Are You Struggling?

February 18, 2013 at 10:13 am | Posted in Biblical Violence, Matthew, Salvation | 4 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , ,

And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.

Matthew 11:12

Are you struggling to believe the truth about your sin? You need to know that the Bible says that your sin is against God (Romans 3:23; Psalm 51:4), and that God, Who is just, righteous, and holy, will not let your sin go unpunished.

Have you faced the truth about eternity? Your life here on earth will not be the extent of your existence. Your soul is going to leave your body when you die, and you are going to face God, Who will either welcome you into Heaven or cast you into hell.

Do you find it difficult to believe the Bible’s promise that the gift of salvation is a free gift that you must receive by grace through faith alone? You cannot earn it or pay for it or add anything of your own merit to it, and you do not deserve it.

If you are struggling with any or all of these truths, do not give up. Believing in Christ can be a time of violent struggle for many people. You will either struggle violently to get away from the drawing power of the Holy Spirit, or you will submit and be drawn to repent of your sin, and trust Christ. You may even be struggling violently against your own pride, or peer pressure, or some lie which has led you to believe you don’t need a Savior because you are not in trouble.

The fact is we are all sinners. We all deserve God’s wrath. None of us deserve to go to Heaven.

He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

Mark 16:16

The Kingdom of Heaven will suffer (“put up with”) your violence if you have the attitude of a desperate sinner in desperate need of a Savior. Salvation is a gift that Christ offers to you, but an offer alone does not make a gift. An offer must be received to be a gift. Will you receive it today?

The Men Who Worked on Skyscrapers

October 17, 2012 at 9:42 am | Posted in Salvation | 6 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

And Jacob was left alone; and there wrestled a man with him until the breaking of the day. And when he saw that he prevailed not against him, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and the hollow of Jacob’s thigh was out of joint, as he wrestled with him. And he said, Let me go, for the day breaketh. And he said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed. And Jacob asked him, and said, Tell me, I pray thee, thy name. And he said, Wherefore is it that thou dost ask after my name? And he blessed him there. And Jacob called the name of the place Peniel: for I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved. And as he passed over Penuel the sun rose upon him, and he halted upon his thigh. Therefore the children of Israel eat not of the sinew which shrank, which is upon the hollow of the thigh, unto this day: because he touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew that shrank.

Genesis 32:24-32

There are regulations in place these days for the safety of men who work on skyscrapers. They are required to be harnessed. They wear straps and belts and they follow rules designed to make sure that they are not in real danger of falling. But it was not always so.

lunch-atop-a-skyscraper

Years and years ago, the men who built the skyscrapers that make up the skyline of big cities like New York and Chicago and Houston had a special knack for working at dizzying and terrifying heights. They became so accustomed to walking on beams and girders with nothing to hold onto for balance, that they hardly noticed anymore the perilous conditions under which they existed every day.

https://i1.wp.com/www.andresugai.org/Materias/lewisHine/imagem2.jpg

They strode back and forth, over and around, in and out of the maze of the steel frameworks that extended 50, 60, 100 stories into the sky. They no longer noticed the gusts of wind, the creaking of the infrastructure, the shadows and glaring sunlight. You may have seen this picture of the construction workers balanced on each end of a suspended beam, eating their lunch in midair, as if they were on a bench at the park and not precariously balanced thousands of feet from a gruesome mortality.

https://i1.wp.com/cache2.artprintimages.com/p/MED/51/5105/WRFEG00Z/art-print/workers-sitting-on-steel-beam.jpg

They became sure-footed without thinking about it and forgot about the danger. Until one day. Once in a while, one of these workers would be strolling at a rapid clip, a riveting gun in one hand, his lunch pail in the other hand, and his work boot would slide on a loose bolt, maybe a piece of paper from the foreman’s plans, maybe a tiny puddle of water, and suddenly – his arms began to pinwheel – he teetered out into the abyss – and like a bolt of lightning he suddenly realized where he was and what was happening. This fall would not result in a skinned knee or even a bloody nose crunching into the ground. No, this fall would result in 60 seconds of gut-wrenching screaming, followed by certain death. His co-workers wouldn’t even be able to identify anything except the greasy spot and a pock-mark in the earth. Desperately, he reaches out – for something – for anything – and he seizes hold of a nearby girder. He holds this girder in a death-grip. His whole world has taken a seismic shift, and his reality has narrowed to one thing and one thing only: DO NOT LET GO OF THIS BEAM.

