the nature of its significance is very hard to pin down. What, exactly, did Jesus’s execution do? Did it appease God’s wrath? Was it like a legal transaction to satisfy God’s justice? Was Jesus’s death a ransom of some sort to free captives (see The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe)? Was it Jesus’s victory over the power of death? Was it a moral exemplar for Christians to follow?

These theories exist because they can be found in (or perhaps inferred from) the New Testament. And so when someone asks you what seems to be that most basic of questions about Christianity, “Why did Jesus die?”, the answer actually isn’t obvious but strikes at the heart of the mystery of faith. And maybe all the atonement theories are right in their own way.

Anyway, this post isn’t about solving Israelite origins or atonement theory. It’s about how untended and even uncooperative the Bible can be if we are looking to it to pave a smooth path for us theologically. The Bible doesn’t work well that way.

But perhaps better, the Bible as is, not as we might like it to be, drives us to work together by faith in thinking through the nature of the Christian story and its implications.


We actually linked to one of Peter’s other articles earlier today at Thinking Out Loud: Why is that in each of the synoptic gospels, Jesus seems to be saying something quite different?

January 6, 2017

Nothing But the Blood

I’ve been wanting to find a way to share with C201 readers this video by David Wesley of a virtual choir representing several different countries singing the classic hymn, Nothing But The Blood of Jesus.

Hymnary.org notes that, “When this hymn was first published in 1876, Hebrews 9:22 was quoted underneath the title: ‘Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.'”

At Hymnal.net a reader comments:

…There is a question about whether the Bible itself ever talks of being ‘washed’ in the blood (in Rev 1:5 the verb is better translated ‘loosed’ or ‘freed’). But my point here is a wistful sadness that the word ‘sin’ is so often used in the first line rather than ‘stain’. There is evidence that the latter was Lowry’s choice. Of course it rhymes better with ‘again’ in the third line. But more to the point, it is such a colourful word. How easily we can picture the ugly stain of sin blackening our lives like a huge ink-spill. What a pity the more common but less pointed word ‘sin’ is so often used.

Of course, both terms are theologically correct. But the charm of poetry is largely that it can create images that make us envision things in a new and vivid way. Language is one great gift God has given us that separates us from the rest of creation. It is important to make full use of its marvelous potential…

At the blog Before the Cross, Chris Howard has a longer discussion of the hymn:

Outside of blood drives, I’m sure it’s not common to hear gratitude and blood thrown together in the same sentence… Jesus Christ, being the very Son of God, was born of a virgin, lived a perfect life, was crucified on a cross for all the sins of man past, present and future and was raised again to life so that anyone believing in Him would live an eternity with Him. We are thanking Jesus for His blood spilled on our behalf. Every time we sing it, I wonder what a person unfamiliar with the gospel must think as they give church a try. Here are some of my guesses:

  • That’s gross.
  • Did I come to the wrong place?
  • Why are these people singing about blood?
  • Of all things, why are they thankful for blood?

If those are the questions, I hope they don’t leave without getting them answered and I certainly hope they come back.

Let’s face it. The lyrics aren’t exactly “seeker” friendly and some churches might treat this song like any blood-related incident, to keep the lyrics sanitary and removed from the scene, out of mind and out of sight for believer and non-believer alike. Blood evokes a strong mental image and unless you’ve been desensitized by horror movies, it usually isn’t an image someone likes to think about. There are certainly other worship songs we could sing that would bring about more peaceful, calming and relaxing images of God’s saving grace without mentioning blood.

And that’s the very reason why I think we need to sing about it. Without the blood shed by Jesus Christ, there is no cross. If there is no cross, there is no resurrection of Jesus Christ. If there is no resurrection, we are doomed.

The Blood Is Necessary

Since the first sin of man in the Garden of Eden, blood was required. Animals were sacrificed for their skins to cover up the nakedness of Adam and Eve. The sacrifice of animals for atonement of sin was still present in the time of Jesus.

And Moses took the blood and threw it on the people and said, “Behold the blood of the covenant that the Lord has made with you in accordance with all these words.”Exodus 24:8

“Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.”Hebrews 9:22

The Blood Protects

The Israelites are instructed to place animal blood over the door of their dwellings to avoid God’s plague on Egypt.

“The blood shall be a sign for you, on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you, when I strike the land of Egypt.”Exodus 12:13

Jesus, before His crucifixion refers to his shed blood as that which would forgive sins.

“for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.”Matthew 26:28

The Blood Cleanses 

Redemption, fellowship and cleansing are benefits we as Christians who believe in Jesus Christ get to enjoy as a result of His shed blood.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ.”Ephesians 1:7-9

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”1 John 1:7

We often see what we prize most in light of what we pay for it. In the case of our salvation, it is we who were purchased with blood that ran through the body of our savior, the same body broken on our behalf to allow God and His creation to have a restored relationship. If you are a Christian, you are in this restored relationship.

We can sing it out unashamed. Thank you Jesus. Thank you for the blood!


 

December 11, 2016

The Incarnation of Christ…For Atonement and More

by Russell Young

The Christmas season is upon us and with it the celebration of God’s gift to humankind–the incarnation of the Son of God– the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  Unfortunately, the fullness of God’s gift is seldom recognized.  God became flesh and dwelt among us. The great gift that the Father gave the world was not merely an appropriate propitiation for sin, but a means of destroying “the works of the devil” (1 Jn 3:8 NIV) in all his practices and with all of his effect.

It is true that Christ came to reveal God to humankind, and that he came as a propitiation for sin, but he also came to return those who would accept his ministry back to the image in which humans had been created…into the likeness of God. (Gen 1:27; Rom 8:29)

Satan’s evil work is not brought to completion by a person’s redemption from his or her past sins, but will be destroyed when he is no longer able to exercise his power or influence in the lives of those who are believing. Redemption from sins committed while under the jurisdiction of the first covenant (Heb 9:15) did not accomplish a person’s deliverance into the kingdom of God; it did not destroy the work of the devil.  Paul wrote, “He redeemed us in order that the blessing 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) The incarnation of our Lord allowed for his perfect sacrifice, redeemed believers from the curse of the law (Gal 3:13), and provided them with the Spirit so that they might gain victory over the practice of sin through his enlightenment, leading and power. The Spirit is the presence of the Lord in the believer (2Cor 3:17, 18; Col 1:27) and it is the Spirit who provides for the believer’s eternal salvation.  “[F]rom 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; Titus 3: 5─6)

