Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Reformation Day

Four hundred ninety-five years ago today, Martin Luther nailed his 95-Theses to the door of the church in Wittenberg. This event is looked upon by many as having been the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.

Basically Luther was protesting such practices as selling indulgences and granting absolution for oneself or a relative for a fee.  Many other things were involved of course, but at the heart of it all, Luther was complaining about practices that were not supported by the Word of God. He didn't want a religion that was filled with pretense and hypocrisy and that did not involve true repentance, faith and obedience.

There is the danger, in any age and in any church tradition, of beginning to rely on the habits, forms, vocabulary and rituals rather than the truth that underlies them. We begin to adopt performance or conformity of our behavior as a condition to merit salvation. If we attend the worship service. If we stand, sit and kneel at the appropriate time and speak the same religious jargon that those around us use, we consider ourselves "in". We adopt an easy-believism which claims salvation but denies God by the way we live our lives. (See Titus 1:16) These are as very real dangers today as they were in Martin Luther's day.

Our faith must be in the truths taught in Scripture and not in our particular worship tradition. Our faith must be genuine and not superficial.  With all of this in mind, I'd like to review what I believe are essential truths that the Bible teaches regarding our salvation.

Salvation is by grace through faith and it is a gift from God. It is not earned or merited in any way. (Ephesians 2:8,9)  It is based on the facts given to us in God's Word. Christ bore our sins in his own body on the cross. (1 Peter 2:24) He was buried and rose again the third day. (I Cor. 15:3-5)  We've been given he Christ's righteous record as our own. (2 Cor 5:21). There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1) We are justified by grace. (Romans 3:24) We have peace with God. (Romans 5:1) We are reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:18) We are redeemed from the curse of the law. (Galatians 3:13)

So we see that God has granted to us everything we need for life and godliness. All is a gift of His grace. None of it is earned or merited.

The second essential point I would like to make is that salvation includes God's changing us. 2 Corinthians 5:17.  This change may be slow, but it will be there. There is no such thing as a truly saved person who isn't being changed day by day into the likeness of Christ. It is part of the whole saving process. God promised to give His people a new heart and new motivation. (Ezekiel 36:26,26) He promised to write his law in our hearts so that there would be a natural desire to obey Him. (Jeremiah 31:33)  In the change we call salvation, we are regenerated and renewed. (Titus 3:5)  His grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live soberly, righteously and godly. (Titus 2:12). This teaching removes the claim of having faith in Christ but yet not having any interest in doing things God's way. We can easily deceive ourselves and that is why God tells us that we should examine ourselves to see if we are in the faith. (2 Cor. 13:5)

Finally, salvation is entered by genuine repentance and faith. God commands all men everywhere to repent. (Acts 17:30)  Jesus said to repent and believe the gospel. (Mark 1:15) Paul preached repentance toward God and faith toward Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:21)  He also preached that people should repent, turn to God, and do works fitting for repentance. (Acts 26:20)  In fact he taught that it is godly sorrow the produces repentance that leads to salvation. (2 Cor 7:10).

No matter what religious tradition you are a part of, let me encourage you to examine yourself to make sure you are not merely going through motions. Going through your church's traditions and rituals does not save anyone. What saves is a recognition that before God we are guilty and condemned. But Jesus Christ paid our eternal debt-punishment and God is willing to credit us with Jesus' perfect righteous obedience if we are willing to turn from our current path and put our faith and trust in these offers that God has made to us through Jesus Christ. Then all of the things we have discussed above will be yours.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Why are we so wedded to the world?

This is a powerful couple of paragraphs from George Whitefield's sermon, "Christ the Believer's Husband"  The full sermon text can be found here.

