Christianity 201

November 6, 2016

The Judgment of the Redeemed

by Russell Young    

Sin or disobedience has never been “winked at” by God. Those who treat his holiness and his righteous requirements with disdain will reap the results of their folly.  God is holy and without holiness no one will see him. (Heb 12:14) That is, they will be separated from him. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians: “He will punish those who do not know [understand] 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 on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.” (2 Thess 1:8─10)

Much of modern teaching has dismissed the need for a righteous walk and holiness with the affirmation of God’s unconditional love and forgiveness.  No doubt these proclamations are intended to bring God glory, however, they diminish him and his government.  After all, what would any nation become if law enforcers were to take the position that they love the offenders and dismissed any consequence of law breaking?  What happens in the family home if no rules are enforced? Even our limited understanding would inform us that anarchy would result, and God is much more knowledgeable of the human condition than we are. It is the evil imaginations of men that pain is heart. (Gen 6:6)

It is true that sins committed under the Old Covenant have been forgiven. (Heb 9:15) Such provision was made through the sacrifice of Christ so that a people might be delivered from the death sentence that awaited them and be given a second chance to live under the lordship of Christ who is the Spirit. (2 Cor 3:17, 18)  It is through obedience to him that the practice of sin can, and is to be, overcome.  Paul has referred to this aspect of God’s government as “the law of the Spirit of life” (Rom 8:2) and it is according to the law of the Spirit that the redeemed will be judged. James has called this the “law of the Lord” (NIV) or the “law of liberty” (KJV) (Jas 2:12).  Paul wrote, “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)

Peter has written, “For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?”(1 Pet 4:17 NIV) Those who dismiss sinful practices with the understanding that they have been disposed of will be very disappointed when they face the judgment of Christ.  Peter wrote that “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness.” (2 Pet 1:3 NIV) A person’s defense cannot rest in the proclamation that they are merely human and lacking the ability to live a godly life.  The Spirit has enabled the believer’s needs to be met through his indwelling presence.

Christ was not only incarnated as a human being in order that he might be an acceptable sacrifice for the sins of people, he was incarnated so that he might understand the temptations of the flesh. (Heb 2:17─18) Having a body like our own, he was able to overcome the temptation to sin and he suffered in the pursuit of victory. (Heb 2:18) It is to the Lord with his understanding of temptation and the provision made that the redeemed sinner must address his defence.

Daniel wrote that when Christ returns, “[m]ultitudes who sleep in the dust of the earth will awake; some to everlasting life, others to shame and everlasting contempt.” (Dan 12:2 NIV) Shame and contempt will not be rested on those committed to the lake of burning sulphur, but on those who had failed to practice obedience to their Lord. Jesus himself testified: “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 [the New Jerusalem]. (Rev 22:14 KJV) and Matthew has record the Lord’s admonition: “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 7:21 NIV)

The judgment seat of Christ is reserved for those who have pledged or have proclaimed that he is their lord and they will be judged according to the manner of their obedience.  It is those who walk in the light, those who obey him (the Spirit, 2 Cor 3 17, 18) who will find eternal rest for their souls. “…[H]e became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (Heb 5:9 NIV)

The Lord spoke of a great deal of deception that would take place in the last days and it is certainly evident.  “Do not be deceived:  God cannot be mocked.  A man reaps what he sows.  The one who sows to please his sinful nature from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Gal 6:7─8 NIV) Judgment and eternal life or destruction will be levelled according to a person’s “sowing” or the things he or she does while in the body, whether he or she prac5tices righteous living or not. “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed.” (Rom 2:5 NIV)

Careful thought must be given to Paul’s teaching that following justification by the blood of Christ we should be saved from God’s wrath through his life. (Rom 5:10) His life is that which he is prepared to live out as the Spirit that indwells each confessor.  However, to avoid judgment and God’s wrath those who have professed his lordship must be prepared to obediently allow him to live his sinless life through them.

