Christianity 201

September 27, 2017

The Fresh Start of Repentance

Life doesn’t always hand us an opportunity to redo every mistake we’ve made, but in Christianity, through grace and repentance we can go back to where we faltered, and ask God for a fresh start. But it’s more than just the confession of particular failings. It can also mean repentance of being on the wrong path, choosing an errant lifestyle, or even misunderstanding God’s truth.

We’re paying a return visit to Rick Joyner; click the title below to read this at source.

A Special Grace

Therefore, let everyone who is godly pray to Thee in a time when Thou may be found;
surely in a flood of great waters they shall not reach him (Psalm 32:6).

There is often a tendency in Christians not to really seek the Lord until we get into a crisis situation. Then we seek Him earnestly. We see this same pattern with Israel in the Old Testament. This is a primary reason why many stay in a seemingly perpetual state of crisis. As we are told in Matthew 7:21-27:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven;
but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.

“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in Your name,
and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’
“And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’
“Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them,
may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock.

“And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house;
and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock.

“And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them,
will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand.

“And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew,
and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall.”

As we read here, just calling Jesus Lord does not guarantee that we will enter the kingdom of heaven. We must do His will. To call Him Lord and not do what He says disqualifies us from being believers, and makes us obvious unbelievers. How could we really know the glorious King of kings and not do what He says? To know that He is God and not obey Him is an ultimate delusion. This delusion leads to many tragedies and failures when the floods of life come.

One of our ultimate quests should therefore be to hear the words of the Lord. As we are told in John 10:4: “When he (the good Shepherd) puts forth all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice.” The obvious counterpoint here is that if we do not know His voice we will not follow Him. However, hearing His words and obeying them are two different things. Many glory in how well they hear the Lord, but they do not do what He says. We must count His words as the unfathomable treasures that they are. When the Lord gives us direction we should write it in a journal, reviewing it often to see how we have complied with our King’s directives.

If you are in confusion about how to hear from the Lord, go back and review the things that you know He has directed you to do. These are things like prayer, reading the Bible, fellowship, etc., all of which are directives that are clearly given to us in Scripture. As we obey these we will begin walking in the light, and the light will make our paths, and His voice, increasingly clear. As we are told in Proverbs 4:18:

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.

If we are on the right road, things should be getting brighter. If we are on the wrong road, things will be getting darker and more confused. If our path is not getting brighter and clearer every day, then we have departed from the right path somewhere. In the Lord the wrong path never turns into the right path. The only way for us to get back on the right path is to go back to the point where we made the wrong turn. That is called repentance.

Repentance is not only a good thing—it is one of the greatest Christian truths. In Christ we can actually go back to where we made a mistake and start over and get it right. In Acts 11:18 we read the response of the Jewish believers after hearing Peter’s testimony about going to the house of Cornelius: “And when they heard this, they quieted down, and glorified God, saying, ‘Well then, God has granted to the Gentiles also the repentance that leads to life.’” Eight of the most powerful words in Scripture are found in this verse: “God has granted . . . the repentance that leads to life.” Repentance is a special grace that God grants, and it leads to life.

July 28, 2017

When People Disappoint

James MacDonald is the pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago’s northwest suburbs, the host of the weekday radio program Walk in the Word and blogs at Vertical Church Blog where this first appeared. Click the link to read at source.

Dealing with My Biggest Disappointment

The psalmist said, I have been young, and now am old . . . (Psalm 37:25), and that is how I feel. Fifty-something is not over the hill, but it is surely down the road—and now that I am down that road I see things a lot differently than I did when my shoes were new and I hadn’t broken a sweat. Back then I was filled with convictions that have lasted and idealisms that have not.

I am more convinced than ever that Jesus is God’s Son—the One who made atonement for sin and exemplifies righteousness—that the Bible is God’s Word revealed to us in perfection and sufficiency, that heaven and hell are real, and that God’s glory is the only thing worth fighting for. But I am less convinced about methods—mine or yours. I am not persuaded that my way is the only way, or even the best one in some instances. And I have lost my naivete about people. I frequently doubt when a person expresses their sincerity, their longevity in leadership, or their commitment to do as they say they will. It’s so shocking to look back and see how frequently people are excited about accountability until they are the one who needs it.

And it’s not just others I am disappointed with, it’s myself. I see how often I have failed to be all that I wanted to be for God and for others. Without question my biggest disappointment is with people—you and me, the whole bunch of us. On our best day we are incredibly flawed, and the harder a sincere person tries to push the blame on others, the more they should feel the weight of their own shortcomings . . . what “I” should have done differently.

But here’s the thing: give others the grace you know you need and move on in the lessons you have learned. Too much navel gazing and wallowing in disappointment hinders the work of God in and through you. The Christian life requires forgetting those things which are behind (Philippians 3:13). If your focus is on the rearview mirror today, I challenge you to lift your eyes to the road ahead and leave your disappointment with people behind you.

HOW???

Jesus had disappointments with people, right? With the religious leaders who attacked Him, with the family members who first rejected Him then fought for their own prominence when His popularity was on the rise. Where were they at the cross? Then the disciples—Peter denied, Judas betrayed, the rest ran when the Savior needed them most. Or did He? Of course Jesus loved people, but did He need them? An interesting verse in the opening of John is a lesson I could have used a lot earlier.

After many were flocking to Jesus and “believing in Him,” John 2:24-25 says: But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.”

Jesus was neither cynical nor naive. He loved people without entrusting Himself to them, and He served people without exposing himself to their faults or failures. Are we so attached to one another that we set ourselves up to be shattered when the inevitability of our fallenness comes to the surface? Are we so in need of affirmation and acceptance that we find ourselves ‘wheels up’ in the ditch when a friend or colleague denies or betrays? Loving people, yes. Living in community, yes. But attaching ourselves to people in a way that we lose our footing in following Jesus when they stumble or trip us up? No!

Let’s fix our eyes squarely upon the only One worth following—praising God for the blessing of people, but refusing to attach ourselves in a way that puts our faith/following at risk. Looking back, if I had been a little less euphoric in the glory days with any particular person, I would have been less crushed by disappointment when I discovered their feet of clay . . . no doubt they would say the same of me. Only Jesus on the pedestal, the rest of us on level ground, looking up. That’s how I deal with disappointment.

John 21:21: “Peter . . . said to Jesus, ‘Lord what about this man?’ Jesus said to him, ‘. . . What is that to you? You follow me!’”