The Lord had to be incarnated so that he might truly know the human condition.  Knowing the temptations that afflict humankind allows him to mediate for them and to make them acceptable for the kingdom of God. (Rom 15:16)  “[H]e had to be made like his brothers in every way in order that he might become a faithful high priest…because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted. (Heb 2:17…18 NIV) He not only knew the human condition through experience, he also suffered through it and became victorious over it.  Now as Spirit he can use this understanding to provide victory for those who are undergoing suffering through temptations. This understanding should provide encouragement that each believer can overcome ungodly attractions but it also needs to cause the person undergoing temptation to be sober of thought and of heart knowing that his or her judge will be the very one who had already won victory over the temptations that plague them and he is in them. It is through the knowledge gained as the Lord walked this earth in the flesh that he is able to defeat the devil’s work in the believer. “Christ in you the hope of glory.” (Col 1:27 NIV)

A limited perspective of the need of Christ’s incarnation will result in failure to give him the glory, honour, and love that he deserves. Christ came into the world to end the first covenant and to allow access to the New Covenant (Heb 9:15), the covenant of the Spirit, so that God’s righteous, eternal kingdom could be established through his life in the believer.

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 13:40 NIV) The knowledge that the Lord gained through his incarnated life is available to enable believers to refrain from causing sin and from doing evil by succumbing to temptation in their time of need. The Lord will hand over the righteous kingdom—the completed creation–to the Father when Satan’s influence has been removed.

The baby in the manger was not just a baby, but God come in the flesh to redeem a lost world and a helpless people for himself.  In the Christmas child lies all hope for humankind, and all hope for the completion of God’s creation plan.  In him is the source of righteousness, the end of strife and pain and death.  Through him a holy people will be found, made suitable for God’s presence. Through Christ the devil and his lies and deceit will be brought to nought for those who are in him and who are obedient to his calls upon their lives.

The believer should not be content to relish the thought of what Christ did for him or her, but should humbly kneel before him and glorify him for what he is doing each day that he or she draws breath.  Christ is not only the atonement for sin, he is the life that provides eternal hope. The trinkets of Christmas should not be allowed to displace the wonder of God’s mercy and of his priceless gift of the babe whose birth is the hope of the world and should be the true cause of celebration and the true celebration.


eternal-salvation-russell-youngCheck out Russell Young’s book now in print and eBook — Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  9781512757514 $17.99 US


December 4, 2016

Did Christ Have to Be Redeemed?

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

Did Christ have to be redeemed?  The simple answer to this question is that he did. This might sound absurd since he was God and the Son of God.  However, he was also man and the son of man and he had to meet all the requirements of God’s government to accomplish his own eternal life.

The writer of Hebrews states that “[Christ] entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.” (Heb 9:12 NIV) His own blood was required for him to enter the Most Holy Place. That is, his blood was applied to his own state or to fit him for entry into the Most Holy Place. The earthly tabernacle, an exact copy of the heavenly sanctuary, was entered “once a year, and never without blood, which [the high priest] offered for himself and for the sins that the people had committed in ignorance.” (Heb 9:7 NIV) If Christ had been without sin, he would not have had to offer a sacrifice for himself; however, he was numbered with the transgressors. (Lk 22:37; Isa 53:12)

Did Jesus sin? Absolutely not!  The writer of Hebrews states that our high priest (Christ) was “tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin.” (Heb 5:15 NIV) Although Jesus did not sin, he became the most sinful person who ever walked the earth by taking on the sins of humankind.  He had become a transgressor of the law and his own blood was required to cleanse him or to redeem him from the sins that he bore so that he could enter the Most Holy Place. (The reader needs to be mindful that his ministry there is to cover the sins committed “in ignorance” by those in him.)

Why is it important to recognize that Christ needed to be redeemed? The KJV has inserted the words “for us” after “having obtained eternal redemption.” (Heb 9:12) This phrase was not in the original Greek and should not be in the text.  Because of it an understanding has developed that a person’s redemption from the law is eternal, that he has been eternally and securely delivered from the righteous requirements of the law. Christ had obtained eternal redemption for himself only.

There are teachings that reveal that although a person might have been redeemed once from the law, he or she can make themselves subject to it once more.

Paul has written, “But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law.” (Gal 5:18 NIV) This is a conditional statement and if a person is not led by the Spirit, he or she will remain under the law.  Either a person can accomplish the righteous requirements of the law as led by the Spirit or it remains for them to accomplish their righteousness through the law using their own resources as in the manner of the house of Israel as they lived subject to the Old or first Covenant.

Paul admonished the Galatians not to re-engage life under the persuasions of their evil nature because if they became sinners while they were seeking to be justified they will have rebuilt that which they had destroyed and have become lawbreakers. (Gal 2:17─20) By their crucifixion –a pledge of death to self–they had brought to completion life under the law since a deceased person is no longer subject to rule by the law, but through their desire to re-engage their own life they are once more subject to the law.  Escape from the law only comes with obedience to the Spirit and the realization of their own crucifixion.  He also wrote, “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature…the righteous requirements of the law [will] be fully met in us who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:2…4 NIV)

Further, the Lord taught that “everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son [one led by the Spirit, Rom 8: 14] belongs to it forever.” (Jn 8:35 NIV) A lack of “permanence” in the family speaks against the concept of having been eternally redeemed.

Those who have confessed Christ’s lordship have been redeemed by his blood.  They have been purchased from the law and from the consequences of sins committed while under it so that they might enjoy the New Covenant. (Heb 9:15) This redemption is not direct.  It came about as Christ took their sins and bore them himself.  His blood then redeemed him from the sins that he bore for them.  The writer of Hebrews states that “if we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God.” (Heb 10: 26─27 NIV) The cleansing and freedom from past sins will only happen once. Redemption for Christ was eternal for those who walk this earth it has been provided once; unfortunately that occasion will not be sufficient for many.


eternal-salvation-russell-youngRussell Young’s book is available now in print and eBook.  The title is Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? It is available through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  9781512757514 $17.99 US


October 28, 2016

The Cross: Death and Disfigurement

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Regular readers here are accustomed to devotions and studies beginning with the words, “Today we return to the blog of ______ …” and know we often catch up with writers we’ve used in the same month, but previous years. Sometimes it’s a rewarding rediscovery. I’m taking the liberty of running two posts, today and tomorrow, from BJ Richardson at The River Walk. Click the titles to see these at source; there is also a daily music video in the Respond section that you only see there. Also, click the “Merch” link to find out about owning copies of his studies in John’s gospel.

