Christianity 201

February 26, 2019

Honoring the Father’s Call

by Russell Young

According to the parable of the two sons (Mt 21:18) a father needed work done in his vineyard and asked each to help. The first retorted that he would not, but later did. The second said that he would but didn’t. The question posed was: Which of the sons did what his father had wanted?

Since the Father had wanted help, the son who had originally denied his request but later complied is the one who did what the father had wanted. He had relented, repented, and obeyed.

The Lord was making a point. It is more important to obey than to utter an empty promise. He addressed this elsewhere: “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” (Lk 6:46) Obedience to the Lord is serious; it is through it that the believer gains eternal salvation. Disobedience, defiance, or rebellion will bring his wrath. “Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient.” (Eph 5:6)

Jesus said, “If you love me, you will obey what I command,” (Jn 14:15) and Paul has written that “everyone who loves God is known by God.” (1 Cor 8:3) God knows those who love him because they obey his commands; they go beyond promising to the point of obedience through their ‘doing’. A walk of obedience is a walk of humility before the Lord. It recognizes his sovereignty and right as master.

The confession (pledge, promise, or covenant) of the Lord’s sovereignty results in the confessor’s deliverance from the Law and from his or her past sins. (Heb 9:15; 2 Pet 1:9) Paul wrote, “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.” (Rom 10:9) There are many who make the profession that “Christ is Lord” but who do not honor their pledge. His sovereign right to the life of the believer is proclaimed many times in the Scriptures and must be honored. Those who deny “the sovereign Lord” through the introduction of destructive heresies will bring swift destruction on themselves. (2 Pet 2:1; See also Jude 1:4)

God’s kingdom will not be entered through profession, but through exercised obedience. “Christ is the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Heb 5:9) The righteous life of Christ is accomplished through submission to his leadership as Spirit. The promise of commitment made to the Lord is to be lived.

Some might respond that such teaching makes eternal salvation a matter of “works” however, obedience is the practice of faith. All believers have heard of Paul’s teaching, “For it is by grace you are saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is a gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast.” (Eph 2:8−9) Both “grace” and “faith” need to be understood from a biblical perspective, however the essence of Paul’s thought is in the verse that follows, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (Eph 2:10) God’s grace is revealed as the product that the Lord is making of the believer, his “workmanship”, so that he or she might do good works (deeds, labor). The “product” is conformation to Christ’s own likeness (Rom 8:29) Only those who have been cleansed from “ignoble” practices will be used for noble purposes (2 Tim 2:21) or for the “works which God had prepared in advance for them to do.” Only the righteous will be used for “noble” purposes.

Those called to work in the Father’s vineyard are called “to do good works” which had been prepared in advance. The Lord has referred to these as hearing his words and putting them into practice. (Mt 7:24−27; Lk 6:46−49) His words must be put into practice both for righteousness’ sake, and for kingdom building with each bringing their just rewards.

Those seeking God’s heavenly kingdom are not to be passive in their commitment but have been called to put forth effort. When asked if only a few people were going to be saved, the Lord responded, “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) They will plead that they ate and drank with him and that he had taught in their streets, but he will reply, “I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me you evildoers.” (Lk 13:27) In the end it will not be their profession to work in his vineyard that matters, but their actual work; not their promise of commitment, but their practice of obedience. Entrance rests in “effort” not fruitless “confession”. Matthew has recorded the Lord’s prophesy, “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.” (Mt 2:21) His complaint was that he had never known them. Entrance will be based on a person’s doing.

A promise made must be kept; God will not be mocked. (Gal 6:7) Those, like the son who have promised to work and don’t, are hypocrites. They want to appear submissive and God-honoring through their proclamations, but do not live according to their words. The unfaithful servant will be cut into pieces and assigned a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Mt 24:51) Faith is more than a possession; it is revealed through a person’s practices and is demonstrated, not through what a person says, but by what he or she does. Faith is revealed in the lives of the vineyard workers, those who work when the Father calls, who are obedient to his will, not in those who utter empty promises.



Russell Young’s column appears here on alternate Tuesdays. His 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 a feature-length article at this link.

August 20, 2017

Sunday Worship

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
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This is a writer who is new to us. Neil White, is a Lutheran (ELCA) Pastor, currently Senior Pastor for Rejoice Lutheran in Frisco, Texas. His blog is called Sign of the Rose. To read this at source, and then navigate to other articles, click the title below.

