Men Rise and Fall, but the Lord Reigns Forever

January 14, 2010 at 9:24 am | Posted in Genesis | 3 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Few Bible patriarchs can match the sheer magnitude of Noah’s heroism. When every thought and imagination of all the men in the world was only evil continually, Noah alone found grace in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:5-8). Our highest praise is not given to Noah, whose righteousness saved the human race. Our highest praise is reserved for God, Who, by grace, created a righteousness in Noah that allowed him to be used by God.

The years that followed were tough for Noah. Certainly he was ridiculed and ostracized as he and his sons labored to build an ark. Surely he experienced some moments of fear and doubt as God ripped open the crust of the earth and released the flood waters beneath, while also pouring down torrents from above. It would not be a stretch to suppose that Noah felt anxiety at times as he and his family and the animals were shut up in the ark for well over a year while God purged the world of external wickedness.

We might even imagine that Noah, seeing all the promises of God come true, and being the ultimate obedient survivor of the world’s greatest catastrophe, would have gone on to live victoriously, never failing to wait upon the Lord, nor to do His will. We know from Genesis Chapter Nine, however, that this was not the case.

And Noah began to be an husbandman, and he planted a vineyard: And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without.

Genesis 9:20-22

Men who are in danger, and are totally dependent upon God’s grace and mercy every moment, tend to have an easier time resisting sin. It is when a man begins to think that he is mighty – and that his past service to the Lord has earned him a special license to serve the flesh – that he is most prone to fall. Beware of the notion that God, just because He has decided to use you in a great way, will allow you to sin successfully.

The Author of the Story that Never Ends

January 13, 2010 at 9:58 am | Posted in Eternity, Hebrews | 17 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

An eternal relationship with Jesus Christ is not only the result of salvation; it is also the means. He is not only the “Life.” He is also the “Way” (John 14:6). In fact, Jesus Christ is the Originator of the plan of, and the Author of the very idea of, salvation.

Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

Hebrews 12:2

People who claim that eternal salvation, once it is granted by Christ to someone, can somehow be “lost,” have not fully grasped just how powerful the Savior is. The only way for a recipient of eternal life to experience spiritual death, or separation from God, is for the Savior Himself to lose His Own eternal life. This can never happen. When Jesus Christ saves a lost person, that person is saved completely. He is saved to an extent that the Bible calls the “uttermost.”

Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.

Hebrews 7:25

We all have trouble from time to time depending upon the promises of God. However, we must be extremely careful never to build a theological argument which posits that God Himself is unable to do what He says, or that He is undependable. In at least three very specific instances the Bible tells us that God can not lie.

God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

Numbers 23:19

In hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began;

Titus 1:2

That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us:

Hebrews 6:18

Big Words of the Christian Life: Justification (Part 2)

January 12, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Posted in big words of the Christian life | 8 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Last time, we looked at God’s Motive in justification:
1. There was no other way for sinners to be made righteous, unless God Himself did it.
2. He did it for His Own glory.

We also examined the Meaning for justification: It is the act of God, Who, by grace, declares sinners who have believed on Jesus Christ to be righteous.

For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

II Corinthians 5:21

That’s an even more Biblical definition of Justification. God made Jesus to be sin for you and me, even though Jesus Himself never sinned, so that we might be made the righteousness of God in Jesus.

Here is an illustration I am borrowing from Roy Gustafson and Warren Wiersbe: Let’s say you decide to buy a Rolls Royce. You think to yourself, “Well, I spent a fortune, but I don’t care, because everyone knows that Rolls Royces don’t ever break down. Therefore, I won’t ever have to see a repair shop again.” However, sure enough, you do start to have car trouble one day. So, you call the dealership and immediately a mechanic arrives and fixes the car. Days and then weeks go by, and after a while you get worried about the cost of the repair, and, tiring of the dread, you are anxious for them to send you the bill. You call Rolls Royce, Inc., but they tell you, “We have no record anywhere in our files that anything ever went wrong with a Rolls Royce.” We might say that, when God justifies a lost sinner, there’s no longer an “official record” of that sinner ever having sinned.

