Christianity 201

October 9, 2018

“The Subjects of the Kingdom Will be Thrown Outside”

by Russell Young

The Lord stated that the “subjects of the kingdom would be thrown outside, into the darkness.” (Mt 8:12) Who are the “subjects”? The Greek terminology is “huios basileia” which means “children of the royalty” or “children of the king’s reign.” “Subjects” is replaced by “sons” or “children” in some translations. Huios as used in this instance, represents a universal sense of children having a particular position or relationship to God. That is, by relationship or position, not by birth, these have become children or sons of God. The Greek has three different words that have been translated in English as “sons”—huios, teknon, and huiothesia. Teknon refers to sons or children of natural birth. Huiothesia is used by Paul alone and has meaning according to Roman culture. It refers to an adopted son and Paul uses this term for those whose bodies have been redeemed. (Rom 8: 23) In his writing huios references Gentiles who have become children of God by position and not by birth, as huios (sons) of God. (Rom 8:14, 19; Gal 4:6)

Many commentators refer to the children of the Kingdom as being Israelites, and certainly the Lord was talking to a Jewish crowd when he made this statement, however, it would appear that he was informing them that they could not rest in their Jewish heritage as being their source of confidence and hope. The International Standard Version interprets huios as “the unfaithful heirs of that kingdom.” The Contemporary English Version presents it as “the ones who should have been in the kingdom.” By position, huios refers to those who have been “born again” supernaturally, having been cleansed and granted the Holy Spirit. Paul also refers to huios as “the children of the living God (Rom 9:26) and the “children of light.” (1Thess 5:5) These are people whom God esteems as sons, who have confessed commitment to his lordship, whom he loves, protects, and benefits above others. They are those whose character God, as a loving Father and Christ as lord, is attempting to shape by their leadership (Rom 8:14) and chastisements (Heb 12:5-8). By their confession, pledge, or promise they have acknowledged Christ as their lord (Rom 10:9─10) and the parentage of God and have accepted their position and reliance upon him as their father.

Certainly, “subjects” applies to the Jews, but there is no reason why it must not apply to Gentile confessors as well. After all, they are both huios of God, with the need to meet the same righteous requirements of any who will dwell with their Lord. Even though these are huios of the royalty, they will be cast outside.

Regardless of whether “subjects” are Jews or Gentile confessors, they were of God’s Kingdom—this passage may mean that those thrown outside will be the subjects of his kingdom while those inside will reign over them—and subject to his authority. The Lord’s words were directed to the Jewish leaders, who, although were subject to him, did not recognize their place. On the other hand, the centurion, who was being praised, was an outsider who along with other outsiders from the east and west would be invited to the Lord’s banquet. Apparently, the “subjects” who will be thrown out will be those who have not recognized the fullness of the Lord’s authority as sovereign and their placement will be “outside into the darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

The Lord addressed the issue of those who would not remain permanent members of his family in John’s gospel. “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son (those who are led by the Spirit of God-Rom 8:14)) belongs to it forever.” (Jn 8:34─35) Accordingly, “sinners” will not be permanent members of the family.

Daniel also stated that following the Great Tribulation “your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered. Multitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake; some to everlasting life others to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Dan 12:1─2 Italics added) The names of those raised to suffer everlasting shame and contempt had their names written in “the book” and they resemble those who will be “weeping and gnashing teeth.” Although this reference has been made to those being raised before the millennium, their state is described as “everlasting” and must apply to the banquet also.

