Thursday, December 2, 2010

Why Will We Serve God in Heaven?

It can be VERY hard to rid ourselves of the baggage of minds programmed to think selfishly. Grace seems too good to be true, after all, NOBODY gets something valuable without working for it, right? Wrong. 2 Corinthians 5:9 Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him. Contextually "at home" in verse 9 is talking about Heaven, the place where we will have shed our earthly "tent" for a permanent dwelling with God.

Once in Heaven, is it our ambition to please Him while there in Heaven in order to keep staying there? No! Therefore this shows, CLEARLY, that our ambition to please Him on earth, also, has nothing to do with earning our way or what's in it for us.

His decision to save us through His forgiveness is all about His love and mercy towards us. It is unmerited, unearned favor for which the understanding and honest sinner feels COMPELLED to answer in honest, obedient and reverent love and adoration.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Job and the Prosperity Gospel

The story of Job is one which has troubled many people through the ages. How could God give such a good man into the ravages of the roaring lion Satan?

What I've come to see through this story is that a better question should be asked. How can our Holy God NOT punish sinful men?

Job is noted for the incredible amount of integrity that he had among his fellow men. Along with his spiritual integrity and love for God, he was also extraordinarily blessed in material ways.

Job was loved and appreciated by God for these marks of love and respect towards Himself given by Job. God indicated this pleasure He had in Job to Satan. Satan thought it was all a quid pro quo, since God had so blessed Job, Job was serving God because of the stuff, NOT out of any real love or reverence. God could not allow this insult to Job and to Himself to stand. Faithfulness to God is its own reward and far more precious than the material blessings of this world. Thus, God allowed Satan to take away all the things that Satan said were the SOLE reason for Job's fidelity to God.

As Job is in misery, he makes the mistake of thinking that he had deserved good things from God, that he was owed. In his suffering he blames God for mistreating him and accuses God of unfairness and injustice.

When his friends come along, they are horrible comforters. They all tell him basically, "You are a terribly wicked sinner who has had all this come upon you because you have not admitted your sin. If you were truly good, none of these bad things would have happened in the first place." Later on, a young man who has been listening to the whole thing accuses Job in the same way.

All of them were wrong! Job was wrong to think that he had all of his blessings because he deserved them. What did he really deserve? Job deserved horrible things because as a man, while he was better than others, he was not NEARLY as good as God. He was a sinner, condemned apart from God's mercy and patience. Job accused God of giving him evil in return for Job's good deeds when things got bad. But Job had failed to see that the exact opposite had been occurring prior to this. God had been giving him wonderful good things that he did not deserve due to the fact that he was not NEARLY good enough to merit any of these great blessings. Should God be blamed when He takes things away from us that we never deserved in the first place?

Job's friends and the young man who stomped on him when he was down in the dirt were wrong also. Job was not in the state he was in because he was not good enough, he never had been. Ironically, he was in the shape he was in because he was BETTER than they were. He deserved more than they to be tested, tried, and have a Bible book named after him later. If he were as good as they thought he should be, YET, he would not be good enough to be worthy of God's blessings. He would have still been worthy of the rubbish heap.

Job thought he deserved better because of his good deeds and righteousness, he was wrong. He deserved what he got. His friends thought that he was getting what he deserved because he was wicked, supposing themselves good. They were wrong. Job was the best of a bad lot.

The main point that can be learned is that in the bad times we are being treated as we should and that in our good times, we are being treated better than we deserve. God is JUST and the justifier of men, PERIOD.

The story of Job is a story which teaches the incredible importance of falling upon God's mercy, loving and admiring Him ALONE. We MUST not think we are something we are not. If Job, the best of men, deserved the horrors of what he went through, what of the worst among us? This teaches that there can be NO earning of salvation, that there are NO pretty good folks deserving to get to heaven on their merits. There is NO other way to God than through falling upon His mercy through His Son Jesus.

Prosperity comes when God, through His mercy gives us what He desires us to have in ways that bring Him pleasure and glory. A teaching that says prosperity comes because we are servants of God makes the same mistake that Satan did. God's blessings to us are not and have NEVER BEEN a quid quo pro for our goodness. They have only ever been a reflection of our EXTREMELY generous God.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

God, Our Judge

God must punish wrong because He's good and fair. If someone murdered your child would the judge be good if he let the guy go without punishment? No. God ALWAYS pays back to sinners and law-breakers what justice demands, and according to Romans 6:23 sin demands death. Jesus death made a difference to us because He was perfect and without any sin of His own. Therefore He could take our place. God, the judge who HAD to punish our sin, in Jesus, took off His judge robes and came down and carried out His own sentence of justice against Himself.