The Shame of the Cross

It was the day of preparation, and the Jewish leaders didn’t want the bodies hanging there the next day, which was the Sabbath (and a very special Sabbath, because it was Passover week). So they asked Pilate to hasten their deaths by ordering that their legs be broken. Then their bodies could be taken down. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the two men crucified with Jesus. But when they came to Jesus, they saw that he was already dead, so they didn’t break his legs. (John 19:31-33)

Read: Hosea 10:1-14:9, Jude 1:1-25, Psalm 127:1-5, Proverbs 29:15-17

Relate: The greatest strength of a Roman crucifixion was as a deterrent. There were other forms of execution that were far more efficient. As horrendously painful as the cross was, there were other ways to exact pain just as well if not better. What made the cross such a favorite method was how public it was. When Spartacus lost in his rebellion, six thousand rebel slaves were crucified along the Appian Way between Rome and Capua. This was the most highly trafficked part of the busiest road in Italy if not the entire world. They were sending a very public message: “Don’t try this ever again.” Part of what made it such a great message was how grotesque it would look. I have mentioned earlier how crucifixion would kill someone, but I did not point out there what the cross did to its victim’s arms. Because of the stretching and the unnatural placement of the weight, eventually the shoulders would be pulled out of joint. Then later the elbows. A victim who has managed to live well into the second day would have unnatural looking arms that were more than six inches longer than they had been just three days earlier.

The problem was, this deterrent would not have been much of a deterrent of those three men were still on their crosses once Jews started pouring into the city by the thousands. For the religious Jew, seeing those men still hanging on the cross would simply stir up anger and hatred for the Roman occupiers who deliberately flouted Jewish law and custom that demanded no criminal could remain hanging overnight. (Deut 21:23) If Rome allowed those crosses to stay where they were, they would very soon be needing a whole lot more crosses. Pilate wasn’t so much caving to those Jewish leaders demands as he was pragmatically avoiding a mistake he had already made before in not taking the local religious customs seriously.

React: Honestly, this fact about the arms was not something I knew much about. I came across the information when fact checking what I thought I knew about leg breaking. I had heard about the shoulders sometimes being pulled out of joint but the how and the gruesome details behind it are new information to me. I have done my best to keep it fairly pg rated above but what I was reading made me want to cringe, and vomit, and cry all at once. It brought home in one more way exactly what is referred to with phrases like “the shame of the cross” (Heb 12:2) and “in humiliation His justice was taken away” (Acts 8:33). No one can fully know all that He suffered on the cross but every time I think I have a grip at least on the concept of what it must have been like, it just gets worse.

My only right reaction to this is to cry out, “God I am so sorry.” Every time my mind comes back to this cross, I cannot escape the horror of the truth that it was my sin that held Him there. It was for my rebellion against Him that He suffered the fate of traitors. It brings home once again the truth that no sin is small and His grace, while free, is most certainly not cheap.

Respond:

Dear God,
I am so thankful for the cross. Even as I am revolted by it, that only causes my gratitude to be deeper and richer. There is no measure to the depth of Your love or the riches of Your grace. Thank You. Thank You. A thousand times thank You for taking on Yourself the punishment that should have been mine.
Amen

 

August 13, 2016

The Cross as Christianity’s Icon

Yesterday, we discovered an apologetics site we weren’t aware of… and we’re always interested in apologetics. After reading several posts, we decided to use this one to feature Answering Skeptics, but as always, you’re encouraged to click the link below and read this at source. The author goes by the user name, Saint of Christ. This certainly will make you think.

cross at Grace ChurchThe Cross Does NOT Represent Christianity

22 And if a man have committed a sin worthy of death, and he be to be put to death, and thou hang him on a tree: 23 His body shall not remain all night upon the tree, but thou shalt in any wise bury him that day; (for he that is hanged is ACCURSED of God) that thy land be not defiled, which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance. – Deuteronomy 21:22-23

When you ask people, what does the cross represents? Immediately they’ll tell you, Christianity. But the truth is; the cross represents curse, not Christianity. Blessing, not curse, represents Christianity (Ephesians 1:3; 1 Peter 3:9).

When Jesus was crucified, He wasn’t crucified for Christians because Christians are those who are born of God, without past (2 Corinthians 5:17); born of His sinless Word (1 Peter 1:23; John 1:12-13; 1 John 3:9); He was crucified for the world sins (John 3:16; Romans 5:8).

Christianity was born at His resurrection, not His crucifixion. He was crucified for all sinners to pay the price for their sins. So it is wrong to suggest that the cross represents Christianity. It represents the world of sin (curse). Without the resurrection, Christianity wouldn’t exist.

Our theme verse says that he who is hanged on a tree is accursed of God. In other words, the tree [i.e. Cross] represents curse; it’s a symbol of curse. Indeed, everyone, except Jesus, who was crucified, was criminal. Jesus, who was willing to be our sin sacrifice, became curse for us. He was accursed of God on that Cross; that’s why the Holy Spirit left Him (Matthew 27:46). Paul reaffirmed this when he said, Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree(Galatians 3:13). Jesus became sin itself on that cross, For he hath made him TO BE SIN for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.(2 Corinthians 5:21). As Christians, we are not worshiping or serving the Jesus who was hanged on the cross; but the risen Christ.

So what represents Christianity? You may want to ask. The answer is, you. You are the epistle of Christ if you’re born again (2 Corinthians 3:2-3). You are the symbol of Christianity. That’s why He calls you the light of the world just like He is (Matthew 5:14, 16; Philippians 2:15).

The Church needs to grasp this truth and repent. Acts 17:30 says, And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent”. Some even use the cross sign to pray in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; even though, nowhere does the Bible ever suggest that we should pray this way. Jesus said, “to baptize”; not to pray, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). He told us to pray “to” the Father, “in” His name (John 15:16; 16:26-27); “through” the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26; 15:16).

Just because this has been practiced for ages doesn’t make it right. So repent. Proverbs 9:9 says, Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning. So be wise.


At the same blog: Who Made Paul an Apostle? Some people would argue that Paul was self-appointed. This article shows otherwise.

Interestingly enough, there’s also a lengthy article attributed to Kenneth Hagin (a prosperity preacher, I presume) which refutes the idea that Jesus was poor. I have to admit that knowing the writer’s identity and intention somewhat biased my reading of this, but there is no disputing some of the evidence presented.

