Get Over Yourself, because You Can’t Get Over on God

December 30, 2009 at 10:29 am | Posted in Eternity | 6 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Pride is a dangerous thing. If I were to begin to proclaim that I had done enough good things for God, so that He owed me a place in Heaven, I should be quickly rebuked and shown the error of my ways. My home in Heaven is made secure by God’s grace through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ, and I have no justification for bragging about it (Ephesians 2:8-9).

My own merits, whatever they may or may not have been, were completely tainted and stained by my sinful nature prior to salvation (Isaiah 64:6). So I will not be going to Heaven on my own merits, but on the merits of the One Who was perfect in my place, and who bore the weight of, and suffered the force of, God’s wrath in my stead: Jesus Christ the Righteous (I John 2:1-3).

Therefore, it must be understood and proclaimed that our own self-worth, our own self-righteousness, and our own “good” works are completely insufficient to earn God’s eternal approval. This is true even of our own belief and faith. Even the strongest Christian is often weak in his/her belief and unsteady in his/her faith. Are you not grateful beyond measure that when our own belief falters, or falls beneath God’s standards, that His unchanging faith, and not our own, secures our salvation?

If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.

II Timothy 2:13

Big Words of the Christian Life: Justification (Part 1)

December 29, 2009 at 10:31 am | Posted in big words of the Christian life | 37 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Many Christians tend to shy away from some of the great Truths of the Bible for two reasons: One, they seem so hard to understand. Two, they just don’t seem as practical. We want our Biblical lessons to focus on how we can get money; how we can have happier marriages; how we can be healed; how we can beat stress; how we can have great sex. But the fact is, the deeper into doctrine you go, the more practical it becomes. We sometimes live very defeated Christian lives because we’re afraid to try to understand just what God has done for us in Christ Jesus.

In the past, I have taught basic discipleship lessons: salvation, baptism, everlasting security, church membership, sin, prayer, the world. These lessons on “big words” are not really more difficult. They just have more syllables in the title.

Justification

I want to focus on:
1. The Motive for Justification
2. The Meaning of Justification
3. The Method of Justification

I know it is so of a truth: but how should man be just with God?

Job 9:2

Prior to our salvation we were not “just” with God: we were not righteous before Him. Why? We might say it is because we had sinned. But we must understand that the bigger issue is not that we had sinned – the bigger issue is that we are sinners.

Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Romans 3:19-20

One of the reasons God gave the Law is so that everyone could plainly see his/her own sinful condition – for none of us have ever come close to keeping the Law of God. Therefore, the Law “stops every mouth.” No one has a valid argument that they are not guilty before God.

God’s motive for justification – for somehow making guilty unrighteous sinners right before Him – is the Truth that there was absolutely no other way for us to do it. He has to do it for us – to make us righteous – or it could not be done.

But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;

Romans 3:21

Whose righteousness is involved in justification? Is it ours or God’s? God’s righteousness must be imputed to us in justification, for there is no other righteousness outside of God.

1. God’s Motive in Justification:
A. There is no other way.
B. It is for His Own glory.

Those are the motives for justification. We see why there must be such a thing as justification if we are to have a relationship with our Creator; if we were to be saved from judgment and hell; if God’s great plan of redemption and salvation is to bring Him the greatest glory of forever and all time.

1. The Motive for Justification
2. The Meaning of Justification

Now, I want to look at the meaning of justification – the definition. What is “Justification?” Justification is a forensic term – a legal term. It is the act of God, Who, by grace, declares sinners who have believed on Jesus Christ, to be righteous.

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.

Romans 3:23-26

Everyone has sinned and come short of the glory of God, and not just a little short. No, we fell way short. We were totally depraved – completely without merit. God has freely justified those who have been born again by His grace. God gives His righteousness as a free gift. But it is through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, and it is not a cheap gift. Christ Jesus is the Propitiation. A propitiation is a sacrifice which satisfies the punishment that is justly due. God declares justification for the remission of sins, so justification is real, even though it’s an act of declaration, and not a physical change. God Himself shows that He is just through His Own act of Justification. God legally declares sinners to be righteous when – and only when – they believe in Jesus.