And why are ye so wedded to the world? Did it ever prove faithful or satisfactory to any of its votaries? Has not Solomon reckoned up the sum total of worldly happiness? And what does it amount to? "Vanity, vanity, saith the preacher, all is vanity," nay he adds, "and vexation of spirit." And has not a greater than Solomon informed us, that a man's life, the happiness of a man's life, doth not consist in the things which he possesseth? Besides, "know ye not that the friendship of this world is enmity with God; so that whosoever will be a friend to the world, (to the corrupt customs and vices of it) is an enemy of God?" And what better reasons can you give for being wedded to your lusts? Might not the poor slaves in the galleys, as reasonably be wedded to their chains? For do not your lusts fetter down your souls from God? Do they not lord it, and have they not dominion over you? Do not they say, Come, and ye come; Go, and ye go; Do this, and ye do it? And is not he or she that liveth in pleasure, dead, whilst he liveth? And above all, how can ye bear the thoughts of being wedded to the devil, as every natural man is: for thus speaks the scripture, "He now ruleth in the children of disobedience." And how can ye bear to be ruled by one, who is such a professed open enemy to the most high and holy God? Who will make a drudge of you, whilst you live, and be your companion in endless and extreme torment, after you are dead? For thus will our Lord say to those on the left hand, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels."

Thanks to Aaron Armstrong at Blogging Theologically  for pointing me to this sermon.

Friday, October 26, 2012

The Lord's Prayer - Give us our daily bread

This is part 4 in a short series on the Lord's Prayer. In Matthew 6:11 Jesus says we should pray like this, "Give us this day our daily bread." As I introduced this to my Sunday School class, I asked whether this is culturally relevant to us in the U.S.  After all, my daily bread for today and the next several is in the cupboard, refrigerator, or freezer.  What attitude should we develop as we reflect on this short sentence?

The first thing I think we should gain is a focus on today. This relates not only to our food, but also to other needs and desires that we have. Certainly we need to plan for the future, but Jesus says in Matthew 6:34 that we should not worry about tomorrow. He says, "Tomorrow will worry about its own things."  We spend so much time anticipating the future -- things we are going to do, experiences we are going to have, people we are going to visit, -- that we forget to think about what we are experiencing today. There are things today that we need to be thankful for, enjoy looking at and people we can encourage and help -- today.

The second thing I think about when I read this passage is that we have a lot to learn about contentment. In 1 Timothy 6:6-8, Paul writes, "Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content."  When we pray for the needs of today, it teaches us to be content with the things we need today. Hoarding of our resources usually comes because of a fear that our needs won't be supplied in the future and that comes from a lack of contentment with the basics. What we want and what we need are usually two completely different things.

Finally, this phrase reminds us the source of everything is God. Paul told the Athenians in Acts 17 that God "gives to all life, breath and all things." James writes that every good and perfect gift is from above. (James 1:17) So when we pray this way, we are acknowledging that God is the source of our food. It develops in us a sense of gratitude and thankfulness for what we have as we receive it from him day by day.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

When a Temptation Comes to its Hour

One final Puritan devotional on the subject of temptation. Thought this was especially good. If you've ever been strongly tempted or have fought to defeat sin in your life, you will relate to this.

Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.  1 Corinthians 16:13

How can we recognize when a temptation has come to its hour?  A temptation has come to its hour when it is restless, urgent, and arguing.  It is a time of battle, and sin will give the soul no rest.  Satan sees his advantage, the convergence of his forces, and knows that he must prevail, or be hopeless forever.  Satan pushes this opportunity and time of advantage with special pleas and promises. He has taken some ground in his arguments so far, and seeks to exert his ground further.  He reminds us of a full pardon after the sin.  He realizes that if he does not win now he will lose the opportunity.  When Satan had prepared all the events against Christ, it was the hour of darkness.  When a temptation presses in upon us through our imagination and reason, and when opportunities, solicitations, and advantages press us on the outside, we may know that the hour of its power has come.  A temptation has also come to its hour when it brings both fear and allurements together to work with greater force.  These came together in King David when he planned the murder of Uriah.  There was the fear of his sin being found out, and also the continued pleasure and enjoyment with Bathsheba.  Men sometimes are carried into sin just by the love of it, but they often continue in it because of the fear of the consequences that might appear by repentance and full disclosure.  Our Saviour teaches us the ways to prevent our entering into temptation, and there are two: ‘Watch’ and ‘Pray’.  To watch means to be on guard, to take heed, and to consider the ways the enemy might seek to approach us and entangle us in his baits and methods.  The second direction is to pray.  This important duty is known to all.  These two duties are the whole expression of faith to protect us from temptation.

