Christianity 201

April 16, 2017

Why Good Friday is Good?

by Russell Young

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 21, 2016

Freedom in Christ – An Often Misunderstood Concept

by Russell Young

The nature of the freedom enjoyed by the believer in Christ is sometimes confused.  Some accept it to mean that they are free of consequences regardless of their behaviour.  There are many compelling Scriptural evidences that reject such thinking (Rom 8:13; Gal 6:7-8; 2 Cor 5:10; 1 Pet 1:17; Mt 7:21) In fact, this understanding might be what the Lord referred to as the teaching of the Nicolaitans (Rev 2:6, 15) that he strongly rejected.

The truth about freedom has best been revealed by Paul to the Galatians. “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm then and do not let yourselves be burdened by a yoke of slavery.” (Gal 5:1, NIV) His address to them was concerning the return of some to Jewish practices and to the covenant of the law.  He had stated that Sarah and Hagar, the wives of Abraham, “represent two covenants.” (Gal 4:24, NIV) Freedom comes through release of enslavement to the Old Covenant which required the law to be fully lived through a person’s own resources.  The second covenant is the covenant of the Spirit.  The son of Sarah was born by the power of the Spirit (Gal 4:29); he was the son of promise and enjoyed right to the New Covenant or the Covenant of the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:6). Freedom belongs to those who are re-born by the power of the Spirit.

It needs to be understood that the requirements of the New Covenant have to be completed and in this regard, Paul wrote to the Romans: “He condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit. (Rom 8:3-4, NIV) There is clearly a requirement for the believer to live according to the Spirit’s leadership and through his power in order to satisfy the righteous requirements of the law.  Freedom is from the first or Old Covenant and the consequence of sin committed while under its requirements but not from the consequences of all sin that might follow confession of faith. Once placed under the jurisdiction of the New Covenant the believer must still strive for righteousness.  Further in his letter to the Galatians Paul wrote: “But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.” (Gal 5:5, NIV) The Spirit must produce the needed righteousness, but that comes through living according to his leadership.  The believer cannot engage in those unlawful practices about which he is being convicted. “Those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires…the mind controlled by the Spirit is life.” (Rom 8:5…6, NIV)

If believers have to live in accordance to the Spirit, where is their freedom?  They have been freed from the death sentence that awaited them for the sins committed while under the first covenant, and they have been freed from having to live out the law through their own resources.  They have been released or freed from these two impossible burdens.

The Lord also addressed the issue of “freedom.”  “Jesus replied. ‘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 belongs to it forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.” (Jn 8:34-36, NIV) Further in the discussion he has stated, “If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” (Jn 8:51, NIV) He has been addressing the issue of slavery to sin and was talking to some Jewish believers.  The issue of his concern related to the nature of their slavery and his teaching is that they have been set free from slavery to sin because they now have the Spirit to gain victory over it. Freedom in Christ is freedom from slavery to sin.

The Lord is the Spirit.  “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom.” (2 Cor 3:17) He had gained victory over sin while in the body that the father had prepared for him in the womb of Mary and he can provide freedom from sin while in the body of the believer, if obediently followed. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.” (Jn 10: 27, NIV)

James spoke of “the perfect law that gives freedom.” (Jas 1:25, NIV) The perfect law is the law (commands) given by Christ through the Spirit to the believer.  The one who obeys his law-his Spirit- will be free from slavery to sin.  Sin need not have dominion over the person who is committed to Christ.


Russell Young returns tomorrow with part two of our look at freedom.

August 16, 2015

Lord, I Can’t Do This; Please Get Somebody Else

A few days ago we looked at how Moses was reluctant to be God’s chosen mouthpiece and his reasons why God should get someone else. Our particular focus there was the public speaking aspect of the job God was calling Moses to do.

But sometimes it’s not public speaking, we have other reasons why we just wish God would choose someone else. (After writing this, I realized there’s also a tie-in to our devotional from two days ago; that often we just wish we could be somewhere else.)

I never really thought of this verse in this context until a sermon I heard this morning, but certainly God understands when we are struck by our limitations:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses – Hebrews 4:15a

and an earlier verse in the same book:

Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity – Hebrews 2:14

In Christ we have a role model, who as he took on a mission that, in his humanity, as Calvary loomed large, caused him to ask if there were not a better way or a different way. It’s like he was almost saying, ‘Maybe someone else can take over at this point.’ Okay, I know that’s not the way it works, but you do get a sense of the anguish that Christ as feeling at that time.