Justification happens instantaneously. It is not a process. If my kids turn on the yard sprinkler, and we all run through it, some of us get a “little wet” and some of us get a “lot wet.” There are different degrees of “wet.” But if we all run, and leap into the air, and land in the deep end of the swimming pool, then we all get completely soaked. That’s how justification is. In an instant, every Christian who truly believes is justified to the same degree as every Christian who has ever been justified. And that degree is 100% – fully soaking wet.

Justification is not something earned. It is not a process of working and getting good enough to be justified. God does it all. And it does not change.

After the end of the O.J. Simpson trial, people used to always ask me this question about O.J.: “But do you think he’s really guilty?” And I would respond: “No, I know for a fact he’s ‘not guilty.’ He was declared ‘not guilty’ in court.” That is not the same as saying he’s innocent. It is not the same as saying “he didn’t do it.” I don’t know if he “did it,” because I wasn’t there – and you don’t either. The jury came back and said “not guilty,” so legally he was declared not guilty.

I’m sure O.J. felt pretty good about the American legal system’s version of “justification” at the time, but God’s Justification is even better. In a “not guilty” verdict there is still a record of what was done. Justification is even better than a “pardon.” A pardon says that, whether you did it or not, we’re letting you go. Justification is saying: Not only are you not guilty – but you are completely righteous – all your record is wiped clean and there’s no more evidence of it. You are declared to have the same righteousness as Jesus Christ Himself.

Next time, we will see the Method of Justification.

Don We Now Our Strange Apparel

December 28, 2009 at 10:58 am | Posted in Zephaniah | 5 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

If the Hezekiah in Zephaniah 1:1 is “King Hezekiah,” then the eponymous Zephaniah was the great-great-grandson of King Hezekiah. In any event, we do know that the minor prophet Zephaniah ministered during the reign of King Josiah, and that Josiah led the nation of Judah in what looked like a spiritual revival. He found the Book of the Law and sought to enforce it.

However, the “revival” may have been just a government-enforced or peer-pressure-induced outward show. We see this sort of thing in churches today. One example is youth camp meetings. A group of teenaged children will spend Friday and Saturday night at a retreat, playing games, listening to “Christian rock,” and supposedly getting “fired up for the Lord.” They will show up during the Sunday morning service, and go racing back and forth like stampeding cattle in front of the church, showing how “on fire for God” they suddenly are. There will be a great deal of pressure among them to do what everybody else is doing, and then all of their parents and the “church elders” will give them pats on the back and laugh it up at their shenanigans. They will be allowed to play around with the church’s microphones, instruments, and sound equipment, like little kids set free in dad’s tool shop, and everybody will congratulate themselves on how “we’re really reaching the youth for Jesus.”

But a few days later these worldly teenaged children are back to their old stunts. You will not see them showing respect for their elders, helping with church clean-up, opening doors for ladies, or doing any heavy lifting. You will see no fruit of growth in the Word, no sign of a prayer life. If you offer to get up a “youth activity” trip to the movies or a party, they are gung ho, but they will have no desire to start up a Bible study or go door-to-door soulwinning. This is because they have been conformed, and not transformed.

So, we cannot be sure if the “revival” of Josiah’s time was real or was just this sort of outward show. But if it was in fact genuine, then Zephaniah may have been that rare thing – a prophet whose message was actually heeded. Since Zephaniah does not mention the “revival” of Josiah (but since we know he preached during Josiah’s reign), it may be that his prophecies had an effect on Josiah.

I will also stretch out mine hand upon Judah, and upon all the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place, and the name of the Chemarims with the priests;

Zephaniah 1:4

Baal was the false god whose priests had been slain by the prophet Elijah. Chemarims refers to the priestly robes which were supposed to be white for Jewish priests, but which were now black due to the influence of the pagan priests. It also refers to the zeal and enthusiasm of their unholy worship, as they tried to show how “wild” they could get.

God had prescribed worship of Himself to be done in order. The false priests could make a lot of hay by saying, “That sort of God-prescribed worship is boring. You need to get free from that. Oh, we’re still going to worship Jehovah – but we’re going to use the contemporary tools and methods – and we are going to get wild.” This technique was very seductive, and it’s very seductive today.

