Christianity 201

July 3, 2016

The Need to be Victorious

•••by Russell Young

The Lord has revealed that those who “overcome” will inherit the New Jerusalem and the promises that apply to it. (Rev 21:7) Since this is so, it is important to be among the overcomers.  There are a lot of assumptions and presumptions made about exactly who the overcomers or victorious are and how they achieve that state.

Many rest their hope of victory solely in that which the crucifixion of Christ has accomplished for them and assume no responsibility for any contribution for their victory.  This understanding is often referred to as God’s “sovereign grace.” Such thinking will lead many to eternal disappointment.  Paul has written that he was straining ahead and pressing on toward the goal; he did not assume victory as having been completed through the crucifixion of Christ. (Phil 3:13-14).  Although there are many other relevant passages that deal with the need to be led, to follow, or to do God’s will, the Lord admonished his listeners that they had to stand firm to the end in order to be saved. (Mt 10:22)

In his revelation through John the Lord told the seven churches that they were to be victorious in maintaining their love for him ((Rev 2:4), in remaining faithful even when facing death (Rev 2:10c), in remaining true to the teachings of holiness (Rev 2:14), in not tolerating false teaching (Rev 2:20), in living -making their practices meet the requirements of God (Rev 3:2), in obedience and perseverance (Rev 3:10), and in passion for him (Rev 3:15). These teachings did not only refer to the church as a unit but to the individuals who comprise the unit. At the end of Revelation, he stated, “All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.” (Rev 21:7, NLT)

Peter warned his readers about wandering back into sinful practices.  “And when people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled up and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before.  It would have been better if they had never known the way to righteousness than to know it and reject the command they were given to live a holy life.” (2 Peter 2:21, NLT)

Further, the Lord 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)

Believers have not been relieved of participation in their deliverance or salvation.  They have been commanded to “work hard” to achieve God’s kingdom.  Those who fail to “work out” (Phil 2:12) their own salvation may not make it.  “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” (Lk 13:24, NIV) “Effort” and “working out” are not passive acts but demand commitment from the believer.

Christ has won victory over death and Hades, but that is his victory.  Through it, he claimed right to determine who would be judged fit for the heavenly kingdom and the presence of God.  The fate of all humankind rests with him.  Because the keys are his, he will be the mighty judge and all honour will belong to him.  For the redeemed person to share in his kingdom he or she must obey him in this life. (Heb 5:9)   The Lord can win the victory for him or her.

Victory cannot be achieved without commitment and without clinging to the Lord who is the believer’s power for victory.  There is yet a life to be lived and a death to be lived.  Christ declared that since John (the Baptist) many have been trying to “force” their way into the kingdom and told them that the law would not disappear but that the least stroke of a pen would not drop out of it. (Lk 16:16) He also said that he came to fulfill the law (Mt 5:17) and he will do that through his presence in the believer (Col 1:27) as they obey him (Heb 5:9)

Each person has a part in victorious living.  It is not sufficient to just let Christ remove the stain of sin by his sacrifice as achieved at the point of redemption through a single act of faith; holy living must be practiced.  The Lord has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Pet 1:3) but not life and godliness itself. The words of Christ at the end of Revelation were: “Blessed are those who wash their robes (“do his commandments”, KJV), that they might have the right to the tree of life and may go through the gates into the city.” (Rev 22:14, NIV) They must be victorious.

October 29, 2015

What Would You Put on the Bonfire?

Acts 19:19 A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas.

Full context: Verses 13-21

This article by Dr. David Murray appeared at the blog The Christward Collective.

11 Verbs of Repentance

The Heidelberg Catechism’s answer to question 94, “What does God enjoin in the first commandment?” contains eleven verbs, eleven “doing” words.

“A. That I, as sincerely as I desire the salvation of my own soul, avoid and flee from all idolatry, sorcery, soothsaying, superstition, invocation of saints, or any other creatures; and learn rightly to know the only true God; trust in him alone, with humility and patience submit to him; expect all good things from him only; love, fear, and glorify him with my whole heart; so that I renounce and forsake all creatures, rather than commit even the least thing contrary to his will.”

These verbs can be divided into two categories that apply to all kinds of sins:

Sin-ward actions: Avoid, flee, renounce, forsake.

God-ward actions: Learn, trust, submit, expect, love, fear, glorify.

The God-ward actions cannot happen without the sin-ward actions, and the sin-ward actions cannot happen without the God-ward actions. They are two sides of the one experience of repentance.

AN ILLUSTRATION OF REPENTANCE

We can see an illustration of most of these verbs in action in Acts 19 v13-21 where the idolatrous magicians and occultists of Ephesus were powerfully impacted by the Gospel of Christ:

·       They feared (v. 17)

·       They glorified the Lord Jesus (v. 17)

·       They believed (v. 18)

·       They came out into the open (v. 18)

·       They confessed (v. 18)

·       They showed their deeds (v. 18)

·       They burned their spell-books (v. 19)

·       They turned to God’s book (v. 20)

I would have loved to see that bonfire of repentance. Some estimates put the value of books burned at several million dollars of today’s money. In burning their spell-books, they were saying three things:

I detest my past: I hate what I was and did.

I want to make sure I do not return: I want to make it as difficult as possible for me to take up these practices again.

I want to make sure others will not be led astray: They could have sold their books to others for large sums of money they didn’t want their financial gain to result in spiritual loss for others.

AN APPLICATION OF REPENTANCE

But let’s not just go back a couple of thousand years to Ephesus, or a few hundred years to Heidelberg. Let’s bring this right up to date and apply it to our own lives with this one question: What should you put on the bonfire? Of course, it need not be a literal bonfire. But if not a literal bonfire, then use these repentance verbs to have a spiritual bonfire.