Judgment is not only given concerning one’s state of holiness, it is also given according to his or her service or lack thereof in the building of the kingdom. (1 Cor 3:11─15)

Judgment awaits each, and the outcome will depend on the value and honour with which they allow Christ to minister for them in service to the kingdom, by his sacrificial offering, in and through them by his indwelling Spirit, and by engaging his ministry as high priest.


eternal-salvation-russell-youngRussell Young’s book is in stores and available now in print and eBook.  The title is Eternal Salvation: “I’m Okay! You’re Okay!” Really? It is available through Westbow Publishing, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble; and in Canada through Chapters/Indigo.  9781512757514 $17.99 US


April 19, 2016

Sacrifice: When the Cause is Too Important

Whenever a nation gets involved in a major wartime effort, the civilian population left at home tends to have to make plenty of sacrifices as well…

So begins an article by Bill Muehlenberg at the blog Culture Watch, who we have featured here twice before. This is a longer piece, and we’re going to join it about halfway through so you are encouraged to click the title below to read it all.

Wartime, Self-Sacrifice and the Christian Life

…The Christian life is a life of warfare, of battle, and of fighting. It is also a life of hardship, surrender and self-sacrifice. At least it is supposed to be.

I have written often the issue of warfare and the Christian life. See here for example: billmuehlenberg.com/2009/03/18/fighting-the-good-fight/

And I have often written about the sacrifices a believer is called to make for his Lord. But here let me offer some spiritual parallels to what we found happening in the countries reduced to rationing during the last great war. The parallels are not perfect of course because in the Christian’s life, it is a voluntary rationing and self-sacrifice, not one forced upon us by government.

Spiritual WarfareBut otherwise we have some real similarities. In both cases, an urgent end requires discipline, self-denial and sobriety in order to achieve a good outcome. In both cases the cause is much greater than the individual, and any sacrifices we can make for the greater good are vital.

In the Christian life we war against the world, the flesh and the devil. The spiritual battle is constant and to the max. If we hope to properly present Christ and extend his Kingdom and strike blows against the satanic empire, that will require real effort from us, and real self-sacrifice.

If we just keep living a self-indulgent, me-first lifestyle, we will achieve nothing of worth for the Kingdom. In fact we will end up aiding and abetting the enemy. The New Testament makes much of this type of thinking. For example Paul put it this way in 1 Corinthians 9:24-27, as he mixes his metaphors:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Or consider his words as found in 2 Timothy 2:1-5:

You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others. Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer. Similarly, anyone who competes as an athlete does not receive the victor’s crown except by competing according to the rules.

Self-discipline and self-denial are essential parts of the Christian life if we want to see Christ glorified, the world reached, and enemy strongholds pulled down. It will not happen any other way. Like Paul, we make sacrifices for our Lord because he made the greatest sacrifice for us. We can do no less.

As C. T. Studd once said, “If Jesus Christ be God and died for me, then no sacrifice can be too great for me to make for Him.” Or as the Welsh preacher J. D. Jones said, “All the calls of the gospel are calls to hardship, to sacrifice, to battle. Christ would have no man follow him under the delusion that he was going to have an easy time of it.”

F. B. Meyer put it this way:

It is urgently needful that the Christian people of our charge should come to understand that they are not a company of invalids, to be wheeled about, or fed by hand, cosseted, nursed, and comforted, the minister being the head-physician and nurse – but a garrison in an enemy’s country, every soul of which should have some post of duty, at which he should be prepared to make any sacrifice rather than quit it.

Let me conclude with the words of Leonard Ravenhill on this issue. He said,

When a nation calls its prime men to battle, homes are broken, weeping sweethearts say their good-byes, businesses are closed, college careers are wrecked, factories are refitted for wartime production, and rationing and discomforts are accepted – all for war. Can we do less for the greatest fight that this world has ever known outside of the cross – this end-time siege on sanity, morality and spirituality?

April 17, 2016

Is Your Belief Sufficient to Gain You Everlasting Life?

