Christianity 201

January 9, 2018

Four Characteristics of a Faithful Christian

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
Tags: , , ,

Once again we’re back with Shane Idleman, founder and lead pastor of Westside Christian Fellowship in Lancaster, California, just North of Los Angeles. This is Shane’s mission statement when preaching:

“To bring Centrality and Relevance to Jesus’ words. To understand theology in a deep, yet impacting way. To compare and contrast biblical truth with error. To allow the power of the gospel to truly shape and challenge hearts so that deep, meaningful change takes place…to magnify The Message.”

To read this at source on the church blog, click the title below.

Characteristics of a Faithful Christian

Although many godly traits are attributed to faithfulness, these four are vitally important. How can we increase faith and serve God with all of our heart? Here are just four ways:

1. Holiness is a priority. Charles Spurgeon rightly noted, “There will be three effects of nearness to Jesus—humility, happiness, and holiness.” If these three are not present, hard questions need to be asked: “Do I have a rebellious spirit? Do I love the things of the world more than the things of God? Have I let bitterness and pride set in?” We have to fight for holiness…our relationship with God is dependent upon it. Holiness produces faith and spiritual power; carnality produces faithlessness and a life void of spiritual power

Carnality gives God “His due” – a few hours on Sunday – but forgets His call to “come out from among them [the world] and be separate.” Holiness is a fire burning deep within. Do we stoke the flames and increase the heat or continually put them out? We are so “stoked” when it comes to the things of the world, but why not the things of God?

Carnality quenches the fire of the Spirit and dries up the rivers of living water. We cannot love both Christ and this world. A carnal Christian does not pray, really pray and seek the heart of God. A deep prayer life exposes facades and crushes hypocrisy. A carnal Christian does not worship, really worship in total abandonment. Deep, penetrating worship cannot take place in a carnal heart until repentance takes place.

You won’t find those who are carnal at prayer nights or worship mornings, but you will find them spending much of their time at Cinemark and the Mall. Check your calendar and checkbook. Where are your priorities?

If this is you, allow God to awaken and restore: “Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19).

Do you desire peace and joy again? Simply return to God: “You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). Full surrender is the fertile ground for seeds of joy and peace.

2. God’s Word is the source of authority. A faithful Christian is not continually looking for advice outside of God’s Word. Too often we look to Merrill Lynch for financial advice, a local nail salon for marriage counseling, and guys at work about how to prioritize our lives. Look to God for the final say – He is the “Wonderful Counselor.”

3. Reliance on God’s strength, not man’s. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (cf. 2 Cor. 12:9). God will often break us down in order to build us up. He’ll take away our strength – what we have been trusting in – so we look to Him, and Him alone. The refiner’s fire involves fire and heat. The waves of change involve being plummeted, tossed, and turned: “We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” (2 Corinthians 4:8-12).

God reminds, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; And through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, Nor shall the flame scorch you. For I am the Lord your God, The Holy One of Israel, your Savior…” God is always the fourth man in the fire (cf. Daniel 3:25).

4. Keep His Word despite setbacks. Faithful Christians keep the course regardless of the storm…regardless of the criticism…regardless of the heat. We must teach perseverance. Many theologians are divided on the timing of the rapture, or if it will occur at all. Telling people, “Don’t worry. You’ll be out of here before it gets hard,” is inconsistent with those who are suffering in other countries. And it does not prepare people for tribulation, challenges, and difficult times. One thing we do know for certain is that Christ will return. In Rev. 3:11 He says, “Behold, I am coming quickly! Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.” The message of hope is always urgent.

Christian Heritage Fellowship offers a riveting example of why we should not wait to share the good news:

On Sunday night, October 8, 1871, D. L. Moody, preached to the largest congregation that he had yet addressed in Chicago. His text that evening was, “What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ?” At the conclusion of his sermon he said, “I wish you would take this text home with you and turn it over in your minds during the week, and next Sabbath we will come to Calvary and the Cross, and we will decide what to do with Jesus of Nazareth.” Then his song evangelist, Ira D. Sankey whose hymns are sprinkled throughout most evangelical hymnbooks, began to lead in singing the hymn, but Sankey never finished the hymn, for while he was singing the rush and roar of fire engines whistled by the church on the street outside, and before morning much of the city of Chicago lay in ashes. To his dying day, Mr. Moody deeply regretted that he had told that congregation to come next Sabbath and decide what to do with Jesus.

Turn, or return, to Him today. We are not even guaranteed tomorrow.

January 1, 2018

Why Does the Apostle Paul Say There’s Nothing Good Within Him?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

This fall, we ran eight articles in a weekly series of devotionals from Charles Price, Minister at Large for The Peoples Church in Toronto. We’re just doing one this season, but I encourage you to click this link if you wish to follow these teachings.

Nothing Good Within

“For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.” Romans 7:18 ESV

We might be tempted to think there is not all that much in us Jesus needs to forgive. Even if we have recognized we are sinners and asked Jesus for forgiveness, we might still think we are fairly good people on the whole. We might even be excited for God to use some of the inherent goodness we think we have to do His work. This is what makes Paul’s words in the opening verse difficult for many to understand. We like to think our ability to love, our artistic talents, the charity work we do are good things God can use for His glory. How then can Paul say nothing good dwells within us?

As Paul reminds us in Philippians 3, if there was anyone who could boast about his goodness before coming to know Christ, it was him. Paul was a perfect Jew, “a Hebrew of Hebrews” who was so faithful to God’s commands and the sacrifices required of him that he could be considered “faultless” before the law (Philippians 3:5-6). But Paul goes on to say he considers all of these good things “loss” and “garbage” for the sake of knowing Christ (Philippians 3:7-8).

Despite our attempts at goodness, they will always be marred by sin. We grew up being taught there are certain things that are good and certain things that are bad, and our natural selves apart from God will always be drawn to the latter. No matter how hard we try, how many charities we support, or how many promises we make to God that we will be good, we are deluding ourselves if we think we are anything but corrupt people apart from Christ.

To flaunt our claims to goodness is to be like a brand new car with all the bells and whistles, but no engine. We might attract attention from the people around us, but there is nothing good within us to make us function the way we are supposed to. For that, we need Christ. Any good deeds we do on our own is like trying to push that car without an engine up a hill, but a relationship with Jesus Christ gives us exactly what we need to do God’s work: Jesus Himself.

One day, we will all stand before God and have to account for our deeds. When that day comes, our good deeds and character will mean nothing if we do not have Christ. He alone makes the forgiveness of our sins possible, and it is only through His work in our lives that we come to have something good dwell within us to accomplish good in this world.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, You alone are good. I give up my claims to any goodness of my own and depend instead on Your sufficiency to conform me to Your likeness. Thank You, Lord.