April 6, 2016

Resurrection Fact: From Sinner to Saint

•••by Clarke Dixon

Do you feel worthy of the title “saint”? You may be thinking of a saint as someone recognized as special within the Roman Catholic tradition. Or you may be thinking of the word as used of someone who is known to be a very good person. We are thinking more of the word as we find it in many English translations of the Bible where it usually translates a word meaning “holy one.” It is used to refer to every Christian. So do you feel worthy of the title? Do you feel like you fit the description of a saint, a “holy one?”

Though “Saint Clarke” has a nice ring to it, I often do not feel the title is fitting for me. This is especially true during renovations. I am not too handy but my wife thinks I am, and so I sometimes get in over my head during renovations. If you are around me when I am you will discover that I can be far from what you might call a saint. So what are we to do when the Bible calls every Christian  a “saint” but we do not feel worthy? We are not alone in being uncomfortable with a title. Watch for the apostle Paul’s discomfort with his calling and title as he describes Jesus’ resurrection appearances:

Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. 9 For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (1 Corinthians 15:8-9)

So how did the Apostle Paul deal with this title that did not fit comfortably? The first thing Paul does is admit the truth. Indeed, he is not worthy of the title: “I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle.” Paul does not point to anything about himself that would make him a fine candidate for the job. He points to Jesus: “Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” This was God’s choice. This was God’s grace. Paul who blew it, knew it:

For I am the least of the apostles, unfit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am. (1 Corinthians 15:9-10)

This is far from “I was born this way, so leave me to remain what I am” that we often hear today. This is “by the grace of God I am now something I do not deserve to be and would never be able to become on my own.” When the title of “saint” feels uncomfortable, it is a reminder that  “by the grace of God I am what I am.” Though a sinner from birth, by the grace of God we become saints.

But how is that possible? Paul has already pointed out the answer:

3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received:that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, 4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures. (1 Corinthians 15:3,4)

“Christ died for our sins.” That is what enables us to become saints. It is our sin that makes the title of saint uncomfortable, if not impossible to wear. But “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.” Which scriptures? They include the prophecies of Isaiah 53. The whole chapter is worth reading, but here is a selection to ponder:

4 Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
5 But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
6 All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all. . . .
8 By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people. . .
10 Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days; . . .
The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities . . . .
because he poured out himself to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors
(Selected from Isaiah 53)

Just as the apostle Paul could not point to himself for his apostleship, but only point to Jesus, so we can only point to Jesus for our sainthood. He is the One who clears away the sin standing in the way of becoming a holy one.

But since Jesus makes our sainthood possible, does this mean sin does not matter, and that we can therefore go on sinning all the while calling attention to our sainthood? First off, notice how different Paul’s activity was from before meeting Jesus to after. He went from persecuting the saints to trying to convince everyone he met that they should become one. There was a big change in Paul’s life. There was repentance.

Paul is the one we often quote when we speak of salvation being by faith and not works. And yet Paul worked hard:

But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me has not been in vain. On the contrary, I worked harder than any of them—though it was not I, but the grace of God that is with me (1 Corinthians 15:10)

This is not a work to ensure salvation. This is work to ensure salvation is not in vain. This is work God called and enabled Paul to do. Even our works are a sign of God’s grace.

I have a remarkable watch. It is a Pebble smartwatch which does many things including counting steps and tracking sleep. Mind you I was surprised to find out that according to it I slept through an important meeting one day. I can take no credit for this remarkable watch. I did not think of it. I did not invent it. I did not get involved in the engineering of it. I was not involved in the manufacturing of it. I was not involved in the distribution of it. I did not even pay for it. Well I might have paid for it but I did not buy it for it was a Christmas gift. But what I do is wear it. In fact the watch is not very useful if I don’t. This is what salvation is like. We can take no credit for it. It is purely by the grace of God that we are what we are; saints. But we must wear it. We will want to wear it. And at times the clothes of salvation may seem too big for us, but as we keep going and growing in the Spirit, we will grow into them. Salvation is by God’s grace alone, but we are involved, we must wear it.

So you are a Christian and you don’t feel like a saint today? By the grace of God you are what you are, and what you are as a Christian person is a saint. By the grace of God and the help of the Holy Spirit, you will grow into the title, just like Paul did his.

So you are not a Christian and you don’t think the title “saint” could ever apply to you? God has a history of calling the most unlikely of people to become saints. Perhaps that most unlikely person today is you?

by the grace of God


Check out Clarke’s writing at Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon; today’s article is located at this link

April 3, 2016

The Resurrection of Christ

•••by Russell Young

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is one of the most astounding and celebrated events in the history of Christianity. His resurrection not only provides evidence of the reality of one’s eternal hope but it is also the means by which that hope is obtained. Peter wrote that the Lord’s resurrection has given us “new birth into a living hope.” Praise be to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil, or fade-kept in heaven for you.” (1 Peter 1: 3-4, NIV)

The Lord’s resurrection has given us “a new birth” and “into a living hope.” Some take this to be “victory over the grave.” The new birth is just that…a birth, the beginning of a new life, a new opportunity, and it is this provision along with “a living hope” that comes through the resurrection of Christ.

Previous to the resurrection of Christ, one’s hope of glory rested in obedience to the law and the Prophets. The law had no life but was etched in stone. Paul said that it kills.” (2 Corinthians 3:6, NIV) The hope that had been revealed through the law was really no hope at all because no one could satisfy it. The “living hope” is the presence of Christ living “in” the believer. As Holy Spirit He enlightens, leads and empowers for victory over the flesh, the Evil One, and the world. Paul wrote to the Colossians that it was Christ in them who was their hope of glory. (Colossians 1:27) He is their hope because the righteous requirements of the law must be met for those who will be privileged to dwell with the Lord in His Heavenly Kingdom and they are met through the ministry of the Spirit as the believer allows Him to live through them. (Romans 8:4)

A hope is an expectation, not a surety. As Paul wrote, Who hopes for what he already has.” (Romans 8:24) The believer has not won the victory nor has it been won for him; he has been given all that is necessary to win it through the Divine Power, the Holy Spirit. (2 Peter 1:3) God’s righteous requirements must be satisfied must be achieved for those who will dwell in His kingdom since without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14)

Justification-sacrifice-resurrectionWhile the sacrificial offering of Christ “justified” the believer concerning his past sins (Hebrews 9:15), His resurrection is also required for one’s justification. (Romans 4:25) The believer should not be confused; he was not justified through the blood offering of Christ at the time of his confession of faith concerning all sins and sinning. He must still work out his salvation (Philippians 2:12). The Holy Spirit provided through the resurrection of Christ is the means by which he can satisfy the law and achieve the righteous requirements of God. One’s immoral interests have to be cleansed from those practices that would bring about his death. How much more then will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences [moral consciousness] from acts that lead to death.” (Hebrews 9:14, NIV)