The reality is that some of those who were in the Kingdom of God will be thrown outside even though they were once huios of God. What is the “outside”? It is the place of the “nations”, the place of those not of the family of God. It must either be “hell” or some other place of habitation apart from the New Jerusalem. Some of those dwelling there will be of the house of Israel, while others of the Gentiles who will have recognized God’s sovereignty and will have become huios of God for a time but will have been cast from his family because of their unrighteous testimony. They were his subjects but had disdained his holiness and provision. They will be of the body that God declared to “depart” from him because of their wickedness; he had never “known” them (been certain of their commitment). (Mat 7: 2223) Their names had been recorded in “the book” but they will dwell in the state of “shame and everlasting contempt.” The Lord has termed the Jews who will dwell apart from his presence, outside the walls of the New Jerusalem, as “dogs.” (Rev 22:15; Phil 3:2)

Paul spoke of some who will be punished through separation from the Lord’s majesty. “He 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 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and marvelled at among those who have believed.” (2 Thess 1:8-10) (Belief is revealed through obedience–Heb 3: 1819) The Lord also warned, “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)


Russell Young is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  His column appears here alternate Tuesdays.  To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.  There is also a feature-length article at this link.

February 4, 2017

Discipline Hurts But We Should Embrace It

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
Tags: , , ,

This is our fourth time linking to the writing of Michael Kelley at Forward >> Progress. He consistently produces a quality of writing that is such a good fit for readers here. You can send him some link love by clicking the title below and reading this on his blog. Follow him on Twitter @_MichaelKelley .

3 Reasons to Love Discipline from the Lord

Discipline is painful.

We have known that to be true for some time, haven’t we? When you look back at your childhood, your fondest memories are probably not those involving the discipline of your parents. Similarly, we don’t take pictures of our kids when they are in time out or being sent to their room. That’s because no one likes discipline at the time. At its core, discipline means something is going wrong in your life, and someone is stepping in to help you correct.

This is not punitive in nature; discipline has a greater goal in mind. Of course, as we grow older, discipline becomes less and less something that is done to us, and more and more something we must take up on our own. We must discipline ourselves to read the Bible and pray. We must discipline ourselves to physically exercise. We must discipline ourselves to put down the bag of Cheetos. But even though we make that shift to self-discipline, it’s still painful in the moment. This is what the writer of Hebrews acknowledges to be true in Hebrews 12:11:

“No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it.”

But his acknowledgement of the general unpleasantness of discipline comes not in a discussion about the way we discipline ourselves, but in the way we react to the discipline of the Lord. For while we might outgrow the discipline of our earthly parents, we never outgrow the disciplining arm of God. But even though discipline is not enjoyable, part of growing up in Christ is not only accepting the discipline of the Lord, but actually growing to love it, painful though it might be. And if we look a little earlier in this passage, we see why:

“Endure suffering as discipline: God is dealing with you as sons. For what son is there that a father does not discipline? But if you are without discipline—which all receive—then you are illegitimate children and not sons. Furthermore, we had natural fathers discipline us, and we respected them. Shouldn’t we submit even more to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time based on what seemed good to them, but He does it for our benefit, so that we can share His holiness. No discipline seems enjoyable at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it yields the fruit of peace and righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Hebrews 12:7-11).

1. The Lord’s discipline means we are His true children.

Sometimes the temptation for us, when we are undergoing the discipline of the Lord, is to think that it’s evidence of His lack of love. The Bible tells us that the opposite is actually true. The fact that the Lord disciplines us is the evidence of His love for us – it’s one of the ways we know that we are truly His children.

Think about it for a minute. Let’s say there are a hundred children on a playground, and as you look across the landscape you see a group of kids doing something dangerous. Not dangerous in the sense that someone’s going to be permanently disfigured, but unsafe nonetheless. Now you might be compelled to step in, but then again, you might say to yourself, Those aren’t my kids. There are a bunch of parents out here, and so I’m going to mind my own business. But your posture completely changes when your own child is involved, simply because that is YOUR child. And as your child, it is your duty to intervene for their welfare. Chances are they will look at you as someone who has spoiled the fun, but you know better. You are acting for their good. In a similar way, God intervenes with His discipline because He is our Father. We aren’t somebody else’s kids – we are His. Because we are, He is compelled to act.