It’s the start of a new year, and a good time to review the basics:

  • 201 means a little deeper than what’s found in many devotional books; and we tend to skip illustrations and go directly to the text. But we do appreciate the ministry of the organizations which distribute those resources.
  • On first time author appearances we try to check website statements about reuse, or send an email for permission to include material. Then we often repeat authors after six months or after one year. As of today, 2830 posts and only two take-down requests.
  • When you break a twig or branch off a tree, if it’s green inside the tree is alive. (I know you’re thinking, ‘Isn’t that an illustration?’ Oops) For that reason we print scripture verses in green to show that while all the content is helpful, the scriptures quotations contain life.
  • Not everyone presented here agrees with everybody else on everything. The site is a devotional mosaic; or if you prefer, a devotional potpourri. We do however try to check the compendium of a writer’s thoughts so we’re not steering you to any blog or website that might be problematic.
  • Submissions are welcomed. Click the submission page and use the form there to make contact. If you’ve never written devotional or study material before, here’s your opportunity. Start with a passage about which you’re passionate, but please, nothing deliberately provocative or controversial.
  • Christian music videos are often added if they relate to the theme of the devotional. There’s an index (see under ‘Pages’) listing all of the songs if that helps you locate a particular piece of writing.
  • Regular contributors aren’t bound by the six month rule; Clarke Dixon, Russell Young, and myself, Paul Wilkinson appear more frequently.
  • Topical articles, humor pieces, short stories, Christian news and current issues relating to faith are covered at our associate blog, Thinking Out Loud (see button in upper right).

December 7, 2017

Praying for God to Come Down. Or Not.

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,
so that the mountains would quake at your presence. Isaiah 64:1

This may not be everyone’s favourite prayer. Some would find the presence of God to be a frightening experience and some would prefer God not exist at all so they need not worry about it. Some have deeply thought through positions of agnosticism or atheism. Many, however, land there having heard or seen slogans like “God probably does not exist, so stop worrying and enjoy your life”, and are quite happy to not give it much further thought. So please don’t talk religion, thank you. Why? Because people assume that if God exists, then they should worry. If God is alive and well, then while we are alive and well for now, all will not be well when we are no longer alive. There is a feeling that we would never be good enough, or could never be good enough to meet our Maker. So please don’t tear open the heavens and come down Lord!

However, there is a tone of confidence in Isaiah’s prayer which runs from Isaiah 63:15-64:12. Isaiah is confident that if God were more fully present, it would go well for His people. Is this confidence based on the goodness or righteousness of the people, or even his own? Far from it, in fact the prayer is full of honest confession:

6 We have all become like one who is unclean,
and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.
We all fade like a leaf,
and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.
7 There is no one who calls on your name,
or attempts to take hold of you; Isaiah 64:6-7

Given the fact that God’s people have strayed far, praying for God to “tear open the heavens and come down” is sounding like a risky prayer to make indeed. Isaiah alludes to times in the past when God had “come down”:

When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect,
you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence. Isaiah 64:3

The prayer for God to come down could be answered like the time God “came down” at the Exodus. While that went well for God’s people, it did not go well for the Egyptians with plagues and a sea that closed in on the Pharaoh’s army. Given the sinfulness of God’s people as confessed by Isaiah, perhaps this time the plagues will land on them?

So where does Isaiah’s confidence in God come from if not in the righteousness of the people? Why does he pray with anticipation of good things, and not plagues? This prayer for help is not made with an appeal to the justice of God, to rescue the righteous. That option is not open for God knows too much! Rather it is made with an appeal to the character of God and the relationship God chose to have with His people. Consider the following references in this prayer:

For you are our father,
though Abraham does not know us
and Israel does not acknowledge us;
you, O Lord, are our father;
our Redeemer from of old is your name. Isaiah 63:16

Turn back for the sake of your servants,
for the sake of the tribes that are your heritage. Isaiah 63:17b

8 Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand.
9 Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord,
and do not remember iniquity forever.
Now consider, we are all your people. Isaiah 64:8-9 (emphases mine)

Isaiah prays with confidence because he knows the relationship God has with His people is like that of a father to a child. While God as a perfectly just judge can expect, in fact must expect, perfection, a father can have compassion and mercy toward an imperfect child. So how can God be both perfectly just and yet act “fatherly”? How can God be both judge and “Dad”? The answer is given in God’s response to Isaiah’s prayer.

There is an answer to this prayer, but instead of the prayer being answered with plagues and punishment, it is answered with the arrival of a baby and the beginning of a new kind of Exodus. While the plagues on Egypt resulted in the firstborn of the Egyptians experiencing death, in this Exodus it is God himself that goes through it, both as the grieving Father, and as the dying son. Only a holy and perfect offering could stand in the place of sinful person, taking the consequence of sin. Only God Himself could do that, and in Jesus He has done that. In Jesus God is the perfect judge, taking care of sin at the cross, while also being the good father, being compassionate and merciful toward His children.

For those who feel that they have wandered so far from God that they could never turn or return to Him, it has nothing to do with how far we have travelled away, and everything to do with how far God has travelled toward us. He answered Isaiah’s prayer and has come all the way from heaven to a cross on earth in Jesus, so that we could be reconciled to Him. Turning to God has nothing to do with impressing the judge with our own efforts, and everything to do with the love of a compassionate heavenly Father.

Maybe you don’t think of yourself as God’s child. An opportunity is before you:

12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God. John 1:12-13

Our relationship with God does not begin with our goodness. It begins with His.

However, even if you recognize that you are a child of God, you may think of yourself as the wayward child, the messed-up child, the stressed-out child, the foolish child, the undeserving child, or even the stupid child. On the one hand these might be accurate descriptions and we have room to grow like everyone else. On the other hand, The Lord’s Table while being a reminder of many things, is also a reminder that there are other adjectives that can be used to describe you. You are the redeemed child, the reconciled child, the forgiven child, the embraced child, the loved child.

Although the presence of God can, and should, be scary to someone who has rejected the Lord’s invitation to a father/child relationship, a child of God can pray with confidence as Isaiah did: “tear open the heavens and come down”. Being in Christ we can pray with confidence the last recorded prayer of the Bible:

20 The one who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen. Revelation 22:20-21 (emphasis mine)


All Scripture references are taken from the NRSV

Canadian Baptist pastor Clarke Dixon’s writing appears here most Thursdays; read more at Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon

November 23, 2017

Sitting on the Altar

by Clarke Dixon

“The priest yelled at me for sitting on the altar and that was the last time I ever went to church”. Thus said a new acquaintance one day. Some may want to scold the priest for handling the situation in an unfriendly manner. Or perhaps the priest knew something the young man did not? The Bible has much to teach about sacred, holy spaces.

It begins with Adam and Eve who, though initially enjoying the presence of God in the garden, sinned and got the boot. God is holy, they were not, and so they no longer belonged in that sacred space.

It continues with Moses and the burning bush. Moses is to take off his sandals for the place upon which he was standing was holy ground. God’s presence was near, an unholy man like Moses must keep his distance. We can note here, how fire is an appropriate image for the presence of God. Unholy people should never think they can give a holy God a hug. The fierce holiness of God commands a respect of space.

