Christianity 201

March 13, 2018

Freedom from Sin through Death

by Russell Young

Paul has written that “anyone who has died has been freed from sin.” (Romans 6:7 NIV) This, of course, makes sense. If a person is dead, he or she can no longer sin. It is an impossibility. The intent that Paul is trying to convey is not so simple, however. Prior to these words he had stated: “Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death. We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” (Rom 6:34 NIV)

The thought of being baptized into Christ’s death should not be readily dismissed. Give it careful deliberation! Meditate on it. What does it mean to you? By choice the person who has been baptized has chosen to have died to this world making the claim to have died with Christ, to be whelmed by the death of Christ, and has identified himself or herself as being dead along with Christ. Being immersed in his death means that it has seeped into every pore of a person’s flesh. Nothing has been left untouched. The death is to be permanent and complete, one from which resuscitation is not allowed.

Although Christ physically died, we have not; however, we are to “count” (Rom 6:11), consider, or reckon that we have died. This may be more difficult than many would like to accept. By his or her will the person baptized into Christ’s death will not allow the flesh to command their attention; its interests can have no draw on the believer since it has been put to death.

It is easy to excuse earthly interests. The flesh demands pacification, the world’s interest is in the flesh, and the means for its appeasement is everywhere; however, to entertain fleshly interests can be flirting with destruction. (Gal 6:8; Phil 3:19) The Lord does not allow the freedom that many suppose. He requires that the misdeeds of the body be put to death (Rom 8:13), holiness (Heb 12:14), and commitment with all the believer’s heart, soul, and mind. (Mt 22:37) The believer in Christ cannot live passively but must be actively pursuing God’s will. Paul wrote: “Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.” (Col 3:5 NIV) If the flesh has not died, the confessor has not died. If he has not died, he has not died with or in Christ, or to the world. It should not be accepted that a mystical death has occurred…a death without dying. Accepting such a perspective will grant licence to live in the flesh, satisfying its desires, while entertaining the comfort that death has occurred.

Paul wrote of his crucifixion: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” (Gal 2:20 NIV) Faith is not only a possession, it is evidenced through the practice of obedience to Christ.

Is the Lord expecting too much from those who would claim to be believers? Is his call reasonable? Many would claim that the idea of personal death is more than Christ demands; however, the Lord has said that only a few would find the small gate and narrow road that lead to life (Mt 7:17), and that those on the faith journey must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow him. (Lk 9:23) The cross is an instrument of death and when earthly or bodily interests start to emerge, the believer is to crucify himself or herself again. If a single crucifixion had been sufficient, the cross would not have to be carried daily, nor would it have to be constantly available.

Paul wrote that the purpose of the believer’s crucifixion was so that he or she “could live a new life.” (Rom 6:4 NIV) Baptism is a pledge (1 Pet 3:21) to God and to others that the confessor has acknowledged his or her death, having all their past sins washed away. (Heb 9:15,) Consequently, the confessor has been provided with the Spirit (Gal 3:14) so a new life might be lived.

Paul wrote of baptism saying, “If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.” (Rom 6:5 NIV) “If” is a conditional word. Accordingly, Paul has rested the hope of resurrection in a person’s willingness to be united with Christ in his death. The life of death to the world (Lk 17:33) and to its interests is lifelong (Mt 24:13) and is the life of faith.

Christ said, “I am the way and the truth and the life.” (Jn 14:6 NIV) and Paul has revealed that “Christ in you [is] your hope of glory.” (Col 1:27 NIV) The “life” is his life in the believer and he is their hope of glory. Those seeking his eternal presence must be united with Christ in his death.

As Paul told the Romans, “In the same way [Christ’s death to sin] count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in [through] Christ Jesus.” (Rom 6:11 NIV) Freedom from sin is not an automatic state that is gifted to the believer; it must be a moment by moment commitment to deny the interests of the body that cause death. If the needed victory is to be gained a humble and obedient walk with Christ is needed. Such a walk is not an option that only “super” believers are to entertain. John has taught, “Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.” (1 Jn 26 NIV) The person who has died with Christ will also be resurrected with him. Even Paul professed that he “wanted to know Christ and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead,” (Phil 3:1011 NIV) and he confessed that he had not already obtained all of this. Being alive, he still had the option to entertain the flesh and to sin.

There is much to appreciate about the need for death to self, however, only through the practice of death to the body and through obedience to Christ can sin be defeated and victory gained.


Author Russell Young lives in Ontario, Canada and is the author of Eternal Salvation: Really? available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  His column appears here every other Tuesday.  To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.  There is also a feature-length article at this link.

 

January 16, 2018

Confession of Christ’s Lordship

by Russell Young

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (NIV)

  Confess and confession are translated from the Greek homologeo which means “to assent, i.e. covenant, acknowledge: —con- (pro-)fess, confession is made, give thanks, promise.” Strong’s Greek Dictionary #3670

Considering all the representations given for homologeo, the utterance of the phrase, “Jesus is Lord,” does not represent the intent of this word.  The Greek ‘homologeo’ is a compound of ‘homo’ and ‘logeo’ meaning of one or of uniform word or mind. The meaning of a promise, pledge, and even a covenant is being transmitted. That is, the believer is agreeing to a relationship where Christ is his lord or supreme ruler. This covenant with God does not result in a person’s eternal salvation, however, unless it is honored.