From "Voices from the Past" Edited By Richard Rushing, page 95, published by Banner of Truth Trust

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Entering into Temptation

then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment,  2 Peter 2:9

To enter into temptation there must be two things:  First, by some special advantage or occasion, Satan attacks us with greater force than his ordinary solicitations.  He takes advantage of a lust or corruption with much greater turbulence than usual.  Secondly, our heart must be entangled enough in the temptation that we are not wholly able to eject or cast out the poison that has been injected.  The soul is surprised how hard the entanglement is to resist.  The soul may cry and pray, and the entanglement continues.  Entering into temptation occurs in one of two seasons:  (1.) When God allows Satan, for ends best known to himself, to gain a peculiar advantage against the soul; as in the case of Peter, he sought to sift him like wheat, and prevailed.  (2.) When a man’s lusts and corruptions meet a particular provoking object or opportunity along life’s way, as it was with King David.  When one enters into one of these seasons, he has entered into temptation.  The hour of temptation is the hour that a temptation has arrived at its zenith, a season in which it grows to its greatest force, when it is most vigorous, active, and prevalent.  It may take a while to get to this point, but given the right circumstances, temptation arrives at this very dangerous hour.  When man has entered into it, it carries him quite away before it.  At other times it has little power over a man; he can despise it, and easily resist it.  Temptation at times is supported by other circumstances and occurrences that give it new strength and effectiveness.  The man is weakened, the hour has come, he has entered into it, and it prevails.  Blessed is he who is prepared for such a season.  There is no escape without this preparation.  If we maintain our preparation, we are safe.

From "Voices from the Past" Edited By Richard Rushing, page 94, published by Banner of Truth Trust 

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

Today and tomorrow I am sharing a couple more puritan devotionals. These are on the topic of temptation. They are very appropriate for the day in which we live. Both are by John Owen.

And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
 Matthew 6:13
Entering into temptation is not merely being tempted.  We will never be free from temptation while Satan continues in his power and malice, and while the world and lust continue.  There is no need to pray for an absolute freedom from temptation, since there is no scriptural promise to claim concerning it.  It is entering into temptation that we are to pray against.  It is an entrance into a powerful or frightening allurement.  Entering into temptation does not mean that it has conquered you, or that you have committed it.  A man may ‘enter into temptation’ and yet not fall.  God can make a way of escape.  When a man has entered into temptation God can break the snare, tread down Satan, and make the soul more than a conqueror.  Christ entered into temptation, but was not the least foiled by it.  The apostle expresses it to ‘fall into temptation’ (1 Tim. 6:9), as a man falls into a pit or deep place where there are traps and snares with which he might be entangled.  The man is not presently killed and destroyed, but he is entangled and detained.  He does not know how to get free or be at liberty.  So Paul expresses it (1 Cor. 10:13):  ‘No temptation has overtaken you’, That is, to be taken by a temptation and to be tangled with it, to be held I its cords, and not finding at present a way to escape.  Peter also, says (2 Peter 2:9):  ‘The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials.’  When we allow a temptation to enter into us, then we ‘enter into temptation’.  When sin knocks at the door,  we are at liberty; but when a temptation comes in and we allow it to parley with our heart, reason with our mind, entice an allure our affections, for a long or short time, sin subtly and almost imperceptibly draws our soul to take particular notice of it, then we ‘enter into temptation’.  Lord, ‘lead us not into temptation.’

From "Voices from the Past" Edited By Richard Rushing, page 93, published by Banner of Truth Trust 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Memorization Monday - Romans 8:19

Romans 8:19 For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.

All the creation has been cursed because of man's sin. This verse and the several that follow it are telling us that the creation is eagerly awaiting the full revelation of God's salvation toward mankind because then creation also will be freed from the bondage that it is in. What a day that will be!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Hymn of the Week - We Are God's People

We are God's people, the chosen of the Lord,
Born of His Spirit, established by His Word; Our
Cornerstone is Christ alone, and strong in Him we stand: O
Let us live transparently, and walk heart to heart and hand in hand.

We are God's loved ones, the Bride of Christ our Lord,
For we have know it, the love of God out-poured; now
Let us learn how to return the gift of love once given: O
Let us share each joy and care, and live with a zeal that pleases Heaven.

We are the Body of which the Lord is Head,
Called to obey Him, now risen from the dead; He
Will us be a family, diverse yet truly one: O
Let us give our gifts to God, and so shall His work on earth be done.