Completely gone is the sure-footed, fearless skywalker. No more careless disregard for the height. His friends come to his rescue, but they are utterly unable to pry his fingers from the beam. He is stark white, fixated on the distance to the earth below, and his hands have cleaved unto the life-saving girder. Eventually, his fingers must be pried loose with a crow-bar, breaking several of them. He will never scale a skyscraper again. He will never be the same.

When I was younger I was like those construction workers who worked on skyscrapers. But my paths were not beams of steel 80 stories above the ground. My paths were the paths of sin. I grew up in a part of the country where men solved their problems at the bottom of a bottle or at the end of a fist. And I was well on my way to being just like them. I was extremely well-acquainted and sure-footed with sin. I lied just because I liked to lie. I had thoughts about girls – and would have made those thoughts a reality if I could – that were so wicked and perverse that if I told anyone the least offensive of those thoughts, no one would ever be my friend or speak to me again. I would hurt anyone that I could – including my parents, grandparents, teachers, and friends – if I could get an advantage by doing so. I loved me more than anyone else and I gave all my worship to me. I would have told you I believed in God, but I had made up a god with my own mind who could help me out on report card day and keep me from getting in too much trouble, but who really didn’t mind my sin all that much, and who thought I was a pretty swell fellow. In my imagination he was keeping track of my good deeds versus my bad deeds to see if I could go to heaven one day, but I was pretty sure that he would slip his finger on the scale on the day of judgment to get me in, because, after all, heaven just wouldn’t be heaven without me there.

I don’t want to give you the impression that I was noble in my sin, either. I was not like Robin Hood, robbing from the rich to give to the poor, or like James Dean, struggling against a society that just didn’t “get me.” Most of my sins – I thought – were secret, so I can’t brag about how “tough” or even “rebellious” I was when it came to authority figures. But one day, I heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and my foot slipped on the blood which had poured down Calvary onto the beam of my sin. And, clutching desperately, I grabbed for Jesus, and I have never let go. It is His strength that strengthens my hands and fingers. Now I do not walk with a physical limp like Jacob, but I am no longer completely “in-step” with the ways of this world. When I am yielded to the Spirit there is something different about my “walk” that should be noticeable to others. Jesus allowed me to grab hold of Him, wrestle with Him, and get the “blessing.” But my world has never tilted back. We must see what we need to be saved from. We must see the One Who can save us. We must reach out without pride – with our sense of self-sufficiency completely broken. And we must never forget what we were leaning and wheeling toward when He caught us and saved us.

If you’ve never had a moment like that, then how are you going to love Him? How are you going to see Him for Who He really is? How are you going to see yourself for who you really are? And how are you going to serve Him when nobody else is? Jacob dared to wrestle with the Lord because He was scared, and the Lord let him prevail and blessed him. Your sin ought to cause you to wrestle with God, not flee from Him.

I Can Tell the Future

September 21, 2012 at 9:05 am | Posted in Salvation | 5 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I’m going to tell you something surprising: I can tell the future… Well, not “the” future. Not everything about the future, but one thing that will happen to every single one of us in the future. The event that I know is in the future of every single person reading this is that, one day, we will all stand before the Lord.

But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God.

Romans 14:10-12

I am very blessed because I know exactly what’s going to happen to me after I die. But here is where my ability to see the future becomes limited. I know that I will stand before the Lord with my sins forgiven – with the crucified and resurrected Jesus Christ having paid for my sins. I know that my future is a future I do not deserve, even though it is a glorious future – because of God’s grace. But I can’t say the same for you. I hope and pray that your future is just as glorious, but the thing I know about myself – yet cannot know for sure about anyone else – is with Whom I will stand before the Lord.

Will you answer this question about yourself right now? When you stand before the Lord, will you stand there with your sin? Or with His Son?