2. The Lord’s discipline means He is actively involved in our lives.

As a parent, I know that discipline is difficult. It’s not only difficult because it takes an emotional toll on you as a mom or dad; it’s difficult because to discipline well and consistently you have to actually pay close attention to your children. You have to know them, and know them well. You have to know who their friends are, what their activities are, what they’re doing on and off line, and a host of other things. Parental discipline necessitates a very active level of involvement on our part.

The same is true with the Lord. When we experience the Lord’s discipline, we can know that He is not some distant deity with only a passing interest in our comings and goings. We can know instead that He is intimately and specifically involved and concerned with the smallest details of our lives, so much so that He is willing to step in and exercise His power if it means helping us grow in holiness.

3. The Lord’s discipline means He is deeply committed to us.

Oh sure – we don’t have to discipline our children as parents. It would certainly be easier in a way. But we choose to discipline our children because we are deeply committed to their well-being. If we were not, then we would not be willing to put ourselves through the near constant exercise of correction and training. Such is the case with the Lord.

Jesus did not die so that we could go our own way. He died so that we could do and be all that our good Father intends for us to do and be, and the primary thing He intends for us to do and be is holy. He is deeply, deeply committed to this, even when we are not. This is because He knows that ultimately, holiness is for our good and everlasting satisfaction in Him. And as a perfect Father, He will settle for nothing less, even if it means the road to get there is difficult for us.

So, Christian, perhaps today you sense the disciplining hand of your Father upon you. It does not mean He has abandoned you or ceased to love you. Quite the contrary. It means you are His true child. It means He is actively involved in your life. And it means that though in this moment, you might not be committed to your own holiness, God is. And so we can love the discipline of the Lord, for we can trust the discipline of the Lord:

“Therefore strengthen your tired hands and weakened knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be dislocated but healed instead” (Hebrews 12:12-13).

August 14, 2016

Servants, Friends, and Brothers

•••by Russell Young

  “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.” (Jn 15:15, NIV)

Many apply the encouragement of being friends with Christ to themselves, although the Lord was clearly speaking to his disciples. The wording contains several points that might enlighten the reader concerning the status that the Lord has presented for friendship with him.

He said, “I no longer call…” All of redeemed humankind start their lives as servants (Rom 6:22; Eph 6:6; Rev 22:6).  They have been bought with the blood of Christ (1 Cor 6:20) and belong to him (Rom 7:4; Jas 2:7). He is their lord and master and without obedience to his call upon their lives they cannot achieve the holy state that is required for eternal salvation. (Heb 5:9) Those who are Christ’s must be led by him. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (Jn 10:27, NIV) It is against human nature to want to be ruled by another; but, without the instruction, leadership, and power of Christ no one can live righteously. Those who are blind need a leader. The believer is to live humbly before Christ. (Mt 23:12; Jas 4:6; 1 Pet 5:6) His beginning is that of a servant.

The reason that Christ elevated the relationship of his disciples from servant to “friend” was because they knew his business and what he was about.  He had revealed his business to them and they had heard and had chosen to participate in its accomplishment.  They knew him and had forged an honourable and loving relationship with him. They no longer needed the level of guidance that a servant requires because they understood his will and had responded according to it.  His mission became their mission. Friends take seriously the heart and the goals of friends.  The requirement for service had not changed, but oversight and direction for it was no longer necessary; the Lord’s purposes were being mutually achieved.

Readers of God’s Word should not confuse the issue; they are servants until their heart is in tune with God’s will and their practices reflect his purposes…until his will has become their will.  Until such a state exists, the believer remains a servant and requires direct and personal leadership from the Lord; he remains a servant.

“Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right [“power”, KJV] to become children of God.”  (Jn 1:12, NIV) John’s teaching is that believers have the power (The power comes through the Holy Spirit.) to become children of God. Paul has recorded, “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom 8:14, NIV) It is Paul’s teaching that believers (those who follow the Lord’s leadership) “are predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son.” (Rom 8:29) They will no longer display the characteristics and interests of their old nature, but will have been conformed to his.

servants friends and brothers  Being classified as a son of God is an even greater elevation.  A son of the Father is also a brother of Christ. “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister, and mother.” (Mk 3:35, NIV)

The privilege and honour of being elevated to the status of a brother of Christ from being a friend is not one that is given freely and without cost.  The believer’s adoption comes at the redemption of his body (Rom 8:23); it follows his conformation to the likeness of Christ. The person who would enjoy the privilege of a brother of Christ and of a son of God must warrant it. He or she must have the characteristics of a son so that they might belong in the family.  They must honour and love their brothers, including Christ, and they must obey their Father. (Mt 7:21)

A son or daughter knows the affairs of the household because they are in it and commune personally with those in it and especially with their Father, loving him, seeking direction from him, and honouring him. Those who in their arrogance reject the authority of the Father through his Son and who continue to disregard his admonitions for righteousness and obedient service, who remain slaves to sin and their own interests, will not be a permanent part of God’s family. (Jn 8:35)

Those of this world are God’s enemies, alienated from him; their interests are not his interests. As they separate themselves from the world through the ministries of Christ they will be brought to the various relationship stages…first as a servant, then a friend, and into the relationship of a son of the Father and as a brother of Christ.

April 22, 2015

We’re Children of… Who?

Midweek columnist, Pastor Clarke Dixon, returns after a two-week absence. Click the title below to read at his blog.

A Work in Progress. A Reflection on 1 John 3:1-10

If all the scripture we had to go on were verses 8 and 9 of 1st John, we would be incredibly stressed Christians:

8 Everyone who commits sin is a child of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9 Those who have been born of God do not sin, because God’s seed abides in them; they cannot sin, because they have been born of God. 1 John 3:8-9 NRSV

From this alone we would come to the conclusion that the congregation and pastor together are a collection of devil-children. We know that we do sin and can sin. So what are we to do when the clear word of scripture does not align with our experience? Do we head down the path of despair that we will never measure up?

We remember that the Word of God contains more than these two verses. We do not need to go very far to find some comfort, indeed before John speaks about our sin, he speaks about God’s love:

“See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are”  1 John 3:1 NRSV

John in speaking to those who have repented of sin and turned to God in Christ does not say “we might be His children . . . ,” or “we could be His children, if we are perfect everyday in every way,” he simply says “we are His children.” Before we look at our sin and conclude that we are devil children, we look at the cross and the empty tomb to see we are God’s children. Before we look at our ability to attain perfection in purity, we look at His ability to love the impure person.

Also, we notice that perfection in purity is the goal toward which we are to progress, and so imperfection is assumed in the present. If you were to ask me how my bathroom renovation is going and I were to say “it will look good someday,” you will immediately know that it does not look good just yet. We have this same thing happening in verses 2 and 3:

2 Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. 3 And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure. 1 John 3:2-3 NRSV

“What we will be has not been revealed,” in other words let us not dive too deep into conjecture as to precisely what our resurrection bodies will look like. Paul uses the analogy of of a seed becoming a plant to describe what happens when this body becomes a resurrection body. We are not told too much about the plant! But what we do know, as John points out, is that we will be like Jesus. And what is Jesus like? Verse 3 answers that: “he is pure.” If we look forward to perfect purity when Jesus returns, we know we still have sin now. We are a work in progress.

However some will stop with “we are a work,” and will forget the progress part. They will point to the love God has for the sinner and conclude that it is okay to remain a sinner. That misses the point for several reasons as John makes clear:

First, only a fool will make no progress toward a worthy goal. It is a foolish handyman who does not desire progress toward the goal of fixing a leaky roof. It is foolish beyond measure to not progress toward purity. John assumes that we will: “we will be like him . . . all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.” I can attest to the fact that progress is exciting in renovation projects. When it comes to holiness, progress toward the goal is even more exciting!