There are many biblical passages that attest to the need to allow the Lord to reign in the believer’s life.  (Mt 7:21, 28:20; Jn 14:15, 21, 23; 15:10; Acts 26:20; 2 Cor 2:9; Gal 5:18, 6:8; Eph 5:6; Heb 5:9; 1 Jn 2:3, 5, 3:22, 2:4, 5:3; 1 Pet 1:14; Rom  6:16, 8:4, 8:14; Rev 14:12; Rev 22:14 KJV) Paul wrote that “the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom 6:23 KJV) Paul not only intended to honor Jesus through his title as “Lord,” but through honoring the reality of his authority and position.  Of course, if his sovereignty is not being practiced, he is not lord. The Lord questioned, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Lk 6:46 NIV) Christ has revealed that defying his leadership is living a lie (Rev 22:15) and such a practice has eternal consequences.

Matthew wrote, “Not everyone who calls me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” (Mt 7:21 NIV) The covenant or promise of Christ’s lordship is very real. The writer of Hebrews has revealed that “eternal salvation” comes through obedience. “[Christ] is the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Heb 5:9 NIV) The Lord himself revealed, “Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him.” (Jn 14:21 NIV; See also 1 Jn 5:2─3) It is the person who obeys the Lord’s commands who will find an eternal hope. Obedience results in a good conscience and Peter has written that baptism is a person’s “pledge” to maintain a good conscience toward God. (1 Pet 3:21 NIV)

Many have tried to dismiss the on-going sovereignty of Christ by denying his lordship, and accept that his love and his grace cover their need and meet their hope. The issue of the constant evil imaginations of people’s hearts must be overcome. Many accept that the pardon for sins committed under the jurisdiction of the first covenant is sufficient (Heb 9:15), even though God requires transformation into the likeness of his Son as the real need. Humankind was created in the image of God and to this image they must be conformed if they are to dwell with him. Pardon for past sin, although essential, does not result in a person becoming an acceptable offering to God (Rom 15:16); transformation is required and that is accomplished through the sanctifying ministry of the Spirit. (Rom 7:6, 8:13; 2 Thess 2:13; Titus 3:5:6, etc.) Being led by Christ as Holy Spirit, as lord, is the only means of meeting God’s righteous requirements. (Rom 8:4)

Some have taken Romans 10:9-10 to refer to the Jews alone and view the passage merely as acknowledgement that Jesus is the Messiah. Such a distorted perception denies that those in Christ are to serve in the new way of the Spirit as opposed to the old way of the law. (Rom 7:6) Service in the Spirit is the crux of the New Covenant and it is through obedience to him as lord that allows for a person’s eternal hope. The “confession,” pledge, promise, covenant that Christ is his sovereign is the believer’s means of attaining righteousness and his or her eternal hope.


Author Russell Young lives in Canada and is the author of Eternal Salvation: Really? available in print and eBook in the U.S. through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  His column appears here on alternate Tuesday.  To read all of Russell’s contributions here at C201, click this link.


October 3, 2017

Obedience and Faith

by Russell Young

The connection between obedience and faith needs to be understood. One of the main themes of the Bible is that believers, the redeemed, need to walk in faith throughout their lifetimes if they are to gain God’s heavenly kingdom. Christ said, “he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” (Mt 10:22, 24:13; Mk 13:13) “Standing firm” is being steadfast in faith. Although many take faith to be a possession, it is also a practice. The great faith chapter of Hebrews 11 records the way many of the great heroes and saints of time past revealed their faith by their actions. James has recorded, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” (Jas 2:26 NIV) The writer of Hebrews has clearly presented that the disobedient lack faith. “And to whom did God swear that they would not enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? So we see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.” (Heb 3:18 NIV) Those who rest their hope solely in a confession of faith once made need to consider these words.

  The Israelite Exodus, those “redeemed” from Egypt (Deut 7:8; Mic 6:4,) reveals the consequences that rested on the nation because of their rebellion against the authority of God, because they lacked faith in him. The first generation of those who left Egypt was condemned to die in the wilderness; they had disobeyed God and had tested him repeatedly (Num 14:22), treating him with contempt. (v. 23) Their children were to suffer for the “unfaithfulness” of their parents. (v. 33) The generation of those who had left Egypt were prevented from entering the Promised Land and from enjoying its riches. Like the Israelites of old, many of the redeemed today will be left to wander the dryness of wilderness life because of their disobedience; some will never cross the Jordan to gain the eternal rest promised in God’s Word.