July 16, 2017

Make an Effort

by Russell Young

How disturbing it is to hear the proclamation that everything has been done for the believer and that all that is required of him or her is to sit back and enjoy the ride. The Lord said, “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)

The teaching of God’s “sovereign grace” has pervaded the thoughts and teachings that are being directed to those who sincerely want to gain God’s eternal kingdom. The term “sovereign grace” does not exist in the Word; consequently, its understanding is a construct of man. Certainly, God is sovereign over all things and over the application of his grace. In this sense, God’s grace is really God’s sovereign grace. The problem is that the interpretation and application of grace has evolved into an understanding that may not be biblical.

The Hebrew word often accepted as applying to grace is chen which means,

1. Favor, grace, charm
• a. favor, grace, elegance
• b. favor, acceptance (biblestudytools.com)

The Greek term for grace is charis and has been defined as, “the unmerited or undeserving favor of God to those who are under condemnation.” (Paul Enns, Moody Bible Handbook of Theology, 196) A common understanding may be “unmerited favor,” but that can have a very broad application, or a very narrow one. Many New Testament scholars have accepted that God has completed the eternal salvation of the confessor because of his or her belief. Even in this, however, the understanding of belief varies from person to person.

The Lord taught that an “effort” was required. This thought is often dismissed because an effort is not consistent with the understanding of God’s sovereign grace, and implies “works” which is clearly presented as being ineffectual in the achievement of the believer’s eternal hope. Somehow the requirement of ‘effort’ must be understood in relation to both grace and works.

Peter wrote that “[Christ’s] divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Pet 2: 3─4 NIV) He has identified that it is through his “precious promises” that we may “participate in” the nature or soul-likeness of Christ and by so doing escape the corruption caused by evil desires. It is through the knowledge of his promises that a person can become like him. Knowledge in itself does not accomplish anything; knowledge must be used or correctly applied before it can have an effect. The application requires “effort.”

Although many teach that eternal salvation was accomplished at the cross through belief in the efficacy of the blood of Christ, Paul taught that through his sacrifice Christ “redeemed us from the curse of the law…so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” (Gal 3:13─14 NIV) Every person carries the sentence of death because he or she has transgressed the law. Christ bore our sins and the penalty attached, restoring fellowship with God so that he might gift the Spirit. The Spirit is Christ in the believer. (Col 1:27; 2 Cor 3:17, 18) This is grace! Freedom from deserved death and the gifting of Christ as Spirit.

Paul tells us 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 8:4 NIV) Living according to the Spirit takes effort. The Spirit is given to enlighten (increase knowledge), to lead and to empower for righteousness. The writer of Hebrews states, “[Christ] became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Heb 5:9 NIV) Obedience requires commitment and effort. Paul also taught that “if you are led by the Spirit are not under the law,” (Gal 5: 18) and that “those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Rom 8:14 NIV) Further Paul wrote that we shouldn’t be deceived because the way we live could result in eternal life or destruction. {Gal 6:7─8) There are many other commands for obedience and by definition, obedience requires effort.

Obedience should not be confused with “works.” Works refers to unassisted efforts of humankind, and specifically refers to the works of the law or the completion of the law of Moses. Paul wrote that because of the weakened sinful nature humankind could not complete it. The hope of the believer is accomplished through faith in Christ, through conviction of his ability to meet the believer’s need.

The great requirement of humankind is to be transformed into the divine nature of Christ so that we become like him. (Rom 8:29) This transformation demands the practice of death to self-interest and to the evil interests of the flesh as availed through Christ and by the submission of the believer to his rule so that the law of the Spirit of life (Rom 8:2) might prevail and the narrow door entered.

June 27, 2017

The Waterfall of Grace

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

Can I Deliberately Keep Sinning And Still Be Forgiven?

A Waterfall Of Grace

Imagine that it’s 120 degrees outside.  Hot.

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

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

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

A waterfall of grace.

But This Raises A Question

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

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

Verse 26 is sobering —

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

What Does That Mean?

What does it mean to go on sinning deliberately?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What Does That Mean?

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

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

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

But Be Careful

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But What If You Are Not?

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

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

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

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

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

December 15, 2016

The Prayer That Looks Inward

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive them, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins. – Mark 11:25

So far we’ve said there are two nouns which are repeated in the common recitation of The Lord’s Prayer: heaven and kingdom. But there’s also a third word, a verb, which you could argue appears twice; its repetition necessary to the simile it sets up.

And forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.– Matthew 6:12

I want to focus on the word forgive today, so try not be distracted by whether or not you prefer debts or trespasses.

A few of the translations play around with the verb tense on this, but they are fairly unanimous in keeping the word forgive. (Exception is The Jubilee Bible: “And set us free from our debts, as we set free our debtors.”)

  • And forgive us our debts, as we also forgave our debtors. (DLNT)
  • and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (ESV and others)
  • And forgive us our debts as we forgive those who owe us something. (Voice)
  • Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others. (Message)

There are several petitions in this prayer — for daily bread, to not be led into temptation, to be delivered from evil — but the request for forgiveness is conditional. The best example of a conditional promise is 2 Chronicles 7:14

if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

There God is telling his people that if there is a drought, or if there is a plague, if they do X first, God will do Y.

This is also reminiscent of Matthew 10:8, but in the reverse.

Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give. (NLT)

In this case it is implied that God has already done Y and now invites you to be an agent of X being received by someone else.

But we can’t twist that into a principle that would apply here as God saying something like, ‘I’ve already forgiven you so now you can freely forgive others.’ Rather, the text would point to something closer to, ‘If you want to experience my forgiveness, you’ll have to know first what it like to have forgiven others.’

There is of course the grace which goes before; what is termed prevenient grace. GotQuestions.org defines it as

a phrase used to describe the grace given by God that precedes the act of a sinner exercising saving faith in Jesus Christ. The term “prevenient” comes from the Latin and means ”to come before.” By definition, every theological system which affirms the necessity of God’s grace prior to a sinner’s conversion has a type of prevenient grace. The Reformed doctrine of irresistible grace is a type of prevenient grace, as is common grace.

Romans 5:8 reminds us that in terms of big picture forgiveness, what we experience when we come to Christ for the first time, God has already made the way; the pardon and peace is there, we just need to claim it:

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Back to our primary text.

The Message version of the Lord’s Prayer verse is probably the best as it would indicate an ongoing process, a chain of grace, where we are constantly experiencing forgiveness ourselves, and meting out that forgiveness to others.

There’s also a sense here that, ‘you know (hopefully) what it is like to forgive someone for something, so you know how God forgives you.’

Again, while we’re looking at a New Testament text, Jesus was teaching this prayer in an Old Testament world. We’ve been using BibleStudyTools.org for this series, and the entry for the Hebrew word Callach meaning both ready to forgive and forgiving makes reference to Psalm 86:5

For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon You.

God’s predilection for forgiveness is something he is ready to do. But how long do we keep forgiving people who owe us (debts) or have injured us (trespasses)? Jesus answers that in Matthew 18:22

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.

