Christianity 201

July 2, 2019

Eternal Salvation Comes Through the Fullness of God’s Grace

by Russell Young

God’s grace is any act of his goodness or graciousness to humankind, especially the divine influence upon the heart, and its reflection in the life; including gratitude. It can be provision of a comfort as the Lord’s provision of the plant provided to shelter Jonah from the sun’s heat or the bread provided to Elijah by the ravens, and it can be implicit in the attainment of his eternal kingdom. His grace was seen many times in the life of the Israelites on the Exodus. The waters of the Red Sea and the Jordan were parted so they could cross on dry ground, their shoes and clothing didn’t wear out, they were provided with manna and even water from a rock. His grace was evidenced in the miraculous acts of Jesus and by his sacrificial offering on the cross for the justification of a sinful people. The provision of the Holy Spirit and of the Word that informs men of God, of his plans, and of the means of salvation are acts of grace. Any blessing of God’s goodness expressed in the life of a person is an act of grace.

When the Word says that people are saved by grace, it is presenting that God’s goodness and graciousness as expressed in the lives of people delivers them from a danger that would have brought destruction. When addressing God’s grace, it is important to identify the act that has met a particular need. What is the act and what is the outcome?

“Work” is the opposite of grace. Work is human centered and is often a person’s effort to please a holy God. The Israelites had been required to honor God through keeping the covenant law. When it is reported that salvation is by the grace of God, it means that a person’s deliverance is achieved by the God’s merciful and gracious intervention in that person’s life so that he or she can avoid danger and loss. His grace for eternal salvation is not necessarily specific to a single act but through the fullness of his provision or through many acts. In fact, a person’s eternal salvation is not accomplished by a single act of the Lord, but by the fullness of his love and mercy and that over time.

  1. The Lord’s visitation to humankind, the incarnation of God in the form of a human being, to reveal God and to appreciate the trials of the flesh were by their gracious provision.
  2. The Lord’s sacrificial death in the place of people so that they could be justified and redeemed from their death penalty and provided a better hope through the New Covenant were acts of grace.
  3. The Father’s gift of the Holy Spirit so that the sinful nature that brings death could be defeated is an act of grace.
  4. The life of Christ as Spirit to enlighten, lead, and empower for righteous living is an act of grace.
  5. The Lord’s mediation of his own blood in the role of High Priest for the forgiveness of sins is also an act of grace

Salvation is by God’s grace and it must not be considered otherwise; however, it is not achieved by a single act of his goodness. The real need of people is to be conformed to the likeness of the Son of God becoming an offering acceptable to him (Rom 15:16) and should not be limited to the forgiveness of sin in the believer’s life. The Lord’s gracious ministry and intervention in the life of believers is extravagant and goes well beyond his death on the cross. His grace and love are much more expansive.

“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.” (Titus 2:11−14) In this reference the grace of God is our teacher.

On leaving Ephesus, Paul committed the elders to God and to the word of his grace, which could build them up and give them an inheritance among those who are sanctified. (Acts 20:32) The word of his righteous requirements was to “build them up” so that they could become “sanctified” and participate in the inheritance of the sanctified. These were the “elders.” They had made a confession of faith; however, the sacrificial offering of Christ was not enough to meet the fullness of their requirements because they still had to be built up by working out their own salvation through the sanctification that comes by the word and the Spirit. “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and approved by men.” (Rom 14:17−18)

The opportunity for salvation has appeared to all peoples. The grace of God that brings salvation teaches them to live properly. God’s grace comes through the Word, which is Christ himself (Rev 19:13), who has revealed God and the words of salvation, and it requires the Holy Spirit who brings God’s words to remembrance as well as empowering the obedient to live righteously, to be sanctified. The fullness of God’s grace needs to be appreciated and honored.



Russell Young’s column appears here on alternate Tuesdays. His first book, Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay, You’re Okay” Really? is available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.