And them that worship the host of heaven upon the housetops; and them that worship and that swear by the LORD, and that swear by Malcham;

Zephaniah 1:5

The false priests deliberately brought the idea of angels into their worship, so that they could still claim they worshiped something close to God. They shouldn’t have been swearing by the Lord and by Malcham at the same time – any more than I should make a vow to the Lord and to Allah. Can you imagine someone at a Christian wedding taking his marriage vow before God and Allah at the same time? Or a deacon standing up in a Christian church to pray over the offering in the name of God and Allah?

God did not take this lightly.

Hold thy peace at the presence of the Lord GOD: for the day of the LORD is at hand: for the LORD hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests.

Zephaniah 1:7

It was as if God was saying, “You want to invite ME to a party for Baal? For Malcham? I’m preparing something for you – hold your peace – shut your mouths – you’re going to be My guests now…”

And it shall come to pass in the day of the LORD’S sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king’s children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel.

Zephaniah 1:8 (emphasis added)

The priests would be sorry they had ever worn those black robes. Will there be modern Christians who will be sorry they wore that skull and crossbones t-shirt even though they slapped the name of Jesus on it? The false priests were suddenly confronted with the hypocrisy of all their Ammonite and Moabite fashion-wear which they had bought at Spencer’s in the mall of Judah. God calls these mixed-message garments “strange apparel.”

What Does God Want from Me?

December 23, 2009 at 2:50 pm | Posted in Micah, Uncategorized | 9 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The Lord is truly righteous. In Him is no sin at all. He desires to look at His creatures with love. But therein lies the problem. Human beings, created by God, are sinful. How does a completely righteous God look with favor upon an unrighteous people? The answer is that He doesn’t. Instead He first declares His people to be righteous.

For the righteous LORD loveth righteousness; his countenance doth behold the upright.

Psalm 11:7

God’s creatures also reach a point (deep down, whether they admit it or not) where they desire to know that God’s countenance is facing toward them, and not away from them. Therefore, they ask, what does God require of us that he may look upon us in love?

He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?

Micah 6:8

If God will look with favor upon a man, He first requires that that man treat people fairly and obey God’s laws. However, man can never do this in and of himself. He can only love mercy if he himself has experienced the mercy of God. He can only walk humbly with God if he has first humbled himself before God. God requires righteousness, and God-pleasing righteousness can never be achieved by man until it has been imputed to him by God Himself.

If you have received Christ Jesus as your Savior, you have humbled yourself before God, and experienced His mercy. Now you are righteous in God’s sight, and may “do justly,” with God’s help and with His loving eyes upon you.

The Dash Between Two Dates

December 22, 2009 at 7:16 pm | Posted in Salvation | 3 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

When someone dies, it may appear that his whole life was summed up in a dash. John Doe, 1930-2009. That dash between the two dates may seem long or short at the end of our lives, but the fact is, none of us ever really know how close we are, at any given moment, to the end of that dash.

Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

James 4:14

Man that is born of a woman is of few days, and full of trouble.

Job 14:1

A good question to ask ourselves is what are we going to do with that little dash between two dates while there is time. Will we spend it on ourselves? Will we spend it pursuing silly, vain things? Or will we give it to the Lord? The offer of redemption is for a limited time only – you must by faith receive Jesus, and the price He paid, before you die and before He comes back.

According to the Bible, everyone has sinned, and all sin is against God, Who is holy and just (Romans 3:23). The wages of sin is death (eternal punishment). But God, Who is also loving, would rather give you a free gift than pay you what you have earned (Romans 6:23). This gift must be received by faith. You cannot work for it (Ephesians 2:8-9; Romans 10:9,13).

Eternal salvation comes from believing that Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world, and specifically your sins – that He was perfectly sinless, God’s perfect Sacrifice Who died in your place – that He was buried, and rose from the dead on the third day, according to the Scriptures – and that He is alive and able to save you now (John 3:3-7, John 3:16, I Corinthians 15:3-4).

Falling, Flooding, and Facing Facts

December 21, 2009 at 11:46 pm | Posted in A Little Alliteration, Genesis | 11 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Last time, we learned that there is a clear separation between the lines of Seth and Cain. At least the separation was clear until:

And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born unto them, That the sons of God saw the daughters of men that they were fair; and they took them wives of all which they chose.

Genesis 6:1-2

When the Godly line of Seth intermingled with the ungodly line of Cain, which side influenced the other? The Godly did not influence the ungodly for good. The ungodly dragged the Godly down into sin. This happens even today whenever Christians become participants with, instead of witnesses to, the lost.