•••by Russell Young

There are eleven occasions where “everlasting life” is used in the Word of God; most are found in the book of John and teach that it comes through believing in Christ.  “For God gave his one and only Son that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal [everlasting] life. (John 3:16, NIV)

Since “belief” is the means of gaining everlasting life one should be sure of its meaning.  “Believe” is translated from the Greek pisteuo which is defined as “to have faith (in, upon, or with respect to, a person or thing), i.e. credit; by implication, to entrust (especially one’s spiritual well-being to Christ): -believe (-r), commit (to trust), put in trust with.” (Strong’s Greek Dictionary #4100)

Belief in the context of salvation goes beyond understanding that something is true; it means that one has sufficient faith in Christ or is sufficiently persuaded concerning the being and mission of Christ that he is willing to entrust his well-being to the Lord.  One’s conception of “belief” should not be limited to the understanding that his well-being can be assured by absenting himself of all responsibility for it by allowing Christ to do all that is necessary.  He cannot abrogate his obligations unless the Lord has allowed him to do so, and He hasn’t.  The writer of Hebrews has recorded that eternal salvation comes through obedience. (Hebrews 5:9) “Belief” means accepting the Lord’s teachings in the gospel with the commitment to honouring them with his total being…all his mind, soul, and heart. (Matthew 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27)

In Biblical times “to believe” was synonymous with obedience.  “And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed?  Se we can see that they were not able to enter, because of their unbelief.(Hebrews 3:18, 19, NIV) One acts according to what he believes.  He cannot truly believe something and act contrary to that belief; his actions are to be congruent with his beliefs and his belief are to be in accordance with the Word of God.

The most commonly presented view of the means of salvation seems to be mental assent or conviction that Christ will deliver the confessor into His eternal presence if he acknowledges that Christ is God, acknowledges that he is a sinner, and voices repentance for his sin.  To accept the position that salvation comes through mental assent followed by confession of faith without requiring obedience, however, is contrary to much of the teaching of the New Testament.  Belief is to be ‘in the heart” (Romans 10:9) which is the motivator of one’s actions.  Jesus said, “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.” (Matthew 7:21, NIV)

Paul reported to King Agrippa that he had preached that people should repent and turn to God and prove their repentance by their deeds. (Acts 26:20)

There are many references to the need to obey Christ throughout the New Testament. (John 10:27, 8:51; Ephesians 5:3-7; Romans 6:16; 8:48:14) The understanding of the need for obedience should give cause for thought because many accept that they will be in the kingdom of heaven without any need for obedience or for doing God’s will.  The book of Hebrews presents: “Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall by following their example of disobedience.” (4:11, NIV)

Whatever one claims “belief” to mean, it must incorporate the necessity for obedience to Christ over one’s lifetime; otherwise his belief will be “in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:2) He is to be lord and He is to be honoured as Lord.  It is through belief that one relents of his own lordship and allows Christ to direct his life in order that his heart might be transformed into that of the likeness of Christ, (Romans 8:29) and become an offering acceptable to the Lord. (Romans 15:16)

Belief does not save anyone since every person believes in something.  What results in everlasting life is what one believes and how he proves that belief by his actions.  Belief produces faith and faith unless it produces works is meaningless. (James 2:17) One’s belief/faith is better measured by his actions than by his profession.  Everlasting life comes through belief that is evidenced through obedience to his Lord and Saviour.

February 18, 2015

The Transfiguration: Listen to Him

Today, our regular mid-week thoughts from Pastor Clarke Dixon.  Click the title below to read at his blog, Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon.

The Transfiguration Clarification

2 Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them,  3 and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them.  4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus.  5 Then Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”  6 He did not know what to say, for they were terrified.  7 Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice, “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” (Mark 9:2-7 NRSV emphasis mine)

The transfiguration of Jesus may seem strange to us, with dazzling clothes, and the appearance of Moses and Elijah, but as strange as it may seem, this is a very important moment with much to teach the follower of Jesus, both then, and today.

