Getting to Work

It’s time to get to work. What a great thought! What a great opportunity! It is great to know that Jesus is still working. Hebrews 7:25 tells us “he is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.”

“The eternally unchanging, high-priestly, and royal sway of the glorified Son of Man, is the cause of our perfect salvation, in that, by means of this, we, reconciled, draw near to God, and are kept in perpetual fellowship of life with God.”(John Peter Lange et al., A Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Hebrews (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2008), 137).

In Romans 8:34 Paul said, “Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died–more than that, who was raised–who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.” Hebrews 9:24 tells us, “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.”

1 Timothy 1:15 records again the ancient and continued hope–“Faithful is the saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” Christian, we must be thankful that the work of Jesus to save mankind began at Calvary and continues at the right hand of God today! How amazing is God’s grace!

 

What Is Moralistic Therapeutic Deism?

Colour Pencils, Color, Paint, Draw, Colorful, Embassy 

 

What is Christianity? That is a good question we need to ask ourselves. So take moment. Answer that question for yourself. What do you think Christianity is?

Now notice something about your answer. Does your answer revolve around you or does it revolve around God?

Dr. Albert Mohler reported on his podcast “The Briefing” just this morning:

When Christian Smith and his fellow researchers with the National Study of Youth and Religion at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill took a close look at the religious beliefs held by American teenagers, they found that the faith held and described by most adolescents came down to something the researchers identified as “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.”

As described by Smith and his team, Moralistic Therapeutic Deism consists of beliefs like these: 1. “A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.” 2. “God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.” 3. “The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about ones self.” 4. “God does not need to be particularly involved in one’s life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.” 5. “Good people go to heaven when they die.”

That, in sum, is the creed to which much adolescent faith can be reduced. After conducting more than 3,000 interviews with American adolescents, the researchers reported that, when it came to the most crucial questions of faith and beliefs, many adolescents responded with a shrug and “whatever.” (http://www.albertmohler.com/2005/04/11/moralistic-therapeutic-deism-the-new-american-religion-2/).

What is Christianity all about? Is it about you? Is it about others? Or is it about God? Well certainly all three groups play an important role in that answer. But the “you” and the “others” in the answer only fit in the discussion if God is at the center. The problem with Moral Therapeutic Deism is that it is incredibly self centered. God is only on the outskirts of that theology. Christianity has God at center. All things radiate around God.

It is not as though God does not care about mankind—John 3:16. God sent his Son, and inspired his word that our “joy may be full” (John 15:11) and so we might enjoy the abundant life to its fullest (John 10:10). But what is best for us? Is the best thing to be full of ourselves or to be full of God?

 Remember that the Bible tells us what life is all about— “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole of man” (Ecclesiastes 12:13). Psalm 37:4 tells us to “delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” The importance of God is to be demonstrated by our zeal for his work and his church. Matthew 13:44 says, “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.”

In order for our lives to be the best they can possibly be, we must place God in the center. Only when we are with God are we at our best. Psalm 16:11 reminds us, “You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Paul lived that Christ centered life. He wrote, “Indeed, I count all things as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (Philippians 3:8). Because Paul lived that life, he wrote, “henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness.” God was at the center of his life. That center demonstrated itself in dedicated service to the church. Paul lived life to the fullest.

I hope we can sing and live out the words to the song “Be Thou My Vision” which say:

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise,
Thou mine Inheritance, now and always:
Thou and Thou only, first in my heart,
High King of Heaven, my Treasure Thou art.”

 

 

Father’s Day

On this Father’s Day we remember some special people. It is important to honor our fathers. Our society needs fathers. Far too many young people grow up without the influence of good fathers. The absence of fathers in a child’s life has proven to be detrimental to every facet of proper development and maturity.

None of us have perfect fathers. Every father makes mistakes. But every one of us has the Heavenly Father to look to for an example and guidance. This helps us in our own growth and we can look to him to learn how to be better fathers. In Matthew 6:9-13, Jesus taught his disciples how to pray. But he also taught us much about the Father.