Second, to continue in the enjoyment of sin is to act contrary to God’s activity. It is the foolish employee of a roofing company who takes a shovel to potter around a garden instead of getting to the job of ripping off old shingles. As John points out:

“You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him.” 1 John 3:5,6 NRSV

Third, to continue in the enjoyment of sin is to show a family resemblance to a father we should want nothing to do with, a father we should completely disown:

7 Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8 Everyone who commits sin is a child of the devil; for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil. 9 Those who have been born of God do not sin, because God’s seed abides in them; they cannot sin, because they have been born of God. 10 The children of God and the children of the devil are revealed in this way: all who do not do what is right are not from God, nor are those who do not love their brothers and sisters. 1 John 3:7-10 NRSV

On the one hand, if we desire a family resemblance to the devil rather than to our Heavenly Father, then yes, we should suspect that our relationship with God is in question. John is dealing in his letter with heresy that was threatening to infect the church which included the notion that a life of sin does not matter. It does!

On the other hand, the presence of sin in our lives is not automatic proof that we are not God’s children. It is proof that we are a work in progress. Are you already perfect? Are you making progress?

8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  9 If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  1 John 1:8,9 NRSV

 

December 31, 2014

Adopted into the Family

We end the year with weekly contributor Rev. Clarke Dixon. We appreciate Clarke’s contribution here over the past year, his writing and perspective is a really good fit for Christianity 201. You can read this at source by clicking the title below.

Adopted into God's FamilyHis Birth, Our Adoption

4 But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 in order to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as children. 6 And because you are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” 7 So you are no longer a slave but a child, and if a child then also an heir, through God. (Galatians 4:4-7 NRSV)

Jesus was born, so that ultimately we might receive adoption as God’s children. There are few things we can note:

  1. We cannot think of ourselves as automatically being God’s children just because we happen to exist. The Bible does not affirm that all people are God’s children, if we were, there would be no need for adoption. It does affirm that we are separated from God by sin. God therefore has no “fatherly” obligation toward us. Thankfully, it also affirms that we can become His children: “But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God.” (John 1:12 NRSV)
  2. Adoption is a result of God’s will, God’s desire. A parent who goes to an adoption agency has no prior obligation to adopt a particular child. God has no obligation to adopt us, or do anything for us. But He chooses to do so. It is His will to do something good for us, He sent His Son, that we might be adopted.
  3. Our background is not an issue for adoption. When God has chosen to adopt you, there is no “but Lord, you know that I am . . . or I have done . . .” He already knows and has gone ahead with the adoption anyway. There is repentance from those things in the past that separate us from God, but our past does not keep God from adopting.
  4. We are adopted by One who will be present to us and intimate with us: “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Galatians 4:6) Though we can point to the Lamb’s Book of life, an adoption certificate is not our proof now that we are His children. His fatherly presence through His Holy Spirit is. And through His Spirit we are to call him by what is really the more familiar “Dad” rather than the formal “Father.”
  5. We are no longer enslaved. We have been enslaved to sin this side of Eden. A particular people were called through whom God would bless all, they were enslaved to the law. Through adoption we are no longer slaves to sin or the law, but we are free children of God. Being freed, our desire will be to honour the One who has freed us from slavery, and adopted us as His own.
  6. As God’s children we look forward to an inheritance. While I appreciate translations that look to being appropriately inclusive in language, these are verses where it helps to know that the word “son” is used throughout. In fact it is even found in the very word for ‘adoption’. This is important because it was written at a time when sons enjoyed the inheritance, the daughters not-so-much. So the ladies among us also look forward to a full and equal inheritance in Jesus.
  7. A familiar expression is true: “God has no grandchildren.” Perhaps some prefer to think of God as a grandfather type of figure, close enough to enjoy a relationship, but far enough to enjoy freedom from a father’s discipline. When we are adopted, we are adopted as children, not grandchildren. We can expect His wonderful presence, we can expect a wonderful inheritance, and we can also expect His discipline. This too is wonderful!

At the right time Jesus was born so that someday you might be adopted as God’s child. Have you experienced that?

December 14, 2014

Are We All God’s Children?