Those are your only two choices. Those who stand there with their sin – uncovered by the blood of Jesus – will not be forgiven. If you are in that category on that day, it will not matter how many good deeds, fine works, church activities, baptisms, confessions, memberships, or whatever else you may try to use as a covering for your sin. It will not matter how you try to polish your sin, so it compares favorably, or doesn’t look so bad next to someone else’s sin. No, if you stand before the Lord with your sin, and without His Son, your future is an eternity of everlasting torment in the place commonly referred to as hell. That’s not anyone’s “opinion” or “position.” That’s the TRUTH – spelled out clearly and plainly – so that a child can understand it – in the Bible.

Personally, I like knowing that my future home is in Heaven and not in hell. That’s right, I said I “know” it. The Bible says that the way to be saved is to realize and admit that you are a sinner, to repent and believe that Jesus Christ died for your sins, to believe that He was resurrected and that He lives forever, and to trust Him to save you.

The kind of belief that believes unto salvation is different than how we usually use the word “believe.” See, I believe I have some milk at home in the refrigerator. I saw almost a whole gallon in there before I left this morning. It should still be there when I get home. I’m not going to stop on the way home today and get some milk, because I believe I’ve already got some. I don’t believe milk just disappears. I don’t believe it can get up and walk away. I don’t think – even if somebody is burglarizing my house right now – they are going to steal an opened gallon of milk from my fridge. But is it possible that now, three hours later, I’m having a false memory and I really looked in the fridge yesterday instead of today? I believe that milk is going to be there, but I’m not staking my eternal soul on it. I’m staking my eternal soul on what God tells me about it.

And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved…

Acts 16:31

The Crisis

August 31, 2012 at 11:38 am | Posted in Biblical Doctoring, Salvation, The Great White Throne | 8 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

I once heard a preacher say to his congregation: “You are in the Bible.” This is a strange statement because the events that are recorded in the Bible, for the most part, took place thousands of years ago. What he meant was that you might very well be one of the ones standing in the crowd described in this passage of Scripture:

And I saw a great white throne, and him that sat on it, from whose face the earth and the heaven fled away; and there was found no place for them. And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.

Revelation 20:11-14 (emphasis added)

Obviously, if you are reading this, you are not yet among the “dead,” and I pray that you will never go to face God before His Great White Throne in judgment, but we must deal clearly and directly with that possibility.

You may have heard preachers say that you can find yourself in the Bible in another, less-frightening place. They will tell you that you can insert your own name in this well-known Bible verse:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that [insert your name here] should not perish, but have everlasting life.

John 3:16

The words that are supposed to be replaced by your name are “whosoever believeth in him,” referring to believing in Jesus Christ. If you will believe the truth about Jesus Christ and call upon Him to save you from the just punishment for your sins against God, then He will give you eternal life. If you will be the “whosoever” of John 3:16, you can avoid being the other kind of “whosoever:”

And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.

Revelation 20:15

Being unsure about any of this should bring you to a crisis. A crisis is a critical, crucial moment. It is when you come to a fork in the road of your life and you have to make a decision to go one way or the other. Going back is not an option and standing still is not an option.

Here’s an example: Pretend you are in the doctor’s office. You have been there many times before – for checkups and for minor treatments. Usually it is routine. Every once in a while you get some medicine, or at worst a mildly painful injection, but you always leave the doctor’s office with the hope that everything is okay – that you are going to get better. But this time it’s different. Instead of the doctor telling you it’ll be okay, he is very serious. His voice almost shakes and this scares you. He is telling you something you have never heard before and never expected to hear in a million years. He says you have a terrible disease – it is all over you – it has invaded your body and will eat you alive – and you will die. He goes on to explain some of the details about your condition. He has test results. He has x-rays, and they show that your body is black with this disease. He is trying to tell you there is a chance to survive – but only one chance. You must have surgery right now – right this minute – no thinking it over, no talking to your family and friends, no second opinion. Get to the emergency room right now and submit to being cut open – or die.

Now you see the meaning of a crisis: only two choices. No standing still, no waiting, no going back. Trust your life to a surgeon or die. Could you accept such a diagnosis? Or would you begin to hesitate? “I can’t be as sick as he says. I feel fine physically. I am strong. I am relatively young. Surgery is a major ordeal. It’s serious, my whole life will have to change. No more eating whatever I want, drinking whatever I want, no more staying out late doing whatever I want. I can’t just lie down on an operating table and trust a surgeon to cut me open. I like to be in control. I’ll control this with medicine. I’ll exercise, eat right, get more rest, change my lifestyle. I’ll do it in my own strength.”