We are a temple, the Spirit's dwelling place,
Formed in great weakness, a cup to hold God's grace; we
Die alone, for on its own each ember loses fire: yet
Joined in one the flame burns on to give warmth and light, and to inspire.
Words by Brian Jeffery Leech, 1976
Music by Johannes Brahms, 1877, Tune: Symphony

Saturday, October 20, 2012

A Puritan Devotional by John Owen

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,  James 1:2
God ever tempts man to sin, and we are exhorted to pray against it.  He does, however, test us and prove us.  We see God testing Abraham.  God tests us to show us what is in our heart.  God would have us to see either the grace or corruption that dwells there.  Grace and corruption lie deep in the heart, and man is often deceived in the evaluations of his heart.  God comes to us with a gauge that can go right to the bottom.  His instrument of trial digs deep into the depths and innermost parts of the soul.  It allows man to see clearly what is truly in him, and what type of metal he is made of.  When God tested Abraham, he did not know what power and vigour was in his faith until God drew it out by trial and testing (Gen. 22:1-2).  God tested Hezekiah to reveal his pride (2 Chron. 32:31).  Hezekiah didn’t know he was so prone to be lifted up in pride until he was tested.  The testing revealed the filth and poured it all out before him.  God allows man also to be tested to reveal himself to us.  Until we are tested, we think that we are living on our own strength.  It is God alone however who keeps us from falling by his preventing grace.  We might say, ‘All men may do this or that, but we will not.’  When the trial comes, however, we quickly see it is God’s preservation upholding us.  We do not realize the power and strength that God puts forth on our behalf, and the sufficiency of his grace are then clearly seen in or lives.  The effectiveness of an antidote is not realized until we have been exposed to the poison.  The preciousness of a medicine is revealed by the presence of the disease.  We will not know the power of grace until we feel the power of the testing.  We must be tried, to realize the glory of being preserved.

From "Voices from the Past" Edited By Richard Rushing, page 91, published by Banner of Truth Trust 

Friday, October 19, 2012

The Lord's Prayer - Part 3

Your kingdom come. Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. In our prayers we should demonstrate a desire for God's kingdom to rule. What does this mean?

There is a day coming when Jesus Christ will return and establish his kingdom on the earth. Every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. That day is coming. It may be today. Every Christian's desire should be for that kingdom to come. And so we pray, "Your kingdom come."

There is also a sense in which Christ's kingdom is here now in the lives of individual Christians. We swear allegiance to God our king. We desire his will to be accomplished in our lives as we live each day for his glory. That is what we should be asking for in our prayers. Do we really want this? Do we really want God's will to be done or would we rather have our own will to be accomplished. Shouldn't our will and his will be gradually becoming one and the same? It seems so often that there is a fairly large gap between my will and his. What Jesus is telling us here is to pray that God's will be done here on earth, in our lives the same way that God's will is done in heaven.

How is God's will done in heaven? We have a glimpse of this in Psalm 103:20-21 where we read, "Bless the Lord, you His angels, who excel in strength, who do His word, heeding the voice of His word. Bless the Lord, all you His hosts, you ministers of His who do His pleasure." In heaven, God's will is accomplished faithfully and joyfully by all of those who serve Him. There is no rebellion, there is no reluctant obedience. It should be our prayer that God's will would be done here on earth, particularly in our own lives in the same way as it is in heaven. And then it should be our desire to see God's will accomplished in our families, churches and nations.

Is this request part of our normal prayer life?  It should be.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Lord's Prayer - Part 2

Hallowed be Your name.  As we pray to our Father in heaven, we are to keep in mind that his name is hallowed. That means that he is holy and his name is holy. Holy means separate and set apart. God is distinct from us not only in his power, but he is distinct from us in his perfectness and sinlessness. We belong to the human race and as such we are a sinful people. We have sinned against God both in word and deed as well as in the things we have failed to do that we should have done.

God has not sinned and does not sin and therefore he is separate from us and cannot have fellowship with us unless our sin issue is resolved. This, of course, is what Jesus Christ came to do. As a human being he lived a perfect life which God is offering to count as our perfect life if we will accept the offer. When we trust Christ and receive him, we are declared holy by virtue of Christ's perfect righteousness. He becomes our father and allows us then to speak to him in what we call prayer.