The NIV rendering of Luke 17:4 is even more explicit on the degree of forbearance being demanded of us:

…Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”

Paul echoes this in Colossians 3:13

Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Proverbs 19:11b reminds us that the quality of forgiveness is an essential part of our character:

…it is to one’s glory to overlook an offense

Finally, James 2, 11-12 reminds us that it is essential to be an agent of mercy if we wish to experience it ourselves:

Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

Jesus tells a parable about a man who received immeasurable forgiveness but failed to do the same for one who owed him a lesser amount. May that never be said of us.

32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’

35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

Scriptures all NIV except where indicated


Darlene Merenick is a Canadian singer who died all too young a few years ago. I was able to hear this song performed live several times.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August 2, 2016

The Limits to Mercy

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
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Occasionally we get a referral to an article on a blog which is new to us, only to discover the author has stopped writing. Still we wanted to share this February article with you today. This is a simply written response to a tough question that acknowledges its complexities. To read this at source click the title below. The author is Albert Wagner.

Is There A Limit To God’s Mercy?

This America can be a messed up place.

You can witness it on any given day.

People, while claiming to have their own reasons, go and repeatedly do the wrong thing – willfully and stubbornly, sometimes – while knowing deep down it is wrong.

They continue this process with the thought that a loving God will forgive them, because it states that in Scripture.

Sometimes the sin is minor (such as a white lie) and sometimes it is more significant (such as repeated cheating on a spouse).

But, in this case doing the wrong thing means the person knew better deep down. It might harm them financially or regarding their health, to use a few other examples, but it does not matter to them.

Some go to church on Sunday and ask for forgiveness and some don’t.

But the question for a spiritual blog is this:

Will God keep forgiving the same sin, or there a limit to God’s Mercy?

Jesus And Forgiving Sins

To begin with, here might be the thought process (for a Christian).

The Bible says that God forgives sin through the work of Jesus Christ. God is loving and wants his Creation to be saved.

1 John 1:8 reads,

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Jesus was asked by the disciples how many times they should forgive someone. Jesus said,

I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven” (Matthew 18:22).

 So, there it is in the Bible. It sounds like God will forgive your sin, as long as you repent.

After all, sinning is often the easier choice, even if it means pain later.

People might think that as long as they end up in heaven in the long term, then what does it hurt anyone to sin now? They think in their minds that, as long as they end up in the same place, what does it hurt to sin?

A Life Of Sin

So what is there to stop you from going and sinning repeatedly, with the idea that you will be forgiven?

Limits to God's MercyIn fact, Scripture is clear those who do not live a changed life and habitually continue in sin are not true believers.

There is also a matter of interpretation.

Take Matthew 12:31, which reads,

“And so I tell you, every kind of sin and slander can be forgiven, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.”

And, though this is a hard verse for some, one interpretation states this is speaking of those who do not repent. That means sincerely repenting, changing what you do and living a life of faith. It involves more than sitting in a church pew for one hour a week on Sunday.

Another relevant verse pertaining can be found in Matthew 5:48, where it reads,

“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

Please also remember that Scripture mentions the concept of hell in several places. However one interprets this idea, it sounds like God does have some limits on those who repeatedly do the wrong thing.

And, please remember: A person can have eternal salvation, yet still experience consequences of sin. Humans might not understand how that works, but it is important to consider.

In addition to these things, It is also said if you are aware of your sins and they bother you, then the Holy Spirit is working and speaking to you. This is a good thing. It is better to have your sin bother you than to sin with no remorse.

All in all, one should be careful in ascertaining these things, as your eternal salvation is dependent on it. That might sound obvious, but it might be worth pondering.

Scripture is not intended to be black and white, but something to be pondered.

You still have time to change, because as humans we are all probably guilty of this at one time or another.

Yes, God wants you to repent. However, he also wants you to continue to live a life of faith like he directed in the Gospels.

In the end, though, God is the judge and it is not based on human reasoning.

The opinion of the author is to try to be aware of your sins and repent.

 

June 1, 2016

Ending Well With Difficult People

•••by Clarke Dixon

How do your encounters with difficult people end up? Is there a fitting conclusion to such encounters? By difficult people we mean the kind of people that stress you out, or have wounded you in some way. And by an encounter we don’t even need to think of actually meeting the person, it may be an online encounter, or even just an encounter in our imagination. In fact if the truth be told, don’t the difficult people in our lives end up taking up too much space in our heads? We give them so much time and mental resources and they may not even know it! So is there a fitting way to conclude every such encounter?

If there is a group of Christians that could earn the title “difficult people” for the apostle Paul, it would have to be the Corinthians. From reading Paul’s two letters to Corinth we learn of the divisions he must address, the false notions he must put right, the crooked practices he must straighten out, and the fact that some of them evidently thought Paul himself was not worth listening to. And so with that in mind, listen to his last words to the Corinthians:

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. (2 Corinthians 13:13 NRSV)

First, notice what’s at the last; “be with all of you.” Not just “the people I like”, not just “the people who like me”, not just “the people who are good to me”, not just “the people who are mature”, but “all of you.” Even the difficult people. Here is a fitting conclusion for every encounter with all the people of our lives, even the difficult people. Whether we say it or pray it, we can desire it. Let’s dig a little deeper into Paul’s desire.

Paul has a desire for the Corinthians to know and live in the “grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Grace is undeserved favor and the greatest symbol of grace is the cross where the Greatest ever died on behalf of the least. Notice Paul does not just say the grace of Jesus. Jesus is Lord, that is, the One who has the power and authority to condemn. Yet He is the One who stood on trial, innocent, but condemned. That is grace. Jesus is also the Christ, or in another language, the Messiah. He is the focus of God’s plan of salvation revealed through the events and pages of the Old Testament. That is grace. Paul knows first hand that he does not deserve that grace. So when he thinks of those difficult people in Corinth who do not deserve that grace, he is reminded of himself. When we think of the difficult people in our lives who do not deserve favor, do we remember that we are difficult people who have not deserved God’s favor? Having experienced the amazing grace of Jesus, how could we not desire it for everyone and anyone?

Dealing with Difficult PeoplePaul has a desire for the Corinthians to know and live in the “love of God.” God is love. And Paul has a good understanding of that love. It is not the warm-and-fuzzy-feeling kind of love that we may think of. Neither is it just being nice. The Hebrew term for God’s love includes the notion of loyalty and faithfulness. God’s love is more a “faithful in marriage” than “smitten in dating” kind of love. The Greek word for God’s love is marked with overtones of commitment and choice. It is not “how could I dance with another, when I saw her standing there” kind of love, which can end up being a selfish kind of love. It is more “I will ask her to dance because I care for her and a dance would be good for her.” When we say that God loves you, it is not because you are amazing, it is because He is amazing in His capacity to love. Paul knows that he himself is not amazing. Paul knows that he is in exactly the same boat as the difficult people in Corinth who are not amazing. Do you know God’s love as the difficult person you can be? Can you desire that the difficult people in your life know it also?

