Christianity 201

October 22, 2020

Working Out Our Salvation, or Working For Our Salvation?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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by Clarke Dixon

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling . . .

Philippians 2:12 (NRSV emphasis added)

This is a verse we can take in a wrong direction, and if we do that, it just might take us in the wrong direction. The idea that we must work for our salvation can have dire consequences in our relationship with God. To give an example, what would it be like for be a young child to wonder each day if she had earned a place at the family dinner table? Does she belong? What does it feel like to constantly wonder if we have earned a spot at God’s table? Do we belong? Is that how love works?

This statement from Paul to the Christians in Philippi is a much more positive statement than “work for your own salvation.” It can help us get to a far more positive place.

The first thing we want to do is read these words in the context of the entire Bible;

  • where we see that life is a gift in the first place. Adam and Eve did not earn their spot in the Garden of Eden. God placed them there out of his desire for relationship.
  • where we see that life continued to be given, not because of the perfection of humanity, but because of God’s desire and promise. The story of Noah and the rainbow come to mind.
  • where we see that the patriarchs were called, not because they had earned it, but according to God’s desire and promise. Jacob being chosen over Esau comes to mind.
  • where we see that the Israelites were rescued from Egypt, not because they earned a rescue, but according to God’s desire and promise.
  • where we see that the Israelites settled in the promised land, not because they earned it, but according to God’s promise.
  • where we see that though God let the consequences fall on his rebellious covenant people, there was always to be a future, not because they deserved it, but according to God’s desire and promise.

We are not even into the New Testament yet, and already we are seeing that people do not earn their place in God’s presence, but rather it is out of God’s desire, God’s promise, God’s love.

Now we get to the New Testament where we see that God came to us in Jesus, and died for the forgiveness of sin, not because we earned it, but because of his desire and promise.

The entire Bible teaches us that salvation, rescue from death and reconciliation with God so that we can live in relationship with God, is not something we work for, but something God works for us. That is one of the great themes of the Bible from beginning to end. Therefore “work out your own salvation” does not mean “work for your own salvation.”

The second thing we want to do is read theses words in context of what Paul is saying to the Christians in Philippi. We can note the “therefore” of “Therefore . . . work out for yourselves,” and we can look back to see what it refers to:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
taking the form of a slave,
being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
he humbled himself
and became obedient to the point of death—
even death on a cross.
Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, but much more now in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling;

Philippians 2:5-12 (NRSV)

Since we are to have the mind of Christ, and since Christ died for our salvation, and since Christ is risen and is now Lord, therefore, figure out what it looks like to have the mind of Christ, figure out what it looks like to be in relationship with Christ as Lord and Saviour. We are saved, not by works, but by the grace of God, so now we can get on with it, living out the being-saved life, the being-rescued life.

To give an illustration, sometime ago I bought my dream bike which I thought I would have for the rest of my life. But then I got married, we started having children, so I did what mature people do and sold it. Fast forward fifteen years and I just happened to come across it in Kijiji. My wife just happened to buy it back for me.

I didn’t earn the privilege of having the bike back, it was a gift. Sandra did not say to me, I will buy you this motorcycle if you always keep the grass cut short, always put out the garbage, do your fair share of the cooking, which I do not do much to the relief of our children, and so on. There were no conditions. I found it, Sandra made sure I had it.

But now that I have that gift, however, I need to work out how life looks with that gift. I have a motorcycle, now I need to ride it. I also need to maintain it, to not hesitate in getting my hands dirty for routine maintenance. Since I have a motorcycle, I now get on with being a motorcyclist. Really it is about leaning into and living out a new identity.

This helps us get at what Paul is saying. Since we are to have the mind of Christ, and since God has given us salvation as a gift, and since Jesus is Lord, we now live as people for whom all that is true. We lean into and live out a new identity. We are not to be afraid to get our hands dirty, making the adjustments necessary along the way, checking where our minds are at. Do we have the mind of Christ when it comes to our attitudes, our goals and aspirations, our relationships, our sexuality, and everything else in life?

That might seem like a big task, but we have God’s help along the way:

. . . for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

Philippians 2:13 (NRSV)

As we figure out what it looks like to have the mind of Christ, as we lean into our salvation, our lives will reflect a new reality:

Do all things without murmuring and arguing, so that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, in which you shine like stars in the world.

Philippians 2:14-15 (NRSV)

Here is an allusion to the Israelites, who murmured and argued in the wilderness after being rescued from Egypt. Remember that they were rescued, not because they earned it, but because of the desire of God. Having been rescued, instead of murmuring and arguing they should have spent that time in getting to know God, in getting to know what it looked like to be in relationship with God. The same holds true for us today now that we have been rescued.

As we work out our salvation, as we work out what it looks like to have the mind of Christ, we will be different and “shine like stars in the world.”

The early Christians were different, noticeably so, and positively so. It was a beautiful difference. The early Christians did not look like they were straight out of the novel and tv series “A Handmaid’s Tale,” that is, under a very oppressive religious system. Indeed they looked like people who were freed from oppressive systems and ways of thinking. They looked like people who were rescued from the things that plagued society.

Are we noticeably different in our day? Does it look like we have been freed from gossip, lies, hatred, apathy, faithlessness, greed, and the like?

As Christ followers we do not earn our salvation, our rescue from death and sin, our reconciliation to, and relationship with, God. We never could, and in Christ it is accomplished for us as a gift of God, as the working out of his will. Our salvation is what God desires. He wants us at his table.

We have the wonderful opportunity to get on with the life of a rescued-from-sin-and-death-and-now-in-relationship-with-God person. God has offered us a covenant of love, now let’s lean into it. God has given us the motorcycle, now let’s take it for a ride. God has prepared a seat for us at his table, now let’s sit in his presence.


The full reflection can be seen as part of Clarke’s church’s “online worship expression” from October 4th.

September 23, 2020

It’s About Grace, Not Works

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Today we’re introducing a new writer to you who we discovered through a WordPress feed. Mathew Simon lives in North Carolina with his wife and three children and has written several articles on the subject of works (trying to achieve standing with God based on what we do for him.) Back in July he wrote:

If we are judging others based on our good deeds, length of prayers, the donations we give, or the number of times we go to Church, then we are boasting in our own self-righteousness. But Jesus said that the sinner who comes to Him with sincere repentance and faith is the one who is justified (made righteous).

Today we’re highlighting his writing with two shorter, more recent articles. Click the titles below of each of these to read at his page.

Making Jesus Lord by works? The false gospel of Lordship salvation

There are some Churches that say that unless you “surrender” your life and make Jesus your Lord and do the works, then you cannot be saved.

They say that a “saving” faith needs good works to prove that Jesus is your Lord and not just Savior.

They use these scriptures:

Matthew 7 “21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. “

James 2 ’17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead in itself.”

Ok, let me ask you this, how many works do you need to prove that Jesus is your “LORD” ?

According to Jesus’ own words, He said this:

Luke 14 “26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple. 27 And whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple…..33 In the same way, those of you who do not give up EVERYTHING you have cannot be my disciples.

So Jesus said to FORSAKE EVERYTHING and SELL EVERYTHING to the poor to be His disciples!

Luke 12 “31 But seek God’s Kingdom, and all these things will be added to you. 32 Don’t be afraid, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom. 33 Sell that which you have, and give gifts to the needy. Make for yourselves purses which don’t grow old, a treasure in the heavens that doesn’t fail, where no thief approaches, neither moth destroys.

OK how many Christians are disciples of Christ according to those verses? ZERO.

That shows that no Christians are doing the “works” of the Law commanded by Jesus to Israel.So then how do we really make Jesus the LORD.

It is not by anything we DO.

Jesus is ALREADY LORD.

He is the CREATOR of all things.

He does not need your works to become LORD of your life.

He created you and is GOD already.

This is how we ACCEPT Jesus as LORD – that you BELIEVE that He is LORD and GOD who died for your sins and rose from the dead!

Romans 10 ” 9 that if you will confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For with the heart, one believes resulting in righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made resulting in salvation.”

John 20 “28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”

This is the WORK that you need to do to be SAVED – SIMPLY BELIEVE in Jesus for your own salvation. So simple.

John 6 “28 They said therefore to him, “What must we do, that we may work the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.

The work of faith is when we stop doing the actual works to attain salvation and simply TRUST in what Jesus has done for us.

Romans 4 “5 But to him who doesn’t work, but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness…..who believe in him who raised Jesus, our Lord, from the dead, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses, and was raised for our justification.”

Jesus carried the cross for believers so we don’t have to!