The Disconnect Between Worship and Obedience: Jeremiah 6: 15-21

15 They acted shamefully, they committed abomination;
yet they were not ashamed, they did not know how to blush.
Therefore they shall fall among those who fall;
at the time that I punish them, they shall be overthrown, says the LORD.
16 Thus says the LORD: Stand at the crossroads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, “We will not walk in it.”
17 Also I raised up sentinels for you: “Give heed to the sound of the trumpet!”
But they said, “We will not give heed.”
18 Therefore hear, O nations, and know, O congregation, what will happen to them.
19 Hear, O earth; I am going to bring disaster on this people,
the fruit of their schemes, because they have not given heed to my words;
and as for my teaching, they have rejected it.
20 Of what use to me is frankincense that comes from Sheba, or sweet cane from a distant land?
Your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor are your sacrifices pleasing to me.
21 Therefore thus says the LORD:
See, I am laying before this people stumbling blocks against which they shall stumble;
parents and children together, neighbor and friend shall perish.

Apparently the reality that some people may be faithful church attenders while they live lives that are fundamentally out of touch with God’s desire for their lives is not a new reality. As Walter Brueggemann states:

In place of torah, Israel has substituted cultic action (Jer. 6:20-21): frankincense, cane, sacrifices. Israel has devised a form of religion that reflects affluence, which can be safely administered, and which brackets out all questions of obedience. (Brueggemann 1998, 73)

It is a nice, safe, easy religion that has allowed the people to slip into a sense of cultic complacency. So long as we have the temple and we keep bringing our offerings to God nothing will happen to us. This is the picture of gods that are common in the ancient world, that you bring pleasing offerings to the gods to entreat their favor and to get them fight for you in your battles, allow your crops to prosper, etc. But this is to fundamentally misunderstand the relationship God wants for God’s people.

It is not coincidence that the Old Testament prophets frequently rail against the sacrificial system (and Jesus also directly confronts the temple in his own day). The way things are will not continue indefinitely, God is speaking through the prophet. God is taking away the things that people have placed their trust in, and the temple and the priestly sacrificial system is one of these things.

March 12, 2017

A Fractured Gospel

by Russell Young
Although the gospel message has been around for about two thousand years, its understanding remains muddled. The Word has presented that eternal salvation comes through a person’s “doings,” through obedience, and through belief. It seems that many have selected from these the option that appeals to them and have concluded a means of meeting God’s condition so that they might rest their hope in him. The truth is that all three are components of the same gospel truth and they need to be appreciated as such. Belief (faith) motivates obedience and obedience compels the believer to act in ways that are pleasing and acceptable to God.
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It gets tiresome to attend to debates, written or verbal, about the validity of one component while disregarding the others. The disputes are endless and where eternal salvation continues to be perceived as through a single factor the debates will continue to persist and will achieve nothing except division and lost souls. Time and energy are wasted and confusion is produced as many self-righteously defend their position. Unfortunately, after two thousand years, church practitioners have often become entrenched in reliance upon a singular aspect of the gospel and objectivity has been lost. Consequently, many who now claim to be called to present the gospel cannot even clearly define it. This ought not to be so. Too many people are being left stillborn in churches while others are dying in the deserts of their communities.
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Jesus taught: “Do not be amazed at this (the Son of Man having authority as judge), for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out-those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.” (JN 5:28─29 NIV; See also 1 Pet 1:17; Mt 7:2; 12:36; Jn 5:28─29; 2 Cor 5:10) A person’s doings or practices should not be confused with the issue of “works” which applies to salvation through the works of the law. The Lord taught that evidence of faith, a person’s testimony through his or her practices, matters.
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In Hebrews it is recorded: “he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.” (Heb 5:9 NIV) Christ also presented the need for obedience-Mt 7:21; 2 Thess 1:8─9; Rev 12:17, 14:12, Rev 22:14 (KJV), etc. The Lord is the Spirit and one purpose of his indwelling presence is to sanctify the obedient believer and to fit him or her for God’s heavenly kingdom. The believer must be made into the likeness of God’s Son (Rom 8:29) if he is to enter God’s kingdom.
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Many times the Lord has proclaimed that salvation comes through belief or faith in his person and ministry. However, belief is revealed through the practice of obedience. It is recorded: “And to whom did God swear that they would never 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─19 NIV) Those who do not obey Christ, the Spirit, lack saving faith and will not dwell with him.
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Faith/Belief resulting in obedience and “doing good” is what saves a person from judgment and into God’s glorious kingdom and presence. Without righteousness, which is the result of God’s “handiwork” (Eph 2:10) and is achieved through the Spirit (Gal 5:5), the confessor must remain forever separated from the Lord. (Heb 12:14)
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The truth of the gospel needs to be appreciated and clearly proclaimed if the dead are to be brought to life. Confusion is destroying the church of God and making it powerless is a depraved generation. Those who loudly proclaim a component of the gospel as being the necessary and full truth will be accountable for much one day. Those who are confident that they have brought many into the kingdom may find that they, like their sheep, will be shut out from the wedding feast and from God’s holy kingdom. Many false promises through a fractured gospel are being persuasively proclaimed to win the lost to church communities. In the end, many are presenting no gospel at all.