When the doctor begins to plead with you and threaten you, you cup your hands over your ears, and you run out… thereby cutting yourself off from the only remedy.

Is this what goes through your mind when someone corners you with a Bible or tries to tell you that you are going to hell without Jesus? “This is too much to face. I can’t just trust God. Everyone will laugh at me. This is a big step. What if God really does give me a new heart and I don’t like to do the fun things of this world any more? What if I become God’s child and, like a good father, He begins correcting me when I sin? I like to sin – I don’t want God’s Spirit living inside me making me feel bad all the time. I can’t just stop doing the things I do for fun – the things I’m addicted to. Maybe I can cut back some. I’ll work on it myself. Maybe I can change the kind of person I am. I’ll go to church more often. I’ll even volunteer to do some work there. I’ll show God I’m not so bad.”

Please do not cover your eyes and cup your hands over your ears. Please do not run away. Sit still for a moment and stop thinking about what you’re going to do with the rest of your day. Put out of your mind the problems you will face at work tomorrow. Forget about what other people will think of you. This is about you and God. If you lie down and submit to Him, He is not like the earthly surgeon. Even if an earthly surgeon cures you it will only last for a little while. When God performs surgery, the surgery will be successful. The new heart that He will give you will be capable of loving and obeying God. You will care about eternal, important, valuable things – not the foolish everyday cares and concerns of this world. You can’t understand the joy of salvation until you experience it. Will you receive it today? Will you receive Him today?

He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.

I John 5:12

How Many Christians Really Know This?

April 9, 2012 at 11:36 am | Posted in Salvation | 56 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

In order to be a Christian you have to believe the Gospel. In order to tell someone how to become a Christian you have to know the Gospel. (Mark 1:15) So – do you know it and believe it?

1. God is holy, just, and good, and He is also a judge Who judges righteously. (Genesis 18:25; Psalm 50:4,6; Acts 17:31)

2. You have told lies, stolen things, taken God’s Name in vain, looked at someone other than your spouse with lust – which Jesus equates with adultery of the heart – and broken many of God’s other commandments. (Exodus 20; Matthew 5:27-28). Most people don’t consider these sins to be all that serious because “everyone does them,” but they are deadly serious in God’s eyes. (Revelation 21:8; I Corinthians 6:9-10; Deuteronomy 5:11; Romans 3:10,23)

3. Because God is holy and just, and because you are a guilty sinner, God can not “just forgive” you. (Proverbs 17:15, Nahum 1:3)

4. However, because God is also merciful and gracious, He made a way to be both just and forgiving – and to deal with your sins in mercy AND truth. Despite the fact that you have sinned against Him, He loves you. (John 3:16, Romans 3:25, Psalm 85:10)

5. Here is what God did so that we could be forgiven for breaking His laws and sinning against Him: A little over 2000 years ago, God came into this world as a Man – Jesus of Nazareth. He was born of a virgin (Luke 1:26-32). He lived a perfect sinless life (John 8:46; Hebrews 4:14-15). And, although He never broke the law and never did anything wrong, the authorities brought false charges against Him (Matthew 26:3-4), subjected Him to a rigged and illegal trial (Matthew 26:59-66), beat Him savagely (Matthew 27:26-30, Isaiah 52:14), tortured Him and mocked Him (Matthew 26:67-68; 27:28-31), and nailed Him to a Cross, intending to kill Him (Matthew 27:32-37). On the Cross, He willingly laid down His life and died (John 10:17-18; Luke 23:46). His body was taken down and buried (Luke 23:50-53), but on the third day He was resurrected and rose from the grave (Luke 24:1-7; I Corinthians 15:1-4)

6. Jesus took on all the guilt of all His people’s sins on the Cross. He became sin for you, and took your place as the condemned while God the Father poured out His wrath and His righteous judgment against sin on His Own beloved Son. (I Peter 2:24; Isaiah 53:5, 10) Jesus also paid off your sin debt in full with His life’s blood (John 19:28-30; Colossians 2:13-14) and imputed His righteousness to your account so that you could be saved from God’s wrath and reconciled to Him (Ephesians 2:16; II Corinthians 5:21).