Jesus, in teaching us how to pray, is telling us to remember that God is holy and his name is holy. By praying something like, "Hallowed be Your name," we are acknowledging God's holiness, but we are also asking that his name be hallowed. It forces us to think about who we are speaking to and how we need the righteousness of Christ in order to be in fellowship with God. It's a reminder that coming to him outside of Christ is like barging into a sterile hospital room with our filthy and muddy clothes on. It reminds us of who we are in our natural state and how thoroughly cleansed and righteous we have become because of Christ's work on our behalf.

May God's name truly be hallowed in the way we pray.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Lord's Prayer - Part 1

We're studying Jesus' teaching on prayer and I thought it might be good to write out some of the things I've been thinking about. This prayer in Matthew 6 is how we should pray according to Jesus. What does he include in this short prayer and how can this be helpful in my own praying?

Our Father in heaven.  The first thing to notice is that our praying is based on a relationship, the relationship with God as our father. Some people believe that God is the father of everyone. In one sense that is true because God created everyone. But in another way it is not true. In John 1:12 we read, "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name."  It is clear that God has given the right to become children of God to some people. Who are they? Those who receive Christ; those who believe in His name. 

In 2 Corinthians 6:17-18 Paul, quoting from Isaiah 52 writes, "Come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you and you shall be My sns and daughters, says the Lord Almighty."

What I gather from this is that since God is holy, that is separate and distinct from us as sinners, he calls us to be separate and holy as well. So when we receive Christ and believe on his name, we are stepping out from the crowd and identifying with Christ. He is Father in a particular way to such people. It is those people, his disciples that he is instructing to pray to him as Father.

When we are in this kind of relationship with God, we can rightly address him as Father. It's a term of endearment. Romans 8:15 uses the term "Abba, Father." It's like viewing God as our daddy in the sense that he loves us and cares for us and as his children we are in an intimate relationship with him.

So if we have truly come to Christ in faith, we have become God's children and have the right and privilege of coming to God in prayer as his precious child. The writer to the Hebrews tells us in 4:16 to "come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need." So let's do it!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Questions, Questions, Questions

After he had become king, Solomon's son, Rehoboam went to the old men to seek counsel from them. The people had come to him complaining that his father had made their yoke heavy. They requested that he change policy and lighten the load on the people. The old men advised Rehoboam this way, "If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, they they will be your servants forever." (1 Kings 12:6-8)

However, Rehoboam abandoned their counsel and wen to the young men who he had grown up with to see what they would say. The young men said, "This is what you should tell the people, 'My little finger is thicker than my father's thighs. And now, whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.'"

Rehoboam listened to the younger advisers and the people responded by abandoning Rehoboam and splitting the kingdom and appointing a king of their own choice.

All throughout the Bible, God tells his people that there is wisdom in the older people. So when you are looking for someone to advise you and give you counsel, go to those who are older and wiser than you. Listen carefully to what they have to say and weigh it heavily in your decision making process. You can get advice from younger people too, but remember that the more years of experience of life that a person has, the more likely it is that their advice will contain wisdom that only years of decision-making, successes and failures can give.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Memorization Monday - Romans 8:17

Romans 8:16-17 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Why Did Jesus Use Parables?

As many of you know, Jesus frequently spoke in parables. On one occasion he was asked the question, "Why do you speak to them in parables?"  (Matthew 13:10)  The answer Jesus gave is not what we would expect. Here is his answer, "Because, it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to them it has not been given." Wow!  Jesus says that there are certain truths which have been given to his followers and kept from others who were listening to him teach.

To explain this further, Jesus quotes from Isaiah 6:9 where it says, "Seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand." This message comes as a pronouncement as judgment against a people who have a habit of not putting into practice what God has taught them. And so this pronouncement of Jesus, rather than being a means of clarifying truth is meant to hide the truth. God does not put up with our obstinance and disobedience forever. He warns us in a parallel passage in Luke 8:18 that we should pay attention to how we hear. "For whoever has, to him more will be given; and whoever does not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him."

So how has your listening been? Do you really listen to God with an ear to hear and a will to obey. Or do you listen carelessly, not paying much attention. If it is the latter, Jesus himself says that you will not receive more as far as spiritual knowledge is concerned, and even what you have will betaken away. That can't be a good thing.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Questions, Questions, Questions

Today's question is one that Samuel asked Saul in 1 Samuel 15:22: "Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord?"