Paul has a desire for the Corinthians to know and live in the “communion of the Holy Spirit.” This can be interpreted either that they will enjoy good relationships with one another as the Holy Spirit makes possible, or that they will each experience the Holy Spirit personally. Perhaps we should take it as meaning both since an experience of the fruit of the Spirit in your life will come along with better relationships. This desire for the Holy Spirit can help us get over two speed bumps we might come across as we desire something really good for those people we may consider to be really unworthy.

  • Speed Bump #1 — Thinking: “This person has always been difficult and always will be difficult.” But not if the Holy Spirit takes control of their lives! Think of the most shady characters throughout history. Now think of the benefit for many, many, many people had the Holy Spirit taken control of their lives. How would history have been different if they had the communion of the Holy Spirit so that their lives would show the fruit of the Holy Spirit: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23 NRSV) To pray for difficult people to experience communion with the Holy Spirit is to pray “Thy Kingdom come.” It is to pray for good things, not just for the person experiencing communion with the Holy Spirit, but for everyone who experiences the person experiencing the Holy Spirit!
  • Speed Bump #2 Saying: “I just can’t do it – I just can’t desire good things for a certain person in my life.” You can’t or you won’t? Remember the communion of the Holy Spirit is available to you also, God is working a transformation in you also. In fact it is the difficult people in our lives that God uses to change us into the likeness of His Son who bore the cross for difficult people. God does not stretch your forgiveness and grace muscles through perfect people. Difficult people can be the heavy weights of a good muscle developing workout.

So how do your encounters with difficult people end up? With awkwardness, bitterness, or grudges? Paul’s conclusion in his second letter to the Corinthians provides us with a great conclusion to every encounter with the difficult people of our lives.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. (2 Corinthians 13:13 NRSV)

Even if we do not say it, we can pray it, we can desire it. It won’t just change their lives. It will change ours.

 

April 1, 2016

Don’t Build a Wall, Build a Bridge

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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The header that I chose today was meant to be deliberately provocative, as the idea of building a wall has been in the U.S. news a lot over the past winter. I was reminded it of it as I previewed today’s devotional. We’re paying a return visit to David McGee who writes at Cross the Bridge which is carried on his own website as well as at Lightsource.com  The title and subject of today’s piece is a microcosm of his overall devotional theme, Cross The Bridge. Click the original title below to read at source.

Build Bridges

Acts 17:22-23

Then Paul stood in the midst of the Areopagus and said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious; for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO THE UNKNOWN GOD. Therefore, the one whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you.”
NKJV

It is easy to throw stones. It takes more effort to build something and costs much more to restore it. What then, is the price to redeem? Well, that price is far greater than we could ever pay. Only Jesus could pay that fine. Jesus died on the cross. He bore the penalty for our sins. It is by grace that we are saved and not by works (Ephesians 2:8, 9).

As Christians, we possess this knowledge. What should we be doing with it? Should we be using it as a crowbar to pry people apart? Should we use it as a wrecking ball to tear people down? Should we strike hard with this tool pinning nail to wood with one mighty blow? Certainly not! What a horrible misuse of God’s grace toward us that would be!

How we love to nest ourselves in the grace we have been given, and then, thinking ourselves to be on a higher branch, we drop stones on everyone else. We didn’t have to earn our grace, but everyone else had better get to work! How hypocritical! When we are unwilling to show grace to others, we are misrepresenting God.

Jesus humbled Himself and dwelt with sinners.

Luke 5:31-32 Jesus answered them, “Healthy people don’t need a doctor–sick people do. I have come to call sinners to turn from their sins, not to spend my time with those who think they are already good enough.” NLT

In Acts 17:22-23, it would have been easy for Paul to start throwing verbal stones. Instead, he demonstrated God’s grace by seeking to build a bridge of understanding so that the great news of the Gospel could be communicated. Instead of pointing out differences, he used a bridge to present the Gospel message to the people. Are you a bridge builder?

Life Lesson: We should build bridges with people who don’t understand the good news about Jesus, not just stand back and throw stones at them.

Dear God,
Thank You that it’s not by any works of my own, but by Your grace that I’m saved. Please forgive me for times when I have torn down bridges instead of building bridges to tell people about Your Son, Jesus Christ. Please give me the fortitude to speak out of love instead of boasting. I pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Living to tell what He died to say,
Pastor David McGee
Cross the Bridge
crossthebridge.com


Scripture quotations marked ‘NKJV™’ are taken from the New King James Version®.
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved.

 

March 13, 2016

Another Look at Grace and Works

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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•••by Russell Young

Another Look at Grace and Works

The doctrines of “grace” and “works” need another look. One’s comprehension of these doctrines significantly influences his interpretation of the scriptures and their understandings should not be left up to one’s imagination. Some believers sum up “grace” and “works” with the idea that God has done it all; that is, God has gifted them with eternal salvation and they need not participate (understood as “work”) since it is a gift. God’s Word clearly presents the need for “obedience” in order for one to gain eternal salvation. (Hebrews 5:9, Matthew 7:21; Revelation 22:14 (KJV); 2 Thessalonians 1:8) There are other verses that require the believer be to be “led,” (Galatians 5:18; Romans 8:14; John 10:27) and others that required him to “please the Spirit” (Galatians 6:8) or to live in some appropriate manner. The Lord said that his angels “will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” (Matthew 13:41, NIV) These will be weeded out on the basis of their ‘doing.’

Accepting the common teaching of “grace” as meaning “God’s unmerited favor” being expressed in one’s life, does not necessarily mean that God will unilaterally bring about the “believer’s” eternal salvation. Neither does the phrase, “You are saved by grace,” necessarily infer the “gifting” of eternal salvation as some understand. The gift that God has given to the redeemed is the Holy Spirit who can bring about one’s eternal salvation (2 Thessalonians 2:13, Titus 3:5-6) and that through obedience. (Hebrews 5:9)

To put the matter of “works” into meaningful context, the “works” being referred to is the “works of the law.” (Romans 9:32; Galatians 2:16, 3:2, 5, 10 KJV, YLT) Some translators have not included “of the law” in their rendition, confusing the issue.