7. The Lord Jesus, in His Resurrection, demonstrated His victory over death, hell, the grave, Satan, and sin. He has ascended into Heaven (Acts 1:9) to sit at the right hand of God the Father (Romans 8:34), and He has all authority (Matthew 28:18) to grant salvation and eternal life to all who repent, believe the Gospel, and call upon Him as Savior (Romans 10:9,13; Acts 4:12; Ephesians 2:8-9).

8. You have been invited and commanded to respond to the Gospel (Mark 1:15; Acts 3:19). I beg you to believe it and trust in Jesus.

Faster than a Speeding Shadow

October 7, 2011 at 9:10 am | Posted in Salvation, Selected Psalms, Uncategorized | 7 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

My grandparents lived in a house that my grandfather built with his own hands. Behind the backyard he kept a garden where he grew peanuts, watermelons, sugar cane, mustard greens, and various vegetables. Beyond this garden was a shallow ditch, and beyond that, a set of railroad tracks. When the train came every day, it moved very fast. My younger brother and I used to talk about jumping onto one of the cars as the train went speeding past, but, thankfully, we never had the nerve to actually try it. The closest we came was when we would huddle down in the ditch right next to the tracks. It is a thrilling and frightening feeling to have the shadow of a roaring locomotive pass over you, but the shadow of a train passing over is far different from having the actual train itself “pass over” you.

David the Psalmist once wrote about the shadow of something even more awe-inspiring.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Psalm 23:4

Note that the Holy Spirit inspired David to write about, not the valley of death, but the valley of the shadow of death.

Our sins, and the sins of the whole world, had been heaped onto the freight train of God’s wrath. (I John 2:2) That train was racing straight for us, and we deserved to be plowed into hell by the force of its judgment. Those of us, like David, who, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ, have become the sheep of the Good Shepherd, may one day shiver in the shadow of death as it passes over us. (John 10:11) However, the locomotive of God’s righteous vengeance against sin was re-routed onto Christ the Lord Himself on the Cross of Calvary as He took the punishment we deserved. (I Peter 2:24) When you enter the valley at the end of life, will you be in the protective shadow of God’s covering (Psalm 91:1), or will you stand alone on the tracks, having made the fatal mistake of rejecting the Savior?

The Last but Not the Least – Part 3

September 2, 2010 at 1:37 pm | Posted in Bible Studies, Salvation | 5 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Last time we saw that: Being content brings gratitude, but being covetous brings gall.

Now we will see that:

Being content brings glory to God.

Jeremiah the prophet prophesied in a time much like our own. His description of Egypt in his day was very much like America in our day.

Egypt is like a very fair heifer, but destruction cometh; it cometh out of the north. Also her hired men are in the midst of her like fatted bullocks; for they also are turned back, and are fled away together: they did not stand, because the day of their calamity was come upon them, and the time of their visitation.

Jeremiah 46:20-21

At the local fair, my kids like to look at the livestock in the 4-H exhibit. They enjoy seeing the plump healthy cattle, well-cared-for and sporting their blue ribbons. Little do they know that these cattle have been fattened for a slaughter. Why does the Lord let the wicked accumulate wealth? Why does He let wicked men and governments and corporations and nations oppress the weak and the poor? Could it be that they are being fattened for the slaughter? Could it be that they are being allowed to prosper and grow rich and fat – and believe themselves to be invincible – so that the Lord receives more glory when He strips them of everything they have coveted after, and casts them into the pit?

One of my favorite verses is James 4:10: “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.” This verse does not mean that it’s a good idea to be humble, but it’s not really mandatory to be a victorious Christian. No, let me tell you something – your humility may be delayed – but it is not optional. You will be humble before the Almighty God. But this verse says I have the option of humbling myself. If I humble myself, He will lift me up. If I don’t humble myself, then He will humble me. As my old Sunday School teacher used to say, God will get the glory from my life – one way or the other.

Being content brings glory to God, but being covetous brings grief to a generation.

God can take away what you love most if you love it more than Him. God may take away the people you love most if you worship them in place of Him. Lord, help me to get my focus off of me – and get my focus on You. Do you want your life to bring grief to your generation, or do you want it to bring glory to God? Do you want to be the best parent you can be? Then love God with all your heart. Do you want to be the best spouse you can be? Then love God with all your mind. Do you want to be the best Christian you can be? Then love God with all your strength. Do you want to be the best person you can be – to have your “best life now?” Then forget about your “best life now.” Instead of having your “best” life now, have your “blessed” life now.