Since the Reformation many teachers have offered that God’s grace is their only need and their hope and in making their presentations they have allowed a philosophical understanding of “God’s grace” to invade their thinking displacing any notion of obedience which is often considered to be “works.” In the only instance were “eternal salvation” is presented in the Word it is stated as being achieved through obedience to Christ just as God required of the Israelites in the Exodus. “[Christ] became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Heb 5:9 NIV, Italics added.) The disobedient are those walking in unbelief, who are lacking in faith. Knowing God, trusting him, compels a walk of obedience. Christ is to lead the way and believers are to humbly follow. Christ is the Holy Spirit and it is he as Spirit who is to direct their walk. (2 Cor 3:17, 18; Gal 2:20,4:6; Col 1:27)

Those who defy the Spirit through disobedient acts blaspheme him and will be cut from the body. “But anyone who sins defiantly, whether native-born or alien, blasphemes the LORD, and that person must be cut off from his people. Because he has despised the LORD’s word and broken his commands, that person must surely be cut off; his guilt remains on him.” (Num 15:30-31 NIV)

  Disobedience has been the sin issue that has separated humankind from their creator from the beginning of time.  God had told the Israelites, “Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all the nations you will be my treasured possession.” (Ex 19:5 NIV) As a nation they were to obey the Lord and follow his commands and decrees. (Deut 27:19) Of course, they could not accomplish the righteous requirements that the Lord had set forth in his law. Through the Holy Spirit believers have been enabled with “everything that is needed for life and godliness.” (2 Pet 1:3 NIV) They have been made “competent.” (2 Cor 3:6 NIV) Believers have not been given life and godliness but all that is needed for it. (2 Pet 1:3) Just as God had required the Israelites to obey him, he requires obedience to the Spirit, Christ in them. The Lord can do through his presence in believers what they can not do for themselves because of the weakness of their sinful nature (Rom 8:3), but their faith must be sufficient to obediently follow him.

Faith is persuasion of the promises and power of Christ, including his Spirit, to accomplish the believer’s eternal hope. Faith requires the practice of that faith through humble obedience to the only one able to accomplish it for them, the Lord.


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.

July 22, 2017

The Scandal of the Cross

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Today we’re paying a return visit to Think Theology. This time around the author Michael Sterns. This was published originally approaching Good Friday. Click the title below to read at source.

The Wisdom of God

1st Corinthians 1:18-25 (NRSV)

For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

img 071216Anyone that I’ve spoken to in the past few months might already know that I’ve taken a special interest in the cross. I have always been fascinated with the cross of Christ, as any good Christian should be, but I’m currently working through different atonement theories. Many have written on Think Theology on the cross, and I’ll agree that there are many different metaphors and images for understanding what exactly happened on the cross. There’s the victory of Christ. There’s the suffering of Christ. There’s the ransom. There’s substitution. There’s moral example. Each of these theories are necessary for understanding what happened on the cross. But how can we really understand what was going on? What makes this Friday such a Good Friday? What’s so good about death on a cross? (I don’t know if I have to say this, but I will anyways. I’m not going to be able to write an exhaustive summary on the doctrine of atonement. I’ve chosen specifically to look at the wisdom of God in the foolishness of the cross.)

Here in 1st Corinthians, Paul lays out one of the most beautiful passages in his corpus. He argues with Old Testament support that what God has done through the cross was beyond any human understanding. This is the wisdom of God: through the crucified Messiah, God has shown his plan for redemption.

The Romans famously put crosses on busy roads or by the entrance to a city to make statements to anyone who saw the person hanging there. People would walk past these terrible scenes of slaves and rebels on crosses, and it would convince them to never join any movement against the Roman government. Crucifixions were humiliating.

It wasn’t something that anyone wanted.

Jesus was probably crucified in AD 33. About thirty years before Jesus’ death, there was a huge rebellion recorded by Josephus after the death of Herod the Great in 4 BC. Varus, the Roman general in charge in the province of Syria at that time, did what Romans did best: he destroyed the rebellion by crucifying almost 2000 rebels. Jesus was probably a little boy hearing about these horrible deaths on crosses. And thirty years after Jesus’ crucifixion, the Roman general Vespasian and his son Titus closed in on Jerusalem during the great war. They overran the city, and they crucified so many Jews outside the city walls that they almost ran out of wood.

Jesus’ crucifixion happened between these two brutal mass crucifixions, but this is how God showed his plan for redemption. This was his statement. He took the scandalous cross and displayed his love for the world. It was the greatest contradiction (like a Starburst…).

Karl Barth in his commentary on Romans says, “The life of Jesus, on the other hand, is perfect obedience to the will of this faithful God. He gives himself up to sinners as a sinner. He places himself completely under the judgment which rests upon the world. He places himself there, where God can only still be present as the question of God. He takes the form of a servant. He goes to the cross and dies there. At the high point, at the goal of his way, he is a purely negative magnitude; not a genius, not the bearer of manifest or hidden psychic powers, not a hero, a leader, a poet or thinker and precisely in this negation (“My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”), precisely in that he sacrifices every brilliant, psychic, heroic, aesthetic, philosophical, every thinkable human possibility whatsoever to an impossible more, to an unintuitable Other, he is the One who fulfills to the uttermost those mounting human possibilities born witness to in the law and the prophets. Therefore, God exalted him, therein is he recognized as the Christ, thereby he becomes the light of the last things which shines forth above everyone and everything. Truly we see in him God’s faithfulness in the depths of hell. The Messiah is the end of the human. There too, precisely there, God is faithful. The new day of the righteousness of God wants to dawn with the day of the ‘sublated’ human.

The cross was the only way for Jesus; there were no other possibilities. This was God’s plan.

Paul has not told us here exactly how the cross is salvific, but the whole story of Jesus makes it plain. In the death of Jesus, God has taken judgment upon himself. He uses the cross as the ultimate declaration to the world of his covenantal (and sacrificial) love. It shows the lengths to which God will go to bring about redemption, even death on a cross. When we look at Jesus on the cross, we see the face of God.