In this situation Saul had disobeyed the Lord's command about destroying all of the cattle of a conquered people. Saul was the king and Samuel was a prophet of the Lord. Saul had been told to destroy all of the herds and flocks of the Amalekites. Saul's excuse for disobeying was that he kept some alive so that he could offer them as sacrifices to the Lord.

Don't we often do similar things? We rationalize what God has commanded and try to adjust it to what we think we should do in order to side-step the direct command of God.

Samuel's answer to his own question is helpful for all of us to consider: "Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams. For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft and presumption is as iniquity and idolatry."

Rebellion is a serious thing to God and rebellion doesn't require shaking a fist in God's face. Rebellion is as simple as just not doing what God asks us to do.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Warning from God - "You are a dead man!"

I was reading yesterday about Abraham, Sarah and Abimelech in Genesis 20. God came to Abimelech and said, "Abimelech, you are a dead man." How would you like to be greeted this way by God? Abraham and Sarah were visiting the land where Abimelech was king. Sarah and Abraham had agreed that they would claim that they were brother and sister, which they were in a way. Sarah was his half sister, but more importantly, they were now husband and wife. God charged Abimelech with taking someone else's wife for himself.

Abimelech plead his innocence saying that the couple had said they were brother and sister. God's response is interesting. "Yes, I know that you did this in th integrity of your heart. For I also withheld you from sinning against me, therefore I did not let you touch her."

I think we learn several things from this incident. First, God is serious about the sacredness of marriage. He doesn't take lightly the violation of marriage. Granted, today he doesn't go around threatening people in their dreams for their immorality, but his Word strongly condemns he promiscuous degradation of marriage that is so common today. All sin is serious to God and the penalty for being a sinner is death. So could could rightly come up to any of us and say, "You are a dead man."

The second thing we learn is that God intervened to actually prevent Abimelech from sinning against him. Abimelech wasn't a puppet. He didn't feel God restraining him against his will. In his own mind he was making decisions the whole time, but somehow God was at work to prevent the sin from occurring.  God's prevention of this sin was actually a loving act of grace because ultimately it saved Abimelech's life.

Doesn't it make you wonder how God is working in your life to prevent your going beyond some line God has established? And this in turn will allow you to come to know God and accept all of the grace he has for you. Jesus Christ was punished by God for all of the sins we have committed. This gives God the ability to grant us complete forgiveness for our sins. He saved Abimelech and he can save us as well.

Monday, October 08, 2012

Memorization Monday - Romans 8:16

Romans 8:16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God,

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Hymn of the Week - Praise Him! Praise Him!

Praise Him!  Praise Him!  by Fanny Crosby
  1. Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!
    Sing, O Earth, His wonderful love proclaim!
    Hail Him! Hail Him! Highest archangels in glory;
    Strength and honor give to His holy Name!
    Like a shepherd, Jesus will guard His children,
    In His arms He carries them all day long.
    • Refrain:
      Praise Him! Praise Him! Tell of His excellent greatness;
      Praise Him! Praise Him! Ever in joyful song!
  2. Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!
    For our sins He suffered, and bled, and died.
    He our Rock, our hope of eternal salvation,
    Hail Him! Hail Him! Jesus the Crucified.
    Sound His praises! Jesus who bore our sorrows,
    Love unbounded, wonderful, deep and strong.
  3. Praise Him! Praise Him! Jesus, our blessed Redeemer!
    Heav’nly portals loud with hosannas ring!
    Jesus, Savior, reigneth forever and ever;
    Crown Him! Crown Him! Prophet, and Priest, and King!
    Christ is coming! over the world victorious,
    Pow’r and glory unto the Lord belong.

Friday, October 05, 2012

The Church, the Body of Christ, Literally (Part 2)

 This is the second lesson in a short series I am presenting to our Wednesday night gathering at church. Much of it is the same as what I posted last week with some additional explanation. Recently I've been looking at the church from a different angle. What I'm trying to help us see is that the church is somehow an extension of Christ. "Extension" may not be the right word, but in this study you'll find a reference to the church as the fullness of God. We are of {Christ's} flesh and bones. As Eve was created from Adam and was of his flesh and his bones, the church has a similar connection. It is more than a community, although it is that. It is more than a family, although it also is that. We are literally members of one another and of Christ in a different way than someone is perhaps a member of Kiwanis. 