It continues with the Israelites at Mount Sinai. God tells Moses that he is going to be present on Mount Sinai and so the people are instructed to wash their clothes and to not “go up the mountain or touch the edge of it” (Exodus 19:12). God is holy, they are not, sacred space is to be respected.

It is taught with the giving of the law and the instructions regarding the tabernacle, the priesthood, and the sacrifices. The incredible attention to detail for clothing, ceremonial washings, and sacrifices offered a reminder that an unholy people cannot dwell with a holy God. If you were a Jew and you were to approach God at the tabernacle or later the temple, then the holiness code must be kept. If you were a non-Jew wanting to approach God at the Temple in Jerusalem, then you had to obey the signs telling Gentiles to go no further. God is holy, and you are not, so stay back.

The young man I quoted at the beginning was told to stay back. Unfortunately, he also stayed away. Whatever lessons the priest and the young man could learn that day, there is an important lesson for us all. Consider these words from the Apostle Paul:

But I have written more boldly to you on some points so as to remind you, because of the grace given to me by God 16 to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles. I serve the gospel of God like a priest, so that the Gentiles may become an acceptable offering, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:15-16 (NET emphasis mine)

Paul’s passion, reflecting God’s call on his life, is to reach the non-Jews with the good news about Jesus, with the good news about God. Paul frames this calling as being like a priest who is to bring an offering before God. In Paul’s case, that offering is non-Jewish people. There are two truths that follow from this for us to consider:

First, because of Jesus, people are brought into the presence of God who should not normally be there. Think of the temple and the signs telling the non-Jews to stop and go no further. Now imagine Paul like a priest bringing his offering, the non-Jews, to the temple. He must walk right past the signs! People who were once far from God and who were to keep a distance are now brought into a sacred space. There is a similar line of thought in Ephesians:

Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh . . . that you were at that time without the Messiah, alienated from the citizenship of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who used to be far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Ephesians 2:11-13 (NET)

Perhaps you feel that you are far from God and should keep a distance. In Christ you are invited to come right up to the altar!

Second, because of Jesus, people become an acceptable offering. Only the best of the best was to be brought as an offering before the Lord. There were to be no blemishes or defects. Do you feel like the best of the best? Probably not and neither do I. However, our perfection as an offering is a reflection of God’s work in us. Paul does not say that he brings the non-Jews to God just as they, as if any old offering will do. What he says is;

I serve the gospel of God like a priest, so that the Gentiles may become an acceptable offering, sanctified by the Holy Spirit. Romans 15:16 (NET emphasis mine)

It is God’s work to make us holy through the blood of Jesus and the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Our part is to show up. Paul here is continuing a thought he expressed earlier:

Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a sacrifice – alive, holy, and pleasing to God. Romans 12:1 (NET)

The emphasis is not “Therefore I exhort you, brothers and sisters, by your own efforts, to make sure you are good enough, and holy enough, to present your bodies as living sacrifices.” We might prefer it were, for we prefer pedestals to altars, also for then we could boast about our own capacity for holiness. Only, of course, we never could. The main verb focuses us on our part; offering ourselves. It is God’s part to make us “alive, holy, and pleasing to God”, to make us an “acceptable offering, sanctified by the Holy Spirit”.

I am a Dad, not because I spent nine months of painstaking work building a baby piecing together each and every cell in the correct place. I am a Dad because something incredible happened in my wife’s womb. My only accomplishment for nine months was getting a crib together. We are invited to become an acceptable offering, not because we we have the capacity in ourselves to become holy, but because God has done something incredible.

So let us consider again the yelling priest and the young man sitting on the altar. Was the priest right? The real tragedy here is that the young man, when I met him, could only think of religion in terms of priests, churches, religious people, and religious stuff. The question is not “what do you think of religion?” but always “what do you think of Jesus?” Whatever his answer to that is we know what God thinks of him. He wants him to be where He is, to live fully in the presence of God, to live in a sacred space, in fact to become a sacred space. That is what God wants for you also. Are you sitting on the altar?


read more at www.clarkedixon.wordpress.com

November 14, 2017

“I Have Lost Everything!”

by Russell Young

I recently heard a committed believer lament, “I have lost everything!”  Perhaps as someone endeavoring to walk “in the light,” as John puts it (1 Jn1: 5─7), you are struggling through a valley experience; you feel that you are being attacked from all sides. The committed believer does not need be overwhelmed with loss, the only things that those “in Christ” can lose are sin, sin’s practices, right to self-determination, and your status “in Christ.”

The greatest fear that any believer can have is his or her failure to remain “in Christ.” Many teach that such a fear is unbiblical, that a person cannot lose his or her position in Christ. However, Christ presents this change in status as a very clear possibility. “[My Father] cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit.” (Jn 15:1; Italics added.) Further, the Lord spoke about the blessings that arise “If [a person] remains in him” (Jn 15:5, 7, 10), and promises that he will remain in the person who remains in him. (Jn 15:4) A person remains in him if he or she obeys his commands. (Jn 15:10) The believer—a believer is one who obeys him—need not fear loss, but all who claim his name need to be believing–belief must be ongoing. In another place Christ also spoke of the possibility of impermanence in the family. (Jn 8:35)

It is important for the believer, the person “in Christ,” to understand the reality of what is transpiring in his or her life. Valley experiences require that time be committed to prayer and meditation. Truth must be separated from feelings and losses from gains. Certainly, disappointment, the thwarting of dreams, and even the loss of “friends” or financial security can weigh down a sensitive spirit, but these may not be losses from the Lord’s perspective; consequently, they should not be considered losses from the believer’s perspective. This is easy to say for someone not involved, but reflection will reveal that losses, in fact, may not have been losses at all.  “Losses” bring a person up short. They greatly impact the progress of life and call for an alteration in some sense. However, the Lord is looking out for the good of those “in him.”  Paul encouraged, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Rom 8:28 NIV) It is easy to become distracted and to stray from the Lord’s will and it can hurt to become re-oriented, to have ungodly interests chipped away, and to be maintained on the narrow path.

The Word never taught that all things would go painlessly for the believer. In fact, he promised persecution (2 Tim 3:12) and trials (1 Thess 3:3; 1 Pet 1:6) and even discipline (1 Cor 11:32; Heb 12:5-7; Rev 3:19) and punishment. (Heb 12:6) Discipline and punishment apply to those he loves.  (Heb 12:5) “God disciplines us for our good that we might share in his holiness.” (Heb 12:10 NIV)

God tests hearts. He did it for the Israelites in the wilderness (Ex 12:25, 16:4, 20:20; Deut 8:2, 16, 13:3;) He tested Abraham (Gen 22:1), Job (Job 23:10), and Jeremiah (Jer 12:3). He even tested the heart of his Son (Mt 4:1; Mk 1:13; Lk 4:1) Those who claim the name of Christ will be tested also. (Job 7:18; 1 Chr 29:17; 1 Thess 2:4; Jas 1:12) God tests hearts and the faithful will be found walking obediently with him.