Justification results when one has satisfied God’s government concerning His laws. The practice of sin must be stopped, otherwise judgment for transgressions is required for one to be fully justified. To avoid the law’s consequence, the believer must be led by the Spirit. (Galatians 5:18) That is, the resurrection of Christ, who is the Spirit, is needed to rescue the believer from the body of death (that brings death) so that he might be justified concerning the laws of God. James affirmed, You see a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.” (James 2:24, NIV)

All of this is to say that the resurrection of Christ allows for His Spirit to indwell the believer so that He might become an offering acceptable to God. (Romans 15:16) Peter states that it is through the resurrection of Christ that the believer is able respond to (“answer’) God with a good conscience. (1 Peter 3:21) Luke has recorded that following the Lord’s resurrection He blessed us by turning us from our wicked ways. (Acts 3:26)

The resurrection of Christ should be a time of celebration and a time of hope. He is not in the grave but as Spirit is present in the believer allowing him to gain victory over those things that would otherwise bring about his eternal death. Without His resurrection mankind would remain without hope, having to live the law and subject to death for failure. He is the believer’s living hope.

March 28, 2016

The Crucifixion of Christ (Part Two)

If you haven’t already, begin with Part One, which appeared yesterday.

•••by Russell Young

(The writer of Hebrews revealed God’s condemnation of the Israelites on the Exodus because they had disobeyed Him and He related that they could not enter the Promised Land because of their unbelief or lack of faith.1 He said that their disobedience showed that they had not combined (obedience to) the message that they had heard with faith. Obedience is faith in practice.)

The sacrifice of Christ provided the means by which the whole world might find atonement, provided they are persuaded that His blood can accomplish it. “Eternal” salvation is not achieved by the single act of faith that existed at the time of one’s confession of faith but must be constant over time and must be demonstrated through obedience. “Christ became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.2

The crucifixion of Christ was the price that had to be paid for disobeying God and for failing to achieve His righteous requirements as revealed in the law and by the Prophets. The command and permission for this provision and allowance came from the Father. “The reason the Son of Man appeared was to destroy the devil’s works.3 By taking on the sin of the world, Christ removed the power of the devil, which was the law, to bring separation and death between man and his Creator. The mandate of Christ was very purposeful; it was to defeat not only the power of Satan, but the “work” of Satan. When the Lord is finished He will “hand over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority, and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.4

The Father has given His Son the mandate of destroying the devil’s work and has given Him the authority and power to accomplish that mandate. The crucifixion of Christ gave Him victory of death and Hades. It did not give mankind victory apart from through Christ. Some talk as if the victory has been won for them. It is Christ who possesses the keys for death and Hades. “I [Christ] 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.5 It is Christ who will determine who will be confined to death and Hades. He has the keys and the authority. He will determine through His judgment the final destiny of each man. In the end the Father’s Kingdom will be holy.6He will punish those who do not know (appreciate) 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.7 The crucifixion of Christ gave Him victory over death and Hades and He will identify those who have had sufficient faith to walk in obedience…He has the keys.

The crucifixion of Christ did not provide “victory” for all those who profess faith in Him but does so for all of those who have also demonstrated faith in Christ through the practice of obedience to the one they have called their Lord/lord. “They overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony8; they did not love their live so much as to shrink from death.”9 Victory cannot be proclaimed until the end and until the battle has been fought.

The sacrifice of Christ on the cross made available through the Divine Power (the Holy Spirit) of Jesus all that is needed for life and godliness.10 This too, was provided by the crucifixion of Christ and through the redemption11 that He made available to believers. His crucifixion removed the wrath of God ONLY for those who have allowed the “life of Christ” to be lived through them.12

Provision to avoid the wrath of God was made available through the crucifixion and death of Christ and the gift of the Spirit, but victory must still be accomplished as the believer lives in obedience to the Spirit. It is still the obligation of the believer to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling;13 however, he has Christ to accomplish that victory in his own flesh just as the Lord accomplished in the body that the Father had prepared for Him in the womb of Mary.

 


1 Hebrews 3:18-19

2 Hebrews 5:9, NIV

3 1 John 3:8, NIV

4 1 Corinthians 15:24, NIV

5 Revelation 1:18, NIV

6 Hebrews 12:14

7 2 Thessalonians 2:8-9, NIV

8 “The word of their testimony” does not necessarily mean by their words, but the testimony that their life speaks to Christ and others.

9 Revelation 12:11, NIV

10 2 Peter 1:3

11 Galatians 3:13-14

12 Romans 5:9-10. See also Romans 8:3-4: “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.(NIV)

13 Philippians 2:12

March 25, 2016

The Theme of the Day

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.

But he was pierced for our rebellion,
    crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
  He was whipped so we could be healed.

Isaiah 53:5, NKJV and NLT

Note: The story in the opening section of this first appeared here at Christianity 201 five years ago.

Three Crosses

In the little town east of Toronto, Canada where we find ourselves, the local churches come together for a Good Friday service that has grown to the point where it’s now held in the ballroom of a local hotel, and even at that we have to split into multiple service times.

I never miss this event.

It’s distracting however that we all come together. The “Christian unity” theme tends to interfere. Sometimes, it’s apparently rather difficult for worship leaders to choose pieces that stay tightly focused on the theme of Good Friday, especially when most of our best worship choruses are based on the resurrection we will celebrate on Sunday.

So although absolutely nobody heard me, as the soloist was singing his second song after the message, I put my head in my hands and internally screamed out loud:

God, what are we supposed to be thinking of today?

And that’s when it hit me: Sin. We’re supposed to be thinking about our sin. Our propensity to sin. Our sin condition. Our individual sins. The sin that necessitated the cross. Yes, we should think about the price that was paid for our redemption, but we should also think in terms of how we must appear in contrast to a holy God; mindful of our sin nature

…Usually our Good Friday services are rather somber. I’ve always felt that was appropriate, but on Thursday, I drove home listening to a Christian radio station where the announcer was proposing that Good Friday can be just as celebratory as Easter Sunday. He said that we can be ecstatic about all that Christ accomplished there that day, and then quoted a hymn lyric:

My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more

For him this was a cause for rejoicing and I certainly sense the triumph and the power of that lyric. But not all callers agreed with him. One woman suggested something to the effect that we need to own our sin. I believe this is the perspective of most Christian writers down through the centuries: We need to remember the pain and suffering that Christ endured because of our trespasses. We recognize that this was the completion of God’s plan; that the crucifixion of Christ is the central element in the incarnation; that this is why Christ came; but we don’t minimize the agony of the cross even if our minds sometimes fast-forward to Resurrection Sunday.