To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link. There is also an extended article at this link

February 28, 2019

Jesus Measures Output, Not Input

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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NIV.Matthew 15.10 Jesus called the crowd to him and said, “Listen and understand. 11 What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” …

17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? 18 But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20 These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.” [also found in Mark 7:17-23]

Once again we’re back with Arnold Reimer, for many years the pastor of Bayview Glen Alliance Church in Toronto, and his blog titled Finishing Well. These days my oldest son attends that church, making him the third generation in our family to have some connection there. The title which I gave this piece — not the one in the link below — just came to me as a very concise way of summing up what Jesus said in the above passage. Overall, Pastor Reimer goes beyond the often heard line of ‘having a purpose in life,’ and defines what’s needed as a “holy purpose.”

Purpose

A lawyer once asked Jesus to identify the “great commandment in the Law”. Jesus responded: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” The Old Testament statement, from which He was quoting, used the word “might” rather than “mind”. The point is we must love God with the totality of our being. The heart is fundamental to life itself. The soul is the fountain of emotion, passion and personality. The mind is the place of reason, understanding and will. And might combines the whole being into something active, strong and enduring.

Every faithful follower of Christ must purpose in his/her heart to love the Lord God with such determination and commitment. It is to be the very motive and focus of godly living. It is the foundation upon which life with its multiplicity of activities is to be built. Our relationships, thoughts, words, work, pleasure, learning, must all flow from, display and enhance our purpose to love God. That must be our unique and distinguishing feature.

Do not think for one minute that such a path is easy. Challenging such a holy purpose is the world, the flesh and the devil.

Never underestimate the impact and influence of the world upon us. Jesus’ great prayer for us is instructive. “But now I come to Thee; and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy made full in themselves. I have given them Thy word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world even as I am not of the world. I do not ask Thee to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” Beware of the subtle attraction, allure and demands that draw us away from God and into the ways of this world’s systems. The hugely enhanced communication of our day tends to flood our minds and hours with images and influences that are destructive.

Even more deadly than the world is the flesh. Hear our Lord’s assessment: “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.” A poet explains: “God, harden me against myself, this coward with pathetic voice, who craves for ease and rest and joys. Myself, arch-traitor to myself, my hollowest friend, my deadliest foe, my clog whichever way I go. Yet one there is can cure myself, can roll the strangling load from me, break off the yolk and set me free.” Only the liberating work of Christ and a learned obedience to the gracious voice of the Holy Spirit can save us from self!

And then there is the devil. That roaring, devouring lion, that angel of deceptive light, wants his way with us. He is a liar, an accuser, a murderer, a god of darkness, despair, doom and death. He would ensnare us were it not that Jesus has defeated him, put him to open shame by the victory of Calvary. Praise God forever that “greater is He who is in us than he who is in the world.” Exult with the Apostle who said, “I am crucified with Christ, nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

If you would love God with your whole being, immerse yourself in His love- letter to us, the Bible. Cultivate the beauty of His presence by prayer, hymns, obedience, thoughts, fellowship and conversation. Let His Spirit pour out His love into your heart. He will control you, speak to you and lead you into paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. What a life-changing purpose by which to order our lives!

 

 

September 8, 2018

Don’t Even Think About It

A few years ago I was speaking with someone who was heading off to a small Bible college in Eastern Canada. I asked him if he needed help with textbooks, and he said that the school tends to write their own curriculum as they have a unique take on how they approach some Bible subjects. Sometimes this can be a red-flag, so I asked him to give me an example, but it turned out to be something I found challenging and want to share here.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says,

NIV Matt. 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Not all the teaching in this section specifically references the Decalogue, but what if we applied that “Don’t even think about it” standard to all of the other Ten Commandments? He told me that’s exactly what they did in their discussion of this passage. That got me thinking. Instead of “Thou shalt nots” it might look like this:

  1. Don’t even think about putting any other interest, hobby, passion, person, pet, or other god-to-be-worshiped ahead of me (or even on an equal place).
  2. Don’t even think about giving special place to any physical representation of something (existing or in fantasy) that then occupies a central place in your life.
  3. Don’t even think about using God’s name casually or disrespectfully.
  4. Don’t even think about doing some chores or work for pay during the time you know should be set aside for God and for the rest He commands. If it is within your power, don’t compel others to work during this time, either.
  5. Don’t even think about how, given other circumstances, you’d love to kill someone if you thought you’d get away with; or harbor the anger that rises to that level.
  6. Don’t even think about going against the values your parents taught you, or doing something against their wishes. Their values and wishes and the proverbs they taught you will lead to long life.
  7. Don’t even think about having sex with someone who is not your wife; those thoughts will consume you and furthermore, it’s not likely to ever happen, you’re just driving yourself crazy!
  8. Don’t even think about taking something that isn’t yours.
  9. Don’t even think about misrepresenting someone else or putting spin on a story so it makes them look bad.
  10. Don’t even think about comparing yourself to what your neighbor, or co-worker, or extended family member has, or to his or her spouse, and wishing you could have that life or lifestyle.

Feel free to refine what I’ve written, or take the list in Exodus 20, and rewrite it in your own personal style or adding things you feel conform to the intention of the text when combined with the application of Matthew 5.

Before we conclude, another thing that struck me as I studied this was how The Voice Bible rendered the “You have heard it said” sections of Matthew 5. These are in italics in this version to indicate that yes, the translators have taken a liberty with the original text in order to provide clarity. What is especially worth noting here is that we generally read these with the inference that Jesus is now introducing something new, but these readings imply that the wider implications of what Jesus taught have been implicit in the text all along, if only we could see it that way.

  • 22 But here is the even harder truth
  • 28 You may think you have abided by this Commandment, walked the straight and narrow…
  • 34 But I tell you this: do not ever swear an oath. What is an oath? You cannot say, “I swear by heaven”—for heaven is not yours to swear by; it is God’s throne. 35 And you cannot say, “I swear by this good earth,” for the earth is not yours to swear by; it is God’s footstool. And you cannot say, “I swear by the holy city Jerusalem,” for it is not yours to swear by; it is the city of God, the capital of the King of kings.

This translation also breaks down specifically the origin of “You have heard it said…”

  • 21 As you know, long ago God instructed Moses to tell
  • 27 As you know, long ago God forbade His people…
  • 31 And here is something else: you have read in Deuteronomy that
  • 33 You know that…
  • 38 You know that Hebrew Scripture sets this standard…
  • 43 You have been taught…

Jesus’ teaching is clear: Don’t even consider wandering from the path, from God’s default settings, even for a moment!

NIV II Tim. 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus

July 3, 2016

The Need to be Victorious

•••by Russell Young

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

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

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

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

Further, the Lord said, “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” (Mt 13:41, NIV)

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

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

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

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

May 8, 2016

The Imputation of Christ’s Righteousness: The Beginning of Eternal Salvation

•••by Russell Young

Many rest their eternal hope in the understanding that Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to them; consequently, they accept that their personal righteousness is no longer a relevant issue. A common refrain is that ‘Christ has done it all,’ that the Lord’s imputed righteousness will bring about their eternal salvation. Such thinking is error and one day they may be left greatly disappointed.

“Imputed” is translated from the Greek logizomai. The KJV translates it as “imputed” 8 times of its 49 usages. Most often it is translated as counted, reckoned, or to think. That is, it refers to an attitude or behavior that God has identified as equating with satisfying the righteous requirements of the law. It is because of attitude that respects His Being with appropriate humility, that God is prepared to offer a second chance or a new opportunity. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. (Psalm 51:17, NIV)

Romans 4:20-25 clarifies the attitude that God requires in order to have the righteousness of Christ imputed. Yet he [Abraham] did not waiver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being persuaded that God had power to do that which he had promised. This is why it was credited to him as righteousness. The Lord’s words ‘It was credited to him were not written for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness-for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead for our sins and was raided to life for our justification.” (NIV)

The “power” that we must believe in in order to be credited with Christ’s righteousness is that God can raise us from the dead as He did His Son…that He has the power to accomplish His promises. Righteousness is credited to or imputed to the one who believes (is believing) that God has raised His Son from the dead for our justification; it is for a purpose…to give a second chance or a new opportunity.