Before the cross, when Israel was still under the Law, our Lord Jesus Christ told the 12 apostles to carry the cross.

Matthew 16 24Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me. 25For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, and whoever will lose his life for my sake will find it.”

So then Peter and all the apostles promised to be with Christ even unto death.

Luke 22 33He said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death!” 34He said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will by no means crow today until you deny that you know me three times.”

Mark 14 29But Peter said to him, “Although all will be offended, yet I will not.” 30Jesus said to him, “Most certainly I tell you, that you today, even this night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” 31But he spoke all the more, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” They all said the same thing.

The disciples promised great things for the LORD but they could not even stay awake with Him while He prayed!!

Matthew 26 40He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “What, couldn’t you watch with me for one hour?

But as we know, all the disciples ran away and Peter denied Christ three times.

Matthew 26 ” 56But all this has happened that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.”Then all the disciples left him and fled.

The truth is that none of us can carry the cross or follow Jesus – because in our flesh we are not righteous at all – But we need Jesus to die for our sins!

At the cross, we see that there was a thief on the cross who did nothing good at all. He did not promise to follow Jesus or do any big works! He was a sinner condemned but then He believed in Christ to be saved by GRACE through faith without any works!

Luke 23 “42He said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”43Jesus said to him, “Assuredly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.

Everyone who believes in Christ without trusting in their works is forgiven ALL sin and given the free gift of His righteousness to go to heaven forever! AMEN.

September 15, 2020

Salvation: A Continuous Imperative

If I were to leave you to keep an eye on my office, and just before walking out the door, I pointed to the back and said, “Shut the door;” what would I expect? Namely that you would shut the door. That’s it.

But if I were to turn around and say, “And answer the phone;” what does that imply? It implies that if the phone rings, answer it, and if it rings again, answer it, and if it keeps ringing, keep answering it. It’s what is called a continuous imperative.


Today we’re back with a visit to the blog Brothers of the Book, written by Bill Hood. While the column is directed at men, there is application here for everyone. (Also, with so many printed devotional resources directed toward women, here is a site you can recommend to a male friend or relative.) As always, click the header below and read this there instead of here.

You Are Being Saved

1 Corinthians 15:1–11

God’s work of salvation pre-dates your existence, is on-going in your life, and will be witnessed again in eternity. You are saved; you are being saved; you will be saved.

Today’s reading is a re-presentment of the Gospel.  Paul shares the facts of salvation with the Corinthians.  It is important for us to remember what we believe.  It is so easy to be led astray.  A little twisting of the truth produces a lie – not an alternate truth.

Changing subjects, I found the comparison of various translations of the following verse to be rather interesting.

1 Corinthians 15:2

ESV
“and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.”

NIV
“By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.”

KJ
“By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.”

Most translations refer to the Gospel as something by which they “were saved” while the English Standard Version (ESV) refers to the Gospel as something by which they were “being saved”.  Did the ESV get this wrong?  I don’t think so.  I went back and did a word study in the original Greek, and the word translated “you are being saved” by the ESV does give a sense of something that is on-going; at least it gave me that sense.  My pastor, several times, has said from the pulpit “you are saved, you are being saved, you will be saved”.

This sounds a bit odd, doesn’t it?  Try this on for size.  God chose to save you before He even created the World.  Moving forward in time, if you are a Christian, there was a moment in your past when you submitted your life to Christ, and at that moment you were saved as God had already determined you would.  Can you lose your salvation?  Christ says He will lose no one whom God places in His hand.  Did the Son of God get this wrong?  Can He lose you due to your own choices?  No brothers, it is His grace and presence in your life that keeps saving you every moment of every day.  God doesn’t save you and walk away hoping you’ll make the right choices so you can keep what He gave you.  Your salvation is a complete work of grace on the part of God Himself.  You had nothing to do with it.  God saved you and He is saving you.

One day, you will stand before the righteousness of God.  Jesus will step forward and say “Abba, he is with me.  I paid for his sin.”  You will be allowed to pass in to eternal fellowship with God. At that moment, you are saved anew.  You will be saved.

Salvation is an amazing thing.  It is beyond miraculous.  It is beyond comprehension.  Brothers, you are not alone in your wanderings in this desert called life.  If you truly submitted your life to Christ, Jesus goes with you in the form of His Holy Spirit.  He lifts you up.  He carries you through.  In the Good News of Jesus Christ, you are being saved!

Vivere Victorem! (Live Victorious!)

Your brother and servant in Christ,
Bill

Dying to self, living to serve!

 

 

August 25, 2020

The One Who Saves the World

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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On the days we introduce you to outside sources here, I sometimes find a blog or website which is so good, and so similar to what we do in terms of depth, article length, daily content, etc.; that I wonder how we never discovered it before! I want to introduce you today to Virginia pastor Chuck Griffin who is the LifeTalk editor of Methodist Life. Click the header below to read today’s devotional. If you decide to read some other recent articles — which is encouraged — use this devotional link and be sure to click the link for the scripture readings as they’re often not showing. Again, I highly recommend this one!

Prayer of Ascent

I try not to dwell on Covid-19 day after day in these devotionals. The pandemic is serious and it is often on our minds, but I hope to keep the message of Jesus Christ ahead of all other messages, regardless of our circumstances.

If you follow the daily lectionary, however, you might notice that the readings for [last] Tuesday and Wednesday use the same psalm reading, Psalm 130. I’m hoping we can join together and pray this psalm over three days as a cry for relief from this disease.

Covid-19 is not as devastating as many plagues and famines experienced through history, but its effects are certainly bad enough, and it is wise to root ourselves in the same prayerful attitude as our spiritual ancestors.

As you read through this psalm, along with a little commentary I’m providing, hold in your hearts a request for a miracle. We seek a powerful, global sign from God as Covid-19 is driven out of our lives globally.

A song for pilgrims ascending to Jerusalem.

The psalm’s heading places us on a spiritual journey. I know we have work, school, doctors’ appointments and such—even with our world partially shut down, we remain such busy people. But can we adopt the pilgrim mindset for just a few days? Can we make our own ascent toward a holy place, toward a shared memory of Christ on the cross?

All three days, let’s take a few extra moments to settle into a time of quiet, saying to ourselves, “Right now, even if it’s only in my imagination, I’m going up to see the one who saves the world.”

From the depths of despair, O Lord,
    I call for your help.
Hear my cry, O Lord.
    Pay attention to my prayer.

This is a fervent petition, one lifted by a broken people, a people who have seen the troubling effects of their own sins and the broad effects of sin on the world. As we pray, we should be like the Canaanite woman in Sunday’s Gospel reading, desperately persistent, trusting that the tiniest crumbs of grace will make all the difference.

Lord, if you kept a record of our sins,
    who, O Lord, could ever survive?
But you offer forgiveness,
    that we might learn to fear you.

As Christians, we have a particular understanding of how this forgiveness is granted. See that cross; see the weight of the world’s sins on Christ’s shoulders. The record of our sins is expunged, and we undeservedly are found to be holy and worthy of eternal life with God. The stone is rolled away from the tomb, the resurrection is proof! Sin and death are defeated! Finding ourselves in a renewed relationship with God, we know all kinds of restoration are possible now.

I am counting on the Lord;
    yes, I am counting on him.
    I have put my hope in his word.
I long for the Lord
    more than sentries long for the dawn,
    yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.

Knowing what has been done for us, we should experience a deep longing for the Lord. In his word, recorded in his Scripture, we are able to discern right from wrong, and we simultaneously begin to see a bare outline of what a remarkable experience it must be to live in the full light of God.

Let’s root our longing for healing from Covid-19 in that deeper longing to be in the full presence of the risen Savior. And let us trust that dawn is coming—that the long night will end.

O Israel, hope in the Lord;
    for with the Lord there is unfailing love.
    His redemption overflows.
He himself will redeem Israel
    from every kind of sin.

Lord, Covid-19 is a sign of the world’s brokenness. As you drive it away, may we also see a clear sign of your unfailing love and your desire for our redemption, and may we have the courage to declare what we see. Amen.

August 24, 2020

Instead of Wiping us Out; He Sends His Only Begotten Son

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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You alone are the LORD. You made the heavens, even the highest heavens, and all their starry host, the earth and all that is on it, the seas and all that is in them. You give life to everything, and the multitudes of heaven worship you.
 – Nehemiah 9:6

For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
– Colossians 1:16-17

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature, upholding all things by His powerful word…
– Hebrews 1:3a

Through Him all things were made, and without Him nothing was made that has been made...He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him.
 – John 1:3, 10

 

Today we have a quoted passage from A. W. Tozer, which we located at Driven (DrivenToChrist.com) the blog of Minnesota pastor Bart Whitman. Click the header below to read this at his site, and then take some time to look around at his other writing.