I would like us to consider the fact that this plan of God from eternity past means resurrecting spiritually dead people such as ourselves, gifting us, giving us his spirit and placing us literally into the body of Christ, sharing his mind and his spirit. 

If you would like to print a copy of this study guide in pdf form, click here.

The Church is the Body of Christ, Literally (Part 2)
Ephesians 5:28-32

Ephesians 5:28-32 describe the relationship of Christ and the church as similar to marriage. The church is literally the body of Christ and we are members of his flesh and of his bones. As Eve was brought out of Adam while he slept, the church is a new creation resulting from the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.

God is creating in Christ one new man. The church is that one new man. It is something new that didn't exist before.

All of this is the eternal purpose of God, hidden for ages. Ephesians 3:9, 10

This new “man” supersedes nationality, social status and even gender. Galatians 3:28

1. His body, the church, is the ______________ of Him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:23
In that regard we are to be ____________ with all the ___________ of God.

2. We are:
A _____ creation 2 Corinthians 5:17
Born _________ by an incorruptible 1 Peter 1:23
Given a ______ heart Ezekiel 36:26
Made __________ of the divine nature 2 Peter 1:4
One ____________ with Christ 1 Corinthians 6:17
Given the _________ of Christ 1 Corinthians 2:16
Baptized into the body by the _________ 1 Corinthians 12:13
The body of Christ and members ____________ 1 Corinthians 12:27
Members of one _____________ Romans 12:5

3. This truth should eliminate discouragement and jealousy. 1 Corinthians 12:15-17

4. This truth should eliminate arrogance and pride. 1 Corinthians 12:20-22

5. This truth should produce mutual care and encouragement. 1 Corinthians 12:25-26

6. God placed apostles, prophets and pastors and teachers to equip for ministry. Ephesians 4:11-16

7. The goal is to grow into the ___________ (or complete or mature) man unto the _____________ of the fullness of Christ. Ephesians 4:13. The man referred to here is not each individual man becoming like Christ, but the one new man, the church, which God is creating.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

We Preach Christ Crucified - A Puritan Devotional

 but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,  1 Corinthians 1:23

Simple assent to the truth of the Word is but an act of the understanding.  Reprobates and devils may exercise this, but justifying faith takes its seat both in the understanding and the will.  The promises of God call for an act of the will to embrace and receive it.  Therefore, he who only notionally knows the promise, and speculatively assents to the truth of it, without clinging to it, and embracing it, does not believe to the saving of the soul.  Justifying faith rests on Christ crucified for pardon and life upon the warrant of God’s promise and terminates upon him.  It is not Christ in his personal excellencies, but as bleeding, and that to death, under the hand of divine justice to make an atonement by God’s own appointment for the sins of the world.  Faith finds that Christ has made full payment to the justice of God having poured out his blood to death upon the cross.  All of his previous acts of humiliation were but preparatory to this.  He was born to die; he was sent into the world as a lamb bound with the bonds of an irreversible decree as a sacrifice.  Without this, all he had done would have been labour undone.  There is no redemption but by his blood.  Christ did not redeem and save poor souls by sitting in majesty on his heavenly throne, but by hanging on the shameful cross, under the tormenting hand of man’s fury and God’s just wrath.  And therefore, the poor soul that would have pardon of sin, is directed to place its faith not only on Christ, but on a bleeding Christ, whom God has set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood (Rom. 3:25).  Not everyone who assents to the truth of what the Scripture says about Christ truly believes. No, believing implies a union of the soul to Christ with full trust and reliance.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Questions, Questions, Questions

From time to time I like to write about questions that are asked in the Bible to see what we might be able to learn from them.

Today's question is one asked by Jesus: "So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?"

Most of you are familiar with the story about the "Good Samaritan". A Jewish man is walking the road between Jerusalem and Jericho. Along the way thieves rob him of his clothing and possessions and leave him wounded and half dead. Both a priest and Levite com along and move to the other side of the road without helping the man. A Samaritan comes along and helps the man with his wounds and pays for his recovery stay at an inn. What's interesting is that the Samaritans were a mixed race that was despised by the Jews and normally they had no dealings with the Jews. But this man stops to help a man who in other circumstances might not give the Samaritan the time of day.