It was our sin and guilt that put Him there.

That’s another song lyric, taken from the previous chapter in Isaiah to our opening verses,

How lovely on the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who announces peace
And brings good news of happiness,
Who announces salvation,
And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!

Isaiah 52:7 NASB

and one that is repeated in the New Testament:

14 How can people have faith in the Lord and ask him to save them, if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear, unless someone tells them? 15 And how can anyone tell them without being sent by the Lord? The Scriptures say it is a beautiful sight to see even the feet of someone coming to preach the good news.

Romans 10:15 CEV

So also says a line from the classic worship chorus “Our God Reigns” reproduced in full below.

How lovely on the mountains are the feet of him,
Who brings good news, good news;
Announcing peace, proclaiming news of happiness.
Our God Reigns! Our God Reigns!

Our God reigns! Our God reigns!…

He had no stately form, He had no majesty
That we should be drawn to Him.
He was despised and we took no account of Him.
Yet now He reigns, with the Most High.

Our God reigns! Our God reigns!…

It was our sin and guilt that bruised and wounded Him.
It was our sin that brought Him down.
When we like sheep had gone astray our Shepherd came,
And on His shoulders He bore our shame.

Our God reigns! Our God reigns!…

Meek as a lamb, that’s led out to the slaughterhouse,
Dumb as a sheep, before it’s shearer;
His life ran down upon the ground like pouring rain,
That we might be born-again!

Our God reigns! Our God reigns!…

Out from the tomb He came with grace and majesty;
He is alive, He is alive!
God loves us so, see here His hands, His feet, His side;
And yes, we know, He is alive!

Our God reigns! Our God reigns!

I hesitated to post the last verse because again, it takes us into Easter Sunday when I feel we need to spend a few more moments with the women and friends who stayed at the cross. (Luke 23:49)

I do recognize however that the full message of the cross is God’s triumph over sin and death. So I couldn’t post the lyrics to Our God Reigns without posting the alternative set of lyrics from Isaiah which are also available. The first verse of both versions is the same. Here is a song that takes us more to the element of celebration that perhaps my radio announcer on Thursday was envisioning. In the end, both elements are part of the big story.

How lovely on the mountains are the feet of Him
Who brings good news, good news
Proclaiming peace, announcing news of happiness
Our God reigns, our God reigns

Our God reigns, our God reigns…

You watchmen lift your voices joyfully as one
Shout for your King, your King
See eye to eye the Lord restoring Zion
Your God reigns, your God reigns!

Our God reigns, our God reigns…

Waste places of Jerusalem break forth with joy
We are redeemed, redeemed
The Lord has saved and comforted His people
Your God reigns, your God reigns!

Our God reigns, our God reigns…

Ends of the earth, see the salvation of your God
Jesus is Lord, is Lord
Before the nations He has bared His holy arm
Your God reigns, your God reigns!

Our God reigns, our God reigns…


For more Easter-themed reading, check out Delivered From Death at Thinking Out Loud

February 6, 2016

Responses to ‘Sin Boldly’

NIV 1 John 1:8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Two days ago we ran a devotional post centered on the phrase ‘sin boldly’ which is a modernization of words spoken by Martin Luther. You can read that post at this link, along with Luther’s original quotation. I realize that we only scratched the surface on this, and sensed through one posted comment and an email that a few of you would like to delve into this a little deeper. So today we’ll take some extra time to hear from several voices.

First, Russell Young posted this (click the article link to read the full comment):

…There seems to be a common understanding that the believer is “free to sin.” This is not so! All, starting with the household of God, will be judged for the things done in the flesh whether good or evil. Will we sin? Yes! Can it be forgiven? John makes it clear that repentance and confession can result in forgiveness. (1 John 1:9) The believer must be led by the Spirit. He must be obedient and it is through “obedience” that he will gain “eternal” salvation. (Hebrews 5:9) The result of being led is that he will become a “son of God.” (Romans 8:14) If he lives according to the sinful nature he will die. He must put to death the misdeeds of the body if he is to live. (Romans 8:13) You are correct in stating that we cannot help but sin, but the Spirit, who is the Spirit of Christ in the believer, will not sin and will provide escape from temptations and recourse for those who do…

…Although there are a great many references to the need to walk in the light and under the leadership of the Spirit, these are being ignored as spiritual educators hang onto the teachings of Martin Luther, John Calvin, etc. and set the Word aside.

The Lord’s own teaching should give cause for concern: “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.” (John 8:34-35) A son is the one who is being led. Also, He revealed in His Revelation that it is those who “overcome” who will be allowed entry into His holy city, the New Jerusalem. (Revelation 21:7)

At the website, The Grace of God:

…Replacing the word “sin” with the word “murder” we have this:  Be a murderer and murder boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly.  Or how about this: Be an adulterer and commit adultery boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly. Or perhaps your favorite sin is lying:  Be a liar and lie boldly, but believe and rejoice in Christ even more boldly.  Do you steal? Be a thief and steal boldly! Just make sure you believe and rejoice in Christ more boldly!

Some may accuse me of taking Martin Luther’s words out of context, but I assert that his words have been used as a license to sin by many, and indeed seem custom-made for the job!  He said you can murder a thousand times a day and still remain in Jesus Christ! Have you ever heard such blasphemy? I know Luther is a revered reformer, but Christ’s sheep hear His voice and they follow Him. They will not follow the voice of the stranger, and this is the voice of a stranger if I’ve ever heard one. Test the spirits by which men speak!  Never assume that someone honored by others is the friend of your soul.

To the shamed adulterer, Jesus said, “Go and sin no more.” (John 8:11)

To the man whom He had healed from a 38-year infirmity, Jesus said, “Sin no more lest a worse thing come upon you.” (John 5:14)  What could be worse than 38 years of perpetual infirmity?

Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.” (I Cor. 15:34)

He also wrote, “Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?” (Rom. 6:15-16)

Again, Paul wrote to Timothy, “Nevertheless the solid foundation of God stands, having this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of Christ DEPART FROM INIQUITY.’”  (2 Tim. 2:19)

The Apostle John testified that he wrote his epistle “that you may not sin.” (I Jn. 2:1)

Peter wrote of false teachers who would deny the Lord who bought them, bringing on themselves swift destruction. How do they deny the Lord?–through disobedience and teaching disobedience to the Lord’s servants. For they profess to know God, but in works they deny Him. Some of their distinguishing marks are:  they will receive the wages of unrighteousness (because they are unrighteous), they count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime (not even blushing for their sins, but doing them boldly even in the company of the Christian church), and they have eyes full of adultery, and they cannot cease from sin (2 Pet. 2:1-14; Titus 1:16).