Christians see the cross as the greatest paradox. It absolutely is scandalous. What does it mean that the Son of God died upon the cross? On this Good Friday, let’s not immediately move towards the resurrection, towards the joys of Easter morning. Let us look at the cross. Let us look at our crucified Savior. It might look foolish, but it is the wisdom of God.


For further reading: Fee, Gordon D. The First Epistle to the Corinthians. . William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. Grand Rapids, MI: 1987.

Wright, N.T. The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’ Crucifixion. HarperOne. New York, 2016.

 

October 25, 2016

Choosing Between Being Useful to God, Or Not Being at All

Today’s thoughts are from Joe at the blog As I Learn to Walk, which came suggested to us. Click the title below to read at source.

Usefulness or Death

Jim Elliot has done it again.

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, a wise former pastor of mine gave me a copy of The Journals of Jim Elliot. I don’t read it often, but, when I do, I find that God uses it to challenge me more than almost anything else. This experience was no exception.

I picked up Elliot’s journals yesterday and read the following words:

“I covenanted with my Father that He would do either of two things – either glorify Himself to the utmost in me, or slay me.” (From his entry on October 28, “Senior Year, 1948, 1949″).

The very next entry, dated only four days later, records a prayer to God wherein Elliot simply admitted that he felt death would be best, for he feared dishonoring the Lord in his life (From his entry on November 1, same chapter).

I look up to Elliot, but I struggle to pray such a prayer. I imagine that many others do as well. This man’s faith shines with a genuineness, a sweetness, and a humility beyond any I’ve known. Though he felt inadequate upon seeing the extent of his inability, he surrendered himself to the Almighty, trusting God to lead and to work according to his perfect power and plan. Though he saw his weakness, he trusted in God’s strength. And because of God’s work in his life, he would rather die than fail to glorify his Lord. He never wanted to be a useless vessel.

I’m reminded of Paul’s words to Timothy:

The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life.
1 Timothy 1:15-16

Paul, too, recognized his weakness, his complete inability to accomplish the mission in his own power and strength. But he recognized something more than this: he understood that his very weaknesses served to show God’s strength. As people looked at him, knowing his past, knowing his sin, they would realize that his transformation could only have been accomplished by God. They would know that where sin abounds, grace abounds all the more (Romans 5). Paul’s life was a living testimony to God’s grace and mercy.

Eventually, Paul would give his life for his Savior. Many years later, Jim Elliot would do the same. Each man resigned himself to die for the one who died for sinners. Each man gave up what he could not keep and gained something he could never lose. Each man ran the race well.

The hip hop artist Lecrae echoes Elliot’s prayer when he cries, “Lord, kill me if I don’t preach the Gospel” (From “Go Hard” on Lecrae’s Rebel album). This idea haunts me, but in a good way. It challenges me to discipline myself in godliness. It challenges me to give less time to the things that won’t last. It challenges me to look at the world as Jim Elliot did, as Paul did, and as Jesus did. May I be so committed to Christ. May I allow God’s strength to be displayed through my weaknesses. May I be found faithful.

March 28, 2016

The Crucifixion of Christ (Part Two)

If you haven’t already, begin with Part One, which appeared yesterday.

•••by Russell Young

(The writer of Hebrews revealed God’s condemnation of the Israelites on the Exodus because they had disobeyed Him and He related that they could not enter the Promised Land because of their unbelief or lack of faith.1 He said that their disobedience showed that they had not combined (obedience to) the message that they had heard with faith. Obedience is faith in practice.)

The sacrifice of Christ provided the means by which the whole world might find atonement, provided they are persuaded that His blood can accomplish it. “Eternal” salvation is not achieved by the single act of faith that existed at the time of one’s confession of faith but must be constant over time and must be demonstrated through obedience. “Christ became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him.2

The crucifixion of Christ was the price that had to be paid for disobeying God and for failing to achieve His righteous requirements as revealed in the law and by the Prophets. The command and permission for this provision and allowance came from the Father. “The reason the Son of Man appeared was to destroy the devil’s works.3 By taking on the sin of the world, Christ removed the power of the devil, which was the law, to bring separation and death between man and his Creator. The mandate of Christ was very purposeful; it was to defeat not only the power of Satan, but the “work” of Satan. When the Lord is finished He will “hand over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority, and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet.4

The Father has given His Son the mandate of destroying the devil’s work and has given Him the authority and power to accomplish that mandate. The crucifixion of Christ gave Him victory of death and Hades. It did not give mankind victory apart from through Christ. Some talk as if the victory has been won for them. It is Christ who possesses the keys for death and Hades. “I [Christ] am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever. And I hold the keys of death and Hades.5 It is Christ who will determine who will be confined to death and Hades. He has the keys and the authority. He will determine through His judgment the final destiny of each man. In the end the Father’s Kingdom will be holy.6He will punish those who do not know (appreciate) God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.7 The crucifixion of Christ gave Him victory over death and Hades and He will identify those who have had sufficient faith to walk in obedience…He has the keys.

