Christianity 201

March 27, 2017

New Creation? Or “Pretty much who I have always been?”

NLT 2 Cor. 5:17 This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!

Today we’re introducing a new writer, Tara who blogs at PursuePeaceBlog. Click to look around, I love her writing style and how she wrestles with the text. Click the title below to read today’s thoughts with photo images.

A New Creation

I’m dead.

Yep, dead as a door nail.

Nail down the coffin, people.

I am entirely unresponsive to the world around me.

Dead.

Don’t plan my funeral yet though, that would just be weird.

Allow me to explain…

In 2 Corinthians 5:17, the Bible says that in Christ, we are a new creation. In fact, Paul explains it further by saying that old things have passed away and all things have become new. Notice that Paul does not say some things have become new, or you have become new, or the world has become new. No. Paul says all things have become new for those who live in Christ Jesus.

I have always had a rather ambivalent relationship with Paul’s words. There is nothing more encouraging or edifying to know that Christ frees us in such a way that we become a brand new creation.

Just as many times as this verse has encouraged me, it has confounded and alarmed me. I am not certain when I became a Christian; I pretty much just always loved Jesus. I could tell you when my faith became my own, instead of my parents’, but I did not have a defining moment where the Lord saved me. I often wonder if Paul’s words would have a more potent impact upon me if I hadn’t always been a Christian—if I had a “me before Jesus” with which to compare myself.

I know I have grown more in love with Christ as I have entered adulthood, and I know my faith has matured in immeasurable ways; however, I don’t know that I see myself as a new creation. I am still pretty much who I have always been. I continue to struggle with the same sins I was struggling with as a young girl; they may look different now, but they are the same. I can be unimaginably prideful, and impeccably self-absorbed; I tend to envy one’s success long before I rejoice in it; I seek my own glory before I seek my Father’s, and I am impatient beyond logic.

How is this kind of mess a new creation?

Romans 6:4 says, “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Read that verse again. I mean, really read it.

Paul says we were buried with Him…Whoa. I don’t recall being held up in a tomb for three days with the Son of God. I guarantee I would not have been as chill about it as Jesus was.

Colossians 2:11 also describes Christians as being buried with Jesus through baptism, but it goes further to say not only was Christ raised from the dead, but so were we.

Colossians 3 reminds us again that we have died and our life is hidden with Christ in God.

This begs the question that if we are dead, how then should we live on this earth?

It’s hard to be dead and alive at the same time, even for the most gifted of people.

Colossians 3 says more, “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory.

Christ is life. Christ is life. Christ is life.

There are countless verses that address being dead to the world and alive in Christ. Galatians 3:26-27 says, “For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Colossians touches on this same concept in chapter 2 by saying a Christian puts off the body of the things of the flesh…

If my faith in Christ allows me to drape Him over my shoulders like a blanket and traipse around like a beacon for Jesus, then I must simultaneously clothe myself in newness of life—my new man—killing my old self.  

In fact, Ephesians 4 says this of a Christian: putting off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness.

Despite all this evidence, the problem many Christians have with this idea is that our old self seems to still live, lurking in the shadows of our hearts, revealing himself or herself countless times throughout the course of one day—this old self is our sin, and it has the power to eat us alive if we don’t let Christ fight it.

Our old self fears sin, fears the world, fears failure—fears everything. Putting on Christ each day and making Him our life does not mean sin no longer exists within us: it means that sin no longer controls us; it becomes so powerless, in fact, that it is dead. Christ has given us a weapon with which to fight this sin, and the ultimate gift when we lose that fight – forgiveness.

For many of us, choosing to truly believe this is half the battle.

Jesus was buried with our sin, our muck, our nastiness, our filth. It is no longer ours, but His. Being a new creation does not mean that I no longer sin. When the world looks at me, it sees little change between who I am and who I once was. However, it is what God sees when He looks at me that truly makes the difference.

He sees His pristine and perfect child, dead to the world, yet alive and well in Christ. He sees a woman who has her mind set on things above.

My master is no longer sin; my master is God.

This is freedom.

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

 

January 31, 2017

As Moses Lifted up the Serpent

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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This is one of my favorite Old Testament passages and one which I think is strongly tied to New Testament salvation. We’ve discussed it before here in the context of the idea of an invisible transaction; that there’s nothing tangible or quantifiable that one does at the moment of crossing the line of faith. Today’s thoughts are more directed to the source of our salvation.

We’re paying a return visit to the blog, Counseling One Another by author and pastor Paul Tautges. Please click the link below and read this at source.

4 Lessons from the Bronze Serpent

The book of Numbers contains the account of a strange event which took place during Israel’s time of wandering in the wilderness. It is most often referred to as Moses and the bronze serpent. Let’s take a few minutes to think about this unusual biblical story, see its significance to Israel, and then learn from Jesus’ interpretation and application in the Gospel of John. First, read the original account.

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

There are four truths God wants us to understand and embrace.

Saving faith realizes the guilt of one’s sin and the justice of God to punish the sinner (Num. 21:7a).

Just as personal admission of one’s sickness is a prerequisite to being helped by a physician, personal admission of sin is a prerequisite to receiving forgiveness from God. Before the sinning people could be forgiven they had to admit “we have sinned.” The snake bites brought them to the place of personal conviction and then they were ready to make a plea for forgiveness.