If the Holy Spirit fell in reviving power among us today, I don’t think Harry Potter conferences and books would be first to go up in flames. But I do believe there would be a huge conflagration of one of the greatest idols of our own time – digital technology. Don’t think you’ve turned your phone, your computer, or social media into an idol? Test yourself with these questions:

1. Does technology serve me or am I its slave? Do I use it to serve God or is the Devil using it to enslave me?

2. Am I seeking significance and self-worth in the number of Twitter followers, blog subscribers, and Facebook friends I have?

3. Am I addicted to information?

4. Are my digital communications serving as a substitute for face-to-face relationships, or even spiritual communication with God?

5. Am I open and honest in my accountability?

6. Am I afraid of anyone picking up my phone and looking through it?

7. Is my online persona real or partly an act?

8. Are my best and most valued relationships online or face-to-face?

9. Is my local church community more important to me than any online community I’m part of?

10. When I wake up, do I read my Bible and pray before any electronic communication? (54% reach for phone within minutes of waking. 74% check phone before spiritual disciplines.)

11. Am I taking regular digital sabbaths? (tech-free periods of time each day and one screen-free day each week)

12. How long a period of time can I go without connecting with the digital world? Am I seeking to extend and stretch such periods?

13. Am I promoting myself or my Lord?

14. Am I daily seeking and depending upon the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit to help me use digital technology for God’s glory?

15. Do you try to fill every spare moment and every quiet moment with media.

16. Would Jesus look at your phone use or social media profile and say, “Well done, good and faithful servant”?

17. Do you get anxious when separated from your phone?

18. Do you have any boundaries as to place or time?

19. How many times do you check your phone each day? (teens check at least 100 times a day, sometimes 200).

20. Do you rush to buy the latest technology?

Are you looking for the matches yet?

September 12, 2014

Overcoming the Virus that Lives Within Us

The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions.
 ~Ephesians 5:17 NLT

This post appeared at the blog The Blazing Center and was written by Barnabas Piper. Click the title to read this and other good articles at source.

You Can’t Catch Sin Like a Cold

It’s my favorite time of year. That time when we send our children off to slap five, share books, and suck on the same water fountains as hundreds of other little germ carriers at the Petri dish we call “school.” Every time one of my daughters comes home and says a classmate went home sick or missed school my wife wants to boil her in bleach, wrap her in Clorox wipes, and lock her in a hyperbaric chamber. If only we could quarantine them to keep them safe from all those nasty germs.

Sadly school is a necessary evil so we have to expose them to the ills and ailments. This is much the way many Christians think of “the world” – that necessary evil that we must be exposed to full of evil and vices and insidious temptations. If only we could quarantine ourselves from that too.

And many Christians do live in cultural quarantine, shutting themselves off from what they see as sinful influences. They avoid “bad” people and even places. They talk about those people and places like they are disease carriers – “We can’t have them around” or “We couldn’t go there.” They act like someone can sneeze sin onto them, that they will catch the bad decisions and guilt of another through physical proximity. What does his shunning communicate to those we have labeled “unclean”? Exactly that, Christians think they are unclean. Not the ideal way to draw people to Jesus. But sin is not an infectious disease

We don’t “catch” sin. It’s in us from birth. We are sin carriers. It’s only by the grace of God that we can become immune to the virus that lives in us, that we can live a life without its symptoms oozing and coughing and exhaling out of us onto others. Because of the work of Christ we are able to choose whether or not to sin. It is a decision, one that we often have a very hard time making, but a decision nonetheless. Sin is a theology too. It is a belief, or lack thereof, in the goodness and work of Jesus. It is this theology, this belief that informs our decision and drives us.

So, when we are around obvious sin, those people and places, we can’t catch their sin. We can choose their sin, but that is a matter of decision, of belief, of theology. If we hold fast to Jesus there is no risk of that sin invisibly taking hold of us like a flu bug might. How freeing! We no longer have to keep our distance or live in cultural quarantine. We can engage those people with grace and freedom without fear. Because we are near Jesus we can be near to anyone without fear that they will make us more like them than like Him.

But it would be nice if they used Purel and covered their mouths when they sneeze.


December 12, 2013

The Four Prides

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Today’s post is more succinct that you’re accustomed to here, but it is very profound. You’ve heard of C. S. Lewis’ The Four Loves, well these are The Four Prides. This is from Abundant Life Now, which is the first time this blog has appeared here. The author is Robert Lloyd Russell.  As always you are reminded to encourage the authors of the devotionals we use here by reading at source; click here to read 4 Prides.

~ Race, Place, Face, & Grace ~

God hates pride or a proud heart.  One of the reasons God hates pride is that it is a root of all sin!  Here are four kinds of pride to guard against:

Race Pride  ~  “They answered Him, ‘We are Abraham’s descendants, and have never been in bondage to anyone. How can You say, “You will be made free”?’  Jesus answered them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin.  And a slave does not abide in the house forever, but a son abides forever.  Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed’” (John 8:33-36). This is national pride.

Place Pride  ~  “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.  For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and say to the poor man, ‘You stand there,’ or, ‘Sit here at my footstool,’ have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?” (James 2:1-4).  This is social pride.

Face Pride  ~  “For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was” (James 1:24).  This is personal pride.

Grace Pride  ~  “If anyone teaches otherwise and does not consent to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which accords with godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing, but is obsessed with disputes and arguments over words, from which come envy, strife, reviling, evil suspicions, useless wranglings of men of corrupt minds and destitute of the truth, who suppose that godliness is a means of gain.  From such withdraw yourself” (1 Timothy 6:3-5). This is spiritual pride.

Summary  ~  “All of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’  Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.  Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour.  Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.  But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.  To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever.  Amen”(1 Peter 5:5b-11).