But sometimes we hesitate to enter into the mission God has for us because of condemnation. This is a difficult subject to address because sin needs to be dealt with before a person is fit for public ministry (which might include everything from teaching a class to helping at the soup kitchen.) But sometimes the condemnation is simply an attack of the enemy.

I John 3:20 states,

If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.

From the Forerunner Commentary at BibleStudyTools.org:

When we commit the occasional sin, are we no longer acceptable to God? Is our fellowship truly cut off? While it is true that sin separates us from Him, do we remain unsatisfied because we feel there is no communion? Once again, God’s grace rescues us from what would otherwise be an impossible situation.

The answer to this confounding situation lies in a change of our natures arising from repentance, receipt of God’s Holy Spirit, and—perhaps above all—access to God through Jesus Christ. Through these come fellowship and experience with Them throughout the remainder of life and access to God’s merciful grace when we fall short. There can be no doubt we are saved by grace through faith. Our depression and extreme self-condemnation reveals a lack of faith in God’s willingness to forgive upon repentance. Though works are required of us, we cannot earn our way into the Kingdom through them because they will forever fall short in providing payment for sin.

As mentioned earlier, there is a tension between the two extremes of excessive guilt and feelings of worthlessness in contrast to the casual, careless, irresponsible, “God will just have to take me as I am” disregard of our responsibility to glorify God in all we think, say, and do.

This is why John says, “God is greater than our heart.” He is ever willing to accept us as Christ—even though we personally bring Him blemished offerings in our life’s experiences—as long as our attitude has not turned to trampling the sacrifice of His Son underfoot and treating it as a common thing.

We will never enter into God’s acceptance and fellowship based on any work of offering we sacrifice to Him. The only thing He will accept is the unblemished offering of Christ’s life, and because it accompanies or precedes us into His presence, we are accepted, have communion with Him, and are fed.

[read more at Bible Study Tools]

Ephesians 3:12 states:

 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.

If we find ourselves in a battle, Ephesians 6:13b reminds us:

…[W]hen you have done everything you could, you will be able to stand firm. (ISV)

Our local congregations are in need of people who are able to give their time in ministry service, but many are afraid to step up because of what the commentary above calls excessive guilt; however, our texts today I hope help us see that this may just be another tactic of the enemy to get us to quit.

Don’t get discouraged and don’t get overcome by feelings of inadequacy.

 

 

 

 

 

June 15, 2011

Removing Sin’s Stains

Invariably, when lists are compiled of what some consider goofy hymn lyrics, someone always nominates:

My sin, Oh the bliss of this glorious thought.

It is of course a little bit out of context; the hymn writer isn’t reveling sin; a better punctuation would be

My sin (oh the bliss of this glorious thought)
My sin not in part, but the whole
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more…

Or an option to the parenthesis would be what are called em-dashes:

My sin — oh the bliss of this glorious thought —
My sin not in part, but the whole
Is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more…

The writer is rejoicing in the thought of sins taken away.   Other writers of that era wrote

You ask why I am happy, so now I tell you why
Because my sins are gone
And when I meet the skeptics* who ask me where they are
I say, ‘My sins are gone.’

or

Mercy there was great and grace was free
Pardon there was multiplied to me
There my burdened soul found liberty
At Calvary

Of course, we don’t write those types of lyrics these days, and there is a whole imagery of sin forgiven and forgotten that is missing from contemporary books as well.  Corrie Ten Boom once wrote that God places our sins in the “sea of forgetfulness” and then put up a sign that said “no fishing.”   I once put it this way, “Forgetfulness is a human failing but it’s a divine attribute.”

Some contemporary authors have written that in fact God is capable of retrieving our sins from his celestial “hard drive” if He were to so choose, but doesn’t do so unless we happen to bring it up.  I think that misses the point of what we find in Psalm 103:11

He has removed our sins as far from us as the east is from the west. (NLT)

And as far as sunrise is from sunset,  he has separated us from our sins. (MSG)

But experience is often a different kind of teacher:  Sometimes we do in fact wallow in our past sins.  It’s a technique of the Enemy to focus on our past failures so that we’re blinded to the truth.  The group Casting Crowns has a song that says,

I start the day, the war begins
Endless reminding of my sin
And time and time again your truth is drowned out
By the storm I’m in

What we need to do in these moments is remind ourselves of God’s faithfulness to his promise to cast our sin into oblivion.