A guy smarter than me: Tozer on the universe

The following is an excerpt from “Experiencing The Presence of God”, written by A.W. Tozer and edited by James L. Snyder.

The Bible…teaches that this universe, this “uni” (meaning “one”), this one great interlocking system has a central control. And that control is called the throne of God. The universe is controlled from that center…

If any organism has to have a head, if a machine has to have a head, an organization has to have a head, is it not logical to believe that somewhere in this vast universe, there is a throne where somebody runs it?…

And I believe that the one on the throne is God, the Majesty in the heavens. The Bible refers to this center of control as the throne of God. And from that throne, God governs His universe according to an eternal purpose. That eternal purpose embraces all things. “All things” are two little words used often in Scriptures, yet they are bigger than the sky above. They are bigger than the entire world. They are big because they take in all things.

So, we have the Majesty in the heavens, sitting upon His throne. Then someone is sitting on the right hand of that throne. Why? And who is He? He is Jesus, the minister of the sanctuary, which God made, not man. The reason for His being there, in brief, is this: A province revolted in what we call the universe. In all this interrelated, interdependence, interlocking universe, one province revolted and said, “We don’t want to be ruled by the head. We will not be ruled from the throne. We will rule ourselves. We will build this great Babylon up to heaven. We will not have God rule over us.” That province we call “mankind.” And mankind inhabits the little rolling sphere we called “the earth.”…

I think the earth belongs to man. They have not done much with it, and they have not done a very good job, but it belongs to the sons of men.

That province is now in revolt against the Majesty of the heavens. What is God going to do? God could, with a wave of His hand, sweep that province out of existence. But what did He do? God sent His only begotten Son that He might redeem that province and bring it back into the sphere of the throne again, back into the sphere of the Kingdom. And that Kingdom is called “the kingdom of God.” When a man is converted, he is born again into the kingdom of God. What does that mean? It means that he is born out of the old rebellious province into a new Kingdom, and admits that there is a throne, which he did not admit before…

You cannot get there by being baptized, though we all ought to be baptized, according to the teaching of Jesus. We do not get there by joining a church, although we all ought to join a church. We do not get there by praying; you can pray to the end of your life, 24 hours a day, and not get there. It is coming into the Kingdom by an act of the will, through Jesus Christ the Lord, that gets me out of the old, revolted province and into the kingdom of God and under the rule of the throne of God again.

 

August 12, 2020

A Man Who Was Seeking God; A God Who Was Seeking Men

Once again we are back at the blog My Morning Meal, written by Peter Corak.

The Bible is so rich in detail. You can return to a story you’ve known since childhood and see something you missed before. Peter has brilliantly done this with a so-familiar story. Click the header below to read at source.

Seeking the Seeker

They were both seeking that day. One, desperately. While the other, however, was just “passing through.”

The desperate one could barely see above the crowd for he was “small in stature.” But the Other saw everyone, and everything, clearly — even knowing the thoughts and intents of the heart. The small guy was a chief tax collector, a sinner, AND was rich — a triple whammy when it came to the pursuit of righteousness. The One who seemingly was about to pass by was the King of kings, the Savior of sinners, the God with whom nothing was impossible, even ushering a rich man into the kingdom of heaven (Lk. 18:24-27). Very different men.

But what Zacchaeus and Jesus had in common is that they were both seeking.

And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, . . . And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

(Luke 19:2-3a, 9-10 ESV)

Zacchaeus wanted to see Jesus. The reputation which had preceded the Teacher from Galilee had rooted itself in the heart of this Roman-serving, countrymen-oppressing, little rich man. Whatever he had heard about Jesus, it compelled him to know more. Even if it meant scurrying amidst the crowd, bumping into butts so that he might wind his way towards the tree which would help him rise above the crowd. He was seeking the Seeker.

But when Jesus looked up and saw this “big man” tax collector humbling himself as he precariously balanced above the crowd, putting himself literally out on a limb, Jesus said, “Come down, for I must stay at your house”, as if it had been His plan all along. As if passing through Jericho had always been with the intent of a rest stop at a sinner’s house. For Jesus, too, was seeking the seeker.

I’m sure there’s some theological term or explanation for how someone who is dead in trespasses and sin (Eph. 2:1) comes alive enough to seek the Author of life (Acts. 3:15). But, to me, it’s a mystery. The wonder of the Seeker seeking the seeker. Even stirring his, or her heart such that he, or she would find themselves seeking the Seeker.

What so compellingly prompts a proud, little man to so humble himself in order to rise above the crowd, and climb a tree in front of those who despise him? What makes the Son of God humble Himself, take on flesh, be hanged on a tree, and be lifted up before a mob set on deriding Him? Both were seekers. Both were seeking. Both were seeking the seeker.

Amazing! The actions of both men defy comprehension, really. But that the One who was in the beginning (Jn. 1:1), and made everything that was ever made (Jn. 1:3), and holds together everything that is being held together (Col. 1:17), would Himself come to seek and save the lost? Jaw-dropping.

Pretty familiar Sunday School story. Kind of easy to blow by it. But pause, be still, and noodle on it a bit, and it’s enough to send the awe-o-meter off the scale.

Because of His amazing grace. For His soul-seeking glory.


Bonus link: Here’s another article — from this very morning — where Peter finds riches in another familiar story, this one the story of Esther.

August 3, 2020

The Work He Began: Our Part

Readers at Thinking Out Loud have met Jeff Snow previously on a few occasions, including a book review, a story about his day-to-day ministry on a university campus, and his 3-part series on divorce, which we ran twice. But he’s only appeared once before here in 2012. Jeff is a half-time pastor in Canada, and spends the other half of his week as a campus worker with Mission Canada, for which he depends upon donations. He’s also a longtime friend who has been incredibly faithful to doing ministry mostly in one particular small town in Ontario.

I attended his church on Sunday. (Full disclosure: My wife is on staff.) His sermon was based on Philippians 1:6

And I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns. (NLT)

For the first part of the sermon, he talked about what God has done for us in beginning this work, through the process we call salvation. And then…

by Jeff Snow

…Which brings us to the question, what part do we have to play in accomplishing the work that God has for us. We are told to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. We are told that faith without works is dead. We talk in church about the importance of committing ourselves to times of prayer, times of reading and studying God’s Word. We talk about the importance of coming to church, of worshipping and fellowshipping together. Is the completion of the work God wants to do in us dependent on our success in doing all these things?

Well, yes and no. We can’t earn our salvation. And any of these things listed done without a heart of surrender and obedience to God simply becomes an intellectual exercise or an act of earthly community rather than divine community. Our verse tells us that HE, God, will complete the good work done in us.

Neil Anderson, in his devotional Who I Am In Christ, writes using a boating analogy, “If we think getting to the other side is a question of how hard we row, we may never get there. We must never forget that it is He who began the work in us, and it is He who will carry it to completion.”

So does that mean we do nothing? Going to church and reading the Bible and praying don’t matter? Well, if they are seen as ends in themselves, probably not. But when we see them as a means to an end–placing ourselves within reach of God so that he can finish the work in us–then they do matter. These spiritual disciplines in our lives put us in a place where God can complete the work He has begun in our lives…

…Continuing with his boating analogy, Neil Anderson asks, “Are you running against the wind? Is a storm about to swamp your boat? Have you failed in the past? Do you believe God has given up on you? I don’t believe He has!” Later in the book of Philippians Paul, confident in God’s desire to complete His work in our lives, makes this statement of determination. “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” God through Jesus Christ has taken hold of your life. He has called you for a purpose. The challenge this morning is to be confident in that fact. The challenge is to realize that God has a hold of your life. The challenge is to press on and reach out to grab hold of Him, grab hold of His purposes. As you do, know that you will be pressing on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called you heavenward in Christ Jesus.

For the promise is that God will bring the work to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. This day of Christ Jesus is the day when He returns, the day that there will be a new heaven and a new earth. This tells me two things. One is that the work God is doing in us is a lifelong process, only completed at the end of our days. And second, that the work that God has planned for us transcends even beyond our time here in this life.

The work of God in us through Jesus Christ begins at our salvation: Justification. It continues through our lifetime as God accomplishes His purposes in us and molds us into the image of Christ: Sanctification. And it comes to full completion when we see our Saviour face to face in eternity: Glorification. The work is complete when he brings us Home to be with Him.