Salvation is by accepting this wonderful sacrificial gift in faith and being loyal to Him for life. Our works are done to honor Him and spread His fame in all the land. They are based upon our existing relationship with our loving Father, NOT, as some suppose, to secure our relationship. When men try to get to God via good works they are not doing their works for God but for themselves. This is idolatry, worship and service to self, an idol made of flesh and blood. God said that the wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Try to be made good by law, ANY law, and you can ONLY get death. The penalty of death, which we have all earned, was paid when Jesus VOLUNTARILY gave himself up so we can be with God in paradise. He paid the price in full. ALL we give to Him is to prove our gratitude and love to Him for the gift He has given.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Stumbling Block of the Baptistry.

It never ceases to amaze me how much of a stumbling block the cross is to those who need to be saved by it. It is incredibly disheartening to hear how many people are not interested in the least in Jesus and what He has done for them in His love for them to protect them from the wrath of God's justice. Isaiah 53:4-6 (4) Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. 6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Yet, there is something even more disheartening; when people who seem to obviously love Him reject the plain teachings of scripture when it says how we are to come to Him. Of those who love Jesus, many will come if it involves a sinner's prayer, or sprinkling, or a works based salvation. But mention to the MAJORITY that salvation comes in the water AFTER having believed, repented, and confessing Him and you'll get run out of Dodge City quicker than a convict facing Matt Dillon. Libraries have been written on these issues but I'll just focus here in my mini rant upon one thing that makes good sense to me.

One of these sites that courageously puts forward the need for sinful man to be saved tells then that, like a parachute, Jesus does not just need to be believed, He needs to be put on. They then quote the scripture that I agree with and love as much as them.

Romans 13:12-14 (12) The night is almost gone, and the day is near Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.

Is this true, that we need to put on Jesus? ABSOLUTELY! How is this done? They say it is done by diving into repentant belief like a person dives out of a plane with a parachute. They must have a changed heart and mind that shows that they have truly repented. I agree, no problem so far. Yet, baptism is NOWHERE mentioned in their "putting on Jesus." How can this be that the "sinner's prayer" has been substituted for baptism in His name when baptism is clearly commanded?

How does one "put on Jesus Christ?" Follow the logic. Before one "puts on Jesus" they are naked and unclothed in their unrighteous state. Even our righteousness is described in Isaiah 64:6 as "filthy rags." Yet we cannot walk into God's presence at the marriage feast of the Lamb naked or in the filthy rags of our "righteousness" as shown in the parable of the marriage feast in Matthew 22:12-14 We must be wearing the wedding clothes provided at the door that we exchange our nakedness or filthy rags for. We must have "put on Jesus." In Galatians 3:27 we are shown when this happens. Galatians 3:27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. We are baptized by God's Holy Spirit INTO Jesus and have been CLOTHED by Him in the process. No baptism equals naked and unclothed, thus, unsaved.

How did we get to this point? It is because millions have been mislead into thinking that to believe that baptism is necessary for salvation is tantamount to believing in a works based salvation in which one is attempting to earn their way into Heaven. This is far from the truth. When Israel walked through the waters of the Red Sea to be saved from Egypt, a type (symbol) for baptism mentioned in 1 Corinthians 10:1-2, were they saving themselves? Were they earning their salvation? No! When one falls off a cruise ship and are about to drown and someone throws them a life saver, are they said to have saved themselves when they grab it and allow themselves to be pulled to safety? The person who threw them the lifeline gets the credit. When we come to be baptized we are coming to be saved by the work and goodness of another, not to save ourselves. Titus 3:5 He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.

If you have prayed a prayer to be saved from this world you have done something to be saved. If that were how it was done, would that mean that you were relying upon yourself for salvation? The truth is that we come to Jesus and have Him save us at baptism. We do not baptize ourselves but, instead, we actively come to then passively receive. We do not remit our own sins, we have them remitted by Jesus. How can that be a works based salvation?

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Whistling Past the Cross

If someone is guilty enough to die, it would be immoral for them to choose to allow an innocent person to die in their place so they can be freed. Jesus, while we were still His enemies died for us. He did this without asking our permission or putting us in the difficult position of having our freedom secured with the blood of an innocent. When we accept Him, we do so with the knowledge that He has already died for us and everyone else as well. It is only a matter of whether we will accept Him as our Savior and our Lord.

The Apostle Paul was one of the greatest persecutors the church has ever known. When he became a Christian he did so with the knowledge that he had imprisoned and had killed innocent followers of Jesus. Each time he had done this he had hurt Jesus. He carried around the burden of that guilt like a lead weight. Instead of immobilizing him it drove him to more and greater fame as an evangelist than he ever had in his notoriety as a persecutor. His burden was his starting block to put his foot upon to start the race rather than a stone around his neck to drag him into despair.