Romans 8 — the passage many of you know as “There is therefore now no condemnation” begins like this in The Message:

…Those who enter into Christ’s being-here-for-us no longer have to live under a continuous, low-lying black cloud. A new power is in operation. The Spirit of life in Christ, like a strong wind, has magnificently cleared the air, freeing you from a fated lifetime of brutal tyranny at the hands of sin and death…

And then there are Jesus words in John 8 to the woman caught in the act of adultery:

The woman was left alone. Jesus stood up and spoke to her. “Woman, where are they? Does no one condemn you?”
“No one, Master.”
“Neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go on your way. From now on, don’t sin.”

~Paul Wilkinson

*Skeptics is how we would say it today; the original lyric is scoffers.

April 17, 2011

Maybe You Still Don’t Get It

Steven Furtick, author of Sun Stand Still (Waterbrook) and pastor of Elevation Church in Charlotte, North Carolina is another one of those people qualified to wear the label, “intentional.”  On his blog, he’s been doing a series, “Signs You Still Don’t Get It;” and again, in the interests of getting material actually seen while knowing people don’t click, I’ve assembled in a single post here, Part One, Part Two, and Part Three.  [Note: You might want to click through as there are additional resources linked there.]

To read the text in a larger font, hold down Ctrl and press “+” sign.

“Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?     – Matthew 16:9

There are some things that we just have to learn the hard way. The disciples of Jesus knew this better than anyone.

Two times in the previous two chapters Jesus had provided a miraculous supply of food for a hungry crowd. Here in chapter 16 Jesus tells them to beware of the yeast of the Pharisees. The disciples freak out because they didn’t bring any bread and they think Jesus is hungry and needs them to supply food.

They still don’t get it.

We could be judgmental, but the truth is that there are things that are just as elementary that you and I still don’t get. And it’s these things that keep us in a state of inertia in our walk with God and the calling He has placed on our lives.

So I thought it’d be good … to address some of the top signs that indicate that we still don’t get it. Confront the elementary things that are keeping us from launching into a whole new dimension in our relationship with God…

1. You still feel unworthy to come to God when you fail.
You sin and think there needs to be a grace period before you can pray for forgiveness. You completely blow it and think there’s no way God can use you again. Your days are done. Your destiny disqualified. Might as well sit around and sulk in your self-condemnation.

This really comes down to one thing: you still don’t understand grace.

We often think the grace of God is just a commodity to get us to the point of salvation. But we don’t understand that the same grace that brought us to the point of salvation is also with us in our daily lives. The same power that raised you from the grave of your sin is the same power that raises you from the mistakes of your everyday life.

Proverbs 24:16 says, The righteous man falls down seven times, but seven times, he rises again.”

That’s not what comes to our minds when most of us think of a righteous person. We think they’re someone who never or rarely falls. But that’s because our idea of righteousness is rooted in self-righteousness. The real righteous person is the one who has been made righteous by Jesus and then can let Jesus pick him back up when up when he falls.

There’s a big difference between falling down (Peter) and falling away (Judas). Grace means God’s got your back. Like Peter, your failure is not final.

Get back up. Go to back to God. No, you’re not worthy. But neither were you worthy when you came to God the first time. It was Jesus’ worthiness that made you worthy then.

What makes you think the terms of acceptance have changed?

2. You’re still waiting for God’s will to “fall into place.”

  • You’re still waiting for God to bring the right man or woman into your life.
  • For the perfect job to come along.
  • For…

And in the meantime you’re not doing much of anything about it.

  • You’re hanging out in your basement.
  • You’re begrudgingly going about your present job.

You’re going to be waiting for a long time. Not because God doesn’t want to bring the right person into your life. Or the job you’ve been created for. Or anything else He wants for you. But because God’s will isn’t a matter of waiting. And it rarely falls into place all at once.

When you think about the will of God for your life, think less in terms of a big bang and more in terms of small sparks that lead to a large fire. It’s a matter of doing what you should be doing and letting God continually move you forward into what He wants you to be doing.

A lot of times we spend our greatest effort trying to uncover the mysteries of the parts of God’s will that we don’t understand rather than obeying the part of God’s will that we do understand.