So know that God has begun a good work in you by saving you. Know that he will never abandon you, that he has a good purpose for your life, plans to give you a hope and a future. He will mould you until you are brought to that day of completion in the arms of Jesus in heaven.

So stop struggling. Stop trying to be self-sufficient. Stop believing that you don’t matter to God. Stop crawling off the potter’s wheel. Be confident of this very thing. That He who began a good work in you will carry it to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.

August 1, 2020

The Joy in Enjoying God

Today we returned to the site, Already Not Yet, edited by Dr. Peter Cockrell and today featuring the writing of Sinclair Ferguson. Please consider clicking the header below to read this at its source.

 

Enjoying God Is a Command

While shaking hands at the church door, ministers are sometimes greeted with a spontaneous, “I really enjoyed that!”—which is immediately followed by, “Oh! I shouldn’t really say that, should I?” I usually grip tighter, hold the handshake a little longer, and say with a smile, “Doesn’t the catechism’s first question encourage us to do that? If we are to enjoy Him forever, why not begin now?”

Of course, we cannot enjoy God apart from glorifying Him. And the Westminster Shorter Catechism wisely goes on to ask, “What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him?” But notice that Scripture contains the “rule” for enjoying God as well as glorifying Him. We know it abounds in instructions for glorifying Him, but how does it instruct us to “enjoy him”?

Enjoying God is a command, not an optional extra: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Phil. 4:4). But how? We cannot “rejoice to order,” can we?

True. Yet, Scripture shows that well-instructed believers develop a determination to rejoice. They will rejoice in the Lord. Habakkuk exemplified this in difficult days (see Hab. 3:17–18). He exercised what our forefathers called “acting faith”—a vigorous determination to experience whatever the Lord commands, including joy, and to use the God-given means to do so. Here are four of these means—in which, it should be noted, we also glorify God.

Joy in Salvation

Enjoying God means relishing the salvation He gives us in Jesus Christ. “I will take joy in the God of my salvation” (Hab. 3:18). God takes joy in our salvation (Luke 15:6–79–1032). So should we. Here, Ephesians 1:3–14 provides a masterly delineation of this salvation in Christ. It is a gospel bath in which we should often luxuriate, rungs on a ladder we should frequently climb, in order to experience the joy of the Lord as our strength (Neh. 8:10). While we are commanded to have joy, the resources to do so are outside of ourselves, known only through union with Christ.

Joy in Revelation

Joy issues from devouring inscripturated revelation. Psalm 119 bears repeated witness to this. The psalmist “delights” in God’s testimonies “as much as in all riches” (Ps. 119:14; see also vv. 35, 47, 70, 77, 103, 162, 174). Think of Jesus’ words, “These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). Does He mean He will find His joy in us, so that our joy may be full, or that His joy will be in us so that our joy may be full? Both, surely, are true. We find full joy in the Lord only when we know He finds His joy in us. The pathway to joy, then, is to give ourselves maximum exposure to His Word and to let it dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16). It is joy-food for the joy-hungry soul.

Joy in Communion

There is joy in the Lord to be tasted in the worship we enjoy in church communion. The church is the new Jerusalem, the city that cannot be hidden, the joy of the whole earth (Ps. 48:2). In the Spirit-led communion of praise and petition; soul pastoring; Word preaching; psalm, hymn, and spiritual song singing; and water, bread, and wine receiving, abundant joy is to be found. The Lord sings over us with joy (Zeph. 3:17). Our hearts sing for joy in return.

Joy in Tribulation

Here, indeed, is a divine paradox. There is joy to be known in the midst of and through affliction. Viewed biblically, tribulation is the Father’s chastising hand using life’s pain and darkness to mold us into the image of the One who endured for the sake of the joy set before Him (Heb. 12: 1–25–11; see Rom. 8:29). We exult and rejoice in our sufferings, Paul says, because “suffering produces . . . hope” in us (Rom. 5:3–4). Peter and James echo the same principle (1 Peter 1:3–8James 1:2–4). The knowledge of the sure hand of God in providence not only brings stability; it is also a joy-producer.

All of this adds up to exultation in God Himself. In Romans 5:1–11, Paul leads us from rejoicing in the hope of the glory of God (v. 2) to joy that comes in tribulation (v. 3) to exulting in God Himself (v. 11; see Ps. 43:4). The unbeliever finds this incredible, because he has been blinded by the joy-depriving lie of Satan that to glorify God is the high road to joylessness. Thankfully, Christ reveals that the reverse takes place in Him—because of our salvation, through His revelation, in worship’s blessed communion, and by means of tribulation.

Enjoy! Yes, indeed, may “everlasting joy . . . be upon [your] heads” (Isa. 51:11).

July 14, 2020

The Warnings in the Book of Hebrews

 

Hebrews 2:1-4 New Living Translation (NLT)

So we must listen very carefully to the truth we have heard, or we may drift away from it. For the message God delivered through angels has always stood firm, and every violation of the law and every act of disobedience was punished. So what makes us think we can escape if we ignore this great salvation that was first announced by the Lord Jesus himself and then delivered to us by those who heard him speak? And God confirmed the message by giving signs and wonders and various miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit whenever he chose.


Hebrews 4:12-13 Common English Bible (CEB)

12 because God’s word is living, active, and sharper than any two-edged sword. It penetrates to the point that it separates the soul from the spirit and the joints from the marrow. It’s able to judge the heart’s thoughts and intentions. 13 No creature is hidden from it, but rather everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of the one to whom we have to give an answer.


Hebrews 6:4-8 Christian Standard Bible (CSB)

For it is impossible to renew to repentance those who were once enlightened, who tasted the heavenly gift, who shared in the Holy Spirit, who tasted God’s good word and the powers of the coming age, and who have fallen away. This is because, to their own harm, they are recrucifying the Son of God and holding him up to contempt. For the ground that drinks the rain that often falls on it and that produces vegetation useful to those for whom it is cultivated receives a blessing from God. But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and about to be cursed, and at the end will be burned.


Hebrews 10:26-31 New International Version (NIV)

26 If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27 but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28 Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29 How much more severely do you think someone deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified them, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.


Hebrews 12:25-29 New Living Translation (NLT)

25 Be careful that you do not refuse to listen to the One who is speaking. For if the people of Israel did not escape when they refused to listen to Moses, the earthly messenger, we will certainly not escape if we reject the One who speaks to us from heaven! 26 When God spoke from Mount Sinai his voice shook the earth, but now he makes another promise: “Once again I will shake not only the earth but the heavens also.” 27 This means that all of creation will be shaken and removed, so that only unshakable things will remain.

28 Since we are receiving a Kingdom that is unshakable, let us be thankful and please God by worshiping him with holy fear and awe. 29 For our God is a devouring fire.


Space didn’t permit much further discussion of these passages, but after using a different base source, we discovered Michael Battle has an excellent collection of the texts with some short commentary at his site Rooted and Grounded in Christ. To read that in full, click this link. After the fifth warning he notes:

…The fifth warning…sums up all the other warnings – beware of sin and rejection of Jesus.

Many of you recognize the words “our God is a consuming fire” but do you know the context of these words? Many quote this in connection with God’s love, but the scriptures do not use it that way. These words, in both the Old and New Testament, are used in connection with God’s holiness and righteous judgment against sin (i.e. His jealously expressed in anger which results in the punishment of our sins).

Here is how Moses used the words:

But the LORD was angry with me because of you. He vowed that I would not cross the Jordan River into the good land the LORD your God is giving you as your special possession. You will cross the Jordan to occupy the land, but I will not. Instead, I will die here on the east side of the river. So be careful not to break the covenant the LORD your God has made with you. Do not make idols of any shape or form, for the LORD your God has forbidden this. The LORD your God is a DEVORING FIRE; he is a jealous God. “In the future, when you have children and grandchildren and have lived in the land a long time, do not corrupt yourselves by making idols of any kind. This is evil in the sight of the LORD your God and will arouse his anger. (Deuteronomy 4:21-25 TNLT)


As I searched online many websites offered teaching on the five warnings in Hebrews, but one stood out offering what the writer called The Seven Alarms of Hebrews. What were the two extra passages, I wondered. Here they are:

Hebrews 3:7-4:2 New Living Translation (NLT)

12 Be careful then, dear brothers and sisters. Make sure that your own hearts are not evil and unbelieving, turning you away from the living God. 13 You must warn each other every day, while it is still “today,” so that none of you will be deceived by sin and hardened against God. 14 For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ. 15 Remember what it says:

“Today when you hear his voice,
    don’t harden your hearts
    as Israel did when they rebelled.”