It depends what you mean…

 Matthew 25:21 “His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

Matthew 7:21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’

This is a return visit to Abundant Life Now, the blog of Robert Lloyd Russell. To read at source, click the title below:

Myth: God’s Children

~ “Well done” or “Depart from Me” ~      

It is popular today in many circles to say things like “we are all God’s children.” In one sense this is a true statement—however the way it is said often implies that we all have an equal standing before God or that all are headed to an eternal heaven. This is not what the Bible teaches. The Word of God clearly paints a very different picture.

The Kernel of Truth ~ We are all God’s children in the sense that we are all His creation and that we have all received a natural birth—which itself is a gift of grace.

The Bushel of Error ~ We are not all God’s children with regard to spiritual birth—which comes from being “born again” from above—through the process of eternal salvation which is only possible only through putting trust in God’s Son Jesus Christ.

The Word of God ~ “For now we are all children of God through faith in Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:26 TLB). We can only become God’s spiritual child by accepting the payment of our sin at the Cross of Calvary. In other words, there is only one way, one method, or one approach to eternal salvation. “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’” (John 14:6).

The Divine Process ~ Since we are not divine beings by natural birth the only way into God’s family is through adoption. The Apostle Paul summarized our adoption in the Book of Galatians. “Now I say that the heir, as long as he is a child, does not differ at all from a slave, though he is master of all, but is under guardians and stewards until the time appointed by the father. Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ” (Galatians 4:1-7).

“But now you have arrived at your destination: By faith in Christ you are in direct relationship with God. Your baptism in Christ was not just washing you up for a fresh start. It also involved dressing you in an adult faith wardrobe—Christ’s life, the fulfillment of God’s original promise” (Galatians 3:25-27 The Message).

The Bottom Line ~ There are two destinations for human beings—heaven and hell. Only those who have put their trust exclusively in the hands of Jesus Christ will be in heaven.

The Choice ~ Those who know Jesus Christ as their personal Savior will one day hear Jesus Himself say, “Well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25,21, 23).

On the other hand Jesus warned, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven… I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me’” (Matthew 7:21,23).

How about you? Are you positively sure of your eternal destination?

~ Robert Lloyd Russell, ABUNDANT LIFE NOW


 

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

January 28, 2013

Three Assurance-Giving Metaphors

This is from a new book, Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart: How To Know For Sure You Are Saved by J. D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Raleigh-Durham, North Carolina; a book about assurance of salvation.  (Published by B&H Books.) Normally here at C201, all scripture references are in green — because the scriptures have life! — but because all the quotations today are the words of Jesus, I thought we’d revert to the familiar “red-letter” format.

Jesus knew how important it was for His disciples to be assured of His love. In the final conversation He had with them before He died, He used three metaphors that showed them how committed he was to them. They were about to go through hell on earth, and He wanted to give them something to hang onto that would sustain them in that hour of great tribulation.

His Beloved Children

In John 14:18, Jesus said,

“I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.”

Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart - J. D. GreearA faithful father does not leave his kids wondering whether or not he loves them. When I go away on a trip, I don’t say to my kids, “Daddy will be back soon…or maybe he won’t. Maybe I’m not really your daddy at all. Maybe my real family lives somewhere else. You’ll just have to wait and see if I come back. Sit around and think about that while I’m gone and let that compel you to become better children.”

That would not produce love and loyalty in my children. It might produce a little fear-based obedience, but it’s only a matter of time until fear-based obedience turns into farther-loathing rebellion. If I don’t want my own children fearing they might be orphans, would God?

Do we really think we are better fathers to our children than God would be to His? Hardly. The love God has for us is the highest in the universe.  Jesus said,

“As the Father loved Me, I also have loved you.” (John 15:9)

Jesus loves us like God the Father loved Him; and He wants us to have the same assurance with Him that He had with God…

His Betrothed

In that same conversation Jesus told His disciples,

“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14: 1-3)

Some have noted that Jesus’ language in these verses is laden with Jewish wedding imagery. In Jesus’ day, a young suitor would travel to his beloved’s home; throw a party, and request her hand in marriage. Assuming she said yes, he would return to his father’s home where he would begin construction on a room attached to the family living space. When their “place” was completed, he would return for her. Before he left, he would promise that he was coming back.