Curtis Hutson illustrates this another way, by comparing God’s imputation of righteousness and willful “forgetting” of sins to the “clear” button on a microwave oven that lets you start over if you programmed in 30 minutes, when you only meant to program in 30 seconds. He says that God has a divine “forgetter.”

Having said all that, however, I do want to address a couple of misconceptions about justification. The purpose of this lesson is to try to make Justification very simple to understand, but remember, the deeper into theology we go, the more practical it gets.

It is important to know if you’ve been justified, and it is important to know what it means to have been justified, and it is important to live like you’ve been justified. Justification does not really mean that it is “just as if” you never sinned. Justification declares you righteous before God – it takes away the record of your sins. But remember, it is a legal, forensic term. When my wife and I got married, we were legally declared married when somebody said, “I now pronounce you man and wife.” But nothing physically changed about us at that instant. Justification is an event – it happens in an instant. There are other “big words” in the Christian life which are part of a process – such as “sanctification” – but the record of your sin, at the moment of true salvation, is really and truly covered with the blood of Jesus under the doctrine of Justification. Your slate is then “clean,” but your slate is not then “blank.” God is not, from that time on, watching and waiting, without knowing, to see whether you will ever sin again. No, He already knows you will sin after being justified. Therefore, we need to remember that Justification declares you to be, not only redeemed from the price of sin, but actually righteous before God. That is even better than “just as if” you never sinned.

Let’s review:
1. The Motive for Justification: We were meritless sinners with no hope for righteousness outside of God’s Own righteousness somehow being imputed to us.
2. The Meaning of Justification: It is the act of God whereby He, by grace, declares sinners who have believed on Jesus Christ to be righteous.

Now, let’s examine at the Method of Justification, meaning how it’s done – how God ordained it to be. We want to know why there is justification, what is justification, and how justification works. These inquiries mirror three of life’s biggest questions for every one of us: Why am I here? Who put me here? How did He do it?

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

Job 9:2

Supposedly, the ancient philosopher Socrates, after much deep consideration, once said to his protege’ Plato: “It may be that God can forgive sin, but I don’t see how…” He was describing a real problem. God is just. We have sinned. God forgives sinners. But where did His justice go? Or: God is love. God gives us justice. But where did His love go?

Justification is God’s glorious solution to this problem. It cancels our sin debt, but not by having God overlook it.

Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Romans 3:24

God’s justification and our redemption are by grace, not by merit. God did not see something in us worthy of justification. He justifies because He is the God of grace. He is not lonely. He is not frustrated. He is not lacking in worshipers. He needs nothing outside of His Triune Self to be complete and satisfied. The word translated “freely” in Romans 3:24 means “without a cause.” It describes the same idea behind the way the Jewish and Roman authorities tried, convicted, and killed Jesus: “without a cause.” There was no cause in Him for Him to be punished. There is no cause in us for us to be pardoned or saved – much less justified and given God’s righteousness and the standing we are given.

I want you to cancel the idea that you are basically a good person, or that God saw something in you that could really be useful, or that He finally got you to start acting the way you ought to act so that He could save you. NO! Salvation – redemption – regeneration – justification – is of the LORD!

So, Justification is by grace, and now we will see the other part of the Method of justification: it is through faith. And if it is through faith, it can not be of works.

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 3:20

Oh, how the carnal man hates to hear this! He says, “But it MUST depend in some way on what I can do. I will accept God’s grace, but can’t I add some of my works to it? Surely I can’t admit that I am totally incapable of helping myself in any way.”

Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.

Romans 3:27-28

Now we see that Justification is all God – His grace, received by faith – nothing good inherently in us – nothing good we were able to do. But what about God’s holiness and justice? The Bible says that sin charges a debt, and that debt must be paid. The answer to this dilemma is that Justification is the act of God’s grace, appropriated by faith ALONE – in the blood of His OWN SON.

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him.

Romans 5:8-9

God poured out His wrath for my sins, but His Son took it in my place. The debt that was owed for my sins was paid – but Jesus Christ the Righteous is the One Who paid – and He paid it in full! “It is finished,” He said, and, because He was telling the Truth, I live! I have eternal Life. I am justified before God!