Before his conversion Saul of Tarsus had his “best life now.” Read his resume’ sometime in Philippians 3. He had a great job. He loved his work. He was the best, the brightest. He had money, renown, a reputation. He was strong, swift, educated, intelligent. He was on the fast track to be the number one man in his field!

And he threw it all away – to become the scum of the earth: beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, roaming from place to place, hunted at sea, hunted on land, hunted by the Jews, hunted by the heathen, hunted in the city, hunted in the wilderness, attacked by false friends, tired, wracked with pain, hungry, thirsty, cold, and naked! (II Corinthians 11). AND HE WAS CONTENT!!!!

If you try to save up your life – to make your life about the abundance of the possessions that you control – that you think you own (Luke 12:15) – you will lose it. But if you lose your life for His sake, you shall find it.

There was once a man who was the wisest (except for Jesus) and the richest (up until that time and maybe even today) man who ever walked the face of the earth. He had everything you could ever want or even imagine. He had every trinket, every delicacy, every luxury, every entertainment, every experience that could be had. The darkest fantasy you’ve ever dreamed of in your darkest most secret moment of sin – the one you wouldn’t dare tell your closest friend in the world about – he had it. And he had it twice, just to make sure. But after all the excess – after all the experience – after all pleasures that this world had to offer – here is what he had to say: “Vanity of vanities – all is vanity!” He had it all – and he was miserable. There must be something more, he thought, there must be something different. There must be something deeper – a knowledge of something greater. There must be Someone Who can give me – Who can be for me – what I have never been able to grasp. There must be Someone who can fill the vanity – the emptiness – that I’m left with – that is inside my very soul!

If you are reading this right now, and identifying with King Solomon, I can tell you there is only One. And there is only One Way to Him. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. He is more real than just a plan, a path, or a purpose – He is a Person. He is the Lord Jesus Christ.

What has the devil and the world talked you into believing is going to make you happy? Getting what you see and what you want? Being like the wealthy, the powerful, the famous? Jesus Christ took your sin on Himself, and He took the punishment for it in your place on the Cross. He was sinless and perfect, yet He was tortured and crucified for every sin you and I ever committed. The good news: God accepted Him as the perfect and only possible sacrifice for sin, and showed His acceptance by resurrecting Him from the dead. He lives today. You have only two choices: You must believe on Him, rejecting your own self-righteousness – or you must reject Him. You are not promised a certain number of opportunities. If you leave the room you are in right now without asking Christ to save you, you might very well leave this life without being saved. Do not tempt the Lord your God.

Is it Wrong To Ask for an Overt Response? (Part 2)

July 26, 2010 at 9:09 am | Posted in Bible Studies | 3 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

In a backlash against what is perceived as the “manipulative altar call,” I have heard it said that, “The old preachers used to instruct their listeners to go home and get right with God.”

Maybe so. But before the old preachers did that, the even older preachers demanded an overt response by commanding men to repent and be converted.

In Luke 13 Jesus responds to the questions of the Theodicians by telling them to repent, or else they will perish. Maybe He told them to go home first, before they got right with God, but the Bible doesn’t say that. In fact, later in the same Chapter He says, “Strive to enter in at the strait gate.

If people are being told that a formulaic prayer is the thing that saves them, then I would say that formulaic praying that makes the prayer itself the object of faith is unbiblical. However, demanding an overt response from the hearers of the Word of God (even lost hearers) is clearly Biblical.

Stating that leading lost sinners in prayer, or calling hearers to an altar for prayer or counseling, somehow means that God is too weak to save during these events is unbiblical. Folks who were regenerated by God as they said a “sinner’s prayer” are God’s Own children, redeemed by Him, predestinated from the foundation of the world unto salvation, elect, secure, and irrevocably bound for Heaven.

Try to catch the Biblical view of God’s sovereignty and power.

For to their power, I bear record, yea, and beyond their power they were willing of themselves; Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God.

II Corinthians 8:3-5

God is powerful enough to make men speak of “their” power and them being “willing of themselves” while it is still “by the will of God.” If you can acknowledge that men respond, then you are just a short step away from admitting that God wants men to call other men to respond actively and overtly.