One of the two guilty thieves hanging next to Jesus had a similar response. While one thief joined the crowd in launching accusations at Jesus, the other realized his sinfulness—he knew he deserved to die for his sin. So, before he died he looked to Jesus with the look of faith (Luke 23:39-42). As a result, he joined Jesus in Paradise that very same day. When we honestly face our sin and guilt then, and only then, our heart is prepared to confess to God and look to the Savior for mercy.

Saving faith recognizes the need for an intercessor between the guilty sinner and God (Num. 21:7b).

When the people realized the guilt of their sin they immediately turned to Moses saying, “Pray for us.” Instinctively, every guilty sinner knows he cannot simply waltz into God’s presence on his own. He must have a representative, an intercessor, a mediator. The sacrificial laws and prescribed rituals found in the book of Leviticus made this clear to God’s people.

Thankfully, God has provided the one and only perfect priest to intercede for us, to reconcile us back to Himself. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time (1 Timothy 2:5-6). When we confess our sins to God, while at the same time looking to Jesus, we have an advocate with the Father (1 John 1:8-2:1).

Saving faith looks to God alone to provide the necessary remedy (Num. 21:8-9).

The bronze serpent could not save the people. Only God could provide the remedy. In looking to the brazen serpent on a pole their eyes of faith looked to God. Sadly, the bronze serpent eventually became an idol that was worshiped during the time of Hezekiah’s reign (2 Kings 18:4). But true saving faith does not look to religion, statues, or human priests. It looks to God as the only one who can rescue us. We are desperate sinners who cannot save ourselves; we must be saved by God’s grace, as the apostle makes clear in Romans 5:6-10.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

Saving faith looks to Jesus to be the Mediator, propitiation for sin, and the entrance into eternal life (John 3:14-18).

In the Gospel of John, Jesus makes it crystal clear that the bronze serpent was a type of Himself. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life (John 3:14-15). The word “as” indicates that Jesus was making a comparison. As God provided the means whereby the bitten people could be healed through faith, so He has provided the only means by which our souls may find healing and restoration—through faith. When we turn in faith to look to Jesus, as the only one who can intercede for us before a holy God, we are redeemed from sin and receive the gift of eternal life.

Saving faith looks to God alone. It does not look to self. It does not look to any goodness in one’s own heart, nor to the works of religion. There is only one way for the soul to find its healing—and that is in its return to God. To be reconciled to God we must first see our sin for what it really is—an offense to God’s holiness. Because our sin is offensive, God must punish it. But thanks be to God that He has already punished His sinless Son in our place. Are you looking to Jesus to save you?

[Adapted from last Sunday’s sermon at Cornerstone Community Church in Cleveland, OH, Look to Jesus]


Related: Story in Numbers Foreshadows the Crucifixion

January 24, 2017

Was Jesus Spinning Moses’ Law?

This week’s sermon contained a verse I had never noticed before. Using modern terminology, some would argue that the writer of Hebrews is saying that Jesus spins the law different.

(NLT) Hebrews 7:12 And if the priesthood is changed, the law must also be changed to permit it.

(The Voice) Hebrews 7:12 because when there is a change in the priesthood there must be a corresponding change in the law as well.

(NCV) Hebrews 7:12 And when a different kind of priest comes, the law must be changed, too.

Hebrews is a difficult book on the best of days but this verse really arrested me as I looked at it. After checking StudyLight.com and GodVine.com — both of which reprint material from some classic commentaries — I decided to go with Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason Ministries, an excellent apologetics organization. (Greg’s new book The Story of Reality has just released this month; more info at Zondervan.com.)

Today you have a choice; you can read the commentary on this verse by clicking the title below as usual, or you can click through and watch and listen to Greg’s answer on video. (I encourage you to watch the video version.)

What Does “Change of the Law” in Hebrews 7:12 Mean?

Does Jesus change the law? Here, we are referring to the Mosaic Law. The verse says, “For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well.” What it sounds like initially is that Jesus is tinkering with Moses. Moses gives the law, and then Jesus comes in and begins to tinker with it. There do seem to be some occasions where that happens. In the Gospels, Jesus means to clarify and give a deeper insight. That is certainly not what’s going on in this particular case, however. Something else entirely is going on. There’s not a tinkering with the Mosaic Law, there is an exchange of law systems.

We’re going to employ a rule that we emphasize at Stand to Reason all the time. It’s called, “never read a Bible verse.” If you’re going to try to figure out the meaning of a verse, it is not enough to read one verse. You have to read a paragraph or more. Instead of just reading verse 12, you might start with the first verse of the chapter.

In verse 1, there is a discussion about Abraham and a man named Melchizedek who is a priest of the Most High God. Abraham has not yet had Levi, who is to be the head of the priesthood. Abraham gives honor to Melchizedek, showing that Levi, in a sense, is honoring Melchizedek. Therefore, Melchizedek’s priesthood is greater than the Levitical priesthood because the lesser gives homage to the greater. That’s the set up for the verse in question.

In verse 11, the Mosaic Law has Levi and the priests making provision for sin. The writer says that if that were adequate for perfection, what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek? The writer is arguing that Jesus is a priest, but not a Levitical priest. He was born in the line of Judah. He represents a different more unique priesthood. A priesthood like Melchizedek. So he asks, “If perfection had been attainable, what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well.” There’s our verse.