The crucifixion of Christ did not provide “victory” for all those who profess faith in Him but does so for all of those who have also demonstrated faith in Christ through the practice of obedience to the one they have called their Lord/lord. “They overcame him [Satan] by the blood of the lamb and by the word of their testimony8; they did not love their live so much as to shrink from death.”9 Victory cannot be proclaimed until the end and until the battle has been fought.

The sacrifice of Christ on the cross made available through the Divine Power (the Holy Spirit) of Jesus all that is needed for life and godliness.10 This too, was provided by the crucifixion of Christ and through the redemption11 that He made available to believers. His crucifixion removed the wrath of God ONLY for those who have allowed the “life of Christ” to be lived through them.12

Provision to avoid the wrath of God was made available through the crucifixion and death of Christ and the gift of the Spirit, but victory must still be accomplished as the believer lives in obedience to the Spirit. It is still the obligation of the believer to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling;13 however, he has Christ to accomplish that victory in his own flesh just as the Lord accomplished in the body that the Father had prepared for Him in the womb of Mary.

 


1 Hebrews 3:18-19

2 Hebrews 5:9, NIV

3 1 John 3:8, NIV

4 1 Corinthians 15:24, NIV

5 Revelation 1:18, NIV

6 Hebrews 12:14

7 2 Thessalonians 2:8-9, NIV

8 “The word of their testimony” does not necessarily mean by their words, but the testimony that their life speaks to Christ and others.

9 Revelation 12:11, NIV

10 2 Peter 1:3

11 Galatians 3:13-14

12 Romans 5:9-10. See also Romans 8:3-4: “For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened by the sinful nature, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in sinful man, in order that the righteous requirements of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the sinful nature but according to the Spirit.(NIV)

13 Philippians 2:12

March 6, 2016

A Source of Confusion: Saved/Salvation and “Eternal Salvation”

•••by Russell Young

There are several misrepresentations currently being propagated in the teaching of God’s Word. The issue of this writing concerns the meaning of “saved” or “salvation.” Unless there is clarification made on this issue, there will be many who will not enjoy the hope that they had been promised throughout their spiritual lives.

There is a distinction between being “saved” and being “eternally saved” and it is essential that this difference is fully appreciated. The Greek representation of “saved” is sozo and Strong’s Greek Dictionary presents it as meaning: to save, i.e. deliver or protect (literally or figuratively):—heal, preserve, save (self), do well, be (make) whole. Sozo is not a word confined to Biblical use but was of the common vernacular of the day. Paul used the word sozo when he told his Roman guard to throw everything overboard in order to be saved (avoid drowning). Luke also used sozo when he spoke of the man who was healed of the many demons that had possessed him and had been cast into the herd of pigs. The point is that when saved or salvation are used, they must be carefully considered in context. What one is being saved from needs to be appreciated.

It is common in the spiritual sense to accept “saved” as meaning “eternal salvation” when it often does not. It might be helpful to exchange “saved” with ‘delivered’ and then to consider what one was delivered from. For instance, the sacrifice of Christ on the cross delivered the believer from the consequences of his “past sins” (2 Peter 1:9) and from the jurisdiction of the Old Covenant. “For this reason [to cleanse our consciences] Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance-now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant.” (Hebrews 9:15, NIV) It did not provide “eternal salvation.”

The blood of Christ is often presented as “redeeming” the believer. One’s redemption should not be taken as meaning eternal salvation either. It redeemed the believer from “the curse of the law…in order that… we might receive the promise of the Spirit.” (Galatians 3:13…14) It also means “being bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:20), “being reconciled”(Romans 5:10), “brought near” to Him (Ephesians 2:13), etc. One’s redemption frees him from the law and brings him near to God so that he might be given the Holy Spirit. It is the Spirit that brings about one’s “eternal salvation.” Redemption is a form of being “saved” but it does not amount to one’s eternal salvation.

There is only one passage in the whole of God’s Word that uses the wording “eternal salvation” and that salvation is accomplished through obedience. “He became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Hebrews 5:9, NIV) The need for obedience is consistent with many other passages that require the believer to be led by the Spirit. “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” (John 10:27) Those who are led are not under the law (Galatians 5:18), those who are led by the Spirit are sons of God (Romans 8:14), those who are NOT led by the Spirit will not find eternal life. (Galatians 5:8; Romans 8:13) The point is that “eternal” salvation is different from other salvations or deliverances.

The distinction between ‘salvation’ and ‘eternal salvation’ needs to be made clear because the differences effect many of the teachings that impact understanding of “eternal security” and even of one’s eternal hope. “The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil.” (Matthew 13:41, NIV) One’s hope is not “secured” until the end (Matthew 10:22) and until one’s life testimony has been completed. (Revelation 12:11)

In Matthew 7:21 we read: “Not everyone who says to me ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.” That is, it’s not one’s pronouncements that allow him entrance into the kingdom of heaven, but his “doing.” The Lord also revealed this, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.” (Revelation 22:14, KJV) The NIV and other versions have changed “do his commandment” to “wash their robes” in order to fit more conveniently with the distorted understanding of salvation that is being propagated.

While “salvation” or “saved” may refer to various deliverances, “eternal salvation” addresses deliverance into God’s eternal Kingdom and into the Lord’s presence. Eternal salvation is ONLY presented as being accomplished through “obedience.”