Thankfully, we are told to address God as “our Father.” What a tremendous blessing. We are never truly alone. We know where we come from. We know who will care for us. Our Father in Heaven. Our Heavenly Father wants to make our lives better. He wants to improve our world. As individuals submit to the reign of God, the world is made better. This is the answer to the prayer “Thy kingdom come.” Let us pray that the Father’s will is done in our lives.

Our Heavenly Father understands our physical needs. As we ask, “give us this day our daily bread,” he provides. More importantly, our Heavenly Father understands our spiritual needs. As Christians pray “forgive us our debts,” God hears and makes that forgiveness a reality. As we pray to be “delivered from evil,” we trust that he is providing a way for us.

It is great to be a Christian. It is great to have God as our Father.

 

The Advantages of the Christocentric Life

What would it look like if Christ was in the center of our lives? Now many of us think that Christ is already there. But there is a difference in Christ being at the center of our lives and trying to sneak a little of Christ in the things we were already going to do.

Paul’s words certainly help us to understand the centrality of Christ to his own life and how to make Christ the center of our own lives.

But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead–Philippians 3:7-11

Instead of trying to fill in the gaps in our day with Jesus, we should count everything but Jesus as a hindrance. When Paul wrote “I count all things as loss,” he used a word (ζημίαν) which could be translated “disadvantage.” Paul said that everything but Jesus was a disadvantage to him.

I hope that we can so recognize the importance of having a Christocentric (Christ centered) life. Everything else is just a disadvantage.

Conversion, Salvation, and What I Must Do

Perhaps Titus 3:3-7 provides one of the greatest and most eloquent summaries of the message of salvation. I love the inspired words in Titus 3:3-7:

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared,  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, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”

The message of salvation for sinners through God’s grace shines here in these sacred words.

Titus 3:3 describes the presence of sin which breaks the relationship between man and God. The message of God’s multifaceted grace is highlighted by resting on the dark backdrop of mankind’s sin. Isaiah described the consequence of sin “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not so short That it cannot save; Nor is His ear so dull That it cannot hear. But your iniquities have made a separation between you and your God. And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does not hear” (Isaiah 59:1-2, NASBU).  Sin causes separation from God and his blessings.  This separation from God, the source of life, results in spiritual death. God described this spiritual death through Paul in Ephesians 2. Paul wrote, “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:1-2, ESV).

Death is the consequence God promised as the result of sin in the Garden. Moses recorded God’s words in Genesis 2:17, “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” This dying was both physical and spiritual. The dual nature (physical and spiritual) of death is highlighted by the Apostle Paul’s usage of the word where both physical and spiritual death are intimately related although one may be emphasized over the other in each context.

The consequences of sin began. Adam and Eve were different. This difference is noted as the Bible says in Genesis 3:7, “Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked. And they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves loincloths.” The original innocence was lost. Furthermore, their actions brought consequences upon all of future mankind recorded in Genesis 3:16-24.

  Even though God’s image bearers had rebelled against him, hope was given through the promise of grace. The first mention of the Gospel in Genesis 3:15 came before mankind received the sentence of condemnation. Jesus continues to stand for mankind before sin’s punishment. Back in Titus 3:4 Paul wrote, “When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared.” The sound of God’s amazing grace is truly sweet. The appearance of Jesus in the incarnation is a display of God’s “goodness and lovingkindness.” God “goodness” (χρηστότης) refers to his “the quality of being helpful or beneficial, goodness, kindness, generosity.” His “lovingkindness” (φιλανθρωπία), refers to God’s “affectionate concern for and interest in humanity.”

This “appearing” describes the incarnation of Jesus. Paul recorded what was likely an ancient hymn in order to describe the entry of Jesus into this world. In Philippians 2:6-11 Paul wrote,

“though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,  but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

John wrote the Golden Text of the Bible, John 3:16, to describe this great event. Jesus’ birth was the fulfillment of prophecies, the answer to prayers, and the eternal plan of God (Acts 2:23).