The only way a believer can “lose everything” is for him or her to abandon the Lord and the position that was provided for them. Trials must be faced for what they are…trials. This life is not easy. Imperfections must be cut away; holiness must be built through righteousness practices. (Rom 6: 19, 22) All those who want to remain in Christ and attain to the resurrection must live as he did. “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 Jn 2:6)

When you are counting your loses, it is important to consider them from an eternal perspective.  Jesus said, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it.” (Mt 16:25 NIV) Loss is often a very good thing.


Russell Young’s column appears on alternate Tuesdays. He is the author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo. 9781512757514

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.

November 12, 2017

Sunday Worship

And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice–the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him.
  – Romans 12:1

“The problem with a living sacrifice is that it tends to crawl off the altar.”

Today we return to a recurring theme verse here at Sunday Worship. It reminds us that worship is something we do, but rather worship is something we are. Years ago, Christian musician Chris Christian wrote,

We lift our voices
We lift our hands
We lift our lives up to You
We are an offering1

I really try to eschew pithy illustrations and stories here at C201, but I find this one most appropriate:

A chicken and a pig were discussing how they could do something for the farmer. Finally the chicken said, “He loves a good breakfast; why don’t we give him bacon and eggs?”

To this the pig replied, “That’s easy for you. All it demands of you is an offering, but for me it demands total sacrifice.” 2

Here are some things I think will help us remember what it means to live our lives as a living sacrifice. Each starts with the letter ‘s’ followed by a different vowel.

Sacrifice

If we are to judge it, the measure of a sacrifice is not the size of what is given, but the size of what is left over.

A sacrifice will cost us and it will be consumed. There is no taking back the investment of our energies, gifts or material possessions given up in the service and pleasing of God. The last distinction is important. In service we see tangible results. But God is sometimes pleased by our giving up of things. Ask yourself: How much cash would you put on the offering plate if, as it was in Old Testament times, what was giving was then burned? That’s what our Old Testament predecessors did with the best of their grain and animals.

Set-Apartness

If you were arrested for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?

In a world that values conformity, no one wants to be the odd duck. Yet the book of Leviticus is essentially God wanting to insure that his people could maintain a distinct identity. It was all about showing yourself to be different.3

Sinlessness

Jerry Bridges has written,

Jesus said, “Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). We must honestly face the question, “Am I willing to give up a certain practice or habit that is keeping me from holiness?” It is at this point of commitment that most of us fail. We prefer to dally with sin, to try to play with it a little without getting too deeply involved. 4

Sovereignty

“There is a God. You are not Him,”

Jesus himself deferred to his Father on many occasions; providing us a reminder of who is in charge.

Surrender

When Abraham is asked to sacrifice is only son, we have the advantage that Abraham and Sarah didn’t; we know how the story ends. They did not, and yet Abraham is willing to do whatever it takes to obey God.5

Although we speak very different languages, two symbols are universal throughout the worldwide church. One is the word “Hallelujah” which I’m told is rendered the same in most languages. The other is lifted hands as a sign of surrender.

A writer at Charisma points out that our fingers, hands and arms are also most associated with human strength, power, creativity; both in a human sense and if we examine the Biblical record of God’s actions presented in a way we can best understand them. 6

 


1 Full video at YouTube.

2 This story is often used by leadership coaches as well. Here’s a longer version with the punchline contrasting contribution and commitment.

3 We looked at maintaining a distinct identity in this March, 2017 article.

4 We included more quotes from Jerry Bridges on this topic in this article.

5 This is excerpted from a fuller look at Abraham’s trip up the mountain with Isaac at this link.

6 See the full article about lifting hands at this link.

October 22, 2017

Sunday Worship

In the modern church we go through periods where different types of things are emphasized and in the current climate, one of these is the idea that you can come as you are to church. I think that on the surface, this is a very valid proposition. There are people who due to habitual sin or lifestyle choices feel that they need to clean up before they can come back to church. Or that at some point in the future they will settle down and return to the faith of their youth. Or that they have simply gone too far and can never receive the love of God.

This of course totally contradicts what scripture teaches. Jesus himself did not hang out with the good people, much to the chagrin of the religious set.

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is proved right by her deeds.” – Matthew 11:19 NIV

and again

The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, there is a man who is overfond of eating and drinking–he is a friend of tax-gatherers and notorious sinners!’  – Luke 7:34 Weymouth

If you have a son or a daughter; or a brother or sister; and they have wandered away from their faith because of sin, it’s really important to encourage them to continue to keep the dialog going between themselves and God, even in times of brokenness.

In that spirit, we want to be a church that welcomes people — all people — even if that means people caught in addictions, same-sex couples, people covered head to toe with tattoos.

…However…

It’s easy to let a more relaxed feel toward doing church — whether it’s what’s noted above or just a casual approach toward clothing, music, or drinking coffee during the service — spill over into those of us who are committed; those of us who lead.

The scripture is clear that the persons giving leadership are to cleanse themselves; to purify themselves before serving God. This is true of all of us who come to worship services:

So if you are presenting a sacrifice at the altar in the Temple and you suddenly remember that someone has something against you, leave your sacrifice there at the altar. Go and be reconciled to that person. Then come and offer your sacrifice to God. – Matthew 5:23-24 NLT

However, I think it especially true of those who direct us in a worship service or lead us in a worship service.

Take the Levites from among the sons of Israel and cleanse them. Thus you shall do to them, for their cleansing: sprinkle purifying water on them, and let them use a razor over their whole body and wash their clothes, and they will be clean.  – Numbers 8:7 NASB

I am sure that some will say, ‘Yes, but those laws are for the people of the First Testament, we are no longer bound by those rules.’ As sure as that is true, I believe it’s easy to lose the spirit of the regulation which is the idea of being pure before the Lord before offering worship to Him on behalf of the congregation.

Personally, I like the idea that I am no longer ‘required’ to wear a suit and tie to church. I grew up under those constraints. I like being able to take a water bottle or cup of coffee to my seat. I like a lot of the contemporary worship songs. I like that the kids feel comfortable in church.

I am also thrilled that we can recognize that people are welcomed into many of our churches even as their journey toward the cross is far from complete; even as their spiritual development is a work in process.

But those of us giving leadership still need to have clean hands. We need to confess our sin long before arriving at the place of meeting. We need to have a sense of reverence as we enter God’s presence. We need to see ourselves as set apart for service.


Some of you may be interested in reading today’s blog post at Thinking Out Loud: Who I Am.



 

 

October 21, 2017

Living in the World or Living in the Word?

Ps 119.18 Open my eyes that I may see
    wonderful things in your law.
19 I am a stranger on earth;
    do not hide your commands from me.