Jesus' question is interesting. Usually when we are discussing this parable we ask people to describe who their neighbor is. The challenge is usually made to help us realize that our neighbor is not only the person that lives next to us but others as well. In this case we are asking people who should be the recipient of our neighborliness. However, that is not the way Jesus asks the question. When he asks it, he is asking us not to identify the recipient, but the giver.

Because of this difference, I take the lesson to be a challenge to be helpful, considerate and caring of others no matter who they are rather than trying to figure out who is our neighbor so we can meet their needs. We have a tendency to procrastinate on doing good because we are spending our time trying to figure out who is our neighbor. Instead, we should be the neighbor to any and all we meet.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Importance of Being in Christ - Part 7

What we have learned so far:
As Christians, we are in Christ. Being in Christ means He is our federal head; our representative. Also it means we died with him to the law and to the world – both the world religious system and the world system of lusts and temptations.

But it also means that when we died with Christ, we died to sin.
Romans 6:2 asks this question: “How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” The author assumes that we would know the fact that we had died in Christ and that this would have an actual impact in our lives in the way we live. He goes on in the next verse to remind us that those who have been baptized into Christ were baptized into his death. That means that somehow, spiritually speaking, we were in Christ when he died and that his death counts as our death and that all of this precludes our living a life of sin.

In verse 6 Paul lets us know that our old man was crucified with Christ so that the body of sin might be destroyed and in the next verse lets us know that he who has died has been set free from sin. It's obvious that are going to have to take this by faith, because it certainly doesn't feel like we have been set free from sin. Sin seems to still exert enormous pressure on us. But notice what verse 14 says. Sin shall not have dominion over us. Even though sin is still present and there are temptations all around us, it does not have authority over us. It is a toothless tiger. We are not under obligation to it as we once had been.

How to put these truths into practice in the battle:
(Note that the following principles are based on believing and acting on the truth of what God has done and is doing, not on making man-made lists of do's and don'ts.)

First, we need to reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God. (Romans 6:11) This means that we are to count God's statements as true. It is not mind over matter. It is believing and acting on what God has told us.

Secondly, we are not to allow sin to reign. (Romans 6:12) Since sin no longer has dominion, we are not to allow it to reign. It will try, but it does not have the right to rule and so we should not allow it.

Third, we should not present our members as weapons of unrighteousness. (Romans 6:13) By members he means the parts of our bodies like our hands, feet and eyes. Sometimes we just hand over parts of our body to unrighteousness and then they are used as weapons against us. It's as foolish as a soldier handing his enemy his personal weapon so that his enemy can kill him with it. We have a choice as to who we give the members of our body to. Verse 13 says that we should give the members to God to be used for righteousness. So, you see, we have a choice. It is a conscious choice that must be made at each encounter with a temptation to sin.

The fourth thing to remember is that if we are a true believer in Jesus Christ, there is no condemnation. (Romans 8:1). We live under that umbrella that no matter how we falter and fail, there is no condemnation coming our way. That frees us to get up and try again knowing that God is working to help us do the right thing.

The fifth thing to remember is that I have been set free from the law of sin and death. (Romans 8:2) There is a God-established law that sin results in death. A Christian has been set free from that. That is part of the salvation that we have in Christ.

Next, we need to understand that Jesus Christ was a man like we are except without sin. He was tempted, he got tired, he was a man. Because he was able to live his life without sinning, God tells us that in doing so he condemned sin in the flesh. In other words, he showed that man does not have to respond to temptations. He can overcome because of the power of God at work in him. That is what Romans 8:3 is telling us when it says that “he condemned sin in the flesh.”

Finally we need to realize that the requirement of the law is fulfilled in us as we walk according to the Spirit. The external law was never meant to accomplish anything except to show us our guilt and inability to keep God's commands. In the New Covenant God writes his laws on our heart so that it is in our heart to do the right thing and to live obedient lives. Even though we often fail, as we yield to his Spirit, we find ourselves fulfilling his commandments naturally.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Memorization Monday - Romans 8:14

Romans 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

This is a pretty clear explanation of who the sons of God are. The question we need to ask ourselves is, "Are we led by the Spirit of God?"