February 29, 2016

Do You Know the Gospel of Christ? (Part 2)

This is partly a continuation of where we left off yesterday, and partly a different perspective on the same subject.

•••by Russell Young

In Part 1 it was revealed that eternal salvation comes through the life of Christ being exercised in the believer.

Did Part 1 present what seems an unlikely gospel? Let’s consider it another way. The believer has available all of the attributes that Jesus had as he walked this earth excepting for His soul. Just as Jesus was body, soul, and spirit so is man. This reality must be appreciated by those who are prepared to excuse themselves from “walking as Jesus did.” (1 John 3:6)

All of mankind are composed of the trinity of body, soul, and spirit. The body of Christ was the same as that of all men; it was formed in the womb of Mary. “Since children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity…he had to be made like his brothers in every way in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God.” (Hebrews 2:14…17, NIV) Further, it is written “We have a high priest who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15, NIV) And to solidify the nature of His humanity the writer has also presented: “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son he learned obedience from what he suffered and once made perfect became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Hebrews 5:7-9) (This passage does not refer only to petition in the Garden of Gethsemane following which He suffered a cruel death.)

The body prepared for Christ by the Father in the womb of Mary is of the same nature as the one we possess. It is the body that brings death (Romans 7:24) and its appeasement subjects one to temptations and suffering. “Because he himself [the Lord] suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:18) It must be accepted that the “body” of Christ is of the same nature as our own.

But Jesus has a soul and a spirit also. Jesus was given the spirit that mankind had enjoyed at creation…it was in the likeness of God (Genesis 1:27) holy in purpose, just as were the spirits of Adam and Eve. However, the spirits we possess are far from the nature of the one first given. Adam and Eve had no knowledge of evil but allowed the lies of Satan to infect them with his lies and his spirit. They took on evil spirits…desiring to please the flesh rather than God. Jesus, however, maintained the spirit given Him and lived a sinless life. (Hebrews 4:15) “How much more then will the blood of Christ, who through the Holy Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences [moral consciousness] from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God.” (Hebrews 9:14, NIV)

At the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan the Holy Spirit descended upon Him. (Matthew 3:16) The believer is also given the Holy Spirit. (Romans 5:5, John 7:39) Therefore, not only did Christ have a body that suffered the same interests as do those of the rest of mankind, the believer, once reborn, has the same Spirit that brought victory to Christ. The believer possesses a body like that of Christ and the Holy Spirit…the very one that enabled Christ to overcome the flesh, the world and the Evil One. The believer has been reminded to be filled with the Holy Spirit. This is a matter of one’s will…his choices; as he denies his evil nature, his natural spirit will weaken and become ineffective. One’s eternal hope is availed when he is gifted with the Holy Spirit. “But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.” (Galatians 5:5, NIV)

It is man’s soul that differs from that of Christ and it is his soul that Christ came to transform. Man’s soul distinguishes him from all others and houses his will. His soul offers the testimony of his faith to God and the world. One’s will reacts to one’s heart interests and determines his choices and practices. The will of Christ was to honour and obey His Father. (John 5:30) The one given entrance to God’s Eternal Kingdom must also honour and obey the Father. (Matthew 7:21) “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” (Matthew 22:37, NIV)

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.” (Genesis 6:5-6, NIV) It is not a pardon that is required for eternal salvation, although that is essential, but a transformed heart. A pardon does not transform but relieves the sinner of the consequences of his rebellion. Those who cause God pain will not be found in His presence. Paul wrote: “For it is God [the Spirit] who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.” (Philippians 2:13, NIV) The Lord must subdue and convert/transform the soul of man as He is allowed on order to sanctify the evil heart and conform it to His likeness. (Romans 8:29)

Paul wrote, “You were taught with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is 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.” (Ephesians 4:22, NIV)

The command to live as Christ lived in this world should not be considered an impossibility. The believer has all that Christ had in the body that the Father had prepared for Him in the womb of Mary and he is expected to reveal Christ to the world as the Lord lives in his body. He has the same Spirit and the Spirit is to enlighten, lead, and empower for the development and display of the same soul. However, obedience is required…not to the law but to Christ, the Holy Spirit. He is truly to become a son of God and a brother of Christ.

Those who excuse the practice of sin will one day have to justify it to the Lord who provided them with all that is needed for life and godliness, who had lived with the same realities of body, soul, and Spirit, and who had made provision of Himself to live in the one who had professed Him as lord/Lord.

This is the gospel: Christ offered Himself a sacrifice on the cross, to redeem the believer from his past sins and from the Old Covenant so that He might live righteously through the repentant believer and fit him for the Kingdom of God.…“Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

January 21, 2016

Is God Schizophrenic?

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

•••by Russell Young

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

October 2, 2013

The Sufficiency of Scripture

EPSON scanner image

After several days of writing original pieces here at C201, I went back to mining the internet for interesting topics and articles, only to strike gold. Rebecca Writes is the blog of Rebecca Stark, and one of the features on her blog is the Theological Term of the Week. So far, she’s covered about 270 such entries, going back to 2007. I encourage you to use this resource again and again. Remember that theological terms are not necessarily Biblical terms; the entries in a theological dictionary won’t always occur in your concordance, in fact the majority won’t.