They cannot cease from sin! Though Jesus said to cease from sin and gives victory over sin to those who abide in Him, and though His apostles taught that we must cease from sin and obey Jesus, these teachers not only cannot cease from sin in their own lives, but they also teach others, “Be a sinner and sin boldly…as long as we are here, WE HAVE TO SIN.”

Do you hear the hiss of the deceiver in those terrible words? …

The website Confessing Evangelical quotes Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s response to sin boldly:

…Is this the proclamation of cheap grace, naked and unashamed, the carte blanche for sin, the end of all discipleship? Is this a blasphemous encouragement to sin boldly and rely on grace? Is there a more diabolical abuse of grace than to sin and rely on the grace which God has given? Is not the Roman Catechism quite right in denouncing this as the sin against the Holy Ghost?…

Taken as the premise [for our doctrine of grace], pecca fortiter [sin boldly] acquires the character of an ethical principle, a principle of grace to which the principle of pecca fortiter must correspond. That means the justification of sin, and it turns Luther’s formula into its very opposite.

For Luther “sin boldly” could only be his very last refuge, the consolation for one whose attempts to follow Christ had taught him that he can never become sinless, who in his fear of sin despairs of the grace of God. As Luther saw it, “sin boldly” did not happen to be a fundamental acknowledgement of his disobedient life; it was the gospel of the grace of God before which we are always and in every circumstance sinners. Yet that grace seeks us and justifies us, sinners though we are.

Take courage and confess your sin, says Luther, do not try to run away from it, but believe more boldly still. You are a sinner, so be a sinner, and don’t try to become what you are not. Yes, and become a sinner again and again every day, and be bold about it.

But to whom can such words be addressed, except to those who from the bottom of their hearts make a daily renunciation of sin and of every barrier which hinders them from following Christ, but who nevertheless are troubled by their daily faithlessness and sin? Who can hear these words without endangering his faith but he who hears their consolation as a renewed summons to follow Christ? Interpreted in this way, these words of Luther become a testimony to the costliness of grace, the only genuine kind of grace there is.

At the website authored by J. P. Serrano:

…First, it is an indictment of who we are.  Luther is clearly saying to Melanchthon that we (people) are sinners and because of our fallenness, we will continue to sin until the second coming.  I believe that Luther is using a hyperbole here in order for us to understand exactly who we are.  Our sins are real; they are not unimportant nor minimal…they do matter. Luther is trying to tell those people who think they are pretty good, except for those little sins here or there, that they are in fact really big sinners and should see themselves as big sinners.  Hence why he says, “be a sinner.”  What I hear in this is an admonition for me to own the state I am in now and a recognition that I am not a saint on my own.  Nowhere in here do I hear Luther giving permission to sin–which is the way I hear the quote often used.

Secondly, we need to own our sin and understand it to be real, in order for grace to be real.  If we have fake sin, then we don’t need grace.  If our sin, however, is real, then we in fact need a grace that is real.  What I hear in this is more about God’s grace to forgive and continually seek me out rather than doing whatever I want (or as it is more popularly summarized: SINNING BOLDLY!)

Lastly, what is missed in not quoting the whole phrase Luther uses is the admonition to let our trust in Christ be stronger than the sins we commit.  Luther is telling Melanchthon (and us) that our trust in Christ is of first importance.  It is to be stronger than our sin, and it is to cause us to rejoice in victory.  This is important because I often I hear a defeatism in Lutheranism that keeps continually reminding people that we are sinners (which we are), but doesn’t in the same breath remind us that we are in fact freed from sin in Christ whom overcame.

I want to thank Deb for getting us thinking about this two days ago and getting us started on the path where we’ve ended up today. She concluded that we can’t be “avoiding life and people to protect ourselves from sin.” In the real world we’re going to get our hands and feet dirty. We need to acknowledge that, which is a very nuanced difference from accepting that.

December 18, 2015

He Came to Save

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Today’s reading is from Stephen & Brooksyne Weber at Daily Encouragement. This is my go-to devotional in the morning and we break the six-month rule with them, using their material more frequently here. They are in their eleventh year of faithfully doing this on top of an active chaplaincy ministry in Pennsylvania. Click the title below to read this at source.

Mighty To Save

ListenListen to this message on your audio player.

“The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save” (Zephaniah 3:17).

“But when he (Joseph) had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.’ Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet” (Matthew 21:20-22).

“Therefore He is able also to save to the uttermost (completely, perfectly, finally, for all time and eternity) those who come to God through Him” (Hebrews 7:25 Amplified)

One day when Heaven was filled with His praises,
One day when sin was as black as could be,
Jesus came forth to be born of a virgin,
Dwelt among men, my example is He!

Living, He loved me; dying, He saved me;
Buried, He carried my sins far away;
Rising, He justified freely forever;
One day He’s coming—oh, glorious day! *

At this season, along with Easter, it’s predictable that national news magazines will do a feature story about Jesus Christ. However so often these articles are slanted away from the Biblical and historical teachings about Jesus Christ and espouse the faddish views of various “scholars” that the writer selectively cites.

Critics have often tried to distinguish between what they perceive as the harsh, judgmental God of the Old Testament with the kind, loving God of the New Testament.  Of course God is God and He does not change. In Malachi 3:6 He declares “I the LORD do not change”. The feeble attempts by critics to “package” God merely reveals that we are finite humans. We are called to belief and obedience. Understanding comes as we “trust and obey”.

Zephaniah 3:17 Today’s first verse is a reminder to us of a powerful, loving God who is ever present. “The LORD your God is with you, He is mighty to save.” You may have present circumstances in your life that make this verse hard to grasp. But consider the great truth that God is with you and He is mighty to save! I would sure take this to primarily mean in regard to our greatest need of salvation from sin, but I also believe He is “mighty to save” in regard to a specific situation we are dealing with as well.