The law cannot be accomplished by anyone using his own resources. The righteous requirements of the law must be accomplished but require the Holy Spirit’s ministry for that purpose. When the Word of God speaks of salvation as not being accomplished through “works,” it is referring to the “works of the law.” It does not mean that the believer need not be obedient or that he is not required to walk righteously or in the light of Christ. It means that the covenant of the law, “of works”, the Old Covenant cannot bring about one’s eternal salvation. The covenant of the law “kills.” (2 Corinthians 3:6) The work of the law (that which the law produces) cannot satisfy God’s righteous requirements because of man’s sinful nature. (Romans 8:3) That which can bring about one’s eternal salvation is the appropriation of the ministry of the Spirit in order to satisfy the righteous requirements of the law and the Prophets (Romans 8:4), but the Spirit must be obeyed.

The sacrifice of Christ which was an act of grace allowed the believer escape from the consequences of the sinful acts he had committed while under the jurisdiction of the law’s requirements for righteousness. The provision of the New Covenant was an act of grace by God. The provision of the Holy Spirit was a gift of grace by the Father making the believer “competent” to satisfy the New Covenant. (2 Corinthians 3:6; 2 Peter 1:3) The ministry of Christ as High Priest is an act of grace. Complete provision was made by Christ for the one who would honour Him through obedience. (Hebrews 5:9) Eternal salvation is NOT a gift of grace but must be worked out through the provision God has made in Christ.

The gift of grace is Christ’s presence in the believer. (Colossians 1:27) He has come to fulfil the law in the believer and for the believer. (Romans 8:4) He does not over-rule the will of man but will allow it to be exercised. Obedience is faith in practice and the faithful will obey their lord/Lord.

It is worth noting that God is going to destroy the world when the time comes because man will have “twisted his instructions, violated his laws, and broken his everlasting covenant.” (Isaiah 24:5 NLT) The NIV reads, “disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant.” The accomplishment of instructions, laws, and the covenant is NOT a gift of grace as is often taught; their accomplishment is through the gift of grace (the Holy Spirit) and the believer’s commitment to obedience. There are many who have been led astray, and many who lead believers away from truth, by their misrepresentation of the doctrines of “works” and “grace.” Paul told his readers not to be deceived; they would reap what they sow…receiving either life or destruction. (Galatians 6:7)

The Lord said, “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.” (Luke 16:1-17, NIV) God’s grace does notabolish” the law (Matthew 5:17) or preclude the need for its righteous requirements to be satisfied. Woe to those whose teaching allows such. His requirements can ONLY be met through obedience to the Spirit.

One’s need and hope for righteousness is being “awaited” (Galatians 5:5) and it comes through his allowance of the Spirit being lived through him. (Romans 8:4) Eternal salvation comes through God’s grace and not by the “works” of the law. However, the believer is to put every effort into obeying the Spirit. “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to.” (Luke 13:24, NIV) When the Lord encouraged His listeners “to make every effort.” He was requiring just that. They are to hear His voice (the Spirit) and they are to follow. They are to do something. Later in the passage Christ made it clear that it is those who are “evildoers” (v. 27) who will be condemned and cast from Him even though they had walked in His presence…they had not been led or had not put forth the “effort” to walk righteously. The writer of Hebrews offered the same admonition. (Hebrews 4:11) Paul admonished the Philippians “to work out their own salvation with fear and trembling.” (Philippians 2:12, NIV)

When Paul spoke of being saved by grace, he identified that grace as creating a product having been accomplished through the ministry of the Holy Spirit (God’s “workmanship”, Ephesians 2:10, NIV), the product of one’s transformation. The expression of God’s grace through the power of the Holy Spirit makes one a suitable offering for God. (Romans 15:16)

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.

January 21, 2016

Is God Schizophrenic?

Today we welcome a new writer to C201 and one of a very limited number of people here who I have been privileged to meet face-to-face. Russ Young’s writing focuses on ways in which the church has compromised Biblical teachings on grace and salvation and eternal life, and our one hour discussion challenged me personally in areas where my standards with respect to holiness have the propensity to become lax.

•••by Russell Young

Is God Schizophrenic? The answer is, of course not. The problem is that at least western Christianity is treating Him as if He was. That is, He is viewed as being bi-polar. In the Old Testament He is seen as being a wrathful God, bringing His anger upon the Jews for their disobedience and rebellion. In the New Testament, He is viewed as the all-forgiving, all-loving, and all-tolerant God. In the Old Testament He might be viewed as being depressive; while, in the New He is viewed as being manic. Of course, God does not change and has not changed. He is pure in all His ways and His expectations have not changed.

The issue that has distorted understanding of God and which has distorted the gospel is that of teachings concerning “grace.” The believer is saved by grace, but his eternal salvation is not unilaterally gifted as is often presented; nor does God’s grace cover sin deliberately committed following confession of faith. The Jews lived under the Covenant of the Law. Obedience to its governance was required in order to avoid God’s wrath. This was and remains so because He is supreme and He is holy. The LORD had presented the laws concerning His righteous government to Moses in stone. Defying them is defying Him…His sovereignty. He will not give His glory to another. Through them He also revealed the nature that He wanted to have established for His kingdom. To contravene His Law is to blemish the holy nature of His kingdom.

The LORD knew the heart of man and knew its inclination to evil (Genesis 6:5); consequently, He had addressed the solution to the heart problem through the presence of His Son living in the heart of man. The Law was put in charge to lead us to Christ. But now that faith has come we are no longer under the supervision of the law. (Gal. 4:24-25, NIV) The law “supervised” so that the righteous requirements of God as revealed through the law could be maintained and His wrath avoided.

God Has Not ChangedGod has not changed. He still has the same righteous requirements and will continue to visit His wrath upon the disobedient and the rebellious. His “grace” does not cover these challenges to His authority and holiness. Paul writes, Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him. (Romans 5:9-10, NIV) We ought not be confused concerning this matter. His wrath is avoided through Him…the exercise of His life in the believer.

The avoidance of His wrath is NOT through His death but through His life. Paul wrote that the mystery of God which had been kept hidden for ages and generations is Christ in you, the hope of glory. (Col. 1: 27) The wrath of God is avoided through the life of Christ within the believer…by the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:17-18) It is the Spirit who will lead in the pursuit of, and if obeyed, the achievement of righteousness leading to holiness. And so God 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.” (Ro. 8:3-4, NIV) And Peter wrote:His divine power [the Holy Spirit] has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” (2 Peter 1:3, NIV)

According to Peter we have all that we need in order to avoid God’s wrath and that comes through obedience to the Spirit (Heb. 5:9) Paul told the Corinthians: He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant-not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:6, NIV) God’s grace does not give anyone eternal life. It removes his “past sins” and upon confession of Christ’s lordship allows him the enjoyment of the covenant of the Spirit. (Heb. 9:15)

Those who accept that they have been freed from God’s wrath while sin is being practiced will have a surprise one day. They will come under judgment for their rebellion and disobedience. Paul taught, For we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one might receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad. (2 Corinthians 5:10, NIV) the Lord revealed, 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.” (Matthew 13:41, NIV) One’s separation from Christ is dependent upon one’s actions. The things he does and the unlawful things that he causes to happen.