Our “justification” comes through the Lord’s “resurrection,” not His death. Eternal justification was not accomplished through the Lord’s sacrifice, although cleansing of sins committed under the first covenant was accomplished, and with that one’s justification concerning them. (Hebrews 9:15) To the Galatians Paul wrote, But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. (Galatians 5:5, NIV) His resurrected life (Romans 5:10) “in” the believer must accomplish the believer’s eternal hope.Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27, NIV) James wrote, You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.” (James 2:24, NIV) Faith, exercised through the practice of obedience (Hebrews 5:9), will bring about one’s eternal justification.

The imputation or credit of righteousness through acceptance that God has the power only provides the imputation of Christ’s righteousness for sins under the first covenant. Sins following that point must be repented of and confessed (1 John 1:9) if righteousness is to be maintained. Paul taught that the believer was not to offer his body in slavery to impurity any longer but was to offer it in slavery to righteousness “which leads to holiness,” (Romans 6:19, 22) giving him eternal life. If slavery to righteousness is needed for eternal life, the imputation of Christ’s righteousness must not have met the believer’s need.

The imputation of Christ’s righteousness only brings the believer back to God who empowers him with the Holy Spirit to live a godly life. (1 Peter 1:3) It is this “power” that can satisfy God’s righteous requirement concerning the law (Romans 8:4) and that will bring the dead back to life.

Many rest their hope in the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to them, not realizing that they must live by the Spirit after the point of confession of sin. Eternal salvation is a two-part process. (Romans 5: 9-10) The sinner becomes a believer and is cleansed (justified) by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness following which he is given the Spirit to enable him to develop holiness in state through obedience as his faith is exercised.

April 14, 2016

Where Do You Go?

Just a few weeks ago we looked at Psalm 1. I may have mentioned before that it’s one of several passages I use when I wake up in the middle of the night and want to empty my thoughts of all other distractions so I can get back to sleep.

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.

The first four lines above form verse 1. In the language of the King James (and a few other versions) we see three different physical postures:

  • walks
  • stands
  • sits

While the language is metaphorical, as I thought about this, it occurred to me that there were three pieces of advice I could take away from this in terms of my relationship to the ungodly:

  • I don’t want to go where they go (the path that sinners tread, NRSV)
  • I don’t want to know what they know (follow their advice, NLT; or their ridiculing of Christ, AMP)
  • I don’t want my life to show what they show (living like sinners, ERV)

I couldn’t help at this point be reminded of a song we sang when I was a child, that was based on John 14:6

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

We would sing the first sentence of the song twice (adding ‘that’s what Jesus said.’) and then a short bridge:

Without the way there is no going
Without the truth there is no knowing
Without the life there is no showing.

The similarity to me was striking. In the Psalms verse, keeping bad company shows itself in a life by following the wicked (or ungodly, or evil ones, or sinners; various translations); while following Jesus also shows itself in ways we can express in physical action verbs: going, knowing and showing. (Full disclosure: We would sing ‘living’ on the last line, but later on I heard it done with ‘showing’ to complete the rhyme scheme.)

Now in my own life, I don’t physically follow the path of the wicked. My feet don’t take me into places I shouldn’t be. I don’t take the counsel of the wicked.

Or do I?

It occurred to me as I considered this that the physical act of “going where they go” isn’t all this verse is saying to us in 2016, because while we live in the physical world, we spend a lot of our time in the virtual world.

How much of time is spent online, and once there, how much is my values system being shaped by the broader culture?

Too much.

At the Together for the Gospel conference this morning (while I was watching the live stream) one of the speakers spoke about how much of the church’s value system and definition of what’s right and what’s wrong is being shaped by the dominant culture. This is true of the church as a whole, as well as local churches.

By the way, the phrase “standing in the way of…” which the older translations use has shifted in meaning today, where it has more the sense of “standing in someone’s way” i.e. blocking or preventing from what they want to do.

I would argue that today we do actually need to “stand in the way” of sinners, in the sense we need to put our hands up and declare their philosophy and values aren’t welcome in our spiritual community or even in our thoughts. We need to — perhaps even physically — have a sign on our computer that says, “No Access;” which is directed to the forces of this world that desire to control our attitudes and actions.

Some of the best teaching moments Jesus had with his disciples happened while they were “on the way” to some next destination. That’s the way we want to be found in, the way of Jesus.


For all translations of Psalm 1:1, click this link.