Do you see how that verse sounds different once we have more context? Never read a Bible verse without the context. What the writer of Hebrews is talking about is not tinkering within the Mosaic Law, but a change of law systems. There was law grounded in sacrifices that make men temporarily acceptable before God through the line of Levi, but that isn’t permanent. We need a different system. Jesus is the priest of that different system. He’s the new covenant, not the old covenant. The old covenant is temporary. It was just holding over until the new covenant came. The blood of bulls and goats could never take away sins.

The writer of Hebrews says Jesus brings in a new system. He’s the only one, and He makes perfect those who are sanctified and set aside under that particular system.

The following verse says, “For the one of whom these things are spoken belong to another tribe from which no one has ever served at the alter. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.” Yes, there’s a change in law, not a tinkering or adjustment of the Mosaic Law, but a putting aside of the entire system because this was just a picture of the perfect priesthood Jesus would provide after the order of Melchizedek.

Jesus is here now, therefore the old system is set aside. That is a central theme in the book of Hebrews, and that is what is being referred to in Hebrews 7:12

 

December 25, 2016

Rejoice, O World! Rejoice! A Savior Has Been Born!

by Russell Young

Today is Christmas! It is a celebration of the revelation of God’s grace and mercy to humankind. For millennia the human condition had been one that had brought grief to the Creator through the rebellion and intransigent hearts (Gen 6:6) of those whom he had created for his good pleasure and purpose. The mandate of the One born as a baby was to rescue or redeem the world from its depravity so that it might please God once again. It was and is the Creator’s desire to fellowship with those who had been formed in his image. For this purpose, the babe in the manger was born, lived his life and died among us.

John wrote: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save it through him.” (Jn 3:16─17 NIV) He did not come to condemn the world to destruction but to rescue it and it not just humankind that was his mandate, it was the world—all that had been created. The Lord came to complete God’s creation so that it would accomplish their (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) purposes. He came to “save” it.

The world had become a place worthy only of destruction; it was not worth preserving given its state of evil. The minds of people had allowed them sovereignty over the world’s affairs. “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work,” (1 Jn 3:8 NIV) which includes recognition of the sovereignty of the One who created all that is.

Part of the Lord’s ministry was to make people “acceptable” to God once again (Rom 15:16) and all creation is waiting expectantly for that to happen. (Rom 8:19–22) When the ministry of Jesus is completed there will be no more wars or hostility and he will reign in peace. It is in the hope of the restoration of God’s kingdom and our place in it that we rejoice.

Isaiah has presented his victory and the hope available to all of those “in him” upon his return as king.

“The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
The Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and power,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD—
And he will delight in the fear of the LORD.

He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
Or decide by what he hears with his ears;
But with righteousness he will judge the needy,
With justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.
He will strike the earth with the rod of his mouth;
with the breath of his lips he will slay the wicked.
Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist.

The wolf will live with the lamb,
The leopard will lie down with the goat,
The calf and the lion and the yearling together;
And a little child will lead them.
The cow will feed with the bear,
their young will lie down together;
and the lion will eat straw like an ox.
The infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child will put his hand into the viper’s nest.
They will neither harm nor destroy on my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

(Isaiah 11:2─9 NIV)

Rejoice and celebrate the hope, love, and promises provided through the One whose birth is honoured today, the One who has been provided for the salvation of man and of God’s creation, the One who has been faithful to the Father and to his promises. In the child whose birth is celebrated today rests the hope of humankind and of all creation.


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

December 10, 2016

Your Smell – Part Two

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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I subscribe to the morning devotional Breakfast of Champions by Andy Elmes, which originates from the UK ministry Great Big Life. He recently did a series of four posts, two titled “What Do You Smell Like?” and two titled “Your Smell Affects Others.” The following is an edited version of the second two.

Your smell affects others

2 Corinthians 2:14-16, NIV
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?

The fragrance that comes from your life affects three people, according to Corinthians. Let’s look at the first of these three this morning.

First of all, God smells you
“We are to God the aroma of Christ”. How awesome is that – when God leans over and sniffs us living our everyday lives, He smells the incredible fragrance of the beauty and righteousness of His Son, Jesus. You may say, “But you do not know what I did this week”. My response is that you need to know that, according to God’s word, your life is hidden (positioned in) Christ and when God smells you, He smells the fragrance of Jesus and of His finished perfect work of redemption.

A great comparison is found in Genesis 27:27, in the account of when Isaac blesses his son Jacob instead of Esau. Isaac was blind by this time, and knew His sons by touch and their distinctive smells. Jacob, acting on the plan of His mother, wore the smell of His brother to get his father’s blessing, and it was because of that smell that Isaac was convinced he was with Esau, not Jacob, and blessed him. (Read the account. It is a good read.)

Genesis 27:27, NKJV
And he came near and kissed him; and he smelled the smell of his clothing, and blessed him and said: “Surely, the smell of my son is like the smell of a field which the LORD has blessed”.

The smell that is upon your life is the smell of the Son He loves and the field (life of His Son) that He has blessed. How awesome is that! When you approach God you smell like Jesus. Also, you need to know that, unlike Jacob, this is not a con but rather an intention of God, because it is He who positioned you in Christ. Don’t feel like a fraud, like Jacob did, because you’re not. Your scent is the result of His intent and it is He that coated you in the Son of His delight.