Men are totally depraved and without hope, apart from Christ. Regenerated saints are called to preach the Gospel to these depraved sinners. When God opens the eyes of lost sinners, and shows them their sinful condition, the regenerated believers are to try, in the power of God’s Spirit, to bring these lost folks to Jesus. That’s what Andrew did. We don’t know if he ever preached a sermon or taught a lesson, but we know he brought people to Jesus. Why did the people go with Andrew when he said, “Come with me to meet Jesus?” Why did they “respond?” Because God ordained it and because God made them want to come. You can call it “monergism” or “synergism” or whatever – I don’t care – neither of those words are in my Bible. Andrew bringing people to Jesus, the Apostles demanding a response, people responding, and God saying it is all of Him – those are all in my Bible.

According to the Bible God saves people in His Own power, and He is the One Who keeps them saved, and His Own power empowers them for service. The same principle is at work both in God calling lost sinners to repentance and in God calling His saints to service. I chose II Corinthians 8:3-5 because of the close proximity between God’s will and men “giving of themselves” to the Lord in the same passage of Scripture. I could give plenty of examples of this in the Bible. I believe these Verses are talking about true Christians, not lost unregenerate people, but it’s the same principle, the same God, the same power. I hear people say, “Lost people can’t give themselves to God,” and it’s true – unless God calls them to do it (and He does.) But by the same token, saved people can’t give themselves (or anything else) to God without God’s power, either. God’s will is for people to respond. God calls whom He will to respond. He calls us to call people to respond. And some of them do respond. You can’t get more overt than that. These folks in II Corinthians 8 weren’t just raising their hand or praying a prayer – they were giving money! (Or at least material possessions.)

“How do we get a dead sinner to respond actively and overtly to the Gospel?” is the wrong question. We don’t “get” them to. We command them to – we tell them to – we even “beseech” (Bible word) them to.

We are commanded by God to deliver the Good News with reverence and passion, and the people who hear it from us, spiritually dead though they may be, are responsible for responding.

We are to demand that lost sinners repent, believe the Gospel, and be converted “right there on the spot.” If they walk away, we are to keep praying. (I would argue it’s okay if we even chase after them – certainly Paul covered the same ground more than once in his missionary journeys.) But if God has quickened them, and they say, “I want to know more about this repentance, this belief, this conversion” then we can either say, “Sorry, God will have to do a work in you, I’ve preached and now I’m packing up my box of ‘death to the sinner’s prayer’ and ‘death to the altar call’ quotes and leaving.” Or we can say, “Good, I would be glad to show you from God’s Word more about the salvation of God, and, by God’s Spirit, I will even (gasp!), help you in prayer to call upon the Lord to be merciful and to regenerate you.” One time, the Apostles demanded a response to the Gospel “right there on the spot” and about 3000 souls were saved in that same one day.

Concerning the 3000 who were saved in Acts 2:41, whose Word did they receive? Was it the Apostles’ or God’s?

It was both.

In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.

Romans 2:16

Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,

Romans 16:25

Remember that Jesus Christ of the seed of David was raised from the dead according to my gospel:

II Timothy 2:8

God is amazing enough to cause men to be stewards of His Word, and to even inspire men to call it their own.

Were the folks in Acts 2:41 saved because the Apostles demanded them to do so?

Yes, it was “because” the Apostles demanded a response, and it was because God ordained it. Not only that, He proclaimed it in the Old Testament, and He decreed it from the foundation of the world. Every one of us has a very finite view of cause and effect because we’re not God. God has an infinite view of cause and effect. This is the Truth as God explains it in the Bible, not the way it is popularly explained in the words of men when they rail against “sinner’s prayers” and “altar calls” and “decisionism.”

God has commissioned His church to preach the Gospel and press hard for a response. Death to canned prayers? Amen! Death to sinners praying that God would be merciful to them? Not amen. The Bible condones sinners praying that God would be merciful to them. Death to calling for an overt response to the preaching of the Gospel? Not amen. Jesus and the Apostles called for an overt response to the preaching of the Gospel.

And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.

Matthew 11:12

The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it.

Luke 16:16

They responded and they acted. If God approves of sinners “pressing,” He surely approves of them praying as they press.