Matthew 1:20-22 contains the angel’s announcement to Joseph concerning Mary. The message of the angel in verse 21 is an assurance to Joseph that Mary’s baby would be a “Son” whose name would be “Jesus.” The Greek name “Jesus” comes from the Hebrew name Joshua which literally means “Jehovah saves,” or “God is salvation.” Even before Christ was born the angel revealed to Joseph the unique nature of His reason for coming, “He will save His people from their sins”. The Gospels and Apostolic teaching reveal this was accomplished by His sinless life, atoning death, and resurrection from the dead. The term “His people” should be understood to include both believing Jews and Gentiles (see Gal. 3:13,14; Romans 3:21-25; Titus 2:13,14; 1 Peter 2:4-10) whom Christ would save “from their sins” by means of His perfect life and substitutionary sacrifice. (from “Explore the Bible”)

Two thousand years after His first coming and mission accomplished we are among those who experience the wonder of His love. “Therefore He is able also to save to the uttermost (completely, perfectly, finally, and for all time and eternity) those who come to God through Him.”

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today

Be encouraged today,
Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

Daily prayer: Father, the wonder of Your love is that You sent Your beloved Son, Jesus, the Holy Child of Bethlehem, in answer to our need for salvation. And in answer to our prayer You cast out our sin and entered in to be born in us, making all things new in our spiritual transformation. Because we come to You through Christ we are saved completely to the uttermost: perfectly, finally, for all time and for all eternity. All we have need of You provide through Christ Jesus our Lord. And we are forever grateful! Amen.



* “Glorious Day (Living He loved me)”  Video  Casting Crowns

December 17, 2015

Christ as Burnt Offering

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Today we pay a return visit to Abundant Life Now, the blog of Robert Lloyd Russell. To read this at source, click the title below. This devotional study is packed with scripture references, and brings to life a book of the Bible that some struggle with when reading. (Note: When you’re done here, check out the “3 Men” series of studies currently running at Robert’s blog.)

Christ, Burnt Offering

~ 10 Previews of Christ in One First Covenant Offering ~

Some commentators consider the Book of Leviticus the greatest book in the Bible. It opens with five offerings (sacrifices) to the nation of Israel—with specific laws for each one. All five offerings present a picture of the Coming Messiah—Jesus Christ.

The first group of three offerings in Leviticus 1-3 (the sweet savor offerings) provide a glimpse of the person and character of Jesus Christ. He is lovely, He is our peace, and most importantly He is our substitute—He paid the penalty for our sin.

The final two offerings, the sin offering and the trespass offering, (the non-sweet savor offerings) are bitter. They provide a glimpse of the redemptive work of the person of Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary for us. In this post we will look at just the first offering—the burnt offering.

The Burnt Offering was listed first in order because it is first in importance! It is the only free will offering (voluntary, not required by God). It is likely the oldest offering known to man (i.e., Abel, the son of Adam, provided a burnt offering). God gave Israel this as the first offering and even called the place of the burnt offering the burnt altar.

This burnt offering is a clear “type” or foreshadow of Jesus Christ. Consider ten aspects of the burnt offering which point to The Messiah—Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

Burnt ~ The Hebrew word means “that which ascends.” The offering was entirely consumed—nothing left but ashes. “If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd … And the priest shall burn all on the altar as a burnt sacrifice, an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the Lord” (Leviticus 1:3a, 9b). Jesus Christ gave His totality on the Cross of Calvary. Upon the completion of His once-and-for-all sacrifice for sin He exclaimed, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

Washed ~ The animal’s inwards and legs were washed with water. “He shall wash its entrails and its legs with water (Leviticus 1:9a). For us the inwards relate to our inner thought life and our character and legs represent our walk or lifestyle. In the New Testament we are washed the water of the written Word of God and by the by the blood of the living Word of God. “A new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water” (Hebrews 10:20-22). “To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:5-6).

Domestic ~ It was a domestic animal. Wild animals were not acceptable. “When any one of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of the livestock—of the herd and of the flock” (Leviticus 1:2b). Domestic animals represent taming—or obedience. “Jesus Christ humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the Cross” (Philippians 2:8b).

Male ~ “… a male without blemish…” (Leviticus 1:3). Male symbolizes strength. The Lord Jesus Christ is “mighty to save” (Isaiah 63:1). He is able to “save to the uttermost” (Hebrews 7:25).

Perfect ~ The sacrifices of Leviticus required “… a male without blemish…” (Leviticus 1:3). Those sacrifices pointed forward to the true sacrificial lamb, the Lamb of God, who was “without blemish” (1 Peter 1:19) and Who lived a sinless life on earth—“in Him no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 2:22).

Choice ~ “…he shall offer it of his own free will…” (Leviticus 1:3). Jesus said, “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again” (John 10:17-18a).

Substitute ~ “The burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him (Leviticus 1:4b). The burnt offering was a substitute offering—a vicarious offering—on behalf of another. That is the great basic issue of The Gospel of Jesus Christ—that He paid for my sin, for your sin, and for the sins of all who will come to Him as their personal Savior. By God’s law “without the shedding of blood there is no remission [forgiveness] of sin” (Hebrews 9:22). “The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7b).

• Important note: This is a major change in God’s dealings with mankind. No longer is sin covered over (atonement) as it was in the first covenant rather now it is paid in full and forgiven.

Death ~ “He shall kill the bull before the Lord” (Leviticus 1:5a). The animal had to die on behalf of the Israelites as a sacrifice for their sin. Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty of our sin. Who killed the Christ? I killed Him. You killed Him.

Separation ~ Later we learn in chapter 4 of Leviticus that the ashes of both the animal sacrifice and the fuel for the fire were required to be taken outside the camp. Jesus Christ while He was in the world maintained a perfect separation from sin. Christians today are to be separate from the world. “Come out from among them and be separate” (2 Corinthians 6:17).

His Radiance ~ “And the priest who offers anyone’s burnt offering, that priest shall have for himself the skin of the burnt offering which he has offered (Leviticus 7:8).

The only exception to the consuming fire was the skin of the animal which was kept for a covering (an atonement in the first covenant). Christians are priests (1 Peter 2:9) and are seen by God the Father as being covered with the Robe of Christ’s righteousness.

• The scripture revisited:   “Now the Lord called to Moses, and spoke to him from the tabernacle of meeting, saying, ‘Speak to the children of Israel, and say to them: “When any one of you brings an offering to the Lord, you shall bring your offering of the livestock—of the herd and of the flock. If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the Lord. Then he shall put his hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on his behalf to make atonement for him. He shall kill the bull before the Lord’” (Leviticus 1:1-5a).


Reprinted from “Abundant Life Now,” a free blog which offers inspiring moments, thought-provoking comments, and solid Biblical insight at http://RobertLloydRussell.blogspot.com/ .

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