Because of this you can again today approach the Father, knowing that His approval of you is established in Jesus. You can, as it invites us in Hebrews, “approach Him with boldness of faith.”

Know that the Lord your God loves the smell of you…

…Two groups of people are mentioned in the above verses, and two distinctive smells. If we let them follow their natural order I think we may be able to see that God intended both smells to exist and play their part.

Those who are being saved
Corinthians says that we are the smell of death among this group. Death? One way of looking at it could be that our lives should smell of the death we have experienced in Christ. When people (church folk) get to experience our aroma they should smell the scent of the death we have died in Christ on us. It is that divine death that separated us from everything we used to be and so liberating and enabling us to be the brand new creations we now are. They should smell the death of such things as selfishness, pride and other scents that were once common to us and also that there is a new creation smell to us now.

• Those who are perishing
Our aroma among the unsaved should be one of extreme life. When unsaved people get a whiff of us they should be overwhelmed by the scent of resurrection and new life that comes from every pore of who we are. Remember that through new birth (death, burial and resurrection) we have been made alive together with Him and so our lives should smell of life, not like the musty corridors of religion. Let’s face it, the smell of life is so much better than the smell of death. Life is more likely to attract followers than that of death. What would you follow?

As we move forward to possess our day let us be conscious of the aroma our life is giving out to the world God has called us to change.

December 9, 2016

Your Smell – Part One

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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I subscribe to the morning devotional Breakfast of Champions by Andy Elmes, which originates from the UK ministry Great Big Life. He recently did a series of four posts, two titled “What Do You Smell Like?” and two more titled “Your Smell Affects Others.” The following is an edited version of the first two.

What do you smell like?

2 Corinthians 2:14-16, NIV
But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of Him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. To the one we are the smell of death; to the other, the fragrance of life. And who is equal to such a task?

A better way of saying ‘smell’ would be to use the word ‘fragrance’, or ‘aroma’. Paul’s challenge to us is this: What aroma or fragrance is coming from our lives as we live them out daily?

God’s plan was that our lives would “spread everywhere the fragrance of Him”. Is that what your life smells like today? When people get a whiff of your life do they smell the scent of grace, and the aroma of someone who knows Jesus?

This is a good challenge for each of us to consider and, as with many things, there is a natural and a spiritual reality to smells and people. We can compare them both to make a point.

All of us have experienced, or been exposed to, at one time or another, a person passing us with a nice scent – maybe an expensive perfume or after shave. It’s also very likely you have experienced the smell of someone passing near to you with bad BO (body odor). Have you ever sat in the same room or enclosed place with someone who removes their shoes and they have really unpleasantly cheesy-smelling feet? Yep, we have all experienced both.

Naturally, our lives can release a smell or a fragrance that is either pleasing or not-so-pleasing to the senses of others, and spiritually this is a reality too. What does your Christianity smell of today. Smells are very interesting things. They can attract people or repel them depending on what type of smell they are. When people encounter you do they smell the sweet perfume of knowing Jesus or the odor of religion, with all its various scents of law and legalism – or worse, the pungent stench of hypocrisy?

We shouldn’t have to struggle to daily release the sweet scent of Christ from our lives, but simply remember that it is the natural reaction of His life resident within us.

Again, look at the natural body as an example. The reality is that whatever is in you, or put into you, can play a large part concerning the odor that comes from you. One of the times that I took Gina out to eat, I ate a very large chunk of garlic without realizing it was raw. By the end of the night it was manifesting its odor nicely from every pore in my skin and, by the next morning, had contaminated every inch of who I was – especially to my family who sadly had to experience my breath.

The fragrance of your life should be Christ-like in its scent simply because of two things:

• Jesus now lives in you. You are not a hotel He visits but rather His home (place of residence). He does not pop in and pop out when He feels like it but never leaves according to His promise. Christ in you is the hope of Glory but also so the source of the pleasing fragrance that comes from your life.

• You realize and accept that your life is now His home and, as you do, you daily yield and submit everything you are to Him. The fragrance of His life comes from every part or through every pore of who you are.

Also, while we talk about the principle of “what goes in affects what comes out”, it is important that you be daily feeding your life the stuff that you want your life to be smelling of. For example, if you keep feeding your life the law of Moses then it will be the law of Moses that you smell of. Feed your life daily the truth and grace that comes through Jesus and you will love the way your life starts smelling, and so will others.

Bless you and consider again the One who has now become the very contents of your life. Let His life flow out of you again today.

May our lives today release wherever we go that sweet aroma of Christ in us. May that smell attract people to follow Him.

Be smelly, in the right way!

 

May 22, 2016

What is the New Covenant?

•••by Russell Young

A covenant is a compact or an agreement that holds surety of promise between two parties.  The Old Covenant is often referred to as the Covenant of the Law through which the Lord promised good to those who obey Him.  “Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people.  Walk in the ways I command you, that it may go well with you” (Jeremiah 7:23, NIV) This is also the “Everlasting Covenant.” (Isaiah 24:5)

According to the Old Covenant the Israelites had to obey all of the elements of the Law.  It was not arbitrarily designed but its purpose was to create a holy nation. (Exodus 19:6) Because man “was weakened by the sinful nature,” (Romans 8:3, NIV) he could not keep the Covenant.  However, the Covenant is everlasting and God’s blessings to man depends upon the believer satisfying its righteous requirements without which a holy nation could not be created.