Today we’re featuring the writing of Smith Wigglesworth. Yes, that was his name; a name well known to people in the Assemblies of God or Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada, but best known in Britain where he was a Pentecostal evangelist. He died in 1947, but he was a prolific writer and his work continues in print in a long list of books. Many people claimed miraculous healing through his ministry.  In 2013, we did an entry on him in our quotations series which you can find at this link. The following is the March 17 entry in Smith Wigglesworth Devotional (Whitaker House). It’s a shorter entry as we were on a tight deadline today.

Life in the Word

Psalm 18.30 As for God, his way is perfect:
    The Lord’s word is flawless;
    he shields all who take refuge in him.

Scripture reading: Psalm 119:9-28

In the days when the number of disciples began to multiply, there arose a situation in which the Twelve had to make a definite decision not to occupy themselves with serving tables, but to give themselves continually to prayer and to the ministry of the Word.  How important it is for all of God’s ministers to be continually in prayer and constantly feeding on the Scriptures of Truth. I often offer a reward to anyone who can catch me anywhere without my Bible or my New Testament.

None of you can be strong in God unless you are diligently and constantly listening to what God has to say to you through His Word. You cannot know the power and the nature of God unless you partake of his inbreathed Word. Read it in the morning, in the evening, and at every opportunity you get. After every meal, instead of indulging in unprofitable conversation around the table, read a chapter from the Word, and then have a season of prayer. I endeavour to make a point of doing this no matter where or with whom I am staying.

The psalmist said that he had hidden God’s Word in his heart so that he might not sin against Him (Ps. 119:11). You will find that the more of God’s Word you hide in your heart, the easier it is to live a holy life. He also testified that God’s Word had given him life (v. 50). As you receive God’s Word, your whole physical being will be given life, and you will be made strong. As you receive with meekness the Word (James 1:21), you will find faith springing up within. You will have life through the Word.

Thought for Today: I find nothing in the Bible but holiness, and nothing in the world but worldliness. Therefore, if I live in the world, I will become worldly; on the other hand, if I live in the Bible, I will become holy.

October 14, 2017

A Focused Mind vs. An Idle Mind

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
Tags: , , ,

The title the author gave this piece was very practical and very specific. It’s not the usual type of devotional I choose here.

But the 2nd and 3rd paragraph were absolute gold! The difference between David as a teenager who was supremely confident and focused, as opposed to later in life when he is basically taking days off work to do nothing.

So again, if the title below doesn’t connect with you, read the piece anyway and notice the distinction in the introduction. The blog is MuyiwaWrites by Muyiwa Omosa and like other writers, the use of lower-case “i” is not a typo. Click the title below to read at source.

How Idle Moments May Be Feeding Your Porn Addiction

I can’t remember what led me to this part of the Bible, but i think i was curious to understand what made David so confident against Goliath? I wasn’t interested in just reading the verses that spoke about the fight, i wanted to understand the process. What made him this bold?

One of the verses that has still struck me to this day is in 1 Samuel 17:26. Goliath had come out to taunt the people of Israel yet again, and David who was should have been terrified as a teenager was busy negotiating the reward for killing this giant, even before the fight “David asked the soldiers standing nearby, what will a man get for killing this Philistine and ending his defiance of Israel?…”

It’s the equivalent of going for a job interview with a multinational company when you didn’t even finish high school, but instead of trying to sell yourself you are more interested in the benefits the job has to offer…it just blows my mind every time i read this.

Anyway, 1 Samuel was so interesting, i couldn’t stop so i continued on into 2 Samuel and came across this verse in chapter 11:1-2

(S)cripture: “In the spring of the year, when kings normally go out to war, David sent Joab and the Israelite army to fight the Ammonites. They destroyed the Ammonite army and laid siege to the city of Rabbah. However, David stayed behind in Jerusalem. Late one afternoon, after his midday rest, David got out of bed and was walking on the roof of the palace. As he looked out over the city, he noticed a woman of unusual beauty taking a bath

(O)bservations: The first thing i noticed was “when kings normally go out to war”. David was supposed to be at war with the army but chose to stay behind. A lot can happen when you are supposed to be somewhere but choose to be somewhere else.

When you don’t occupy your mind, you leave an open door for the enemy to fill that void. I believe this is how a lot of people get involved in porn addictions, drug abuse and so on.

David was walking on the roof when he should have been walking on the battle ground, he saw a naked woman taking a bath, when he should have been seeing strategies to defeat the enemy. This moment of idleness would eventually spiral into a series of unfortunate events that led to murder and so much more.

Imagine that, one moment of idleness led to murder…one moment of idleness led to impregnating another mans wife. The idle mind really is the devils workshop.

(A)pplication: A popular quote that i heard recently says “People find themselves in prisons, because they didn’t plan to be somewhere else”

Having a vision for my life has automatically defined the decisions i can make because i have already unconsciously defined the consequences of my actions way ahead of time.

For example, one of my goals in life is to heal other marriages through mine…i want my marriage to show the world that it can work if it is done God’s way. That image i have in my heart keeps me disciplined…that image would never be realised if i were to get involved in a scandal. It is very necessary to have a plan for your life…i wrote about some practical steps i took in painting this picture

Whatever you focus on, expands. Every morning when i wake up, i meditate…i look at my goals and read them out loud, i study the Bible so that my mind has something to chew on for the rest of the day.

I usually create a to-do list the night before so that my activities for the day are already set out to eliminate any idle moments as much as possible.

(P)rayer: Heavenly Father, i just ask for more hunger for You. The more i know You, the less idle i become. How can i even be idle when you are everywhere for me to see? When i look up in the skies You are right there, the car i drive came from the ground you made. Open my eyes to see you in everything i do. In Jesus Name!!! AMEN

September 15, 2017

Changed from Glory to Glory

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
Tags: , , ,

But whenever Moses went in before the LORD to speak with Him, he would take off the veil until he came out; and whenever he came out and spoke to the sons of Israel what he had been commanded… – Exodus 34:34

Many times a phrase from scripture becomes, for lack of a better term somewhat enlarged through propagation in hymns or modern worship choruses and then finds its way into preaching. This is especially true when phrases rendered in the unique styling of the KJV become common in church life. Sometimes they can become part of the Christianese verbal landscape. Such it is with the phrase we’re looking at today.

The King James Version of 2 Corinthians 3:18 reads:

But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord.

First of all, the key in the context of this passage is not changed or glory, but rather the idea of the veil. This begins in verse 7 of that chapter, but because the imagery is unfamiliar to many of us, I want to look at verses 12-18 in four translations; two of which add additional words to bring clarity.