16 And who was it who rebelled against God, even though they heard his voice? Wasn’t it the people Moses led out of Egypt? 17 And who made God angry for forty years? Wasn’t it the people who sinned, whose corpses lay in the wilderness? 18 And to whom was God speaking when he took an oath that they would never enter his rest? Wasn’t it the people who disobeyed him? 19 So we see that because of their unbelief they were not able to enter his rest.

God’s promise of entering his rest still stands, so we ought to tremble with fear that some of you might fail to experience it. For this good news—that God has prepared this rest—has been announced to us just as it was to them. But it did them no good because they didn’t share the faith of those who listened to God.

and

Hebrews 5:11-14 Common English Bible (CEB)

11 We have a lot to say about this topic, and it’s difficult to explain, because you have been lazy and you haven’t been listening. 12 Although you should have been teachers by now, you need someone to teach you an introduction to the basics about God’s message. You have come to the place where you need milk instead of solid food. 13 Everyone who lives on milk is not used to the word of righteousness, because they are babies. 14 But solid food is for the mature, whose senses are trained by practice to distinguish between good and evil.

July 10, 2020

Formula-Based Thinking About God

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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Today’s devotional lands here from a search I was doing following a conversation yesterday. When I looked for “Transactional Christianity” this was the first result, but while first results aren’t always best, this one turned out to be an excellent article.

The article is Rob Grayson who was raised Pentecostal and is now Anglican. His blog is Faith Meets World. To read today’s article at its source — which we always recommend — click the header which follows.

Transactional Christianity

There’s a brand of Christianity I’ve often come across in churches and around the interwebs. I’m going to call it Transactional Christianity.

When you enter into a transaction, you pay an agreed amount and receive a predetermined item or service in return. It’s a fixed equation, backed by terms and conditions: if you pay A, you get B. And if what you get isn’t to your satisfaction, you can usually get your money back.

Many people apply this kind of formula-based thinking to God.

  • If I pray the sinner’s prayer, I’m home free for all eternity.
  • If I read the Bible dutifully and have regular “quiet times”, I can expect God to look after me.
  • If I attend church regularly, I’ll feel like I’m right with God.
  • If I give my ten percent, I’ll reap a harvest of material blessing.
  • If I regularly pray for protection over my family, I can expect perfect health.

Now this is all well and good when everything’s going according to plan and all the transactions are proceeding smoothly. But this kind of thinking has a flip side: when things don’t work out the way they’re supposed to – when something goes wrong with the transaction – we’re forced to look for an explanation. When we pray fervently for a friend to be healed but they still succumb to cancer, we’re left with questions like “Did I pray hard enough?” or “Did I have enough faith?”   Or when, in spite of our efforts to spend regular time in prayer and Bible study, we still find ourselves dry and thirsty and unable to hear God, we begin to wonder what we’ve done wrong, what sin or issue in our life is blocking our direct line to heaven.

And so it is that this very common breed of Christianity often leads to guilt and an unspoken feeling that we must be missing the mark and somehow need to do better. We know that God can be relied upon to keep his part of the bargain – that’s what it says in the terms and conditions, right? – so the problem must lie with us.

The basic problem with a transactional approach to Christianity is this: God does not conform to our notions of how He should behave, who He should bless and how, and what He should do to reward us for honouring our end of the deal. If you’re not convinced of this, read the book of Job. Allow me to summarize: in a kind of cosmic bet, God allows satan to afflict his faithful servant Job, destroying his livelihood, his family and his health. This is surely enough to cause anyone to question what they’ve done to deserve such an accumulation of ill fortune. While Job sits in the dust lamenting his fate, three of His friends attempt to comfort him by offering explanations as to why all this has happened. They become increasingly insistent that Job must have sinned, and that he needs to identify and confess his sin – for in their transactional view of the world, God always punishes the sinful and rewards the righteous, no exceptions allowed. Job remains perplexed; he’s confident that he hasn’t sinned, and he can’t understand why God would punish him so.

After 35 chapters of questions and attempted explanations, God finally answers Job “from the whirlwind”:

“Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself like a man, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them.

Where were you when I lay the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much.”

(Job 38:2-4, New Living Translation)

For the next two chapters (and, following a brief response from Job, another chapter after that), God continues with a spectacular account of His unfathomable power and wisdom, all in the form of pointed questions directed at Job. At the end of this divine onslaught, and with the benefit of all the well-intentioned advice from his friends, what conclusion does Job reach?

“I am nothing – how could I ever find the answers? I will cover my mouth with my hand. I have said too much already. I have nothing more to say.” (Job 40:4-5)

Simply put, our attempts to fit God into a transactional mould will not work. The God who spoke the universe into being, who knows the stars and the sparrows by name, and who upholds the universe by the word of His power will not be reduced to an equation or a formula. If your concept of God tells you that He will always deliver A as long as you do B, then I humbly suggest you need to go back to the Bible with an open mind and ask yourself whether the magnificent, untameable God you find in its pages is really so easy to fit into such a small, well-constructed and tidy box.

I think C. S. Lewis says it best in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Mr. Beaver is telling young Lucy and Susan about Aslan, the great lion:

“Ooh” said Susan. “I’d thought he was a man. Is he — quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”

[…]

“Safe?” said Mr Beaver. […] “Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”

I don’t want a God who is at my beck and call and who can safely be relied upon to return the right result as long as I keep my part of the bargain. I want the lion, the great “I am”, the alpha and the omega, the God who is wild and free and who does whatever He pleases. That’s the God I find in the pages of the Bible. When I try to force God into a box, the god I end up with is no greater than my own logic. No: give me the God who can’t be pinned down. He may not always feel safe, but I certainly know I can trust in His goodness.


You’re also encouraged to click the link in the article title to read the comments this generated when first published in 2013. Or here.



Unrelated extra:

A friend of ours has launched a new project. The blog, Charismatic Scholarship, exists to promote the teachings of Christian academics and scholars who believe that the gifts of Holy Spirit mentioned in the New Testament have continued to this day; that those gifts have not ceased. The blog launched with a six-part interview with Craig Keener.

June 1, 2020

Just One Way: Through Jesus

Today we’re introducing a new website to you with the unusual title, Theist Thug Life. (I really wish there was an about page for this one!) Click the header below to read at source, then click the page header there to look at other articles.

The Exclusivity of Christ V. Religious Pluralism

“I am a Christian who believes that there are certainly many more paths to God other than Christianity”. – Oprah Winfrey

Immediately one may see the problem in Oprah’s statement above: A blatant contradiction.  Claiming to be a Christian she states that there is more than one path to God aside from Christianity. So what is she doing here? Oprah is advocating religious pluralism. Religious pluralism is generally the belief that two or more religious worldviews are equally valid or acceptable. This goes beyond simple tolerance (disagreeing but living peaceably together) but rather the very real acceptance of multiple paths to God (or gods) as a possibility. This is in stark contrast to those views that are exclusive, which is the idea that there is only one true religion or way to know God. Christianity is one such view that is exclusive. Immediately it becomes clear that her belief that there is more than one way to God is in opposition to her professed belief in Christ. In fact it is in blatant opposition to Jesus Christ himself. What do I mean? Christianity isn’t exclusive because Christians want it that way or because we are trying to come from a position of superiority of belief. No, Christian exclusivism just is because God has made it plainly known that he alone is God and there is only one way to him. One of the most prominent verses towards this end is found in John 14:6,

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

The claim here made by Jesus is distinct and purposely narrow. It’s exclusive in that it leaves no room for another way.  In a world that has hundreds, if not thousands, of worldviews proposing the way to God (or gods or not gods) we must apply the law non-contradiction. This law essentially states that contradictory propositions cannot both be true ‘at the same time and in the same sense. Ravi Zacharias helps us understand this point here,

“Truth by definition is exclusive. Everything cannot be true. If everything is true, then nothing is false. And if nothing is false then it would also be true to say everything is false. We cannot have it both ways. One should not be surprised at the claims of exclusivity. The reality is that even those who deny truth’s exclusivity, in effect, exclude those who do not deny it. The truth quickly emerges. The law of non-contradiction does apply to reality: Two contradictory statements cannot both be true in the same sense. Thus, to deny the law of non-contradiction is to affirm it at the same time. You may as well talk about a one-ended stick as talk about truth being all-inclusive.”

Every worldview about God or how to get to God can’t be correct. Either Jesus is the WAY, TRUTH, or LIFE or he isn’t.