God’s kingdom will be righteous and will contain those who are righteous. His righteous expectations have not changed. His grace does NOT unilaterally allow one escape from His wrath. He is not schizophrenic but is constant in His being and in His expectations. The manner in which righteousness is achieved has changed but not its need. God’s grace, allowed for the incarnation of His Son. It allowed for His Son to bring the word of truth. It provided Christ, an unblemished lamb, as a sacrifice for sin. His grace allows for the gifting of the Spirit to enlighten, lead, and empower the believer in a righteous walk. It provides Christ as high priest to mediate for sins committed in ignorance and for confessed sin. The grace of God does not gift eternal salvation but provides all that is necessary for it. Eternal salvation comes through “obedience” (Heb. 5:9) which produces holiness. (Romans 6:22)

April 18, 2015

Being Assured and Giving Others Assurance of Salvation

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
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I chose this to run today simply because we don’t hear enough these days on this topic, the assurance of our salvation. The author is Paul Steele at the blog Paul’s Ponderings whose writing first appeared here four years ago, and you can click the title below to read this at source.

How can I have assurance of my salvation?

This is a common question many Christians have. I think it stems from the reality that we are saved by grace through our faith. In the minds of most people (for many years this described me as well), being “saved by grace through faith” feels like salvation was out of our hands. This means salvation is a gift from God, and we receive this great and wonderful gift through our belief.

The problem with viewing salvation this way is that there is no tangible standard for us to know that we have truly received the gift of salvation. If it was based on what we did, at least we could keep a score card on our behavior so we could know if we were living up to the right standard.

Without a tangible standard, many people rely on a subjective experience to tell them that they are saved. The problem with this is that over time the feeling of the experience fades, and we are left with the same question: Am I saved?

Life is going to take us through a series of ups and downs. In one moment we feel like we are close to God and that our salvation is secure, but the next moment we wonder if God has abandoned us. If we are going to rely on a subjective experience as evidence for our salvation, then we are going to constantly doubt our salvation. What we need is an objective standard to tell us that we are saved, and thus give us confidence of our salvation.

The way I moved away from the constant roller coaster of doubt and certainty of my salvation was to focus on God. Our salvation begins and ends with God and His grace, and therefore I can know I am saved because of God. The apostle Paul wrote,

“And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns.” (Philippians 1:6; NLT)

We can trust God to save us and mold us into the people He wants us to be.

Why can we have this confidence? This confidence comes from the fact God is a Covenant Keeper and we are in a covenant relationship with Him. Deuteronomy 7:9 says,

“Understand, therefore, that the Lord your God is indeed God. He is the faithful God who keeps his covenant for a thousand generations and lavishes his unfailing love on those who love him and obey his commands.” (NLT)

Being in a covenant relationship with God gives us assurance of our salvation. How do we know if we are in a covenant relationship with God? We enter into a covenant relationship with God through faith and repentance as expressed through baptism (Acts 2:38; Romans 6:1-8). The New Testament is clear on the importance of baptism, and baptism is always connected to the ideas of faith and repentance. That means without faith and repentance (trusting in God and declaring your loyalty to Him alone) baptism is meaningless. Baptism is the means of entering into a covenant with God when it is accompanied by faith and repentance.

The guarantee God gives us that we are in a covenant relationship with Him is the Holy Spirit. The sign that the Jews were in a covenant relationship with God was circumcision, but through Jesus that has changed. The apostle Paul wrote;

“And now you Gentiles have also heard the truth, the Good News that God saves you. And when you believed in Christ, he identified you as his own by giving you the Holy Spirit, whom he promised long ago.” (Ephesians 1;13; NLT)

The Holy Spirit circumcises our hearts and sets us apart as God’s people.

If we break the terms of the covenant, these terms are summarized in the two great commandments of loving God and loving people, God promises to forgives us (1 John 1:9). He also gave us a way to renew our covenant with Him: Communion. We enter into the covenant by being united with Jesus, the covenant sacrifice. In communion we affirm our intention to be part of God’s covenant by consuming the body and blood of the covenant sacrifice (Luke 22:19-20).

The objective standard of being in a covenant relationship with God should give us assurance of the salvation that we have.

Another way we can be certain of our salvation is through life change. We can’t follow Jesus and be guided by the Holy Spirit without our life being changed. As we reflect on our lives we should be able to see that there is a change that has happened.

The book of 1 John was written to help us to be confident about our salvation:

“I have written this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13; NLT).

One of the common themes through the book is the love that we have for each other. For instance 1 John 3:14 says;

“If we love our brothers and sisters who are believers, it proves that we have passed from death to life. But a person who has no love is still dead.” (NLT)

If we want to know whether or not we are saved, then the evidence is going to be seen in the love we show to other people.

Can we be confident that we are saved? Yes, we can live with confidence, knowing that God has saved us. This confidence doesn’t come from a subjective experience that may fade over time. Rather, it comes from the objective standard of God’s faithfulness. We can know we are saved because God keeps His covenant. Our hope for the future can be a confident hope because it is founded on the covenant faithfulness of God, and that is the firmest foundation we can have for our faith.

Check out more of Paul’s writing at Paul’s Ponderings.

September 26, 2014

Justice, Equality, Fairness and Jesus

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NRSV Matthew 20:8 When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ 9 When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. 

In first introducing today’s writer last year, I explained that some blogs consist of pastors’ sermon notes written for churches that use the Lectionary as a guide to preaching. In these churches, the Evangelical concept of a sermon series in completely foreign; instead there are three or four prescribed readings for each Sunday, usually consisting an Old Testament reading, a Psalm , a selection from the gospels, and an excerpt from an Epistle.  (These vary somewhat by tradition and some denominations send out an amended version to their ministers.)  The pastor then chooses one of the texts to form the basis of the weekend sermon.

That’s the case with the blog ForeWords written by Rich Brown.  Click the title below to read at source and discover more Lectionary based sermons.

Live the Gospel

Parable of the LaborersHeritage Day (Community of Christ)
Ordinary Time (Proper 20)
Exodus 16:2–15; Psalm 105:1–6, 37–45; Philippians 1:21–30; Matthew 20:1–16

Those of us who’ve lived our entire lives in countries where justice, equality under the law, and fairness are considered the bedrock of society tend to forget that the kingdom of God preached by Jesus is not a reflection of the world we’ve created. But then, neither are our democratically oriented cultures necessarily an imitation of the heavenly kingdom. And that’s one of the reasons why so many of us may have a tough time with Jesus’ parable at the beginning of Matthew chapter 20.