First, here’s The Voice Bible (added words in italics, as is that translation’s custom)

12 In light of this hope that we have, we act with great confidence and speak with great courage. 13 We do not act like Moses who covered his face with a veil so the children of Israel would not stare as the glory of God faded from his face. 14 Their minds became as hard as stones; for up to this day when they read the old covenant, the same veil continues to hide that glory; this veil is lifted only through the Anointed One. 15 Even today a veil covers their hearts when the words of Moses are read; 16 but in the moment when one turns toward the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 By “the Lord” what I mean is the Spirit, and in any heart where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is liberty. 18 Now all of us, with our faces unveiled, reflect the glory of the Lord as if we are mirrors; and so we are being transformed, metamorphosed, into His same image from one radiance of glory to another, just as the Spirit of the Lord accomplishes it.

Next, we have The Amplified Bible (added meanings in brackets, as is that translation’s custom.)

12 Since we have such a [glorious] hope and confident expectation, we speak with great courage, 13 and we are not like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the Israelites would not gaze at the end of the glory which was fading away. 14 But [in fact] their minds were hardened [for they had lost the ability to understand]; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed [only] in Christ. 15 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil [of blindness] lies over their heart; 16 but whenever a person turns [in repentance and faith] to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty [emancipation from bondage, true freedom]. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, continually seeing as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are progressively being transformed into His image from [one degree of] glory to [even more] glory, which comes from the Lord, [who is] the Spirit.

Third, we have the Common English Bible.

12 So, since we have such a hope, we act with great confidence. 13 We aren’t like Moses, who used to put a veil over his face so that the Israelites couldn’t watch the end of what was fading away. 14 But their minds were closed. Right up to the present day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. The veil is not removed because it is taken away by Christ. 15 Even today, whenever Moses is read, a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But whenever someone turns back to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 The Lord is the Spirit, and where the Lord’s Spirit is, there is freedom. 18 All of us are looking with unveiled faces at the glory of the Lord as if we were looking in a mirror. We are being transformed into that same image from one degree of glory to the next degree of glory. This comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

Finally, Here’s the full passage in The Message:

7-8 The Government of Death, its constitution chiseled on stone tablets, had a dazzling inaugural. Moses’ face as he delivered the tablets was so bright that day (even though it would fade soon enough) that the people of Israel could no more look right at him than stare into the sun. How much more dazzling, then, the Government of Living Spirit?

9-11 If the Government of Condemnation was impressive, how about this Government of Affirmation? Bright as that old government was, it would look downright dull alongside this new one. If that makeshift arrangement impressed us, how much more this brightly shining government installed for eternity?

12-15 With that kind of hope to excite us, nothing holds us back. Unlike Moses, we have nothing to hide. Everything is out in the open with us. He wore a veil so the children of Israel wouldn’t notice that the glory was fading away—and they didn’t notice. They didn’t notice it then and they don’t notice it now, don’t notice that there’s nothing left behind that veil. Even today when the proclamations of that old, bankrupt government are read out, they can’t see through it. Only Christ can get rid of the veil so they can see for themselves that there’s nothing there.

16-18 Whenever, though, they turn to face God as Moses did, God removes the veil and there they are—face-to-face! They suddenly recognize that God is a living, personal presence, not a piece of chiseled stone. And when God is personally present, a living Spirit, that old, constricting legislation is recognized as obsolete. We’re free of it! All of us! Nothing between us and God, our faces shining with the brightness of his face. And so we are transfigured much like the Messiah, our lives gradually becoming brighter and more beautiful as God enters our lives and we become like him.

I was going to look at the one verse only and present about a dozen different renderings of it, but decided to go more in depth with these four translations. By now you have a clear picture of the imagery here — in reference to Moses — but you see that the opposite situation is hoped for. The classic Albert Barnes commentary points us to this:

This is said in contradistinction probably to Moses. The splendor on his face gradually died away. But not so with the light reflected from the gospel. It becomes deeper and brighter constantly. This sentiment is parallel to that expressed by the psalmist; “They go from strength to strength” Psalm 84:7; that is, they go from one degree of strength to another, or one degree of holiness to another, until they come to the full vision of God himself in heaven. The idea in the phrase before us is; that there is a continual increase of moral purity and holiness under the gospel until it results in the perfect glory of heaven. The “doctrine” is, that Christians advance in piety; and that this is done by the contemplation of the glory of God as it is revealed in the gospel.

We won’t spend more time here, but to say that in understanding various types of imagery like this one, we are really learning more about the ways of God and the desire of God for our lives. Here’s a modern worship song which uses this phrase:

 

 

 

July 2, 2017

Correcting a Serious Misunderstanding

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
Tags: , , ,

by Russell Young

This writing is dedicated to dealing with a very serious misunderstanding concerning eternal salvation. It is commonly accepted that Christ died for our sins, taking our place in judgment, and fulfilling God’s plan to reconcile us to him. This is completely true, but reconciliation or redemption does not accomplish a person’s eternal salvation. The Word is clear, “He redeemed us in order that the blessings given Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” (Gal 3:14 NIV) Redemption or reconciliation to God through the removal of the sin that separates allowed the believer to receive the promise of the Spirit, it did not provide for a person’s eternal salvation, nor does it remove all judgment.

Consider the following points:

  1. He died as a ransom to set [those who are called] free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” (Heb 9:15 NIV) The ransom provided by Christ did not set the believer free from all sin that he or she would ever commit. Although his blood is the only source of cleansing from sin, his blood offering directly covered all sin that had accumulated—and would have brought death–during life under the domain of the first or Old Covenant. Repentance and confession is required for sins committed following this cleansing. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 Jn 1:9 NIV, Italics added)
  2. The sacrificial death of Jesus fulfilled God’s plan for reconciliation, but did not fulfill God’s plan for eternal reconciliation… eternal salvation. The fulfillment of his plan has several elements that need to be grasped.
    1. Now that he has died, “Christ is the mediator or a new covenant.” (Heb 9:15) Just as the righteous requirements of the first covenant had to be fulfilled, those of the new must be fulfilled. Mediation comes through his ministry as Holy Spirit and as High Priest.
    2. The Holy Spirit is Christ, or the Lord, and following his resurrection, as Spirit, he is given by the Father to indwell the believer. “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Col 1:27 NIV) “Now the Lord is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:17 NIV) “[W]e, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 18 NIV) The ministry of Christ can not be considered completed through his death on the cross. To do so robs him of the full glory that his ministry warrants.
    3. Salvation (eternal) comes through the Spirit. “From the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth.” (2 Thess 2:13 NIV, See also Titus 3: 5─6, Romans 15:16; Jn 6:63)
    4. The righteous requirements of the law are now satisfied by living according to the Spirit’s leading. “[H]e 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, See also Gal 6:7─8, Rom 8:13─14, Gal 5:18)
    5. Eternal salvation requires obedience to the Spirit. “[H]e became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Heb 5:9 NIV) “Eternal” salvation comes through obedience following the gifting of the Spirit and not through the pardon of sins committed under the first covenant.
  3. Although judgment for sins committed under the first covenant has been eliminated, judgment for sins committed under the new remains. “For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” (1 Pet 4:17 NIV, See also 2 Cor 5:10; Heb 4:13, 10:30; 1 Pet 1:17, etc)
  4. The faith that that completes the first covenant is faith in the existence of God and that he rewards those who diligently seek him. This faith is in persuasion of the heart and soul to a reality. The faith that brings about “eternal salvation” must also be sufficient to compel obedience or the practice of that faith, the proving of it.