I not only can try to tell you what Justification means – I have had it happen to me personally. The devil accuses me of sin – I accuse myself of sin – you can accuse me of sin if you want. But when God hears the accusation and looks in His divine account books for the record of my sin, He does not see it there. The record He sees is the record of His Own dear Son coming up out of that empty tomb, with nail prints in His wrists, saying, “Paid in Full.
God says, “I have no legal record of the sins of the accused. He’s My child, My son. He’s RIGHT with Me – JUSTIFIED.

If that is your testimony, too, you need to stop listening to whomever or whatever is telling you that you are still guilty. If your testimony is that, “I really didn’t realize that justification is the gracious of act of God. I’ve been trusting in myself or my deeds or works,” then forsake that right now. Believe that Jesus Christ paid for your sins in full, and call upon Him to save you. You, too, can be Justified.

Next time, we will look at the marks of justification.

Trouble at the Threshold

January 11, 2010 at 10:16 am | Posted in Zephaniah | 4 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I have a pet peeve about people stepping on the thresholds of doorways in my home. Normally, there is some sort of rubberized weather seal in the doorways that lead outdoors, and the more these seals are stepped on, the more they are damaged and the more drafts of air they let in and out of the house, driving up my heating and cooling costs. Normally, when someone steps on the seals going in or out (and people almost always do it), I will just let it slide. However, there are a certain group of people who visit my home fairly regularly, and these particular people absolutely LOVE going in and out of the house constantly. Not only that, but they make it a point to ALWAYS give a good stomp down on the weather seals in my doorways. And – I kid you not – their favorite place to STAND while they are visiting my home is RIGHT IN the doorways. They will get a cup of coffee or a snack, and mosey on over to the door, open it up, place their feet squarely on the weather seal, and just rock contently back and forth with their full weight pressing down. Sometimes I joke with my wife that I’m going to post Verse 9 of Zephaniah Chapter 1 on the wall by the doors when these folks come to visit: “In the same day also will I punish all those that leap on the threshold, which fill their masters’ houses with violence and deceit.”

Actually, though, the phrase “leap on the threshold” in that verse really means “jump over the doorway.” There was a Philistine tradition against doing this in the place where the false god Dagon was worshiped because of what had happened in I Samuel 5. Zephaniah 1:9 also means that the ungodly Jewish priests leaped at the chance to confiscate lands from the poor, and to give them to the temples of the false gods.

Understanding that helps us better understand Zephaniah 1:11: “Howl, ye inhabitants of Maktesh, for all the merchant people are cut down; all they that bear silver are cut off.”

The howling in pain would not just be because the market district would be destroyed. “Maktesh” has a double meaning. It also means “mortar,” which is a bowl, or a conclave in the ground near Jerusalem, and a place where things are ground to bits. The bowl just holds objects. God does the grinding, the crushing.

Zephaniah Chapter 2 goes on to describe the day of judgment against the gentiles.

Woe unto the inhabitants of the sea coast, the nation of the Cherethites! the word of the LORD is against you; O Canaan, the land of the Philistines, I will even destroy thee, that there shall be no inhabitant.

Zephaniah 2:5

This is God’s way of saying, “I have a warrant out for you.” We want to warn the lost that the Word of the Lord will be against them if they do not repent.

Zephaniah closes out his prophecy in Chapter 3 with words of comfort, which is common with the Old Testament prophets. God never leaves His people without comfort.

The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies; neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth: for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid.

Zephaniah 3:13

God tells the people that, when He has removed their sin, they will find comfort in fearing Him – and no one else will make them afraid. This applies not only to the Jews, but also to gentiles. God’s people will be converted into “one people” – truly one nation under Christ.

For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent.

Zephaniah 3:9

Oh, Do Remember Me…

January 7, 2010 at 11:03 am | Posted in Biblical Remembering, Luke | 13 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

As human beings get older, one of the inevitabilities of life is that the memory starts to fade. However, the Lord God, although He is ageless, infinite, and eternal, without beginning or end, has no trouble remembering.