Jesus came into the world so that he might “save us” as Titus 3:5 says. Before Jesus was born, the angel instructed Joseph to “call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). Jesus himself said that he came to “seek and save the lost” in Luke 19:10. Salvation was made available by Jesus’s sacrifice. Isaiah 52:13-53:12 describes the death of Jesus as the sacrifice which achieved penal substitutionary atonement.

I personally love what J. I. Packer wrote concerning the atoning work of Christ in his book In My Place Condemned He Stood. “If the true measure of love is how low it stoops to help, and how much in its humility it is ready to do and bear then it may be fairly claimed that the penal substitution model embodies a richer witness to divine love than any other model of atonement, for it sees the Son at the Father’s will going lower than the other views suggest” (94). I am thankful that Jesus loves me. Because of his love for me, I want to praise him and devote my life to helping others bring glory to him.

Following Jesus’s humiliating death, God worked again in the glorious resurrection of Christ. “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3–4). In Jesus’s death, burial, and resurrection, the penalties of sin are defeated and removed. Everything which was lost through sin under Adam’s representation was regained in Christ’s perfect representation (Romans 5:12-21). The penalty of sin is replaced by the glory of redemption by God in Christ.

God made the first move. God sent his Son to be the propitiation for the sins of the world—1 John 2:2. This offer of God’s grace must then be received by mankind. As Peter preached, “Save yourselves from this perverse generation” (Acts 2:40). Paul’s missionary life was devoted to “bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles for his namesake” (Romans 1:5). This is vital since “God gives his Holy Spirit to those who obey him” (Acts 5:32).

Being called by God through the Gospel (2 Thessalonians 2:14), we must respond appropriately to the Gospel. This salvation is not based upon mankind’s work. God “saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to his mercy, by the washing and renewing by the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). “For by grace you are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). Mankind can do nothing to bring about his or her own salvation—we are totally dependent upon God.

Paul described this salvation event in Ephesians 2:4-6, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our transgression, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” This salvation event is described by Paul again in Colossians 2:11-12, “in him you were circumcised with a circumcision not made without hands, in the removal of the body of flesh by the circumcision of Christ; having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God.”

The first time the Gospel was preached in the book of Acts, we see individuals who believed Jesus to be the Christ and that he had been crucified for their sins. “They were pierced to the heart and said to Peter and threats of the apostles, ‘Brethren what shall we do?’Peter said to them, Repent and each one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:37-38). We thank God for this indescribable gift. I am compelled by his gift of salvation to preach the Gospel to the very best of my ability for his glory and the salvation of lost souls.

The moment of salvation occurs when the one convicted of Christ’s position receives the grace of God. That moment occurs when one is baptized into Christ. Notice that it is at the point of baptism that God promises:

      • The obedience of Jesus’s command—Matthew 28:19-20
      • The new birth—John 3:3, 5
      • The remission of sins—Acts 2:38
      • The position of  being “in Christ”—Romans 6:3
      • The blessing of spiritual renewal—Romans 6:4
      • The hope of eternal life—Romans 6:5
      • Being “in the body”—1 Corinthians 12:13
      • Being a member of God’s family—Galatians 3:26-27
      • The washing of regeneration—Titus 3:5
      • The appeal to God for a clear conscience—1 Peter 3:21
      • They have right to the tree of life—Revelation 22:14.

Baptism is clearly not an optional matter. Rather it is the pivotal moment in which God transfers one from death to life.

This conversion to new life has great responsibilities for God’s people. In Ephesians 2:10 God tells us “we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we should walk therein” (NASB). The expression “for good works” means for the purpose of performing good works.

1 Peter 1:22 reminds us again that a Christian’s conversion serves to promote the glory of God in the church. Peter wrote, “Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God.” Christians are converted that they may serve God appropriately.

Application

1. Why have we been saved?

2. How have we been saved?

3. At what point in time are individuals saved?

4. What responsibilities accompany salvation?

Purgatory, Twitter, and the Real Jesus

CBS News released the following story telling how the current Pope has decided to grant his Twitter followers time off from purgatory

http://www.cbsnews.com/news/vatican-get-time-off-in-purgatory-by-following-pope-on-twitter/

This is sad I’m so many levels. First, it is sad because the Bible says nothing about purgatory. 