The majority of commentators disagree with me, but I believe that the “sons of God” in these verses were men, not fallen angels. Angels do not procreate.

And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew. And to Seth, to him also there was born a son; and he called his name Enos: then began men to call upon the name of the LORD.

Genesis 4:25-26

There is a clear distinction between men who called upon the Lord – and were known for doing so – and those who began to be “mighty” in their own eyes, and began to make light of their need to call upon the Lord. Lamech is a good example. There was a “Seth-Lamech” and a “Cain-Lamech.” Seth’s Lamech called his son Noah, and believed in the promise of God that a redeemer would come and reverse the curse. But look at Cain’s Lamech:

And Lamech said unto his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear my voice; ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: for I have slain a man to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt.

Genesis 4:23

He was the first bigamist, and possibly the author and performer of the first sinful poem or song. The “and” in Genesis 4:23 does not denote two separate killings. It is an example of Hebrew parallelism. A modern English example would be: “I went to the store, and I went with my shoes on.” That does not mean I went to the store twice. The “and” in Genesis 4:23 is the same kind of “and” that connects Genesis 1:1 and 1:2: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” (Emphasis added.) There has only been one world-wide flood (Noah’s). There was not a “flood of Lucifer” during a “gap” between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2.

Lamech not only celebrated his killing with a little ditty, but he made a mockery of God’s mercy to Cain:

If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.

Genesis 4:24

Several centuries later Jesus would make a mockery of Lamech, though, when He said that we are not to avenge seventy times seven; we are to forgive seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22).

So, in Genesis 6 the sons of God mixed with the daughters of men, and the remnant of Godly descendants of Seth started becoming corrupted. The devil wins converts by forming relationships.

And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.

Genesis 6:5

In just a few generations man became completely deteriorated. (See Romans 1 and II Corinthians 10:5.)

And it repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.

Genesis 6:6

God does not repent from sin, because He can not sin, but He has feelings, including grief and the excitement of fellowship with His creatures.

And the LORD said, I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and the creeping thing, and the fowls of the air; for it repenteth me that I have made them. But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.

Genesis 6:7-8

We do not praise Noah for being found righteous. We praise God for making Noah righteous.

These are the generations of Noah: Noah was a just man and perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with God.

Genesis 6:9

Noah was not perfectly sinless, but he was without blame in his complete devotion to God, in comparison with everyone else. Noah lived his life in the awareness of being in God’s presence.

And Noah begat three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

Genesis 6:10-13

And spared not the old world, but saved Noah the eighth person, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly;

II Peter 2:5

For 120 years Noah and his sons built and preached. They preached righteousness: Get right with God. And they preached truth. The devil’s way is to defile by forming relationships, but God’s way is to cleanse by preaching righteousness and truth.

1. Noah built: He built the ark.
2. Noah believed: He believed the Word of God.
3. Noah brought: He brought his family into the Ark.

Jesus did the same with His redeemed family, and we are to do likewise:

1. We are to build His church.
2. We are to believe His Word.
3. We are to bring a spiritual family into the safety of the Body of Christ.

We can be sure that the flood of Noah’s time was indeed a world-wide flood.

And, behold, I, even I, do bring a flood of waters upon the earth, to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing that is in the earth shall die.

Genesis 6:17 (emphasis added)

That is God’s Word – not Noah’s or Moses’s viewpoint. It was God’s Word then – and it is His Word now.

And all flesh died that moved upon the earth, both of fowl, and of cattle, and of beast, and of every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth, and every man: All in whose nostrils was the breath of life, of all that was in the dry land, died. And every living substance was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, both man, and cattle, and the creeping things, and the fowl of the heaven; and they were destroyed from the earth: and Noah only remained alive, and they that were with him in the ark.

Genesis 7:21-23 (emphasis added)

In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened.

Genesis 7:11 (emphasis added)

This was more than just rain. It was an event of cataclysmic, geological changes – changes like the formation of the Grand Canyon. Possibly a water or vapor canopy fell from around the Earth – which would help to explain why men and animals lived so long prior to the flood. God really shook the whole earth. If not for God’s mercy, no one would be alive today to make up false “scientific” theories to refute it.

Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

II Peter 3:3-10

Talk about a “big bang!” Men have a problem with a God who destroyed the earth, but Heaven has a problem with a God who would save one man and his family – knowing that his descendants would later mock and deny the event. Heaven solved this problem in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

What Is God Like?

December 18, 2009 at 7:30 pm | Posted in Bible Studies, Exodus | 28 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.

Exodus 3:13-14

Was Moses really concerned about what name he would give to God before the people? He told God, “They shall say to me, ‘What is His name.’ What shall I say unto them?” But God had already told him in Exodus 3:6: “Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.”

Moses had several questions – and several excuses – but what he was really asking is revealed partially by what he asked about himself in Exodus 3:11: “And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?”

Moses wanted to know, “Who am I? What am I like?” So, when he asked God, “What shall I tell them when they ask me Your name,” what he was really asking God was, “What are You like? How can I describe You? To what can I compare You? What are You really like?”

The Bible has many names for God: Elohim, El Shaddai, El Elyon, El Olam, Yahweh (YHWH), Yahweh Jireh, Yahweh Nissi, Yahweh Shalom, Yahweh Sabbaoth, Yahweh Maccaddeshcem, Yahweh Ro’I, Yahweh Tsidken, Yahweh Shammah, Yahweh Elohim Israel, Adonai, Theos, Kurios, Despotes, Father, just to name a few. God cannot be fully described by men as to Who He is, so we are given to know Him by what He does. There are many names that describe a part of what God is, but what people throughout Scripture have asked is, “God, what are You really like?”

Micah, Micaiah, Michal, Michael are all Bible names that ask the rhetorical question: “Who is like God?” This question points out the real problem with explaining what God is really like: As several well-known theologians and preachers have pointed out: There is no one and no thing to which to compare Him. I know we’ve all been told, as privileged people, that we’re “special,” but the fact is, as human beings, there are many, many ways in which we are all similar to each other. But God had to say “I AM” because He could point to no one outside of Himself and say, “He is like Me” or “She is like Me,” or “I am like that.” The truth is: He is like nothing else at all.

When we speak of the problem of making a comparison concerning God, we begin to understand the true concept of God’s holiness. Of all the attributes which make up the glory of God, His holiness may be the most significant – especially when it comes to trying to grasp at His true nature – what He is like. The angels near the throne of God do not cry out love, love, love, or righteous, righteous, righteous, or grace, grace, grace, or even mighty, mighty, mighty, although all of these would be true. What they cry out is holy, holy, holy (Isaiah 6:3). The name for God’s Spirit is not the Peace Spirit, or the Joy Spirit, or even the Faith Spirit, although He is a Spirit of peace, joy, and faith. His name is the Holy Spirit.

There is none holy as the LORD: for there is none beside thee: neither is there any rock like our God.

I Samuel 2:2

For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.

Isaiah 43:3

God is holy because of His complete uniqueness, and because in Him is no sin. One of the reasons that, throughout Scripture, the holiness of God is so tied into the idea of sinlessness or freedom from sin, is that a sinful world’s most obvious difference between us and God is that we sin, and He does not.

Who is like unto thee, O LORD, among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, doing wonders?

Exodus 15:11

God has no beginning and no end. He is all-powerful, omniscient, omnipresent, sovereign, timeless, providential. As one well-known preacher says, God is not like us, only wiser, or more powerful, or more righteous – He is not LIKE us at all!

God told Moses to tell the people that God is “I AM THAT I AM,” and for something like 1500 years people asked, “Who is like God?” Then, Jesus of Nazareth came on the scene – a sinless humble obeyer of God’s Word. Jesus is our best look at what God is really like. It was as if God answered and said, “You want to know who is like Me? He is like Me – now learn His ways, and follow Him – He will show you what I am really like” (Matthew 11:27).

For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

John 1:17-18 (See John 14:7-10.)

Learning what God is really like will be an eternal undertaking – but while we are here on earth we must learn about the Father by walking with, talking with, emulating, worshipping, and magnifying His Son.