The misunderstanding that has pervaded the gospel is that the sacrificial death of Christ has accomplished all the believer’s needs leaving him or her to enjoy life as he or she pleases. The believer has been given right to the New Covenant, a covenant of the Spirit (2 Cor 3:6) and this covenant must be satisfied for a person to gain “eternal” salvation. The Word says, “His divine power (the Holy Spirit) has given us everything we need for life and godliness…” (2 Pet 1:3 NIV) When studying the Scriptures, it is important to discern which covenant is being referenced. The New Covenant or the Covenant of the Spirit avails “eternal” salvation.



Russell Young is the Sunday contributor to Christianity 201 and author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

9781512757514

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.

 

 

June 27, 2017

The Waterfall of Grace

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

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.

June 18, 2017

What Happened to Fearing God?

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

by Russell Young

On the Exodus Moses told Israel, “And now, O Israel, what does the LORD your God ask of you but to fear the LORD your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, and to serve the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to observe the LORD’s commands and decrees…” (Deut 10:12 NIV)

Fearing the Lord had, and has, a purpose, and the need is very much relevant today. Moses’ sought Israel be ever cognizant of their God and of his sovereignty, power, and authority so that they might live righteously before him. The requirement to walk humbly and obediently before God is an “expectation” because it is natural acknowledgement of the glory and worth of God in the lives of his created ones. The God of the Israelites is the same God who is to be honoured today and his being and expectations have not changed. God is God and he is to be worshipped according to his majesty and his glory. To not fear the Lord is to fail to recognize the power and authority that is his. He created for his good purpose and he will achieve his purpose regardless of the imaginations of people. Those who do not make use of his provision through humble submission will not find a place in his eternal kingdom. The hope given mankind and the opportunity to miss the mark should cause fear throughout humankind.

Fear is a motivator. Fear of the consequences of breaking man’s law compels people to strive to follow laws. Proverbs declares that fear causes evil to be avoided. “Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through fear of the LORD evil is avoided.” (Prov 16:6 NIV)

There does not appear to be much “fear” of God throughout his creation today. It is to be expected that those who do not accept the reality of God would not fear him, however, is fear of transgressing his rule being evidenced in churches? When God is presented as something that he is not, idolatry is taking place. Could idolatrous understandings have destroyed fear of God? Many who claim to love him and who are relying on his grace to provide for their eternal hope have abandoned any measure of fear as live their lives on their terms.

The misapplication of God’s grace has obfuscated the Lord’s requirement for obedience and has eliminated concern for righteous living and the coming judgment; consequently, fear of God has been replaced with an understanding of freedom that allows the “believer” to live as he or she wishes without consequence. God’s admonition to fear him in order to avoid sin’s practice and rebellion against his righteous requirements has not changed regardless of the deceptions that have invaded the gospel. (Gal 6:7─8; 1 pet 2:17) The writer of Hebrews has stated, “[H]e became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Heb 5:9 NIV) and that “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.” (2 Cor 5:10 NIV)

Relief from God’s laws, statutes and everlasting covenant has never been allowed by Christ despite man’s teaching. Judgment remains for those who rebel. It is through the practice of obedience that God will determine the humble hearts that please and honor him. In fact, it is the LORD’s prophecy that the world will be destroyed because of rebellion against his laws, statutes, and everlasting covenant. (Isa 24:5) Christ did not come to do away with the law (Mt 5:17), but to fulfill God’s righteous requirements as embodied in the law through his indwelling presence as Spirit. (Rom 8:4) Those who would honor God will humbly and fearfully seek to obey his Spirit.

Some will quote John’s writing, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” (1 Jn 4:18 NIV) Caution must be taken not to apply a personal definition of ‘love.’ Love is made complete by those who live in God, those who are like him. (See v 16, 17) Those who walk in the light need not fear, but those who walk in the freedom that they have granted themselves need to be concerned; they need to ‘fear’ God and the judgment that will rest upon them. (John’s writing deals with a person’s perfect love for God and should not be taken to reference the love that Christ has for the believer.)

John spoke a great deal of the necessity of obedience to the commands of Christ as the expression of one’s love. (Jn 14:21, 15:10; 1 Jn 2:3, 5:2, 3; 2 Jn 1:6) His teaching did not rest in an emotional response to Christ but required the validation of love as evidenced through a person’s practices. Christ said, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me.” (Jn 14:21 NIV) And, ‘If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching.” (Jn 14:23 NIV) Perfect love means perfect obedience and the one who accomplishes this need not fear judgment; however, peace should be far from the hearts of the disobedient.

Paul admonished the Philippians, and those of this generation, to “work out [their] salvation with fear and trembling.” (Phil 2:12 NIV) Deceptive teaching has removed fear and concern for sinning from the hearts and minds of many people. Consequently, unexpected judgment will visit those who had failed to see God for who he is and had not recognized his expectations. Failure to admonish believers to fear God and to walk circumspectly before him has greatly weakened the testimony of churches as the righteous bodies that claim to present Christ to the world.


Russell A. Young is a Canadian author. Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? is available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

 

June 11, 2017

Becoming Like Christ

by Russell Young

How does a person become like Christ? John wrote, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.” (1 Jn 3:2─3 NIV) John’s teaching is that “we shall be like him.” Many accept, and have been taught, that the “we” refers to all who have made a confession of faith, those who have been identified as “believers.” However, “believers” are those who obey the commands of Christ. John completed his thought by adding, “Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

Common teaching allows that Christ, by his mercy and grace, has done all that is needed to prepare the confessor for a place in his kingdom. There is no miraculous purification or soul transformation when this life ceases; the believer is to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling. It is for the sake of holiness and for the hope of being sanctified by Christ and made “an offering acceptable to God,” (Rom 15:16 NIV) “to become blameless and pure” (Phil 2:14) that God requires obedience to Christ. The Word reveals that without holiness no one will see the Lord (Heb 12:14) and that it is righteous living that produces holiness. (Rom 6:19) “Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to ever-increasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.” (NIV)

John’s teaching that “we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is,” is the understanding that needs to be grasped. Our earthly understanding of Christ remains ‘foggy.’ Paul wrote, “Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (1 Cor 13:12 NIV) One day the obedient will see him free of the distortions of word and mind.