eternal-salvation-russell-youngRussell Young is a Sunday contributor to Christianity 201 and 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

 

February 26, 2017

The Continuing Sanctification of the Believer

by Russell Young

The Word of God speaks of the need for believers to be continually sanctified. Those who will dwell in his presence must be holy. (Heb 12:14) Although the believer was cleansed of all sin through the imputation of Christ’s righteousness at the time of confession of faith, Paul spoke of the need for him or her to be “kept” blameless. In his benediction to the Thessalonians he wrote: “May God himself, the God of peace sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thessalonians 5:23 NIV)

Since all people are prone to sin, a person’s sanctification must be maintained. The writer of Hebrews has recorded that “Since that time (when he offered himself as a sacrifice) he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Heb 10:13─14 NIV) Accordingly, a process has been revealed as necessary since he refers to those “who are being made holy” as being perfect forever. Perfection has a condition attached.

The Lord spoke of the necessity of continued cleansing when he washed his disciples’ feet (Jn 13:8) and told Peter that unless he washed his feet, Peter would have no part with him even though he had had a bath; had been cleansed all over. Christ often spoke of the need for obedience which is part of the sanctification process. (Mt 7:21, Rev 22:14 KJV, Mt 28:20, Lk 11:28, Jn 8:51, Phil 2:12, 2Thess 1:8, 1 Jn 2:5) Sanctification is the absence of sin and “being kept blameless” is achieved through righteous living and through fulfilment of the law. John wrote: “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness.” (1 Jn 3:4 NIV) A few verses later John wrote that “No one who lives in [Christ] keeps on sinning.” (1 Jn 3:6 NIV) All of this is to say that personal and eternal sanctification will not be achieved by Christ without the confessor’s ongoing involvement. It is thorough voluntary submission to Christ that identifies the confessor as a believer, and through which eternal salvation is achieved.

A great misconception has invaded some of the church–that Christ will unilaterally sanctify the confessor. A person’s failure to humble him/herself through obedience will ultimately result in eternal separation from the presence of their God and Creator.

Paul wrote to the Philippians “continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life.” (Philippians 2 12─16 NIV) Paul taught that the law–God’s standard of righteousness–was accomplished by the Spirit. “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.” (Rom 8:3─4 NIV) That is, God’s righteous standards are to be achieved through the way a person lives.

God, the Spirit, can sanctify the believer “through and through” and can keep a person’s spirit, soul, and body blameless at the coming of the Lord provided that one is willing to be led, willing to be obedient, but being sanctified requires submission to the Lord, the one who accomplished it for himself and who is prepared to accomplish it for the believer. “Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one you obey-whether you are slaves to sin which leads to death or to obedience which leads to righteousness.” (Rom 6:16 NIV)

Popular Christian music readily praises God for all that he has done and for the redemption that Christ has accomplished through his sacrificial offering; however, the Lord’s continued work in the believer must also be appreciated by those who look forward to his coming and to their continued sanctification. His ministry in partnership with the believer has not been completed but is ongoing and essential for one’s eternal salvation. The Holy Spirit was given for that very purpose and he must be obeyed. (Heb 5:9) The thought continues to persist that Christ has done all that is required. He continues to enlighten, to lead and to empower the believer for victory but the victory over sin must still be fought if a person’s sanctification is to be completed.

May 25, 2011

You Are Part of God’s Plan, But You’re Not The Plan

If you want to be challenged daily by a pastor who consistently blogs thought-provoking writing, may I again recommend Elevation Church pastor Steven Furtick.  This one is simple enough on the surface, but try to read it with someone else and then discuss it after and you’ll see the underlying complexities.  We’ve been taught that we are instruments God uses to bring about his will here on earth, but that “we” refers to the Body in general, and if “I” don’t do what I’m supposed to, God will easily find someone else.  This appeared under the title, Purpose Over Personality.