Temporarily Saved Is Not Really Saved at All

December 17, 2009 at 10:07 pm | Posted in Eternity | 6 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Slogans are of limited value.  In general, slogans speak to a timely issue, and give a simplistic “sound bite” which tries to address a complex idea in a few short words.  They have a way of becoming quickly anachronistic.  For example, shouts of “Let them eat cake,” and “No taxation without representation,” caused quite a stir in their day, but just do not carry quite the same impact all these generations later.  This bumper sticker was plastered on the door of my childhood bedroom: 

https://i1.wp.com/www.amnation.com/vfr/Dont-Tread-300.gif

All these years later, I’m still not sure who put it there or what it means!  But it must have expressed some social value back in those days.

The same is true for “Christianized” slogans.  They may be clever, but they are often weak at expressing lasting truths.  When I see a bumper sticker that says, “Christians aren’t perfect; they’re just forgiven,” I wince a little.  Sure, Christians are not perfect, in the sense of being sinless, but, as a true Christian, I am a whole lot more than “just” forgiven.  The mighty work of redemption wrought on Calvary’s Cross by the King of Glory should never be minimized as “just” anything.  Or, how about the one that says, “God is my Co-pilot?”  I understand the sentiment, but let’s get real.  The sovereign Lord of all creation, Who rules over and controls every molecule in existence, is not anyone’s “co-pilot.”

In general, if we want to express a Biblical principle, we are better off just sticking with reciting Bible verses.  However, saying that slogans are of limited value is not the same as saying they are of no value.  Take the slogan, “Once Saved Always Saved.”  It is a slogan which does not appear verbatim in Scripture, but it states a principle which is abundantly true and clear throughout Scripture.

God’s desire is for people to be “saved.” 

For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

I Timothy 2:3-4

Not all people are saved, but, every one who is once saved, is in fact always saved.  The only fault in the slogan might be its redundancy.  Imagine a drowning man flailing in the sea.  A lifeguard swims out, and starts hauling him in to shore.  It looks as though the drowning man has been “saved,” but suddenly a great white shark slashes through the water, tears the victim from the lifeguard’s arms, and drags him to his death beneath the waves.  Obviously, it cannot be properly said that the drowning man was “saved.”  Such victims who avoid the sharks, get onto the beach, dry off, and go home, can properly be said to have been “saved” from drowning.  And, though they will one day die, we might say that they were “once saved, always saved from drowning.”

To say that once Jesus Christ “saves” someone they are “always saved,” is a repetitive statement, but it is nevertheless a true statement.  The only alternative (and, sadly, there are many who believe this way) is that Jesus Christ is an imperfect “Savior,” Who can only attempt salvation, never really knowing which of the recipients of His grace and mercy will make it all the way to Heaven.  Obviously, this is not the case.  Jesus Christ is the perfect, all-powerful Savior, so it is correct, although perhaps somewhat clumsy linguistically, to say that all those whom He saves are “once saved, always saved.”

Arise: Naboth’s Vineyard, Ahab’s Vice, and God’s Vengeance – Part 4

December 16, 2009 at 3:53 pm | Posted in Arise | 5 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In Part 1 and Part 2 we met:

I. The Pious Patriarch (Naboth)
II. The Pouting Potentate (Ahab)
III. The Poisonous Puppeteer (Jezebel)
IV. The Pestering Prophet (Elijah)

In Part 3 we saw:

V. The Preeminent Precept

Now we will discover:

VI. The Poignant Payment
and
VII. The Punctual Punishment

There came a time when Jehoshaphat the King of Judah was preparing to go to war with Syria, and he wanted the help of Ahab the King of Israel. Ahab agreed, on the condition that he would disguise himself, and that Jehoshaphat would wear the robes of a king. The King of Syria had a plan for his men to disregard the rest of the troops and go directly after the king. But a strange thing happened in the heat of battle.

And a certain man drew a bow at a venture…

I Kings 22:34

Dr. R.G. Lee, who preached a great sermon on this passage of Scripture, called this man “the nameless aimless archer.” He was a “certain” man – not named – who drew his bow at a venture – not really aiming at anything. (In keeping with my own outline, I probably should have called him the “Passive Pointer.”)

Are you “nameless?” God knows your name, even the hairs of your head are numbered. But does the devil know your name? He knew Job’s name. When God asked, “Hast thou you considered my servant Job?” (Job 1:8) the devil didn’t say, “No, who is that?” He knew Job by name, because Job was living an exemplary life for the Lord. The devil knew Paul’s name. The evil spirit summoned by the Jewish exorcists said, “Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?” (Acts 19:15) As Christians we should not be “nameless,” because we are certainly not “aimless.” We are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Your “calling” (your vocation) is to love God and love others – to serve God and to serve others. This archer did God’s will, but there is no indication he received God’s blessing for doing it. God will get the glory out of your life one way or the other. The question is not whether God will be glorified – the question is whether you will get the tremendous blessing of having a part in that glory.