Transfiguration of JesusTo understand it well we will want to notice the many references back to the Old Testament. The event occurs on a mountain, which reminds us of God giving the law to Moses on Mount Sinai. Also we have the radiance of Jesus, reminding us of the radiance of Moses’ face when he had spent time in God’s presence (see Exodus 34:29,35). We also have Peter’s reaction, which though most translations have as a statement, some Biblical scholars think should be a question: “Is it right for us to be here?” The Israelites were not to go up Mount Sinai with Moses, for God is holy and they were not. Peter may be reflecting that same concern of getting too close to where God’s presence and glory is being made manifest. Then there is Peter’s suggestion of building shelters or “booths.” The word for shelter can also be translated as “tabernacle,” and part of the intent of the tabernacle was to shield the people from the glory of God while God’s presence was among them. And of course we have the presence of two key figures from the Old testament, Moses and Elijah. These are very key as Moses represents the Law, and Elijah represents the prophets. Both the law and the prophets are associated with God’s speaking to the people and His expectation of their obedience.

So what has this to do with my life today?

First, the transfiguration gives clarity to the identity of Jesus. The disciples knew that there was something special about Jesus. And many people today think there is something special about Jesus, but when asked what that is, they will talk about his great ethics, or his inspirational compassion and love of peace. But that does not capture it, for that quaint view of Jesus is not amazing enough. Consider how amazing it would have been for Peter, James, and John, to find themselves standing with Moses and Elijah. These were two key heroes of the people, representing the law and prophets. Yet God does not introduce Moses with “here is my servant, Moses. Listen to him,” nor Elijah with “here is my spokesperson Elijah, listen to him.” No, for there is one of even greater importance standing among them: “This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!” (Mark 9:7 NRSV). As amazing as standing in the presence of Moses or Elijah would be, it is not as amazing as standing in the presence of Jesus. Though Moses and Elijah could reflect the glory of God, Jesus is the source. Though Moses and Elijah could call people to repentance, Jesus is the One who redeems the one who repents. Far too many Christians today do not have an amazing enough understanding of who Jesus is. Let the transfiguration amaze us.

Second, the transfiguration gives clarity as to how to live as a Christian. Some people become Christians, but it is as if they are taking up religion. They want to know the rules, they want to fit into the denominational subculture, they want to be like everyone else in the religion. But Christianity is not taking up a religion, it is entering into relationship with God through a person, Jesus Christ, in the power of God’s Holy Spirit. Entering into relationship with Jesus is not taking up religion, but taking up the cross and following Jesus in the way of the cross. It is not being like other religious people, but becoming like Jesus. Being a follower of Jesus means: paying attention to the teaching of Jesus, paying attention to the example of Jesus, and paying attention to the example of the early Christians as they followed the teaching and example of Jesus. All this is recorded for us in God’s Word. In short, we are to “listen to him.”

Third, the transfiguration provides a response to certain accusations being made against Christianity. In our day we seem to be seeing a rise in violent militant Islam and many are saying that Christianity could be as likely to turn violent. People will point to passages from the Old Testament as proof. However, when people compare Christianity with Islam in this way they are really comparing apples and oranges with the conclusion of “we are all fruit after all.” Or comparing cashews with almonds and concluding “we are all nuts.” However, if you are allergic to cashews and not almonds, knowing the difference becomes very important. It is important to know the difference between Islam and Christianity on this point.

When a Christian turns to violence, he or she is not paying attention to the teaching of Jesus, the example of Jesus, or the example of the early Christians and how they follow the teaching and example of Jesus. He or she is not expressing the Christian faith, but rather a sinful heart. We are not thinking here of those times that violence may be a matter of national or personal security; that is a deep topic worth mining. That Christians have turned to violence is not in dispute. That the turning to violence is an expression of Christianity is. We are to “listen to him.” Rip out of context whatever passages you want from the Old Testament, we are to “listen to him.”

When a Muslim turns to violence, we are grateful that he or she (but typically he) is in the minority of Muslims. However, the militant Muslim can point to the teaching of Muhammed, the example of Muhammed, and the example of the early Muslims. Each has violence. Thankfully this is a minority view, but it is a possible view which the militant Muslim can defend theologically, and use to radicalize others. This is happening. The militant Christian cannot defend a violent expression of Christianity. We are to “listen to him.” When we do that we pick up a cross, not a sword.