And that’s His Word. When all else fails, God’s Word is His will.

So from the examples above:

  • It’s always God’s will for you to become the kind of man or woman that will be the husband or wife of someone else’s dreams.
  • It’s always God’s will to do all of your work as unto the Lord.

So start doing those things. And then trust God to use your present obedience to move you closer to your future assignments.

If you’re single, stop waiting for God to bring you the right person and start running after God with everything you’ve got. When you see someone running alongside of you, you’ll know God’s will has “fallen into place.” And while you’re at it, clean yourself up, put some product in your hair, and join the greeter team at your church.

Stop waiting for the perfect job to come along and start perfecting the job that you have. That way when the perfect job “falls into place,” you’ll be ready for it.

We don’t have to waste time wondering when and how God’s will is going to fall into place. Obedience that is active is way better than passive reflection. We find direction from God while we’re on the move. We know as we go. We set out and then God shows up.

We know God’s will by doing God’s will.

3. You’re still driven by the approval and affirmation of others.

You’ve made yourself believe:

  • If I get another promotion.
  • If I buy another pair of shoes.
  • If I have sex with another person.
  • If I do another favor.
  • If I lose another size…

…They will approve of me.

Or:

  • If he would just tell me I’m beautiful.
  • If my husband would just notice me.
  • If my coworkers would just acknowledge my contribution.
  • If anyone would just affirm who I am and what I do…

…My life would be complete. My life would have meaning.

But it’s not true. The affirmation you want will always be just beyond you. The approval you crave will only last for a moment. You’ll have the thing you thought you needed, but you won’t feel the peace you thought you’d feel. And as I’ve said before, he who lives by the approval of others will die by the absence of the same.

Many people spend most of their lives trying to achieve the approval that can only be received. Stop trying to chase down from people what God has already given to you in Jesus. Instead live life with the knowledge that in Jesus, you’re already affirmed. You’re already approved of.

When you have the approval of your Father, you don’t have to prove yourself to anyone.

4. You’re still trying to put God first.
I know, it sounds weird. Shouldn’t this be the exact thing you should still be trying to do?

On the surface, of course we should. Jesus is supreme over everything. He is first in importance. And so in that sense, we should always be trying to put Him first in our lives.

But my question is, what does this actually look like when you get down to the grind of everyday life? For example, what does it even mean to put Jesus first before my family? Do I ignore my family to spend more time with Jesus? Or with my career, do I stop working to put Jesus first?

In many people’s honest attempt to put God first in their lives, they end up segregating Jesus from the different priorities of their lives. And this is the exact opposite of what Jesus wants. He doesn’t just want to be first before your priorities. He wants to be first in them. The center of them.

  • Don’t worry about putting God first, then your family. Put God first in your family.
  • Or God first, then your career. Put God first in your career.
  • Or God first, then your finances. Put God first in your finances.

If you do that, you won’t have to worry about trying to put God first in your life. He already will be. The thing that is at the center of your life is the thing that is ultimately first in your life.

~Pastor Steven Furtick

October 10, 2010

It Is Hell, It Is Hell With My Soul

No peace like a river attendeth my way,
My sorrows like sea-billows roll
This heart-breaking lot has just taught me to say,
It is hell, it is hell in my soul

My sin — Oh the grief of this guilt in my heart –
My anguish, not part, but the whole,
All adds up to loss, and I bear it alone;
It is hell, it is hell in my soul

Now Satan can buffet, sore trials can come
When life is all out of control;
My conscience just burns, and dark memories haunt
It is hell, it is hell in my soul.

But, Lord haste the day that will chase off this night,
And scatter this doom from my soul.
With tears I repent, so, dear Lord, let me know
There is hope and relief for my soul.

With great condemnation I fall at Thy cross,
To confess, not in part, but the whole
Of a sin-blighted life, and to cry to be cleansed,
And to plead, “Take control of my soul.”

~Leonard Ravenhill

May 13, 2010

A Shelter in the Time of Storm

Whether your tastes run to hymns or modern worship, this song is both.   “I Have a Shelter” is a Sovereign Grace Music song, and on this video version the lyrics appear onscreen.   If this is new to you, play it several times.

O Jesus, I will hide in you
The one who bears my burdens
With faithful hands that cannot fail
You’ll bring me home to heaven.