Now some may object here by saying that various religious views share certain values and agree on some social issues. Isn’t this religious pluralism? No it isn’t. While, for example, Buddhists and Christians both agree that helping the poor is important, such limited concord is not pluralism per se. Again pluralism has to do with lending credence to competing truth claims. It is a position that advocates the acceptance of diverse beliefs regarding God and salvation as being just as true as any other. However, worldviews contradict each other on a fundamental level. This doesn’t mean some religions can’t share some doctrinal beliefs (like there being only one God) but that the fundamental positions that each hold are irreconcilable. One or the other is true, not both.

Christian Core Beliefs

Christians are those individuals who have been forgiven of their sins. They are individuals who have entered into a close personal relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ (Ephesians 2:8–9Romans 10:9–10). Within the faith there are those beliefs that are essential and those that are non-essential. The non-essentials are those things that do not affect the salvation of an individual. Such things as dancing, head dressing, alcohol consumption, and so forth are not salvific issues. They are those issues that different Christians can disagree on but not divide over. Essential beliefs are those that are the core foundational beliefs that are paramount. These beliefs are something a person must fully accept as part of his or her own personal worldview to be called a Christian. The following are core beliefs:

• Jesus is the Son of God and is equal with God (John 1:149Luke 22:70Mark 3:11Philippians 2:5–11)
• Jesus was born of a virgin (Matthew 1:18Luke 1:26–35)
• Jesus lived a perfect, sinless life (Hebrews 4:15John 8:29)
• Jesus was crucified to pay the penalty for our sins (Matthew 26:281 Corinthians 15:2–4)
• Jesus rose from the dead (Luke 24:46Mark 16:6)
• We are saved by the grace of God; that is, we cannot add to or take away from Christ’s finished work on the cross as full payment for our sin (Ephesians 2:8–9)

Notice that these core beliefs of Christianity fly in the face of Oprah’s statement. While she claims to profess Christ she believes differently from what the core beliefs of Christianity are. Many people may indeed be ‘Christian’ in name but ignore or outright reject core beliefs that define who a Christian is. Truly if Christ is our only hope…our sole way of forgiveness of our sins and gaining redemption…then belief that we or others can go outside of Christ for hope and redemption is simply anathema. It does not follow. Such a person who advocates that there are other ways to God aside from Christ is someone who either doesn’t know what they are talking about, deceiving themselves, or they are outright lying and do not believe the truth.

Summary

Ravi Zacharias perfectly finishes off this article below with these last words,

“So where does that leave us? We must not be surprised at truth claims but we must test them before we believe them. If the test demonstrates truth then we are morally compelled to believe it. And this is precisely the point from which many are trying to run. As G.K. Chesterton said, the problem with Christianity is not that it has been tried and found wanting, but that it has been found difficult and left untried.

Christ is either the immeasurable God or one dreadfully lost. Apply the tests of truth to the person and the message of Jesus Christ. You see not only his exclusivity, but also his uniqueness.”

Note: While Christianity is exclusive in that Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation it must be said that Christianity is perhaps the most inclusive faith. No matter your skin color, creed, where you were born, or social status you are able to come to Jesus. No one is turned away as long as they repent and believe the Gospel. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” -John 3:16

Further Reading and Citations

https://www.rzim.org/read/a-slice-of-infinity/point-of-exclusion

Here are 10 verses that speak to the exclusivity of Jesus.

  1. John 14:6 – Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
  2. Acts 4:12 – And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
  3. John 3:16 – For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.
  4. Romans 10:9 – Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
  5. 2 Corinthians 4:4 – In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
  6. John 3:36 – Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
  7. Acts 10:43 – To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.
  8. 1 Timothy 2:5 – For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,
  9. Romans 3:22 – The righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:
  10. John 17:3 – And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.

April 27, 2020

We Don’t Deserve It

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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NLT II Tim. 1:9 For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus.

Sometimes people will tell you they’re reading and a verse “just leaps off the page.” I’ve known that to be true, but I also find in a world of podcasts, audio books and sermon videos, sometimes a verse that someone is reading hits you as though for the first time.

It’s often because the person reading really knows the verse or passage in question and are able to bring it with the authority the writer intended.

That was the case with today’s opening verse. I can’t remember who was speaking, but I quickly set the playback a few minutes so I could hear it again and write down the reference. This verse in 2 Timothy reminds me of another passage that has been meaningful to me in more recent years.

CEV Titus 3:4 But “when God our savior’s kindness and love appeared, 5 he saved us because of his mercy, not because of righteous things we had done. He did it through the washing of new birth and the renewing by the Holy Spirit, 6 which God poured out upon us generously through Jesus Christ our savior.

(We looked previously at this passage in this article.)

The key phrase in both verses speaks to the idea that we did nothing to deserve this favor or mercy. “Not by works of righteousness that we have done” (the Titus passage in the KJV) and “Not according to our works” (the Timothy passage, in the NASB).

In Romans Paul says the well-known words, “While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (5:8) Eugene Peterson in The Message renders these words as,

MSG Rom. 5:6-8 Christ arrives right on time to make this happen. He didn’t, and doesn’t, wait for us to get ready. He presented himself for this sacrificial death when we were far too weak and rebellious to do anything to get ourselves ready. And even if we hadn’t been so weak, we wouldn’t have known what to do anyway. We can understand someone dying for a person worth dying for, and we can understand how someone good and noble could inspire us to selfless sacrifice. But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.

(This passage was actually the text of the sermon we heard preached in the Spanish church we visited in Cuba a few months ago.)

– o – o – o –

So why is there a stray quotation mark in the Titus passage? It appears in verse 4 and (for you OCD people!) the quotation continues to the end of verse 7. In the NLT the passage is indented. In the NIV, there are no such notations in the text.

Furthermore, N.T. Wright and Michael Bird, in the recently released The New Testament in its World introduce the idea that a majority of scholars feel Paul didn’t write the pastoral epistles at all, but two sentences later includes Titus 3:5 in a short list of passages that are “quintessentially Pauline.” (p.362)

I spent a long time online and with most of my go-to print commentaries seeing no mention of this.

The key is apparently verse 8:

This is a trustworthy saying

But then Ruth suggested the NET Bible notes which say,

Verses 4-7 are set as poetry in [certain original manuscripts]. These verses probably constitute the referent of the expression “this saying” in verse 8. This is … a single skillfully composed sentence in Greek showing the goals of God’s merciful salvation…

This would make it similar to the Philippian Hymn of Philippians 2 which is more commonly indented in a larger number of translations. So if we use that passage as our guide, and say, ‘This was a hymn that was commonly known to the people to whom Paul was writing,’ we would have to say the same thing here.

Or conversely, Paul may have been doing a centuries-ahead-of-his time thing that the manuscripts the NET Bible translators checking the early manuscripts observed, and that is including what we today call a “shout out” or “call out” in the text to highlight a particular word or phrase. Remember, they had no bold face font, no italics, no large font, no underlining and no colored ink process at their disposal. If you were trying to make a point, you either made in prose or poetry or by the sheer force of the words themselves.

It makes the passage more noteworthy, and that means it bears repeating here (and may I suggest bears memorizing), all the way to the end of verse 7 and with this we conclude, quoting from the NET Bible itself.

4“when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, 5 he saved us not by works of righteousness that we have done but on the basis of his mercy, through the washing of the new birth and the renewing of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us in full measure through Jesus Christ our Savior. 7 And so, since we have been justified by his grace, we become heirs with the confident expectation of eternal life.”

 

 

 

April 20, 2020

Redemption of the Body

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:35 pm
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It’s been awhile since we’ve heard from Russell Young as he’s been busy working on his next book. Today he sent us a much longer piece (just under 8,400 words; usually we’re around 840 words here) and I decided to share the introduction with you, and then if you’re interested in reading it all, send me a direct message or leave the words “send full article” in a comment (your email will not be visible) and I’ll send it to you.

Redemption of the Body

by Russell Young

Understanding Paul’s presentation of the “redemption of the body” is critical because he attaches it to being adopted as a son of God and a brother of Christ. “We ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.” (Rom 8:23)

Paul considered himself to be a wretched man because of the evil that had made him a prisoner to sin.1 He explained that his problem existed because although he delighted in God’s law in his inner being– his soul–, the members of his body always waged war against the law and desires of his mind. The demands and temptations of his body always conflicted with God’s law and what his mind wanted. He concluded that his rescue came through Christ. The Lord also had to fight the temptations of the flesh2 and he required God’s help to be victorious.3 The flesh wields great power over righteous living if not defeated and it must be conquered if the body is to be redeemed from its ungodly interests.