After reading many recent ones, and trying to choose a sample, I ended up going to one of the older ones, on the sufficiency of scripture, and then one of the newest, on the mortification of sin. Honestly, there are so many good articles at this blog that we might do this again sometime.


sufficiency of scripture
The principle that the words of scripture contain everything we need to know from God in order for us to be saved and to be perfectly obedient to him.
  • From scripture:

    …from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. ( 2 Timothy 3:15-17 ESV)

  • From The London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 1, Section 6:

    The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down or necessarily contained in the Holy Scripture, to which nothing is to be added at any time, either by new revelation of the Spirit, or by the traditions of men.

  •  From Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem:

    The sufficiency of Scripture also tells us that nothing is required of us by God that is not commanded in Scripture either explicitly or by implication. This reminds us that the focus of our search for God’s will ought to be on Scripture, rather than on seeking guidance through prayer for changed circumstances or altered feelings or direct guidance from the Holy Spirit apart from Scripture….

    The discovery of this great truth could bring tremendous joy and peace to the lives of thousands of Christians who, spending countless hours seeking God’s will outside of Scripture, are often uncertain about whether they have found it. In fact, many Christians today have very little confidence in their ability to discover God’s will with any degree of certainty. Thus there is little striving to do God’s will (for who can know it?) and little growth in holiness before God.

    The opposite ought to be true. Christians who are convinced of the sufficiency of Scripture should begin eagerly to seek and find God’s will in Scripture. They should be eagerly and regularly growing in obedience to God, knowing great freedom and peace in the Christian life.

Learn more

  1. GotQuestions.org: “What is the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture? What does it mean that the Bible is sufficient?”
  2. Scott McClareThe Authority and Sufficiency of Scripture
  3. Tim ChalliesThe Bible’s Sufficiency
  4. Mark Thompson: The Sufficiency of Scripture
  5. David G. Peterson: The Sufficiency of Scripture
  6. Mark Dever: God Told Me” and the Sufficiency of Scripture
  7. John MacArthur: The Sufficiency of Scripture, Part 1 (mp3); The Sufficiency of Scripture, Part 2 (mp3)
Related terms:

mortification (of sin)

A way of life in which a Christian takes an active role in “crushing sin from their lives … rooting it out, and depriving it of its influence”;1 a Christian’s active role in battling sinful habits in the power of the Spirit.

    • From scripture:

Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away:anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. (Colossians 3:5-11 ESV)

[Mortification] is, then, the work of the Spirit. For, —

(1.) He is promised of God to be given unto us to do this work. The taking away of the stony heart, — that is, the stubborn, proud, rebellious, unbelieving heart, — is in general the work of mortification that we treat of. Now this is still promised to be done by the Spirit, Ezek. 11:19, 36:26, “I will give my Spirit, and take away the stony heart;” and by the Spirit of God is this work wrought when all means fail, Isa. 57:17-18.

(2.) We have all our mortification from the gift of Christ, and all the gifts of Christ are communicated to us and given us by the Spirit of Christ: “Without Christ we can do nothing,” John 15:5. All communications of supplies and relief, in the beginnings, increasings, actings of any grace whatever, from him, are by the Spirit, by whom he alone works in and upon believers. From him we have our mortification: “He is exalted and made a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance unto us,” Acts 5:31; and of our repentance our mortification is non small portion. How doth he do it? Having “received the promise of the Holy Ghost,” he sends him abroad for that end, the Spirit, as Tertullian speaks, “Vicariam navare operam,” to do the works that he had to accomplish in us.

Learn more:

  1. Got Questions.org: What is mortification of sin?
  2. Sinclair Ferguson: The Practice of Mortification
  3. J. Ligon Duncan: Putting Sin to Death
  4. John Owen :  The Mortification of Sin in Believers
  5. Christopher Love: The Mortification of Sin
  6. Octavius Winslow: The Believer’s Obligation to Mortify Sin
  7. John MacArthur: The Mortification of Sin (pdf)

Related terms:

November 9, 2012

“You Go First” “No, You Go First”

Ever stood at a doorway with someone who insists you enter first, while you are insisting that they go first? Today’s story is more like two people insisting on paying the tab at a restaurant.

II Samuel 24 (NLT) : 18 That day Gad came to David and said to him, “Go up and build an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite.”

19 So David went up to do what the Lord had commanded him. 20 When Araunah saw the king and his men coming toward him, he came and bowed before the king with his face to the ground. 21 “Why have you come, my lord the king?” Araunah asked.

David replied, “I have come to buy your threshing floor and to build an altar to the Lord there, so that he will stop the plague.”

22 “Take it, my lord the king, and use it as you wish,” Araunah said to David. “Here are oxen for the burnt offering, and you can use the threshing boards and ox yokes for wood to build a fire on the altar. 23 I will give it all to you, Your Majesty, and may the Lord your God accept your sacrifice.”

24 But the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on buying it, for I will not present burnt offerings to the Lord my God that have cost me nothing.” So David paid him fifty pieces of silver for the threshing floor and the oxen.

25 David built an altar there to the Lord and sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings. And the Lord answered his prayer for the land, and the plague on Israel was stopped.