Purgatory is a process of purification of the soul after death, following the particular judgment and ordinarily a requirement before entry into heaven. The word “purgatory” was unknown before the 11th century: one of the first documents to mention purgatorium by that name was a letter from the Benedictine Nicholas of Saint Albans to the Cistercian Peter of Celle in 1176 (Haggh, 1997).  From Theopedia.com

This is an attempt to blatantly add to God’s Word. 

Secondly, the doctrine of Purgatory diminishes the glory of Jesus’s sacrifice. As the song said, Jesus paid it all.  

Hebrews 10.10 describes the sacrifice of Jesus for his people as being once and for all. 

And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. 

There is no need for purification for sin in Purgatory. Jesus has already paid the price. He has offered a single and sufficient sacrifice for sins which perfected his saints–Hebrews 10.13-14

Peter wrote of the greatness of Jesus’s sacrifice in First Peter 1.3-5:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, 4 to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time

The Bible doesn’t mention Purgatory because we have no need of it. We have Jesus. We have the great and perfect sacrifice. Let us trust him. Let us trust his grace. 

God’s Servants–the Angels

 

What a great group of servants God has in his church! The servants in the church are like God’s servants in Heaven—the angels. God has created these great servants to accomplish his purposes and serve his saints. They are great examples for us to learn to emulate.

 

What are angels like?

Angels are not divine.

Angels are part of God’s creation.

Angels have rank and order.

Angels praise God

Angels are not the popular expressions seen in Hallmark.

Angels are powerful agents of God’s providence.

 

Angels are inferior to Christ

One of the first things we need to recognize about angels is their inferiority to Christ. Hebrews 1:5-13 describes the superiority of Christ.  For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son”? And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, “Let all God’s angels worship him.” Of the angels he says, “He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.” But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” 10 And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; 11 they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, 12 like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.” 13 And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation? [1]

Despite what some may claim, Jesus was not an angel. Jesus is a member of the Godhead.

 

Angels are God’s Servants of Providence

God’s angels are servants to accomplish his will and his purposes. We can see God’s angels working in specific ways in the Old Testament and the New Testament. We must assume that God’s angels continue to work his providence to day.

Psalm 103:20, Bless the LORD o you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word! Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers, who do his will!

Hebrews 1:7, “of the angels his says, He makes his angels winds, and his ministers a flame of fire.”

Psalm 104:4

 

Angels are interested in God’s Plan of Redemption

Their interest in the Old Testament

Acts 7:38, 53, Moses is “the one who was in the congregation in the wilderness with the angel who spoke to him at Mount Sinai” “you received the law as delivered by angels.

Galatians 3:19, the law was “put in place through angels by an intermediary.”

Hebrews 2:2, “For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable”

Their interest in the New Testament

1 Peter 1:10-12, “Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be your searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequence glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit from Heaven.”

 

Angels serve the saved

Hebrews 1:14, ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation.

Exodus 23:23, “When my angels goes before you and brings you to the Amorites…I will blot them out.”

Numbers 20:16, “When we cried to the LORD he heard our voice and sent an angel and brought us out of Egypt.”

Isaiah 63:9, “the angels of his presence saved them;”

1 Kings 19:5, Elijah lay down and slept under a broom tree. And behold, an angel touched him and said to him rise and eat. And he looked and behold there was at his head a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he ate and drank and lay down again. And the angel of the LORD came again a second time and said, ‘Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.”

I wonder how the angels are serving now?

 

Angels are agents of God’s providence

Exodus 23:20, Behold I send my angel before you to guard you on the way and bring you to the place that I have prepared.

Psalm 91:11-12, “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways. On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.”

Psalm 34:7, “The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him and delivers them.

Matthew 18:10, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of my Father who is in heaven.”

 

Be “an angel”

Be a servant of God

Serve God’s plan of salvation

Serve God’s servants

Serve God’s will.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2016), Heb 1:5–14.