If we were to hear about a comparable tale here in the 21st century our first response might well be that those vineyard workers sure needed a strong union seeking a comprehensive collective bargaining agreement. It is, after all, patently unfair that those workers toiling all day in the field–no doubt under a hot Judean sun–got the same amount of pay as the ones brought to the fields in late afternoon who had worked only an hour or two. Matthew recounts that this is not just a 21st-century concern:

“Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’” –Matt. 20:10-12 NRSV

Parables, it must always be remembered, are not literal storytelling; they are stories told to get across greater, deeper truths. And so this isn’t a story about unfair working conditions. Certainly in our own day–as in Jesus’ time–workers are exploited. We Christians should be in the forefront of those seeking an end to such abuse. This story/parable is about something quite different. It’s about the kingdom of God, which is based on grace not fairness.

The landowner in the parable (presumably a stand-in for God) made it clear that he set the rules and established the relationship with the workers. In kingdom-of-God terms, this is not a contractual arrangement; it is instead a covenant:

“Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” –vs. 13-16

Many of us Christians have an unfortunate tendency to think that God loves us more than all the rest of humanity–or at least that God places us at the front of the line for eternal blessings because we’re followers of Jesus. But we must remember that we’re not the first to be “chosen” by God. That belongs to the literal descendants of Abraham and Sarah: the Jews. Yes, that covenant is still in force. Check out what the apostle Paul has to say about that topic in Romans chapter 11.

With that in mind, then, who might those late-afternoon workers in God’s vineyard be: why, that would be us Christians. An uncomfortable thought perhaps for many of us. And it might be even more squirm-inducing if we Christians are actually the mid-day workers who were added. If that’s the case, then God may well be planning to add even more to the divine fold. But, but, but…we might protest. How unfair of God to invite those we casually term “unbelievers” (or heathens or any number of other less complimentary terms) into God’s presence. Once more: it’s not about fairness, it’s all about grace.

God, being the generous Creator God is, was, and always will be, can expand the boundaries of the so-called “chosen” for whatever reason God so desires. Among other things, that puts to shame our “Christian” tendency to point judgmental fingers at others, deciding on our own who’s in and who’s out, who’s saved and who’s damned. In fact, this could just change everything.


I really loved the idea in the 2nd last paragraph that perhaps many of us are the mid-day workers — or even late day workers — in the story. Think for a moment; how might that fit individually or corporately?

 

August 26, 2014

The Gospel According to Romans 8

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:21 pm
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Because this is Christianity 201 and not 101, sometimes we find material online that we think is going to be too simplistic for readers here. But let me ask you a question, if someone asked you to explain the scriptural concepts of why sin leads to death, or how the law is inadequate to redeem us, or what someone must do to become part of the family spiritually; if someone asked you these types of questions would you be able to articulate an answer clearly?

I know that sometimes the simple aspects of the faith trip me up in situations like that because to me, these are taken as a given or they have become so familiar as to be self-evident. This is why, every so often, I return to the idea of the invisible transaction of salvation; that to explain it fully is to point out the foreshadowing in the book of Numbers, where Moses lifts up the serpent on a pole.

All this to say that today’s post is from The Gideons in Canada. To prepare to read this, you might want to take a minute to read all of Romans 8. To read this at source, click the title below and then look around the rest of the site.

ROMANS EIGHT

Romans 8 was read four times per second on a popular Bible app in 2013, and I’m not surprised.

Romans 8 is the gospel in a nut-shell. It’s the best news anyone on this planet could ever receive.

gidideonlogoIts message crosses every divide the world tries to create–social status, gender, age, culture, job, moral-code… And the message is for everyone.

 The Solution is Life on God’s terms.

This life is not about our performance or ability to go it on our own. It’s about receiving life on God’s terms—and His terms are pretty good. You see, we humans were born with a sinful nature that we cannot cure ourselves. We can’t work ourselves up to perfection; we ourselves cannot reach a point where we will not encounter temptation or sin. We are not the answer. Our efforts are not the solution.

God, seeing that we are incapable of saving ourselves, provided a savior—Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ took on the sins of this world, and paid the price for them on the cross so that we could be forgiven. In that moment in time, we received His clean slate, and He took our messed up one. We were set free.

1) No Condemnation. Escape Death.

So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you[b] from the power of sin that leads to death. Romans 8:1-2 NLT

Yes. Someone was willing to sacrifice it all on a cross so that we wouldn’t be condemned or punished for our failures, so that we would escape the death sentence we deserve and get to live for an eternity in Heaven.

And it’s not dependent on anything that we do.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Ephesians 2:8 NLT

Believing & belonging to Jesus = no condemnation, no death.

Our continual inability to measure up and be good enough is overcome by Christ’s ability. In our weakness He is strong.

2) You can’t fulfill the law. Christ did.

The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit. Romans 8:3-4

Don’t worry. There isn’t something you are missing, the same struggle you have to keep up with all the do’s and don’ts is the same struggle everyone else on this planet also battles with. It’s not about us trying harder, rather it’s about us embracing what Christ did for us on the cross. He took our terrible record, the punishment for that record, and in return, gave us his perfect record.

God’s terms are… although you are completely undeserving; I am going to give you a clean slate.

God’s terms are… although you sin, I see you as clean, whole, perfect, as my child—because of what Jesus Christ did for you on the cross.

God’s terms are… I love you. God’s terms are… I forgive you. God’s terms are… I am with you.

When you need a fresh reminder of the Good News of the gospel, if you need that weight of law, duty and failure lifted—turn to Romans 8—it’s pretty Good News if you ask me.

In fact, it’s news that is too good not to share.

Order free copies of Scripture at http://www.sendme.ca and trust God for opportunities to share.

August 20, 2014

Giving and Receiving Criticism

This is probably one of the highest things we can do in our personal Bible study; take an issue which is present in the course of a day or week, and delve into what the scripture says about that issue. In this case, we look at criticism, something we all experience and something many of dish out. To read this at source click the title below.

How to Offer & Receive Criticism

by Mathew Sims

Richard Sibbes once said that  “men love not to be judged and censured.”

Personally, I have yet to meet the person who enjoys criticism. Whether it’s criticism about your work, life, faith or criticism from an unknown critic online or a loving family member. All criticism is hard to swallow.

My mom and I have a great relationship. I look back at my formative years and she provided a foundation for the love of God that hasn’t left me. I recall the words of Paul to Timothy, “I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you” (2 Tim. 1:5).

However, I wish I was wiser when hearing her criticism. Her words of encouragement and admonition were coming from a heart of love. Because of my own struggles with hearing criticism, I would often refuse to heed her concerns, only accepting the truth of her words after I’d made a mess of the situation. Hearing criticism is and has been one of the hardest lessons learned in my life, especially if I’ve received criticism from those whose motives were not in my best interest.