We hurt Jesus with our sins. It was our guilt, that we deserved to die for, that put Jesus on the cross in our place. Our self knowledge should lead us to a life where we strive much more to eliminate sin. Because he loves us enough to die and take away our sins, we should love Him enough to die to ourselves and turn away from our sins diligently working to put away our desires to commit them. We must never whistle past the cross merrily sinning away.

Recently I asked God to help me overcome sin in my life. Then as I reflected on it further realized that through Jesus I have overcome it. Then I asked for Him to help me overcome the commission of sin in my life because every time I sin I am hurting God. Shall we sin because we have grace? I was sinking deep in sin, Wheeeee! God, looking down upon His dying Son would disagree. We owe Him more, our love, and our lives.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

What is the ONE Thing That Matters?

In the movie City-slickers, a bunch of men were out trying to find themselves on a dude ranch. The man who will be with them for their adventure is an old grizzled veteran named Curly who would rather spit on them than like them. But over time, he and one of the men bond and have mutual respect. The other man at one point was talking about the seeming meaninglessness of life. Curly looked at him and held up one finger saying, “Do you know what the secret of life is? This is.” He held up one finger. The other man asked, “Your finger?” Curly replied, “One thing, just one thing matters.” The other man wanted to know what it was. Curly told him he didn’t know, he’d have to find it out for himself.

In the sequel, Curly has since died, but has a twin brother, Duke, who takes them out again. They are looking for gold that Curly had supposedly hidden. Duke quotes from Curly to the same man Curley had talked to before, but with a small addition of his own. He says, “Only two things matter in life, GOLD, and whatever this is.” He said this while again holding up one finger. With baited breath the other man wants to find out what the one thing was. Duke looked at him and said, “Heck if I know, Curley never said.”

Many of us have felt like that man, wandering in life seeking meaning. Many people think they know what some of the most important things are. They are different depending on the people: money, wealth, power, popularity, fun and entertainment, wisdom, and a host of other things fill people’s lives. Yet, the one most important thing constantly eludes them. What is the most important thing? According to the Ecclesiastes writer who had ALL of the things that many people seek after and came up empty, this is what matters.

Ecclesiastes 12:13 The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.

Jesus agreed with him. Matthew 22:37-39 (37) And He said to him, “‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ 38 “This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 “The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’

Both of those are actually the same. You cannot love God without fearing Him and keeping His commandments. You cannot love God without loving others.

We are among the most blessed of people, forgiven of our sins and able to help bring others into relationship with God if we’ll love God and them enough to take the time. Have you taken the time to share the love of God with others and what will happen if they don’t come to Him. If not, let’s let them know about the ONE thing that matters.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Today Is the Day of Salvation

Sometimes I wonder if I am the only person who struggles with what we commonly refer to as friendship evangelism. I have looked throughout scripture and don't recall finding any specific examples of people who drew out the Gospel while they were attempting to make it more comfortable or the situation more palatable for the people being reached out to.

Now in principle, you can find it via a Christian wife winning her non-believing husband through her faithful and loving lifestyle or in the world being able to know we are His disciples by our love. Our love certainly plants seeds in others that may blossom into salvation. I am also aware of the fact that in the parable of the sower that the seed is the word of God (the Gospel) and that we are to be seed sowers while God brings about the conversion. I also read there of the fact that the Devil is present EVERY time the Gospel is shared. He has one goal in mind, steal the seed so that it cannot bring about saving faith. The more time that goes by .... well you know.

My hope is that evangelism done over time is sincere and not a way to avoid the offense of the Gospel. Although I thoroughly believe there is a place for it, I also believe that it should not be done first. We know our birthday but what of our death? I had a woman die in between studies while engaged in friendship evangelism. I certainly did not feel I had been a very good friend. Needless to say it rather changed my perspective. I also know of a woman in a small town in Arkansas who had responded to the Gospel but put her baptism off until the following day. She was killed that night in a tornado.

In 2 Corinthians 6:2 it says that today is the day of salvation and that now is the time while in James 4:13-17 it points out the arrogance of saying we will do this or that but don't know AT ALL if that will be the case or not.

I personally think we should all become masters of the fine art of transition. We need to be looking at every opportunity that we feasibly can to bring up the Gospel of Jesus Christ to those who are lost by making the transition from the ordinary world to God's extraordinary spiritual world. Having done this move on and share the Gospel in one sitting.

When Paul had been beaten and was in prison after preaching the Gospel to the Jailer and his family they went in the middle of the night and baptized that whole family. Why? After a three day fast without food or water Saul was baptized and THEN ate and drank. Why? The eunuch from Ethiopia was baptized immediately in the middle of the desert when it certainly would have been advantageous for the still fledgling church to have had such a high ranking government official become a part of the movement publicly. Why? It is because they had a built in sense of urgency which we have largely lost due, at least in part, to our desire not to offend.

Though there will be times this won't be feasible, I definitely think it should be the rule rather than the exception.