Is it Wrong to Ask for an Overt Response? (Part 1)

June 23, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Posted in Bible Studies | 5 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

The Apostles not only asked for a response – they demanded one. “Be converted” appears to be in the imperative:

Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;

Acts 3:19

There is a backlash these days against what is perceived as trying to coax people into getting saved. “Use the Old Testament law,” say the critics. “Preach the Gospel, not ‘decisionism,'” they say.

God is sovereign. Salvation is all of Him. No one repents without God empowering them to repent. No one has faith unto salvation without God empowering that faith. God gets all the glory for regeneration, justification, adoption, redemption, sanctification, and everything else that goes along with salvation. But I am not aware of any Bible verses that limit Gospel preaching to nothing more than conviction of the lost sinner under God’s law. We don’t have Bible verses that prohibit leading lost sinners in prayer. We don’t have Bible verses that prohibit us from imploring, exhorting, commanding, and demanding lost sinners to call upon the Lord.

I haven’t seen much of it myself, but there may be false teachers out there going nuts, telling people that if they check off a blank on a form, then they are saved, and then baptizing them in a fire truck or something. I have seen people who are evangelizing with passion the Bible way, and we do them a disservice when we discourage Gospel preachers from asking for an overt response to their preaching.

“Be converted” is indeed a command. It is a command to do something. It is a command to respond. Our response to the hearing of the Word of God or to the conviction of the Holy Ghost does not diminish God’s grace, or make the Cross of none effect, or make that response a “work.” Nor does it detract from God’s sovereignty or His predestination or His election. All sinners who see their need for a Savior and call upon the Lord are praying when they do so. Praying is calling upon the Lord.

The fact that people do not respond to the Gospel call in their own power does not negate the fact that people do respond – actively and overtly – to the Gospel. God is powerful enough, mysterious enough, and gracious enough that people respond to the preaching of His Own Word in His power. Do they respond? Oh yes they do. Do they get the praise for responding? Oh no they don’t. It is a small view of God that says God’s gracious empowering of people to respond to the Gospel contradicts the truth that salvation is all of God. Someone will say I can’t have it both ways, and I can’t. But God can have it all the ways He has set forth in His eternal Word. Jesus Christ is the Way, but God draws people to His Son in all sorts of earthly situations and circumstances.

And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation.

Acts 2:40

Maybe

April 1, 2010 at 10:09 am | Posted in Salvation | 3 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Maybe you have doubts that Jesus really died for your sins and the sins of the whole world 2000 years ago, and that He was resurrected and lives today.

Maybe you’re thinking that good deeds will get you to Heaven if there even is a Heaven.

Maybe you have joined a church.

Maybe you have completed some holy sacraments.

Maybe you just don’t think we can ever really know what’s going to happen to us after we die.

But maybe – deep down – you have a sense that none of those things are right. Maybe God’s Holy Spirit is speaking to you now and He’s convicting you of sin. You know that God is too righteous and too holy to allow unrepentant sinners into Heaven.

Maybe you really realize that the only way to be saved from your sins is to repent and believe that Jesus died for your sins, and is alive today, and is wanting to save you.

Trusting Him and believing on Him is the one and only way to get right with God. (John 1:12; Acts 16:31; John 14:6)

Maybe the Holy Ghost is not the only One speaking to you now.

Maybe all three of your enemies are gathered together in a troop: Satan, your flesh, and the world.

Maybe the devil is lying to you right now, telling you that this can’t be true, that you can’t be saved just by repenting and trusting Jesus, that it’s too easy, that you better try to live right first, and then come to Jesus.

Maybe your flesh is telling you that it will be too embarrassing. “People will laugh at you. People will call you a religious nut or a big phony. Look at all your sins. Do you think you can make up for all that just by confessing that Jesus is the Son of God, and by asking Him to forgive you and save you?”

Maybe the world is saying, “Besides, think what you’ll have to give up. Look at things in which you’ve already invested your life.”

Maybe this is your last chance, and you are tempted to scoff at this post. If today is an average day there will be approximately 60 murders in the world. On average, over 150,000 people die every day. On average, 1.8 people die every second. The offer of redemption – of salvation by grace – is a “limited time only” offer. Your heart could harden, you could die, or Jesus could come back.

Today – right now – is the day of salvation for you.

…now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.)

II Corinthians 6:2

Next Page »

Blog at WordPress.com.
Entries and comments feeds.