The reality is that unless the believer becomes holy through slavery to righteousness they will not see him or know him. They cannot conform to his likeness. To “see” means “to gaze (i.e. with wide-open eyes, as at something remarkable)” (Strong’s Greek Dictionary #3700) It will be those in close proximity to Christ who will have the advantage of enjoying his image; they will see him and know him

During their earthy life believers have been called to be like Christ. Those who take this call seriously have learned to cast aside destructive practices. Paul wrote, “You were taught with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph 4:23─24 NIV) All who claim the name of Christ are to conform to his nature. Unless the confessor is changing in the attitudes of his or her heart, he or she is not a “believer” and will one day face the wrath of God since the hearts and practices of humankind are not acceptable to God. In Genesis it is recorded, “The LORD saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The LORD was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the LORD said, ‘I will wipe mankind, whom I have created, from the face of the earth.” (Gen 6:5─7 NIV) It is the heart of people that needs to be made acceptable to God. Holiness is not a gift to believers beyond their redemption. One’s body is to be “offered in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness.”

If the “imaginations of the thoughts of one’s heart” are, and remain, offensive to God he or she will never achieve the glory that he offers. Knowing Christ through the Word and the revelations of his Spirit and through obedience to his commands (the application of his mind) allows believers to become transformed. “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Cor 3:18 NIV)

Becoming like Christ depends on one’s willingness to allow him to transform one’s heart and practices through his Spirit as he or she walks this earth. Those who have been led to holiness will achieve a state of glory far beyond their understanding. To accomplish this requires a humble and obedient walk with Christ as Lord, and requires suffering as evil imaginations are purged. God is to be loved with all of one’s heart, mind, body, and soul as evidenced in a person’s practices. Paul wrote, “I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Rom 8:18 NIV)

Believers will be truly like Christ in matters of the heart and mind. They will be able to fellowship unashamedly with God and with others. They will bring joy to his heart instead of pain. While on this earth the beauty of that relationship cannot be known because purity and holiness in people and relationships does not exist. Concerning the New Jerusalem, Paul wrote, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people and he will be their God.” (Rev 21:3 NIV).



Russell Young is the Sunday contributor to Christianity 201 and author of Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? available in print and eBook through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

9781512757514

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.

May 27, 2017

Jesus: His Three Count Case Against the World

A year ago here we introduced you to Jean’s Gospel, a series of teachings which appear on Michael Newnham’s blog Phoenix Preacher. Today we looked at a few of Jean’s more recent writings and chose this one to share with you. Click the title below to read this at source:

Jean’s Gospel: The Advocate

But now I am going to him who sent me, and none of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:5-11)

When Jesus said, “I am going to him who sent me,” the disciples did not grasp the full significance of His departure. They understood only enough to cause them sorrow. His leaving would end their hopes that Jesus would establish a visible kingdom and government on earth. Moreover, Jesus had just finished preparing the disciples for the rejection and persecution they would receive from the world. Could they accomplish their commission without Jesus physically with them?

But just moments earlier Jesus had told the disciples they would accomplish greater works than He “because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). Now He adds: “it is to your advantage that I go away.” Jesus was not leaving them alone. When He returned to the Father, He would send the Holy Spirit to be with them and in them as their Helper, Advocate and Comforter. The disciples would be the instruments of the Holy Spirit, and He would guide them into all truth.

Christ’s kingdom will remain and grow, but as a spiritual kingdom: “he will convict the world.” His kingdom is not a government constituted in worldly fashion by human wisdom and power, but a government of the Holy Spirit, in which Christ rules invisibly, not with bodily power, but through the Word alone. The Church proclaims Christ, His Word and His kingdom to the world.

But first Jesus had to return to the Father: “if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you.” Jesus had work to finish, in the flesh, as the world’s High Priest, by offering himself as the perfect sacrifice and substitute for the sins of the world. Thus His route to the Father would take Him to Calvary, to a sepulcher, to His resurrection, to His ascension and finally to His exaltation at the right hand of the Father.

“And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment:” (John 16:8)

Pilate and the Jewish leaders thought they could convict and put an end to Jesus and His followers, but actually the Holy Spirit, through the office of preaching, would take the initiative, reverse the roles, and convict the whole world – rich and poor, strong and weak, kings and slaves, that the world is in the wrong before God. The world will be compelled to hear the Holy Spirit’s case against it regardless of rejection, threats, intimidation or persecution against Christ, His Church or His preachers. No one will be able to escape sin, death and hell, nor enter heaven, who does not hear and submit to the Holy Spirit.

Jesus makes His case against the world in three counts: concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment.

Count #1: “concerning sin, because they do not believe in me;” (John 16:9)

Because it does not believe in Jesus, the Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin.

When Paul preached in Athens, he accused the Greeks of “ignorance” concerning God (Acts 17:22-31). God is not “an image formed by the art and imagination of man” (Acts 17:29). Ignorance is no excuse when it comes to God. If “sin” is defined as “missing the mark”, then one always will miss the mark if one is ignorant of the target. Unbelief in Jesus is the chief sin, because Jesus is the image of God and without belief in Him one is ignorant of God.

Jesus is “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15); “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb 1:3); “Whoever has seen [Jesus] has seen the Father” (John 14:9). Only with belief in Jesus can one begin to fear, love and trust God; only then can one begin to live according to God’s will and commandments.

Belief in Jesus, that He is the Son of God, who has made satisfaction for our sins, who died and was raised for our justification, etc., falls outside of empirical knowledge and human wisdom, so none of us acquires a belief in Jesus through human means. The Holy Spirit must convict the world of who Jesus is and what He suffered in our stead, and of His victory for our benefit. He who does not believe in Jesus cannot be rid of sin nor escape the wrath of God, because he has no forgiveness and abides under condemnation.

Count #2: “concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer;” (John 16:10)

The Holy Spirit will convict the world that Jesus is righteous and the world is unrighteous, because Jesus goes to the Father and the world sees Him no longer.

Jesus is the One of whom the Father said: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11) It is Jesus of whom David was speaking: “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’ ” (Matt 22:44). By His going to the Father, the Holy Spirit convicts the world that Jesus alone is righteous.

On the other hand, there is no righteousness on earth. As God warned Moses: “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live” (Ex 33:20). David also wrote: “Enter not into judgment with your servant, for no one living is righteous before you” (Ps 143:2).

Therefore, man cannot obtain righteousness by his own efforts; he must clothe himself in the righteousness of Christ through faith in the Gospel. As Paul wrote: “For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Phil 3:8b-9).

Count #3: “concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.” (John 16:11)

The Holy Spirit will convict the world of God’s judgment in favor of Jesus and against the world. He will testify that Christ’s death and resurrection prove that Jesus defeated the powers of sin, death and Satan. By His victory, Satan is judged and condemned. Anyone who shares the unbelief of Satan is similarly judged and condemned.

“Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brothers, what shall we do?’ ” (Acts 2:37)

The Holy Spirit has two offices. With the Law He performs His alien work which is to convict and condemn the whole world. With the Gospel He performs His proper work which is to comfort and make alive. “For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor 3:6b).

What is the Father’s desire for everyone who receives the Holy Spirit’s verdict? Quite simply this: “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). Amen.

 

Next Page »