All believers will recognize Paul’s plight and can rejoice in the solution that God has provided. The solution, and the hope of humankind, comes through the presence of Christ in the confessor.4 Only through him, the Holy Spirit, can a person meet God’s righteous requirements. Although the members of the body may continue to wage war against a person’s godly desires, victory can be had. “His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” (2 Pet 1:3) “Through them we can participate in his divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.” (2 Pet 1:4) Peter has presented that God’s divine power comes through our knowledge of him. Knowledge only has power if it is used however, and knowledge of him allows the believer “to participate in his divine nature.” The corruption of the world caused by a person’s evil desires must be overcome.

In Romans chapter 8 Paul has clarified the means of being rescued through Christ, and it must be understood as focusing alone on that issue and its solution.

To make sense of Paul’s understanding, an awareness of the nature of humankind needs to be appreciated. People are a trinity. They are comprised of body, soul, and spirit.

  1. The Body: The human body is physical and was meant to function in a physical world. Like all things physical, it deteriorates with time and use, and for survival must accommodate the pressures of its environment. Because of those influences, it acts to find peace and comfort with its surroundings. It is natural for people to protect their physical being because abuse or injury could cause death and the natural person cannot see any existence beyond his or her physical presence. Consequently, accommodating the physical takes precedence above all else.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Basic Needs identifies the following as issues that the body strives to achieve: survival, safety, love and belonging, self-esteem, and self-fulfillment. These are needs of the natural person and are powerful forces in his or her life. The soul of each person strives to meet his or her basic needs in its own way and to its own degree as well as the body’s desire for comfort. The nature of the body’s needs as understood by the soul of a person often differs from God’s understanding.

The flesh interacts with its environment through the senses: taste, touch, hearing, smell, and sight. Although it gains information through the senses, it lacks the power to respond other than through the built-in autonomic nervous system which regulates key involuntary processes (heart rate, breathing, etc.) allowing its systems to sustain functioning and life. The voluntary actions of the body such as walking, talking, eating etc. are directed by the mind and will, which are part of the soul.

Observation teaches us that all will die and that the body will eventually suffer from injury or disease. Eternity cannot exist in the bodies that those who walk this earth possess.

  1. The Soul: The soul is “the spiritual, rational, and immortal substance in man, which distinguishes him from brutes; that part of man which enables him to think and reason, and which renders him a subject of moral government. The immortality of the soul is a fundamental article of the Christian system. Such is the nature of the human soul that it must have a God, an object of supreme affection.”5 It must be appreciated that the soul is not a substance, however. It is the rational aspect of a being, one’s reasoning ability, or his or her mental disposition. It might be recognized as the aspect of a person that identifies with his or her personality. A soul is within everyone and individuals can be identified by the nature of their souls.

Humankind was created with the unique ability to take in information, to reason and rationalize, to remember, and to direct their actions. Although a soul lacks power, it does have the authority to permit or to reject a spirit’s influence and persuasions. God gave humankind freewill through decision-making and this ability is what distinguishes a person from all other created beings.

It is the soul of a person that controls his or her decisions and the influence of spirits, including the actions of the natural spirit, in his or her life. The way a person habitually responds is known as his or her nature or natural disposition.

  1. The Spirit: The spirit is the life force in a being. Without it a person is absent of the ability to function voluntarily in any manner. The Greek word for spirit is pneuma and means a current of air.6 It is the activating force or essential principle influencing a person’s will. It formulates its decisions based on the functioning of the mind from gained information for the achievement of a person’s goals.

The Bible reveals many aspects of the human spirit.

1. There is a spirit in man (Job 32:8)

2. The human spirit is the part of man that God enlightens. (Proverbs 20:27)

3. The human spirit in believers will be renewed. (2 Corinthians 4:16)

5. When the human spirit departs, the body is dead. (James 2:26)

6. The human spirit was intended to glorify God. (1 Corinthians 6:20)

7. The human spirit was created in God’s image. (Genesis 1:27)

8. The spirit of man can be revived. (Genesis 45:27)

9. The spirit of man can feel suffering. (Exodus 6:9)

10. Various spirits can be given by God (wisdom, knowledge, understanding, all kinds of

workmanship, prophecy). (Exodus 28:3)

11. A person can possess a “familiar spirit.” (Leviticus 20:27)

12. A person can possess disruptive spirits (jealousy). (Numbers 5:30)

13. God can remove unhelpful spirits and place them where He wishes. (Numbers 11:17)

14. God can harden man’s spirit. (Deuteronomy 2:30)

15. God can give evil spirits, lying spirits. (1Samuel 16:14, 1Kings 22:23, Isaiah 19:14)

16. God can stir up (agitate) one’s spirit. (1Chronicles 5:26)

17. Some spirits can talk. (2Ch 18:20)

18. God can motivate one’s spirit for the accomplishment of His purposes. (Ezra 1:5)

19. The spirit can give visions. (Ezekiel 11:24)

20. God is to be served in the spirit, not through the law (flesh). (Romans 7:6)

21. God gives the spirit and it returns to Him at death. (Ecclesiastes 12:7)

It is called a spirit because it relates not to matter but to mind, soul, and feelings. Spirits can be loving, harmless or dangerous, fleeting or powerful, discreet or haunting, helping or hurting. They can inhabitate places, memories, books, or people. The most important fact about spirits is that they have to obey the commands of Christ. If we feel under the power of a spirit we do not want, we can command the spirit to leave in the name of Christ since we are His people, and the devil’s forces have no power over Christians unless they cooperate. It may be simply a matter of a single command spoken in trust of God, or it may be a spiritual battle (Eph. 6:10-17) where we need to draw closer to God in faith and let go of attachments to passing values (1 Tim. 6:6-12).”7

The difference between the soul and the spirit is that while the soul is the psychological aspect or personality of the person, including his or her mental acuity, the spirit is the agent of interaction of the soul with the physical and spiritual worlds and provides motivation for a person’s actions…the dynamic aspect of the person.

The spirit has power, but that power is permitted or denied by the soul. The power of a spirit exists in its source and in its persuasiveness on the soul. The Spirit of God is always more powerful than other spirits8, but those who possess him can deny the exercise of his life in them.

A person can possess many spirits if he or she permits them into his or her life. People need to be careful concerning their engagement with the spirit world. Peter has stated that Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand has angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.9


1 Rom 7:23−24

2 Heb 2: 17−18

3 Heb 5:7

4 Col 1:27

5 Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

6 The Greeks would have understood that without air going into the body, it ceased life. Today, however, we might

think of the spirit more as being a driving force, that which animates the body.

8 1 Jn 4:4 “greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world.” (KJV)

91 Pet 3:21−22



Eternal Salvation - Russell Young - 2Russell Young is the author of Eternal Salvation — “I’m Okay, You’re Okay”– Really? (Lettra Press) 

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

Leave a comment (your email address will not be visible) to receive today’s article in its entirety.

February 16, 2020

What is the Mystery of Godliness?

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:30 pm
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A year ago our search process took us to Pembrokeshire, Wales; and to a congregation — Penuel Baptist Chapel, Roch. — where a large number of the leaders take turns giving the weekly sermon. This article was written by Thomas Kitchen. Click the header below to read this at its source, and then take some time to explore other articles.

Something Unknown Unless God Reveals It

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:
He was manifested in the flesh,
    vindicated by the Spirit,
        seen by angels,
proclaimed among the nations,
    believed on in the world,
        taken up in glory.

1 Timothy 3:16

There are lots of mysteries in the world, for example the Bermuda Triangle; lots of aircraft have flown into this space only to disappear. The Antikythera was an analogue computer of 100 BC used to determine the position of the stars and planets, yet it is a mystery why it would be about another 1000 years before this technology was found and used again. Turning to this passage to day (1 Timothy 3:14-16) we are going to focus on verse 16. What is the mystery of godliness?

This is a verse short verse yet it is packed with such a lot of truth. The gospel, the good news, is explained here, and the importance of the church is explained.

He was manifested in the flesh.” This is evidence that Jesus really is God. He didn’t start life as a man, He has always been around, “I am who I am” (Exodus 3:14). It is wonderful to hear this gospel. This wonderful news doesn’t begin with one of us. This is someone who became flesh, this is Jesus, who created everything we see, know, hear, taste and feel.  Jesus comes into this world He created and lives among humans, the ones He created. So many have no idea He is the creator of their own soul and body. He is the one who is above all, God incarnate. We see glimpses of this across the Old Testament – with Adam and Eve. Moses, the prophets. Then Jesus comes, God in the flesh. He showed Himself to us completely. In Isaiah 40:12-15 we see humanity’s worthlessness against the King of Kings.