We would do well to keep this in mind when we pray. There are two people in Scripture who had very little in common aside from the fact that they both called upon the Lord to remember them in their time of trouble. These are: (1) Hannah, the eventual mother of the prophet Samuel; and (2) one of the thieves who was crucified next to Christ Jesus.

This was Hannah’s prayer:

And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but wilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head.

I Samuel 1:11 (emphasis added)

This was the dying thief’s prayer:

And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom.

Luke 23:42 (emphasis added)

Both of these prayers acknowledged the power of God to deliver. They both acknowledged the supplicant’s submission, and God’s deity, calling Him Lord. They both were made in desperate circumstances. Both called upon the Lord to remember. And both prayers were answered.

It is easier for some to remember the Lord in times of great distress, for then they are forced to see Him as their only hope. It is easier for others to remember the Lord when things are going well, and to rely on their own faculties when things turn dire. The former situation is a problem of ingratitude, and the latter is a problem of faithlessness. Thankfully, His remembrance of His children is not as variable as our remembrance of Him. Perhaps the solution is to resolve to emulate Hannah, and repay the Lord’s remembrance of us by dedicating to His service the gifts He gives us, and to imitate the thief on the cross by setting our sights on God’s kingdom, and not our own.

The Big Announcement

January 6, 2010 at 9:46 am | Posted in Luke, Salvation | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

I have an exciting announcement to make! This announcement is better than lower gas prices. It’s better than a new baby in the family. It’s better than a cure for cancer! In fact, it is an announcement that was made a long time ago.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

Luke 2:10

If you understand the consequences of sin (despair, destruction, death, and damnation), then this announcement is the best tiding of greatest joy you could possibly hear. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners (I Timothy 1:15)! You can, by believing the Truth of the Bible, and by placing your faith and trust in Him, be reconciled to God, and escape eternal punishment (Matthew 25:46)!

One Year Athe-versary

January 5, 2010 at 11:17 am | Posted in ProfessingAtheists | 1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

This post is a couple of days late, but, in celebration of the one year anniversary of this blog (which actually started on January 3, 2009), I have decided to re-post the post which has been by far my most-read post. It is one in a series of posts which make up an ongoing dialogue between a Christian and a professing atheist.

Professing Atheists Worship Creation Rather Than the Creator

Professing Atheist: I would challenge any Christian to step out side of the Christian “box” and just for a moment consider the vast scientific evidence regarding the origins of the universe and of life.

Christian: Since you have brought up scientific evidence, this may be helpful: Little children, in elementary school, are commonly taught the “scientific method.” I know it’s more complicated than this, but, basically it boils down to teaching them to take matter and examine its properties, and learn about it, using their natural senses. Touch it. Look at it. Smell it. Taste it. I’m not opposed to children being taught that way, but think of the spiritual implications. In Genesis Chap. 27, Isaac employed a form of the scientific method with Jacob. Jacob and Rebekah plotted to deceive Isaac into thinking that Jacob was Esau. Isaac touched him. He listened to him. He couldn’t see him but, no doubt, he smelled him. And he came to the wrong conclusion! It would have been better for Isaac just to believe God’s promise by faith, that Jacob, although the younger, and not Esau, was to receive the blessing.

Professing Atheist: Have you ever been in an aircraft? If so, the fact that you landed again is because a large number of scientists kept working and improving things until they got their sums right. Evidence matters. Planes fly, diseases are cured, water comes out when you turn the tap on, and you and I can argue in cyberspace like this. You benefit from real, evidence-based science as much as I do. It’s hypocritical of you to dismiss it.

Would you say that (for example) Iranians and pagan Vikings would be “without excuse” if they “failed to acknowledge” God?

Christian: Hypocrisy is being grateful for the benefits of evidence-based science while ignoring God, who created all the scientific laws that the aviators, doctors, and engineers have discovered (John 1:3). Every time your heart beats, it is not thanks to cardiology or cardiologists. It is thanks to God, Who has caused it to beat, by His sovereign power, your whole life. When you expel the next breath of air from your nostrils, you will have hope of another breath, not because a scientist discovered evidence of the air you breath, but because God provides it (Isaiah 2:22).