He did not want her to worry. Worry might lead to doubt, and doubt would cause here to be open to the advances of other suitors. He wanted her assurance to be so strong that she would not be moved by the flirtations of another…

…Jesus gives us, His beloved, that same confidence. He spoke to us in wedding language so that we would have the confidence of the wedding bride. Only in that confidence are we able to resist the enticements of sin.

His Friends

Finally, in John 15:15 Jesus calls His disciples His “friends.”

“No longer do I call you servants…but I have called you friends.”

Do you want your best friends questioning your loyalty to them? One of the greatest aspects of friendship is the feeling of safety that comes with it. You can be yourself around them and say what’s on your  mind without worrying about them betraying your confidence or abandoning you. You can give them access to the most vulnerable parts of your life without  any fear that they will violate them. Until you get to that point, it’s not really a friendship, or at least a very enjoyable one. True friendship only grows in security and trust.

I’ve had a few “friends” who broke my trust. I was never sure if they were guarding my reputation or trashing it. We didn’t remain friends very long. The friends I have developed the deepest bonds with are those I know I could trust with my very life.

Jesus wants us no less sure of His friendship to us. he said,

“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

His commitment to friendship is no less than ours; it is infinitely more! Perhaps you’ve had a friend betray you or discover about you that led to their rejection of you. Jesus never will. From the beginning, He saw it all and chose us anyway. (John 15:16) When we revealed our worst side to Jesus, He bore our shame and consequences in our place. Friendship doesn’t get any more secure than that.

Those three images show us for certain that God wants us to be sure. He couldn’t have chosen three more intimate and precious relationships! We are His children, His bride, and His friends.

~Stop Asking Jesus Into Your Heart, pp 18-21

Read a review of the book here

November 22, 2010

Names of the Holy Spirit: Andrew Murray

I’m slowly working my way through a classic; Andrew Murray’s With Christ in the School of Prayer. For the last two chapters, he has been looking at the passage that begins, “If his son asks for bread will he give him a stone?”   This is paralleled in Matthew and Luke; and says that if corrupted and sinful parents like ourselves still give good things to their children, how much more will God give…to those who ask.

The Matthew section ends, “How much more will your Father give good things…”   But in Luke the ending is different; “How much more will you Father give the Holy Spirit.”   Murray feels that the highest of the “good things” is “the Holy Spirit.”

He then has a paragraph where he lists the various gifts of the Holy Spirit.   He was writing in an era before bullet points — lapsing into point form or numbered lists wasn’t done in prose back then — but I want to spell these out for us today.   There aren’t cross-references, but you’ll recognize many of these:

  • The Spirit of grace — to reveal and impart all of grace there is in Jesus
  • The Spirit of faith — teaching us to begin and go on and increase in continiously believing
  • The Spirit of adoption and assurance — who witnesses that we are God’s children and inspires us to confidently say, ‘Abba, Father.’
  • The Spirit of truth — to lead into all truth, to make each word of God ours in both principle and action
  • The Spirit of prayer — through whom we speak with the Father; prayer that must be heard
  • The Spirit of judgment and refining — to search the heart and convict of sin
  • The Spirit of holiness — manifesting and communicating the Father’s holy presence within us
  • The Spirit of power — through whom we are strong enough to speak boldly and work effectively in the Father’s service
  • The Spirit of glory — the promise of our inheritance, the preparation and foretaste of the glory to come.

Murray states, “In the variety of gifts which the Spirit has to give out, He meets every need of the believer.  …The child of God needs only one thing to really live as a child:  To be filled with this Spirit.”

With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray (various publishers); taken from lessons 6 and 7; some sentences mildly paraphrased to reflect modern grammar and vocabulary.