But the LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “Because you did not trust in me enough to honor me as holy in the sight of the Israelites, you will not bring this community into the land I give them.”
Numbers 20:12

Everyone is replaceable.

A lot of times we try to motivate people to embrace their calling by saying that if you don’t  ______, no one else can. You’re the person God has appointed to do this, and no one else can do it.

It sounds good. Very motivating.
But it simply isn’t true.

To the Israelites, it probably seemed like Moses was the only one who could lead them into the Promised Land. But he wasn’t. And so when he wasn’t willing to trust God enough to do what he had been commanded to do, the responsibility and privilege was handed over to someone else.

There’s a scary truth that we all must accept:
Like Moses, you and I are replaceable.

Do we really think that if we don’t use our profession as our pulpit, God won’t raise someone else up to do it?
Do we really think God can’t raise up another church to have the impact He wants ours to have if we don’t do what He’s calling us to do?
Do we really think God’s purpose depends solely on us?

God is not hamstrung by our disobedience. Or by our unwillingness to join in on what He wants to do in this world. In God’s economy, He values His purpose over the personality He uses to accomplish it. If you won’t do what God is calling you to do, He will simply find somebody else to do it.

Don’t get me wrong, God doesn’t just replace us on a whim or at the first sign of resistance on our part. He chases and pursues us. He is more patient than we can possibly imagine.

But the Creator of the Universe’s purpose is greater than any one person.
You are a part of the plan. But you are not the plan.
You’re special. Valuable. You’re one of a kind.
But you’re not irreplaceable.

This isn’t easy to accept, but it’s absolutely essential that we do it. It communicates urgency to us. Not in the sense that God is urgent for us to do something for Him. But urgency in the sense that the window of our opportunity to do something with God isn’t open indefinitely. It has to be seized now.

Believe it or not, there are countless people in this world who would do anything to take your spot in how God wants to use you. Don’t give them the opportunity. Whatever God is calling you to do, do it. And do it now.

~Pastor Steven Furtick

January 15, 2011

Faith Without Works Isn’t Faith

Today’s post is from Ron who blogs at Window or Mirror?, a blog primarily for men, where this appeared under the title Would You?

I posed a hypothetical question to my son the other day, to his ever-growing amusement. I asked him, “RJ, what would happen if I told you to go upstairs and clean your room, and you disappeared and returned in 90 minutes and sat on the couch to read a book, without having cleaned it? What would I do if I asked you what was going on and you said that you memorized what I said, and then went back to reading”? My son, laughing now, said that I would likely think he was being a wise guy. I asked, “What if I told you to go clean it again, and you disappeared again, return in 30 minutes, and the room still wasn’t clean? This time when I ask about the room, you tell me that you’ve invited three friends over to have a Bible study – in the dirty room – to discuss what it might look like if you cleaned it”? RJ laughed and said, “I wouldn’t dare do that Dad”!

Wouldn’t dare indeed. Isn’t this what we often do with what God has told us? …We pray, begging the Lord to show us His face, to reveal His specific will for our lives – and that’s good – but don’t you think that He sometimes looks down and says, “Your knowledge already far outpaces your obedience. I have given you my Word, and you cannot follow it; what more should I tell you now”? We are to be “doers” of the Word, and not hearers only. The “one anothers” of Scripture demand relationships and “action”. Each “one another” is preceded by a verb. Now I was never good at English, but I think verbs imply action on the part of the subject of the sentence. Each of the “one anothers” has YOU implied as the subject. YOU, love one another. YOU, bear one another’s burdens”. I challenge us today to be active in our faith. Exercise the “one another’s” in Scripture, and do what the Lord has instructed.

I am not advocating “works theology”. Some imply that the mere mention of “doing something” – even if for the Lord – hints at working for salvation. Men; everything that you can possibly do – all of it – cannot move you one fraction of an inch closer to deserving the gift of grace. It is free not because it is cheap, but because it is priceless; and praise the Lord that this is so! But works are important. How important? Read Matthew 25:41-46 below:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.

Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,

Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

Well, how important is that? At the end of it all, the One who gave us His life to redeem us will separate those who will live eternally from those who will not; and He will do this based on whether or not they did what He asked them to do. It is important. Praise the Lord that we have good works that have been prepared for us to do, and that we have the Spirit enabling us to do them. Let us therefore do what He commands.