It is utterly astounding what Christ did for us in coming into the world. There is lots of build-up in the Old Testament, glimpses and clues, but now Jesus has come salvation is put into action, the plan worked out before time itself. Jesus – fully God, fully human.

He was vindicated by the Spirit.” He was justified by the Spirit. The Spirit is the Holy Spirit – the third person of the Trinity: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. This speaks of Jesus being blessed. God is pleased it is His Son carrying out this work of salvation for us. He is pleased with His Son, who is without sin, who is justified and perfect to carry out this task. It had to be Jesus, the Son of God. He was willing to do His Father’s will even though it was hard for Him. But He knew what it would accomplish – the saving of His people.

Seen by angels.” This is an odd sentence at first glance. You would have thought it would have been seen by men and women next. But this phrase is important. It is talking about God the Father’s hand in guiding Jesus. Angels were there at His birth, ministered to Him in the wilderness, at the Garden of Gethsemane, when He rose from the dead and went back into heaven. Angels were with Him every step of the way.

Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world,  taken up in glory (1 Timothy 3:16).

God is there in the entire process, working in us, through us and for us.

Proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world.” The nations refer to Gentiles and Jews. The Gentiles are everyone other than Jews. Jews considered themselves to be very different and holier than others. Jesus Himself was Jewish and was brought up with Jewish customs. This matters because Jews considered themselves to be a chosen people which brought them above and beyond other nations. But Jesus wasn’t like that, He knew that no person in the nations was holy. We are all sinful, we are all a drop in the bucket (Isaiah 40:15). But one of the best things about the gospel is it is for all. There are certain blessings in the Old Testament for Jews, but the New Testament is opened up for all. The gospel is proclaimed to all, not just the Jews. It is an invite for all to come to Jesus Christ – and only Jesus Christ. The gospel is for all languages, all peoples, all nations and all tribes. That is how heaven is described.

God had made Jesus Christ salvation for all. This message for us is ‘Come to Jesus Christ.’ He is not just an example for us, He not only bore our sins and we start with a clean slate, He took all our sins and gave us His robe of righteousness. He takes our filthy rags and He gives us our royal robes. One day, if we are trusting in Him, we will be with Him, worshipping Him face to face. We will be perfect, with a new body, eternally with our God. What a day that will be!

Taken up in glory.” This, of course, refers to Jesus going up into heaven. He rose from the dead, showed Himself to many people, to many witnesses, and ascended into heaven. Jesus was taken up into glory to be at the right hand of His Father where He prays for those who trust in Him. Jesus also had His trials, His difficulties. He can empathise with us. He is now praying to the Father for you. This is the glorious message which can never be destroyed. He gives you the faith you need. God does it all, He is the one who raises us from our deadness in sin, He is the one who opens our blind eyes. It is God who brings us back to life (Ephesians 2:1).

What is the mystery of godliness? Looking back to the original language, the Greek word for mystery is mystírio. This is something that is unknown unless God reveals it. What has been revealed to us? The person of the Lord Jesus Christ – who He is, what He has done on the cross. He has been revealed to us. It is unknowable unless it is revealed by God. We can know Jesus for ourselves because God has revealed this to us through His word, the Bible. Of course, there are mysteries we can’t fully understand – for example our Creator God being nailed to a cross, bleeding and dying. This is fact we can’t understand completely. We know this happened but we have to decide if we are going to submit to Him and worship Him forever.

He was raised to glory. One day He is coming again. Every knee will bow. The mystery of His glory will be revealed. Then it’s heaven or hell. Knowing about the gospel is all well and good but it has to go to our hearts. Knowledge without repentance is just a torch to light you to hell, “Knowledge without repentance will be but a torch to light men to hell” (Thomas Watson). If we know the gospel but do nothing about it, then all that knowledge is lighting our way to hell. There are many reasons why sinners go to hell, but there is only one reason sinners go to heaven – they have been washed by the blood of Jesus.

There are Christians who say they know everything they need to know, but we need to be reminded of the gospel every day. We need to hear God’s word, to pray and to preach to ourselves out loud, on our own, reminding ourselves what the He has done for us, what the gospel has done. Say to yourself, “He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world,  taken up in glory,” (1 Timothy 3:16). No matter what happens, that is our hope. Our identity is in Christ. If our identity is in marriage and our marriage breaks down, we lose our identity. If our identity is in our job and we lose our job, we have lost our identity. Preach to yourself and you will be encouraged and helped by the Spirit.

Living, He loved me
Dying, He saved me
Buried, He carried my sins far away
Rising, He justified freely forever
One day He’s coming
Oh glorious day, oh glorious day

February 6, 2020

“Unless Your Righteousness Exceeds That of the Scribes and Pharisees.” Should We Be Worried?

by Clarke Dixon

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:20 (NRSV)

Should we be worried? Is it even possible that our righteousness can exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees? Keep in mind how meticulous they were at keeping the Old Testament laws. Jesus’ words here can stress us out. Are we good enough?

Let’s leave aside whether we are good enough for a moment. The scribes and Pharisees were certain, that Jesus was not good enough:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. . . . Matthew 5:17 (NRSV)

That is exactly what the scribes and Pharisees were thinking! Jesus often seemed to be very un-Jewish in not keeping the laws and customs as expected. Healing on the Sabbath was considered work and so Jesus was obviously a lawbreaker! Further, for his first miracle, Jesus used jars that had been set apart for religious purposes to turn water into wine at a party. Not only did Jesus seem to be un-Jewish, he even seemed to be irreligious. Therefore the scribes and Pharisees were obviously exceedingly more righteous than Jesus. Or so they thought.

Jesus set the record straight:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Matthew 5:17-18 (NRSV)

Though the actions of Jesus seemed to indicate that he didn’t care about the law, he declares that it is very important. The law and the prophets, a short-hand way of referring to all the writings of the Hebrew Bible, reveal the heart of God, and point to Jesus himself. Far from ditching the Old Testament, Jesus was the focus of the Old Testament!

In setting the record straight, it turns out the the scribes and the Pharisees were the ones who were not good enough:

Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:19 (NRSV)

Ironically, despite how meticulous the scribes and Pharisees were at keeping the rules, Jesus, in what he would go on to say, insinuated that they were the ones breaking the commandments and teaching others to do the same. They kept the letter of the law, but they missed the intent of the law, the purpose of the law. They might have been meticulous with regards to the rules, but they were heartless. It is possible to keep all the rules and yet be an awful person. In calling the people of Israel into existence, God was looking to establish a good people, not an awful people who kept the rules. If “love the Lord” and “love your neighbour” sum up the law, then the scribes and Pharisees were not keeping it well at all. They needed to have a better kind of righteousness if they wanted to impress God. They needed a deeper righteousness, a heart righteousness, a righteousness expressed through good character.

We can now ask, is anyone righteous enough?

In his letter to the Christians in Rome, Paul spends some time in chapters one and two establishing the fact that non-Jews have no right to a relationship with God. They are not righteous enough. Then he spends some time in chapters two and three establishing the fact that Jews also should have no right to a relationship with God. Though they have the law and the prophets, they also are not righteous enough. In conclusion,

. . . we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin, as it is written: “There is no one who is righteous, not even one; Romans 3:9-10 (NRSV)

However, there is good news:

But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, and is attested by the law and the prophets, the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith. He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies the one who has faith in Jesus. Romans 3:21-26 (NRSV)

Though the Scribes & Pharisees were thinking Jesus was not righteous, actually Jesus is the only righteous one. Are any of us righteous enough? No, but God is good, and offers to make us good. God makes this offer because of His love for us, not because we make a good impression on Him.

God came to us in Jesus so that we could be forgiven of all sin. We will stand before the judgement seat of God with a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees. It is Christ’s righteousness placed on us. God comes to us in the Holy Spirit to change our hearts for the better. We grow into a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees. That transformation of character is Holy Spirit work. Though we might not feel good enough for God, and really, we are not good enough, God is good and wants to do good for us, and in us.

Jesus says “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” Should we be worried? Should we be concerned that we will not “make the cut?” Without Jesus, if you want to impress God, then surpassing righteousness is an obligation. Good luck with that. Even the scribes and Pharisees, with all their meticulous law-keeping, failed to make a good impression. However, with Jesus, and with the gift of the Spirit, surpassing righteousness is an opportunity, through which God will make an impression on the world. Changed hearts, hearts in tune with God’s heart, lead to a changed world. “Surpassing righteousness” should not be a source of stress, but a source of great hope, not only for ourselves, but for the people around us.


Clarke Dixon blogs his messages weekly at Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon.

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