The Old Covenant was brought to a close for those willing to accept Christ’s lordship (Romans 10:9-10) by having its requirement of death for sin satisfied through His substitutionary sacrifice.  The New Covenant makes the believer competent through Christ’s indwelling presence to overcome his sinful nature and become transformed into His likeness. (Romans 8:29)

The New Covenant is a covenant of the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:6) The Spirit is Christ in the believer (Colossians 1:27; 2 Corinthians 3:17-18) who is able to live without sin in the believer just as He had in the body that the Father had prepared for Him in the womb of Mary…provided He is obeyed.

Paul wrote: “He [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.” (Romans 8:4, NIV) Rather than accomplishing the law through one’s own resources as required by the Old Covenant, the believer has been provided with Christ’s indwelling Spirit to enlighten, lead, and empower Him to live righteously and develop a state of holiness (Romans 6:19, 22) without which no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14) The requirements set by God have not changed but the means of accomplishing them has.  According to either Covenant, obedience is required.  The writer of Hebrews has stated that “eternal salvation” comes to those who “obey” Him. (Hebrews 5:9)

The New Covenant is not engraved on stone but is in the flesh…the mind and the heart.  It is not legally based on satisfying the law but is based on the believer having a personal, living relationship with Christ.  It is those who are led by the Spirit who are no longer under the law (Galatians 5:18) and who are sons of God. (Romans 8:14) Those who choose to walk according to their sinful nature, even after pledging Christ’s lordship, will reap destruction. (Galatians 6:7-8; Romans 8:13)

Christ is the mediator of the New Covenant.  That is, He is the One who intervenes on behalf of the believer to accomplish the eternal hope for the believer.  He has done this to provide access to the Covenant through His death.  As mediator He has provided His Spirit to accomplish its requirements.  As High Priest, He intercedes on behalf of the believer for sins committed “in ignorance” (Hebrews 9:7) and for sins that have been confessed and repented. (1 John 1:9)

Peter wrote that “His [the Lord’s] divine power [Holy Spirit] has given us everything we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3); however, the believer is not to be passive or lukewarm but is “to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling; (Philippians 2:12, NIV) that is, through obedience.

The New Covenant is NOT the promise of an eternal hope through the sacrificial death of Christ on his behalf.  It is a covenant by God which allows the Christ to live in the believer and through obedience to satisfy God’s righteous requirements for His Eternal Kingdom.  In honouring God’s Son the believer will be transformed into His likeness, will truly become His brother, and will inherit all of the blessing that apply to a son of God.  In the end, the “Everlasting Covenant” will be honoured by both God and man.

April 27, 2016

Resurrection: The Big Picture

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:58 pm
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Clarke Dixon continues his Resurrection Facts series. To read them all, go to April 2016 entries at Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon, or for this post at source, click here.

•••by Clarke Dixon

When we are being honest, we may be more easily identified as Canadians than Christians. The passion of the typical Christian in Canada just does not seem to be of the same caliber as that of the apostles we meet in the pages of the New Testament. And if the Christians in Corinth in New Testament times were being honest, they would seem to be more easily identified as being Greek than Christian. As we learn in 1st Corinthians 15 their theology was influenced by Greek thinking, especially with regards to the afterlife. Their lacking theology could and would cause a lack in living for Christ:

Do not be deceived:
“Bad company ruins good morals.”
Come to a sober and right mind, and sin no more; for some people have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame. (1 Corinthians 15:33-34)

In contrast, there is no doubt about Paul’s allegiance, passion, and priority: “And why are we putting ourselves in danger every hour? I die every day!” (1 Corinthians 15:30-31a) How is it Paul is so recognizably representing Christ than his birthplace,Tarsus, his religion, Jewish, or his citizenship, Roman, while the Christians at Corinth seem more Greek than anything? How is it Paul is passionate and we are often not? One reason is that he, and others like him, have a bigger and better picture of reality. They have a solid knowledge that Jesus is risen from the dead and that there will be a resurrection to life of anyone who is in Christ. That hope drives Paul to choose the dangerous and difficult path rather than an easier one:

If with merely human hopes I fought with wild animals at Ephesus, what would I have gained by it? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” (1 Corinthians 15:32)

Paul, the other apostles, and many, many Christians down through the centuries have risked their lives, given their lives, lived their lives for Jesus, and shared the Gospel everywhere they went because they had a bigger and better picture of the reality of God’s love and eternal life. Paul in 1st Corinthians 15 was encouraging the Christians at Corinth to see this bigger picture and if we feel more Canadian than Christian, perhaps we ought to see it also. Here are a few things to think about:

Our vision of the afterlife may not be clear enough, we may need a bigger and better picture of eternal life. Paul’s vision of eternal life put his experiences of life in perspective: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us.” (Romans 8:18) The notion of glory here is not to be missed. Paul speaks of this glory in what he says immediately before:

For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. (Romans 8:15-17)

Some people think the afterlife of the Christian consists of being a disembodied immortal soul sitting in clouds playing a harp, which of course sounds kind of boring and lacking in glory. That concept is not Biblical. The Bible points us to relationship. We are children of God, and remarkably co-heirs with Christ. We deserve to be neither. All attempts to describe what God has prepared for His children invariably fall short. We simply do not have the language yet to describe glory. Sadly most attempts to describe eternal life are missing God Himself, as if being home for Christmas is more about enjoying the view from the front porch than in enjoying the presence of loved ones.