And a certain man drew a bow at a venture, and smote the king of Israel between the joints of the harness: wherefore he said unto the driver of his chariot, Turn thine hand, and carry me out of the host; for I am wounded. And the battle increased that day: and the king was stayed up in his chariot against the Syrians, and died at even: and the blood ran out of the wound into the midst of the chariot. And there went a proclamation throughout the host about the going down of the sun, saying, Every man to his city, and every man to his own country. So the king died, and was brought to Samaria; and they buried the king in Samaria. And one washed the chariot in the pool of Samaria; and the dogs licked up his blood; and they washed his armour; according unto the word of the LORD which he spake.

I Kings 22:34-38

This is the Poignant Payment. Just as the dogs had licked the blood of Naboth, so they licked the blood of King Ahab. But what about Jezebel?

Ahab’s son became king, and Jezebel pulled his strings the way she had pulled Ahab’s. He also worshiped Baal, and was a wicked king… and years passed. Elisha replaced Elijah. Then, one day God told Elisha that Jehu, the chariot driver, was to be anointed king.

And when thou comest thither, look out there Jehu the son of Jehoshaphat the son of Nimshi, and go in, and make him arise up from among his brethren, and carry him to an inner chamber;

II Kings 9:2 (emphasis added)

Jehu rode down on the palace in Jezreel, and, after killing Ahab’s wicked son, he looked up at Jezebel, the painted and poisonous puppeteer.

… and said, Who is on my side? who? And there looked out to him two or three eunuchs. And he said, Throw her down. So they threw her down: and some of her blood was sprinkled on the wall, and on the horses: and he trode her under foot. And when he was come in, he did eat and drink, and said, Go, see now this cursed woman, and bury her: for she is a king’s daughter. And they went to bury her: but they found no more of her than the skull, and the feet, and the palms of her hands. Wherefore they came again, and told him. And he said, This is the word of the LORD, which he spake by his servant Elijah the Tishbite, saying, In the portion of Jezreel shall dogs eat the flesh of Jezebel:

II Kings 9:32-36

Why did God make the penalty for the sins of Ahab and Jezebel so poignant? We might say that God was pleased with the symmetry of it. Sometimes, as in the case of Absalom’s hair (II Samuel 14:26 and 18:9), God just decides to make the punishment fit the crime in a ghastly humorous way.

When Elijah was announcing God’s punishment to Ahab, he told him:

Behold, I will bring evil upon thee, and will take away thy posterity, and will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel,

I Kings 21:21

Most Bible versions other than the King James Version speak of the punishment of all the “male” followers of Ahab, but that is not the correct translation. The King James Version gets this right and retains the true context. Ahab and Jezebel did not see Naboth’s vineyard as God’s property. They saw it as belonging to whomever was powerful enough or sneaky enough to get it. So they marked it as theirs – the way a dog marks his territory against a wall. The poignant penalty is when God takes our vain attempts to dishonor Him, and our foolish boasting that we can somehow spite Him and get away with it, and He turns them into our own shame and disgrace. Be very careful about what you try to mark as “your” territory in this life. If we are trying to keep some things from God, He may just decide to take those things away, so we will have more time, energy, focus, attention, and love for Him.

The Punctual Punishment

God’s judgment may seem late or slow to us, or it may seem terribly swift, but the fact is – it is always right on time. The devil arises. His agents arise, and pull the strings of the lost. (Lost people are the devil’s puppets. See Ephesians 2:2.) God’s servants arise to proclaim His warnings and judgments. Finally, God ARISES.

Ahab got three years. Jezebel got many more. But the payment came due – and it was only a down payment. Jezebel is paying for all eternity. If you are not right with God, you have to ask yourself how close is God’s judgment from coming to you right now? It will not be tardy; it will not fail. One day everyone who has ever lived is going to confess the truth about God: that He is worthy of honor and obedience. Would you rather God have you by the heart or by the throat? II Corinthians 6:2 says now is the accepted time. “Behold, now is the day of salvation.” Fling yourself on the mercy of Christ this instant.