June 15, 2013

Heart Guarding

The theme of guarding your heart turns up frequently on devotional blogs, but it’s something we need to be constantly reminded of. This post by Mike Brown appeared at the blog We Are Soma under the title, The Discipline of Guarding Your Heart. Soma is a network of 18 U.S. churches, and Soma School is for existing or potential church planters. Learn more at WeAreSoma.com

 Simply re-arranging the furniture of my life without pulling up the root of the sin that so easily entangles ensures yet another crisis where I am left defining myself by what I do, or don’t do.

When looking at every relationship I have through the lens of discipleship, I am always asking three questions. What do they need to know in order to develop a Biblical mindset about God, themselves and the world? Who do they need to be in order to maintain a close walk with Jesus where His kingdom is first in their heart? What do they need to do in order to live a life consistent with the truth of the gospel?

These are not bad questions, but due to my personality bent, I have given undue attention to the areas of knowing and doing, instead of being. I can teach and train anyone to grow in the knowledge of Jesus. I can imitate and model for others what action that flows out of the gospel looks like. What I can’t do is change someone’s heart, from which all knowing and doing stem. In Proverbs 4:23, King Solomon says

“Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life”.

Solomon says that above all else, we are to guard our hearts, for that is where every external thing in our life comes from. Merely focusing on knowledge or action without examining our heart motivations is a curriculum to develop Pharisees, not disciples.

My own heart is drawn astray when I am tempted to look at someone’s knowledge of, and obedience to the gospel as the mark of maturity. Yet I have both seen and been the man whose knowledge and obedience are based on fueling the idolatry in my own life, rather than being a reflection of my love for Jesus.

In Proverbs, the heart is seen as the source of all action. It is assumed that it will constantly be under attack, thus to need to guard it with vigilance. We know the Bible teaches that our heart is the essence of who we are as a person made in the image of God. How do we care for our heart in a way that ensures it stays a source of clean fresh water which purifies all of our thoughts and actions?

God led me beside still waters and restored my soul in such a unique way last year that I’m beginning to finally understand the value of rest. I was becoming increasingly concerned about the tone of my voice with my wife, my children, and my church. I was becoming aware of just how many nights I put the kids to bed, spent some time talking to my wife, then went to my laptop “to get a head start on my busy day tomorrow”. I was becoming more susceptible to believe the praise of others about my strengths as well as being crushed by the criticism of my weaknesses. Through the help of a godly community committed to seeing how the gospel speaks a better word over me (Heb. 12:24), I realized that my heart was looking to my productivity as the source of my strength. So, I stopped.

I took several months off to rest. I needed to know my identity was found in Christ, not my preaching. I needed to know the tone of my voice with my kids wasn’t dependent on how good or bad a day I’d had. I needed to see my wife as a God given help to me, not just a partner in life. I needed to care for my church in a way that reflects the self-emptying, sacrificial love of Jesus. I became a part of the community, rather than the guy in charge. I took a vacation where spending the whole day doing nothing but playing with my kids was the work of the ministry. I stopped basing my well being on how much I got done that day.

Through God ordained Sabbath rest, Jesus teaches us how to guard our heart. By resting, we are able to identify our affections and adjust our intentions.

When we take time to step off the treadmill of productivity, and can no longer gain an unhealthy sense of worth or value from our output, we are able to clearly identify the affections of our hearts. What is currently driving my thoughts and actions right now? What am I am showing that I love more than Jesus by the mental and physical energy spent pursuing it? Is rest something I do when all my work is finished, or a discipline practiced regardless of how much work is left?

Only after the Spirit leads us to identify where our affections lie can He teach us to adjust our intentions. Heart change will lead to a renewing of our minds and a re-evaluation of our actions. What needs to be left undone in order to pursue something better? Am I willing to let people down in order to live consistent with a heart that desires Jesus? If my intention is to glorify God and enjoy Him, what needs to be adjusted in my life in order to achieve that?

Simply re-arranging the furniture of my life without pulling up the root of the sin that so easily entangles ensures yet another crisis where I am left defining myself by what I do, or don’t do.

Sabbath rest is a command by God designed to bring life. Only when we see those things in our lives that poison our hearts can we view rest not as a burden, but as a gift from our Heavenly Father, who is always at work restoring our souls.