Our vision of God with respect to the afterlife may not be clear enough, we may need a bigger and better picture of God Himself. The picture of disembodied souls flying around captures neither the capability nor desire of God. Indeed such a picture does not even require thinking of God’s presence, many people believing in their souls flying away to some sort of afterlife at death with no idea of God being a part of it. And it does not capture the grand span of Biblical theology. We can make it sound like God is on some sort of plan B, disembodied souls in eternity, because He could not pull off plan A spoken of in the first two chapters of Genesis. He is still on plan A and we look forward to bodily existence in the presence of God following our resurrection.

There is a wonderful thought of being reunited with loved ones in the afterlife. I once heard a pastor powerfully give an illustration of the death of a loved one being like a person taking a journey across a river. We are sad as we say our goodbyes, but upon arriving on the other shore, there is joy as loved ones are reunited. A beautiful illustration but with one problem. God was missing! And at funerals, even Christian ones, God is often is left out of the picture. We need a bigger and better picture of God Himself. To be in His presence will be astounding, more astounding, in fact, than being reunited with loved ones.

Our vision of Jesus with respect to the afterlife may not be clear enough, we may need a bigger and better picture of who Jesus is. Some who would call themselves Christian would qualify that by saying that Jesus was a great teacher, but just that, and being a Christian means being inspired by his great example and teaching. Jesus therefore has nothing to do with any kind of afterlife we might experience. The New Testament points to a far more divine picture of who Jesus is and what he accomplished. However, skeptics say this results from an evolving picture in the minds of Christians between the events of Easter and the writing of the New Testament documents. People’s memories would have changed they say. Indeed I recently heard a podcast where this was claimed along with appeals to an experiment where people had poor memories of the speeches of American Presidents. I was surprised at the comparison. There is no comparison! Jesus was unforgettable. His teaching astonished. His miracles astounded. His death and resurrection caused people, sinners and skeptics alike, to pick up their crosses and follow. He was unforgettable. The apostles were not changing their stories about Jesus, they were changing their lives for Jesus. They were willing to die, having a bigger and better picture of eternal life, having a bigger and better picture of Jesus and his role in the hope of eternal life.

Our vision of salvation may not be clear enough, we may need a bigger and better picture of God’s grace. Some think there will be no salvation. Some think that salvation can be earned, as if it is an easy thing for us to span the gulf that exists between a sinful creature and Holy Creator. Some think salvation is a right: “You created me, you owe eternal life to me.” Because of our sin, God does not owe us another minute of life either now or in the future. Salvation is God doing something for us we could never do for ourselves, something we do not deserve. There is far more to say about it, but when we truly understand God’s amazing grace, we sing the hymns of the faith with far more passion than than we can muster for our national anthem. When we grasp the depth of His grace, we will want to be known first as Christians, second as Canadians.

If we are lacking passion, it may be because we do not have a clear enough picture of eternal life, God, Jesus, and salvation. Like the Christians of Corinth we may want to trade in a theology shaped by society for the bigger and better picture we get in the Bible.

 

 

April 20, 2016

Resurrection: Dead in Adam, Alive in Christ

Wednesday contributor Clarke Dixon continues his Resurrection Facts series, begun last week. Click this link to read at source.

•••by Clarke Dixon

Have you ever had the experience of knowing something is coming and there is not a thing you can do about it? I remember vividly the first time I capsized a sailboat. You might think it would be a sudden thing and that you would find yourself in the water before you knew it. But it wasn’t. It seemed to happen in slow motion. With the boat laid over on its side, the hull slowly sank into the water. I even had time to say to my sailing partner that day “well, here we go.” We knew we were about to get wet and there was not a thing we could do about it.

The apostle Paul speaks of something coming that we can do nothing about: “For as in Adam all die.” (1 Corinthians 15:22) There is much that confirms this fact. History confirms it. Study the history of any era in any place and time and time again you will see the same thing has happened; “In Adam all die.” Look to science and the same thing is confirmed again. Indeed the news there is worse as scientists point out, quite matter of factly, that some day the sun will go out and the earth will be no longer life permitting. “In Adam all die.” Look to the arts, and there you will find many novels, poems, songs, music, paintings, and movies dealing with the theme of mortality and what is the meaning of life when “in Adam all die.”

Of course the Bible itself confirms that “in Adam all die.” We can look to the time death entered our world:

15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; 17 but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die. (Genesis 2:15-17)

Adam ate the fruit. The consequence was death: “For the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23). Some may point out that Adam and Eve did not in fact die that day. However, they did start dying that day. When the Bible says “for as in Adam, all die” the word for ‘die’ is in the present tense so could be translated “in Adam all are dying.” We tend to think we grow until we are 20, have a perfect body until we are 60 and then we start the ageing process. Being in my mid 40’s I can attest to this being untrue with the ageing process being quite underway. We actually begin the ageing process at conception. Our bodies are continually changing so that even while we are living, we are also dying.