But the gospel should transform the way we give and receive criticism. In today’s, age social networks and blogs have only made it easier to criticize without accountability or real community. It’s much easier to make that snarky comment about someone when you don’t have to look them in the face to do so.

So, how do we take a gospel-centered approach toward criticism?

The Gospel and Criticism

The gospel transforms the way we receive criticism in four ways. First, it tells us we are created in the image of God. We have value because we are his handiwork, “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps. 139:14). What we do has value because we imitate his creativity in creation. None of us is left without a touch of this creativity.

Second, the gospel tells us we are sinful. Charles Spurgeon once said, “If any man thinks ill of you, do not be angry with him; for you are worse than he thinks you to be.” Often criticism stings because there may be a teaspoon of truth within the cup of criticism (or maybe a cup of truth within the teaspoon). We know we are sinful. But we almost always give ourselves the benefit of the doubt as we speak, act, and write. It’s hard to hear the perspective of someone who may not give us this benefit of the doubt.

Third, the gospel tells us are adopted by God. We have been declared righteous and joined his family and are now being transformed into the image of the Son of God. We are now much more than the sum total of our sins. Criticism can’t touch that.

Finally, the gospel tells us that we will be vindicated on the last day. George Whitefield once said, “I am content to wait till the judgement day for the clearing up of my reputation.” We should learn to be content now with the righteousness of Christ waiting for our final vindication. For some of us, that might mean allowing our reputation to be tarnished for now.

Scripture actually has much to say about criticism. The following practical suggestions for receiving and giving criticism will hopefully help you build upon these truths.

Receiving Criticism

1. Hear the criticism.

The writer of Proverbs admonishes us, “Whoever heeds instructions is on the path of life, but he who rejects reproof leads others astray” (Prov. 10:17), “Whoever loves discipline loves knowledge, but he who hates reproof is foolish” (12:1), and “Whoever heeds reproof is prudent” (15:5). These Scriptures only touch the surface. Read through Proverbs for yourself and study what the Solomon teaches about receiving reproof. When criticism is offered, you should hear it, consider it, pray about it, and seek counsel about it. You should also be willing to sift through the criticism for the grain of truth. I have rarely found a criticism where there may not a single grain.

2. Rejoice in the criticism.

Jesus starts one of the greatest sermons ever preached, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in Heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Matt. 5:11-12).

In this sermon, Jesus addresses criticism that ends up being slanderous lies. Yet he says we are blessed and we should rejoice. How can this be? We are baptized into the body of Christ. We are participants in his life, death, and resurrection. Jesus was persecuted, lied about, and slandered. And the writer of Hebrews says, “[Jesus] who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1). This passage connects our joy, suffering, and final vindication by God. Jesus sits at the right hand of God vindicated against the criticism that he made himself to be God (Matt. 26:62-68). We too will stand before God vindicated one day.

3. Compare the criticism with Scripture.

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). The truest criticism we will receive comes from Scripture. It speaks honestly about the condition of fallen humanity. Bring the criticism you receive to Scripture and ask the Spirit to uncover truth that might relate to it. Don’t miss the full story of the gospel.

4. Don’t respond with umbrage.

The worst thing you can do is respond quickly with your own criticism or accusation. But also don’t let a “root of bitterness” (Heb. 12:15) take hold in your heart. Resentment will impact you most and the others you love. This last point is especially true when the person clearly doesn’t have your best interest in mind and the bulk of their criticism is slander. It’s easy to set the record straight about that person, but in my experience that is either almost completely useless because it’s peppered with anger or slander in its own right.

Offering Criticism

1. Be wary of making accusations against brothers in Christ. 

All those who profess Christ are one with Christ. We have been baptized into one body and Spirit (Eph. 4). Christ isn’t divided. We should be very careful when criticizing that we aren’t accusing another Man’s servant (Rom. 14). That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take part in polemics, dialogues, debates, and defending the faith. Helpful criticism takes wisdom rooted in Scripture and a robust understanding of how the gospel changes everything.

2. Be prayerful about your criticism.

Before you ever utter the criticism pray about it. Ask God for wisdom in using the right words and also that it would be received from a heart of love. Express your dependance on God in sharing this concern with the person. Examine your heart in giving the criticism. If you cannot offer the criticism in good faith (Rom. 14:23) then don’t.

3. Seek peace and mutual up-building.

Paul says, “So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up-building” (Rom. 14:19). I see two connections to the gospel story when see the word “peace.” First, peace connects with the Old Testament concept of shalom. It’s a state of rest for all of life. In the Old Testament, the shadow was the promised land and in the New Testament the fulfillment is the rest we have in Christ. Also, peace is often connected with the blood of Christ and our justification. All of the conflict, rebellion, and sin found in the story of humanity and Israel is resolved when God makes a covenant of peace with Christ (Eph. 2:13-16, 6:14-15; Rom. 5:1-2, and Col, 1:19-20) declaring all those in him as justified and now “fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:16-17, also see Luke 2:8-14). The purpose should be to build the hearer up; it shouldn’t tear him down. There’s correlation with Jesus’ instructions for church discipline, the goal of which is restoration.

4. Watch your own life and doctrine.

Paul admonishes the Galatians, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgressions, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 5:1-2). These instructions are meant to encourage patience, gentleness, and humility. A professor in college who taught counseling would frequently say, “Admonish others as you might expect them to admonish you later.” The idea was “today it’s me admonishing you; tomorrow it may be you admonishing me.” Paul also makes an important point about “bear[ing] one another’s burdens.” Step in their shoes and understand their struggles. Don’t be merciless to those who doubt (Jude 1:22). God doesn’t bruise the reed and neither should we. Fan the flame of God’s grace in their life.

5. Stop continually criticizing.

Paul commands Titus, “As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him” (Tit. 3:10). The original context was the local church but there’s good application for our personal relationships and online interactions. Depending on the severity of the issue, you may just need to stop criticizing and “have nothing more to do with him.” I cannot tell you how tiring it is hearing the same criticism over and over again by the same people about the same person. It takes wisdom to understand at what point you are casting your pearls before the swine (Matt. 7:6).

It’s important to search Scripture when understanding how to receive and give criticism. The Internet has made it easy to register our criticisms and provides a platform for those with grudges. These interactions are front and center for the world to see. We must learn to interact in a way which glorifies God. “Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters to pertaining to this life!” (1 Cor. 6:3).

_

Originally published at Gospel-Centered Discipleship. Used with permission.

Mathew Sims is the author of A Household Gospel: Fulfilling the Great Commission in Our Homes. Follow him on Twitter: @GraceForSinners.

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