David wants to buy the land where he will erect an altar to atone for his disobedience in doing something God had told him not to do. (The reason God didn’t want him to take a census at that time is the subject for another study, suffice it to say he was disobedient.)  But Araunah is making an overly generous generous gesture to simply give the king the land. But then it really won’t be as much of a sacrifice on David’s part will it? Talk about substitutionary atonement. (No, not really; though we could go in that direction, too; but like other analogies, it doesn’t fit perfectly.)

So David voices the well known statement, “for I will not offer burnt offerings to the Lord my God which cost me nothing.” (v. 24b, NASB)

I thought about that today as I prepared today’s reading. In selecting material for this devotional, I peruse many websites before finding things I’m comfortable using here. You may notice lately I’ve been writing more of the devotionals myself. It’s not that I’m entering a phase of super-spirituality — definitely not! — or that I feel what I have to say is somehow superior to the writings of other bloggers.

Rather, I find a lot of what passes for devotional writing online is simply too short. I don’t think God is impressed by the length of our writing or the volume of our words, but if I were relying on some of these websites/blogs for my daily start or my end-of-day meditation, I would be on and off the page probably in under 60 seconds.

There is no sacrifice there, at least where time is concerned. I truly hope that people use those sites as supplements do other reading and studying they are doing.

All of which reminded me of David’s line. Araunah’s generosity is making the process too easy. Yes, it’s true, David would still have to obtain and prepare the burnt offerings and peace offerings (v. 25), but he felt something would be wrong; that his sacrifice would be a little less sacrificial. And yes, while I knew the line that was part of today’s thoughts, I found myself taking the time to study the passage.

Today’s question: Do we sometimes use shortcuts in spiritual disciplines?

Related post: Re-read “Giving Your Best to God” from last Saturday.

October 5, 2011

Who is Obedient, Faithful, Fearing the Lord?

From Menno Simons after whom the denomination Mennonites is named:

“Who then is the man who fears the Lord?  He will instruct him in the way chosen for him.”

Sovereign Lord, Your way is the way of peace, and blessed is the person who walks there.  For mercy , love , justice, humility, patience and obedience are found along this way.  Such a person clothes the naked, feeds the hungry, satisfies the thirsty, comforts the needy, and reproves, warns, consoles and admonishes.  Such a person is sober, honest, modest upright and just.  Such a person gives no reason for offence and walks towards eternal life.

But there are very few who find this way.  I fear, beloved Lord, that hardly ten in a thousand find this way, and of those, hardly five really walk it.

So it has been from the beginning.

  • For when there were only four people on earth, the scripture says that three were disobedient and the fourth was killed by his brother. 
  • There were only eight righteous ones who were saved from the flood, and one of those was disrespectful to his father.
  • In Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding area, there were only four righteous ones, and one of those turned back to look and was turned into a pillar of salt.
  • More than 600,000 fightin men came out of Egypt, among whom only two were able to enter the promised land.  Not, beloved Lord that all who died along the way were damned.  But it was due to their unbelief that their way into the promised land of Canaan was delayed.

~Menno Simons, A Meditation on the Twenty-fifth Psalm (1537) in Early Anabaptist Spirituality, translated and edited by Daniel Lieschty (Paulist Press, 1994) pp 257-258

paragraphing, bullet points added

January 14, 2011

Hunger as a “Gift”

Today’s post is the daily devotional from Joni and Friends, the ministry founded by Joni Eareckson Tada.  The first link above is a general one that will get you a new devotional reading each day, not necessarily the one printed here.

“Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”  –Deuteronomy 8:2-3

Humans get hungry, and not just for food but for a whole range of desires and dreams. Hunger to have hopes fulfilled and longings answered seems to be built into us.

Sometimes our hunger gets us into trouble, and we wish we could curb our appetites. But in Deuteronomy 8:2, you’ll be surprised to learn who gives us these longings. The Lord is the one who causes us to hunger. He is the one who has put within us our desires and yearnings. At first, this seems odd. Doesn’t God know that the “hungries” often get us into trouble?

God has good reasons for giving us such large appetites. He has placed within us desires and dreams in order to test us and humble us, to see what is in our heart, to see whether or not we would follow Him. He causes us to hunger so that we might learn to feed on the Bread of Heaven, to live on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

To hunger is to be human, but to hunger for God is to feed on Him. Hunger and thirst after His righteousness and feed on Him in your heart. Taste and see that the Lord is good; it is He who will fill you to satisfaction.

I am prone to wander, Lord, I feel it. I’m prone to leave the God I love. Here’s my heart, please take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above. 


Want to get more out of the devotional and teaching blogs you read online?  When I’m preparing Christianity 201 entries for each day, especially the ones where I’m reposting something that someone else wrote, it’s easy to just say, “That one looks good;” and do a quick cut-and-paste.  What I find causes me to really slow down and consider what I’m reading is preparing the “tags” that accompany each blog post.  If you blog, you know about these, but if not, you can pretend you’re editing a site like this one.  What keywords or “tags” can you think of to attach to what you’re reading?  The tags don’t have to be words in the actual text — I use “Christianity” and “devotional” most days simply to attract readers who are looking for those themes — but the tag can be something else that is suggested by what you’re reading.  We often find ourselves so hurried that it’s easy to miss the essence of what we’re reading.  Slow down and look for the tags!