To continue in the Greek, “in Adam all die” is also in the active voice. This means it is something we do, something we are responsible for. We can speak of this or that disease “taking us,” but in fact it is we who are doing the dying. We are responsible. Now some will deny this. “Put me in the Garden of Eden, I would have done better!” But when we are being honest we will relate to Paul who said:

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death. (Romans 7:21-24)

“For as in Adam all die.” And there is nothing we can do about it.

Alive in ChristThat is the bad news. Is there any good news? Well yes, because we have only read one half of the verse so far: “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:22). Back to the Greek; “All will be made alive” is in the future tense, so even if we feel we are presently dying, hang on, death is not the end of the story. When we are “made alive” we will have a new beginning within God’s grand story.

“All will be made alive” is also in the passive voice, meaning it is not something we do or are responsible for. Someone will do for us something that we could never do. This takes us back to verse 3 of 1st Corinthians 15 where Someone does something for us: “For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures.” All those sins we have committed that show we are no better than Adam and are sharing in the same fruit? Yes, Jesus died for those. The bad news gives way to very good news!

Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 7:24-25)

23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

This is very good news indeed but we might be very typical and think it is all about us. We get to enjoy eternal life. But there is more going on here. The resurrection of the dead is not just about us.

Consider that back in the Garden of Eden there seemed to be new rulers in town. The serpent was powerful in temptation. Adam and Eve were powerful in exerting their own will and doing their own thing. Soon Cain was powerful in the ending of his brother’s life. And on it goes down through history with people wielding power and enforcing wills. “Just try to stop me God!” With all that exercise of power let’s read what happens with the resurrection of the dead:

Then comes the end, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father, after he has destroyed every ruler and every authority and power. 25 For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. 26 The last enemy to be destroyed is death. 27 For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is plain that this does not include the one who put all things in subjection under him. 28 When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to the one who put all things in subjection under him, so that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:24-28)

That can all sound quite complicated, but it points to something very simple; God’s rule, God’s sovereignty, for God’s glory. While salvation is really good news for what it means for us, it is also about the glory of God. He is “all in all.” The spanner thrown into the works by the evil one, and by Adam and Eve, does not upset God’s apple cart at all. Despite Satan’s best efforts to drive a wedge between humanity and God, despite Adam and Eve’s sin, despite yours and mine, The LORD will be

. . . among mortals.
He will dwell with them;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them.
(Revelation 21:3)

God’s purposes will be accomplished, God’s Kingdom will come, God’s glory is intact.

Let us go back to the original question. Have you ever had the experience of knowing something is coming and there is not a thing you can do about it? The resurrection of the dead in Christ to eternal life is something Satan and the powers of evil know is coming  and there is not a thing they can do about it. When we repent and trust in the Lord Jesus, then our resurrection becomes something coming that no one can touch. Not because we are better than Adam, but because God is all in all.

All scripture references are from the NRSV except “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” which is taken from KJV.

Image: Augsburg Fortress Bulletins

March 20, 2016

A Monumental Error

•••by Russell Young

There is a monumental error being taught and accepted that equates one’s redemption with his eternal salvation. Unless the fullness of the gospel is presented, many may end up to be eternally disappointed. Paul wrote: He redeemed us in order that the blessings given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (Galatians 3:14, NIV) The purpose of the redemption provided by Christ is so that we might receive the Spirit. It is the Spirit who brings eternal salvation! (2 Thessalonians 2:13, Titus 3:5-6) The blood offering of Christ does NOT. The sacrifice of Christ has prepared the believer for the gifting of the Holy Spirit, “Christ in you,” (Colossians 1:27) so that he might enjoy Christ’s indwelling presence and on-going ministry.

One’s redemption is the first step in achieving an eternal hope. The blood of Christ cleanses the believer of his “past sins” and allows him the jurisdiction and power of the New Covenant (Hebrews 9:15), a covenant of the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:6). Paul wrote that the justification provided by the blood of Christ was not sufficient to avoid the wrath of God. 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, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! (Romans 5:9-10, NIV) The Spirit gives life.” (John 6:63) Christ is the Spirit. (2 Corinthians 3:17, 18) More is required than the believer’s redemption or reconciliation; the life of Christ must be lived in the believer following that point if he is to have life.

There is much rejoicing for the gift of eternal life that presenters think the redeemed possess. Following one’s redemption the one who professed the lordship of Christ (Romans 10:9-10) may yet abandon his pledge. John chapter 15 makes clear the possible impermanence of one’s position in Christ. If the believer does not produce fruit, he may be cut out of Christ (v.1), and Christ said that if he [the believer] remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit (v.5) and if one remains in Him, his prayer requests will be answered. (v.7) These “if” statements put a condition on one’s place in Christ.

In another place the Lord Himself proclaimed, I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in the family, but a son belongs to it forever.” (John 8:34-35.) Paul has written that a son is one who is led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14) and that we have an obligation to put to death the misdeeds of the body because if we live according to the sinful nature we will die. (Romans 8:12-13)

Although redeemed, Paul was not confident of his own resurrection. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings [Hebrews 2:18] becoming like him in his death, and so somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all of this. (Philippians 3:10-12) If Paul lacked confidence, how is it that believers today can rest their confidence in a pledge once made and in their redemption. One’s redemption is a form of salvation (deliverance) but it is NOT eternal salvation.