 

 

 

 

September 25, 2013

Sin: Don’t Even Think About It!

On Tuesday I was speaking with someone who is heading off to a small Bible college in Eastern Canada. I asked him if he needed help with textbooks, and he said that the school tends to write their own curriculum as they have a unique take on how they approach some Bible subjects. Sometimes this can be a red-flag, so I asked him to give me an example, and it turned out to be something I found challenging and want to share here.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus says,

NIV Matt. 5:27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery. 28 But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.

Not all the teaching in this section specifically references the Decalogue, but what if we applied that “Don’t even think about it” standard to all of the other Ten Commandments? He told me that’s exactly what they did in their discussion of this passage. That got me thinking.  Instead of “Thou shalt nots” it might look like this:

  1. Don’t even think about putting any other interest, hobby, passion, person, pet, or other god-to-be-worshiped ahead of me (or even on an equal place).
  2. Don’t even think about giving special place to any physical representation of something (existing or in fantasy) that then occupies a central place in your life.
  3. Don’t even think about using God’s name casually or disrespectfully.
  4. Don’t even think about doing some chores or work for pay during the time you know should be set aside for God and for the rest He commands. If it is within your power, don’t compel others to work during this time, either.
  5. Don’t even think about how, given other circumstances, you’d love to kill someone if you thought you’d get away with; or harbor the anger that rises to that level.
  6. Don’t even think about going against the values your parents taught you, or doing something against their wishes. Their values and wishes and the proverbs they taught you will lead to long life.
  7. Don’t even think about having sex with someone who is not your wife; those thoughts will consume you and furthermore, it’s not likely to ever happen, you’re just driving yourself crazy!
  8. Don’t even think about taking something that isn’t yours.
  9. Don’t even think about misrepresenting someone else or putting spin on a story so it makes them look bad.
  10. Don’t even think about comparing yourself to what your neighbor, or co-worker, or extended family member has, or to his or her spouse, and wishing you could have that life or lifestyle.

Feel free to refine what I’ve written, or take the list in Exodus 20, and rewrite it in your own personal style or adding things you feel conform to the intention of the text when combined with the application of Matthew 5.

Before we conclude, another thing that struck me as I studied this was how The Voice Bible rendered the “You have heard it said” sections of Matthew 5. These are in italics in this version to indicate that yes, the translators have taken a liberty with the original text in order to provide clarity. What is especially worth noting here is that we generally read these with the inference that Jesus is now introducing something new, but these readings imply that the wider implications of what Jesus taught have been implicit in the text all along, if only we could see it that way.

  • 22 But here is the even harder truth
  • 28 You may think you have abided by this Commandment, walked the straight and narrow…
  • 34 But I tell you this: do not ever swear an oath. What is an oath? You cannot say, “I swear by heaven”—for heaven is not yours to swear by; it is God’s throne. 35 And you cannot say, “I swear by this good earth,” for the earth is not yours to swear by; it is God’s footstool. And you cannot say, “I swear by the holy city Jerusalem,” for it is not yours to swear by; it is the city of God, the capital of the King of kings.

This translation also breaks down specifically the origin of “You have heard it said…”

  • 21 As you know, long ago God instructed Moses to tell
  • 27 As you know, long ago God forbade His people…
  • 31 And here is something else: you have read in Deuteronomy that
  • 33 You know that…
  • 38 You know that Hebrew Scripture sets this standard…
  • 43 You have been taught…

Jesus’ teaching is clear: Don’t even consider wandering from the path, from God’s default settings, even for a moment!

NIV II Tim. 3:14 But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, 15 and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus

September 8, 2011

Hating What God Hates

Today’s post is from Pastor Kevin Behrens who blogs at Church on the Rock where this first appeared under the title Hatred.

Do I not hate those who hate you, O Lord,
and abhor those who rise up against you?
I have nothing but hatred for them;
I count them my enemies.
Ps 139:21-22 (NIV)

As teenager in a Christian school, we all were required to memorize chapters of the Bible.  We would take our turn standing in front of all our peers and try our best to land it “word-perfect.”  Of the four years of memorizing, Psalm 139 is the one that meant the most to me.