When in Rome, Preach to the Romans

December 15, 2009 at 2:12 pm | Posted in Acts | 6 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Acts Chapter 24 tells us that Ananias followed Paul to Caesarea with his lawyer, Tertullus. There, they brought false charges against Paul under Roman law. The charges were as follows:

1. Disturbing the peace (being a pest by preaching the only way to true peace).
2. Sedition by leading an illegal religion (being a true Christian).
3. Profaning the temple (being friends with gentiles).

The Jews were afraid of a revival, but they wanted the Romans to fear a riot.

This was Paul’s summation:

Or else let these same here say, if they have found any evil doing in me, while I stood before the council, Except it be for this one voice, that I cried standing among them, Touching the resurrection of the dead I am called in question by you this day. And when Felix heard these things, having more perfect knowledge of that way, he deferred them, and said, When Lysias the chief captain shall come down, I will know the uttermost of your matter.

Acts 24:20-21

He brought up the Resurrection, which forced the Pharisees’ hand, and we see that Felix had some knowledge of “the Way.”

Paul was given certain liberties, but he was chained to a new Roman guard every six hours. Talk about a “captive congregation!” For two years he witnessed for the Lord in Caesarea as a prisoner.

He also got a chance to preach to Felix and Drusilla. Before them, he explained a fact of life that we don’t often call by its real name anymore. We tend to call it mistakes, weaknesses, tendencies, faults, errors, immaturity, or illness. But its real name is sin. Felix was convicted and he trembled, but he decided to procrastinate. Procrastination is one of Satan’s greatest tools. Felix thought Paul was his prisoner, but Felix was really the prisoner.

By Chapter 25 Felix had put the high priest, Jonathan, to death. The new high priest was Ishmael. Festus had replaced Felix as governor. Festus had to report to Marshal Dillon. (Sorry, I grew up watching Gunsmoke, and couldn’t resist!) Ishmael and the Jewish council revived the plot to kill Paul, so they wanted him returned to Jerusalem for his trial. They were going to kill him on the way there. However, Paul – as a Roman citizen – applied to Caesar Augustus (who we know as Nero), so he had to be protected and taken to Rome.

The last “King Herod” (Agrippa) shows up (possibly in an incestuous relationship with his sister, Bernice), and he and Festus decide that Herod will examine Paul. But Paul turned into the judge and proclaimed the Truth to Festus, Herod, Bernice, and everyone else in attendance. This is the longest of Paul’s sermons recorded in the Bible. It is found in Acts 25:32 – 26:32. Here is a loose outline of it:

1. Paul used to be very religious.
2. His eyes were opened by the Light.
3. His ears were opened by the Word.
4. He obeyed the Word.
5. He began his new life by seeing a vision and hearing a voice, but he had continued faithfully as a willing slave – even when things seemed impossible.

Festus accused Paul of being “beside himself,” and King Agrippa mocked him. However, we must wonder if this mocking was covering up an inside struggle when he said:

…Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.

Acts 26:28 (emphasis added)

Do you know somebody who thinks he or she is too wicked to be a Christian?

Paul was officially declared not guilty, but still had to be sent to Rome by virtue of his appeal to Caesar. Chapter 27 shows that Satan very badly wanted to keep Paul out of Rome. Paul had already survived plots to kill him, riots, arrests, two illegal trials, and now a shipwreck!

Paul advised that they wait in Fair Havens for safer sailing after the winter, but the Roman captain listened to the pilot and the owner – the “experts.” (Warren Wiersbe says that an “expert” is a regular “spurt” under pressure.) These experts were under pressure to deliver grain and make money.

Even in Acts 28, Satan is still not done – he sends a snake to bite Paul on Malta! When Paul doesn’t die, he is tempted in the area of pride by people who want to worship him. Satan is pulling out all the stops.

For two years Paul was chained to Roman soldiers in Rome, witnessing, preaching, and being used to write Philippians, Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon. He was probably released, and he probably went to Spain where he was used to write I and II Timothy, and Titus. He was arrested again in A.D. 67, and tradition says he was beheaded. The Gospel he preached and lived so passionately lives on, and it always will.

Next Page »


Entries and comments feeds.