You can check this out by climbing up on a roof. Shake your fist, and cry out, “I don’t believe you exist, Gravity! You can’t be real! If you were real, you would not have held all those Norsemen and Iranians down! You would have let them float away in true freedom! Therefore, I defy, O Gravity, that you exist!” Then, leap off the roof. (By the way, I do not recommend that you really try this.) But if you did, you would see that, if you break God’s law of gravity, then God’s law of gravity will break you – literally. It’s the same way with God’s Biblical laws. You can break them if you want. But, if you do, they will break you (Galatians 6:7)

Professing Atheist: Well, I have other, more worthwhile calls on my time, but the Devil can quote scripture, as they say, so here I go. You will be as familiar with John 3:16 as I am, or as any of those people who hold up placards at wrestling matches. You would, I feel sure, assert that God’s purpose to all humanity, in sending his Son to die for us, is loving and merciful. Tell me, what do you believe that loving and merciful God, and gentle Jesus, meek and mild, have in store for these billions of people, all ignorant, in my humble opinion, through no fault of their own?

Christian: When considering the decision to accept, or willfully reject, the truth of the existence of God, it is irrelevant what anyone “thinks” would produce results, or what anyone’s humble “opinion” is – apart from Scripture.

I hope that the more worthwhile calls on your time do not include actually going to the wrestling matches where the John 3:16 placards are held. You are coming to that verse in isolation, not taking into account the entirety of Scripture. These Iranians and Vikings you mention – just like me, and just like you, and just like everyone else – are wicked sinners, who deserve God’s judgment (Romans 3:10; 3:23). Because He is loving and merciful, He sent His Son to die. Because He is just, righteous, true, and holy, He must judge those Who reject His Son.

(The other posts in the series – which received some attention, but were not nearly as popular as the one posted above – can be viewed here:)

Atheists Aren’t Real
Professing Atheists Are in Denial
Professing Atheists Are Disturbed by the Truth
Professing Atheists Fear the Bible
Professing Atheists Try To Allay Their Fears
Professing Atheists Understand More of the Bible Than They Want To Admit
Professing Atheists Are Incapable of Being “Good”
Professing Atheists Conveniently Pick and Choose Their Own “Morality”
Professing Atheists Do Have Faith
Professing Atheists Are Affected by Their Past
Professing Atheists Are Angry at God
Professing Atheists Pretend They Would Like God If He Could Be Controlled
Professing Atheists Despise the Idea of Answering To Their Creator
Professing Atheists Are Blind to Their Own Lack of Objectivity
Acting Like We’ve Been There

Their Ark Was Bigger than Their Bite

January 4, 2010 at 1:36 pm | Posted in Genesis | 6 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Noah’s ark is a good picture of how the Christian life is supposed to work. The Christian is a ship and the “world” (this world’s system which opposes Christ) is the sea. A ship’s proper place is on the sea. Christians must operate in this world, and not be isolated in “dry-dock.” As long as a ship is “on top” of the sea, everything is fine. The trouble comes when the sea gets inside a ship. When that happens, the ship begins to ride low in the water, and does not operate efficiently. Eventually (and sometimes very rapidly), more and more water starts to get into the ship, and it finally goes under and sinks to the bottom. Christians should be “on top” of the world, but we must not let the world “get into” us. If we do, we will make a shipwreck of our life and our faith.

And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made: And he sent forth a raven, which went forth to and fro, until the waters were dried up from off the earth. Also he sent forth a dove from him, to see if the waters were abated from off the face of the ground; But the dove found no rest for the sole of her foot, and she returned unto him into the ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth: then he put forth his hand, and took her, and pulled her in unto him into the ark.

Genesis 8:6-9

The raven did not come back when the dove did, because the raven was comfortable floating on dead carcasses and eating them.

And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, upon all that moveth upon the earth, and upon all the fishes of the sea; into your hand are they delivered. Every moving thing that liveth shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given you all things.

Genesis 9:2-3

Now men would hunt and eat animals, and the animals would fear men.

« Previous Page


Entries and comments feeds.