This part of the chapter always caught my curiosity.  The New King James says, “I hate them with a perfect hatred…”  Pretty strong language from the guy who had captured God’s heart.  What does that mean though?

In fact, if you will notice, David goes from the wonderful poetic words about how great are God’s thoughts, the number of which are greater than sand, to

Oh, that You would slay the wicked, O God!
Depart from me, therefore, you bloodthirsty men.
For they speak against You wickedly;
Your enemies take Your name in vain.
Ps 139:19-20 (NKJV)

Today we still have wicked around us.  There are still men and women who are bloodthirsty, some even like to go see movies relating to blood thirst, people still speak about God wickedly, and many still take the Lord’s name in vain.  Hmmm, we are not so different from those in David’s era.  Can’t you hear the desperation of David.  Perhaps he is sitting trying to write his feelings about his God, the anointing is flowing… AND THEN, he gets interrupted with carnality!  We don’t know…

I know that in our lives today as Christians, we can be flowing in the Spirit of God, have the latest worship song echoing in our thoughts, the glow of God’s Presence shining on us… AND THEN, we get interrupted by carnality.  There is no shortage of opportunities for us to lose it!

David is actually PRAYING that God will wipe those people out!  Remember, Jesus says,  “…love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,”  Matt 5:44 (NKJV)  So we are to BLESS with our prayers not pray that God shows up with the sword.

But back to where we started, the emphasis that I want to bring is to vs. 22, David says, “I hate them with a perfect hatred” AND “I count them my enemies!”

So my question for me, all these years and still today is:

Do I hate what God hates?

I have heard many sermon illustrations, probably even used it myself, about how would you feel if Jesus were PHYSICALLY with you everywhere you went.  How would you feel if someone was inappropriate, or cursing, or using the Lord’s name in vain?   Would you or I be more uncomfortable with Jesus PHYSICALLY standing beside us?  Do I hate what God hates?

David ends that scripture with closure,

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts:
And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.
Ps 139:23-24 (KJV)

Your kingdom come.
Your will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven.
And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.
Matt 6:10-13 (NASU)

That is my prayer today… “Lord, I want Your kingdom here, now, just like in Heaven, reveal to me any wickedness, temptation and lead me in Your way everlasting!”

~Kevin Behrens

April 17, 2011

Maybe You Still Don’t Get It

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

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

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

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

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

They still don’t get it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What makes you think the terms of acceptance have changed?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So from the examples above:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’ve made yourself believe:

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

…They will approve of me.

Or:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~Pastor Steven Furtick

April 4, 2011

Prayer-Time Cannot Be Isolated from the Rest of the Day

Too often we tend to separate the “sacred” parts of life from the “secular” parts of life. In true Christianity, no such division exists. The following is a paraphrase of Andrew Murray:

Our daily routines, our life “out there” in the world at large is the test of our interaction with God in prayer.  So often a Christian, when he or she comes to pray, will try to cultivate a certain “prayer frame of mind;” to try to “get into the zone” so to speak because he things that this will please God.

This forgets that life doesn’t consist of fragments in which we can simply set one aside and pick up another one.  Life is a whole and the supposed “piety” of a “prayer time” is judged by God in the context of the ordinary activities of life of which the prayer moments are but a small part.

It’s not about the spiritual energy that I try to summon, but the level of spiritual focus that has been part of my life all that day.  That’s how God does his assessment of what I’m really all about, and what my true desires are.

My “getting together with God” is just one piece of my interactions with other people and with creation itself.  A failure in one area will bring about failure in the other.  It’s not just about when I’m aware of anything wrong between me and my neighbor, but more about the general flow of my thoughts and reasoning, the less than loving things I say without even noticing; these can really hinder my prayers from being effective.

The kind of prayer that gets results comes out of a life given over to the will and the love of God.  It’s not about what I try to be while I’m praying, but what I’m all about when I’m not praying.  That’s the context in which my “incoming prayer” is received and dealt with by God.

~my own paraphrase, taken after With Christ in the School of Prayer by Andrew Murray; lesson fourteen, “When you Stand Praying, Forgive.” (I really trust that someday someone will do a The Message-style paraphrase of some of these great Christian classic books.)