One’s redemption at the time of his confession 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.” This truth needs to be appreciated and believers need to be taught and need to learn how to be led by the Spirit. They need to love the Lord with ALL of their mind, soul and heart. Nothing less is satisfactory. Because you are lukewarm-neither hot nor cold-I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” (Revelation 3:16, NIV)

The monumental error that many have accepted is that their redemption means their eternal salvation, whereas it is only the first step to gaining that eternal hope. The life of Christ must be lived in them yet. He is the way, the truth, and the life. (John 14:6)

Paul has made it clear, Do not be deceived; God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please the sinful nature from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:7-8, NIV) One’s doing following his redemption is important and it is his obedience (Hebrews 5:9) to the Spirit that will allow him eternal life.

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.”

February 28, 2016

Do You Know the Gospel of Christ? (Part 1)

Today we have the first of a two-part, back-to-back look at a subject that Russell Young is very passionate about. Subscribers will receive the second part on Monday. Read this slowly and carefully, some of this may seem new to you.

•••by Russell Young

It is surprising how many “believers” and even pastors do not know the gospel of Christ or are unable to articulate it. The consequence of this is very serious.

The gospel rests in the revelation of an eternal hope through the presence of Christ “in” the believer. Paul wrote: “God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery [that “which had been kept hidden for ages and generations” v. 26], which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:27, NIV) The gospel or good news which manifests God’s glorious riches, the “mystery” that has been kept hidden, is Christ “in” the believer which is his hope of glory.

This great mystery was revealed following the crucifixion of our Saviour. “Christ in you” is the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote: “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:18, NIV. See also Ephesians 2:22)

The Spirit is necessary for one’s eternal salvation. Paul wrote to Titus (3:5-6) and to the Thessalonians (2:13) that God chose them to be saved “through the sanctifying work of the Spirit.” It is not recorded anywhere in the Word of God that eternal salvation comes through the sacrificial offering of Christ on the cross. Christ’s ministry on the cross redeemed the believer from the consequences of his “past sins” and from the jurisdiction of the Old Covenant, completing it for him. He was then placed under the New Covenant, the covenant of the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:6), and he has been made “competent” to satisfy it through Christ in him.

The believer’s eternal hope is not based solely on his being pardoned for past sins, but is based on the sanctifying ministry of Christ in the believer following one’s confession of faith and following his confession of the lordship of Christ. (Romans 10:9-10) In another place Paul also made known the necessity of the life of Christ lived in and through the believer: “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, having been reconciled shall we be saved through his life.” (Romans 5:9-10, NIV)

Christ must be allowed to live His life through the believer; His presence in one is not sufficient to achieve one’s hope. The Spirit may be quenched, denied, or thwarted. “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” (Romans 8: 11, NIV)

John wrote: “This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him [Christ] must walk as Jesus did.” (1 John 2:6) This requirement is often dismissed out of hand. After all, who can walk as Jesus did? However, this is part of the gospel and John has said that the believer “must” do this if he is to be found living in Christ. The writer of Hebrews has stated that eternal salvation comes through “obedience.” (5:9) (This is the ONLY passage in the entire Word of God that contains the phrase “eternal salvation.”) Most challenging of all is John’s proclamation: “No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3:6) How is this writing to be understood? The answer is that mortal man cannot live as Christ did, but the Lord living in him can. He accomplished the sinless life in the body that the Father had prepared for Him in the womb of Mary, and He can do it in the body of the believer. “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience [moral consciousness] from dead works to serve the living God?” (Hebrews 9:14) That is why Paul wrote that “Christ in you” was your hope of glory. This is the “good news.” The victory has NOT been won for the believer by Christ; that must yet happen. The victory that Christ won was for Himself and gave Him the keys to hell and death. (gave Him authority over/put Him in control of hell and death.)

To further develop these truths, we are reminded that Christ came to fulfill the law; not to abolish it. He came to fulfill it through living His life personally and specifically in the body of each believer, if permitted. (God does not over-rule the will of man.) Paul wrote: “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, 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.” (Romans 8:3-4, NIV)

Paul also taught that it was those who are led by the Spirit who are not under the law (Galatians 5:18, and those who are led by the Spirit who are sons of God. (Romans 8:14) The Spirit’s leading comes through conviction of one’s conscience. The Spirit enlightens, leads and empowers for righteousness leading to holiness and eternal life. (Romans 6:19, 22)

The Lord has revealed the need for one to die to self and to the interests of the flesh (One’s baptism testifies to this.) and to live in obedience to the Spirit. Although there is much to be said on the need for obedience and transformation, and the need to “overcome” (Revelation 21:7), a singular passage might assert these truths: “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please the sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” (Galatians 6:7-8, NIV)

The Lord has given the believer all that he needs for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) but he must appropriate that provision; he is to live as Christ lived, and as Christ will live through him, if obeyed. The believer is told “to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2:12) and to make “every effort” to enter through the narrow door because many will try to enter and will not be able to. (Luke 13:24)

Judgment awaits the disobedient and rebellious, starting with the household of God. (1 Peter 4:17) Those who are slaves to sin will have “no permanent place” in the family. (John 8:35, NIV) “He will punish those who do not know [see/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.” (2Thessaslonians 1:8, NIV)

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)

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