The Message of the Cross (Part Two)

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God (NIV).

When we consider the spiritual condition of the world, our mission can appear to be futile. But there is good news! The message of the cross is the message of salvation (1:18). Too often “salvation” is an empty word that is spoken as a password to be accepted as a Christian. Its meaning is neglected. Salvation means that a person has been rescued by God from sin, guilt, and their consequences. It tells us that our future is horrible, unless God himself delivers us.

The world does not mind hearing a message of limited change, even if it requires a small amount of religion. Most people will admit that they and their society “have a few problems”. They will even seek help when the problems start to cause pain. Think of the multitudes who run to therapy sessions or take legal drugs everyday. The patients are seldom told, “Don’t worry sweetheart; we’ll deal with your liver and kidney problems in a couple years. Oh, and by the way, these drugs treat physical symptoms and in no way, should be considered curative.” Most people will even admit that some small changes need to be made in their lives or in the way that society is operating. This is a “Band-Aid” approach.

But the message of the cross is intolerable to the world apart from God.

  • It is unbearable because it reveals the depth of the human problem. People are perishing! This speaks of what we are, and not merely what we are doing. Humanity is a perishing race. This speaks of the need for God to rescue those who are perishing. “What? Go to God for help? No way. I don’t want anybody telling me what to do, especially God.”
  • It is extremely painful, because it speaks of human responsibility. People do not like to hear that they are blameworthy. “It’s not my fault! It’s my parent’s fault or my siblings’ or my children’s or my teacher’s. But I didn’t do it!” They do not want to hear that they must answer to their Creator.
  • It is totally disgusting to them because it divides people into two categories: those who are right with God and those who are condemned. They do not like to hear that they are lost. They do not like to hear that God has found others by his grace.

However, the message of cross is God’s way of salvation. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith” (Romans 1:16-17 NIV).

Grace and peace, David

The Holy Spirit (Part Twenty-seven)

Acts 10:37-38

You know what has happened throughout the province of Judea, beginning in Galilee after the baptism that John preached—how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power, and how he went around doing good and healing all who were under the power of the devil, because God was with him (NIV).

In recent articles about the Holy Spirit, we have considered how the Spirit of God anointed Jesus to carry out the work the Father gave him to do. After Christ’s baptism, the Spirit led him into the wilderness to overcome the evil one in the temptations hurled against him. He succeeded where both Adam and Israel failed. Next, we see that Jesus did his mighty works by the Spirit of the Lord.

The Holy Spirit filled Jesus with power to carry out his ministry. We rightly believe that Jesus is the Son of God. He could easily have done all his miraculous signs through his personal power. But that was not the course the Father had designed for the glory of God. Jesus’ life was one of humble submission to the Father. Listen to the words of Philippians two. Christ Jesus, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness (Philippians 2:6-7 NIV). This course required him to do his mighty works by the power of the Spirit, as he himself said. “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:18-19 NIV).

The Spirit of God empowered Jesus to do good works (Acts 10:38). This was to undo the chaos of the devil (cf. 1 John 3:8b). Jesus demonstrated that the kingdom of God could set up a new way of life, one free from the ruin of sin. His actions also would bring glory to God (cf. Matthew 5:16; 9:8). Think for a moment. Has the Lord Jesus touched you in your soul with his healing power? Perhaps you need the Healer to heal you spiritually. I have good news for anyone reading who remains spiritually blind. Cheer up, hear his voice, he’s calling you (cf. Mark 10:46-52)!

Jesus received power to set up the new age the new age of the Spirit. The saving reign of God had arrived. After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:14-15 NIV) The year of the Lord’s favor, the new year of Jubilee, had come (cf. Lk 4:14-21).

Are you in the new creation? Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come! (2 Corinthians 5:17 NIV) You may have new life in Christ today! It comes as the Lord Jesus acts by his saving grace when you have a change of mind and trust in him for salvation. Call on him by faith.

Grace and peace, David

The Importance of the Resurrection (Part Two)

Romans 10:9-10

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved (NIV).

In our previous post on these verses, we saw that Christ’s resurrection is the fulfillment of his crucifixion. Yes, God the Father sent his Son as the Lamb of God to take away our sins, but he also sent him to rise the third day. What did God intend through the resurrection?

Belief in Christ’s resurrection means salvation. Let’s begin with the place of belief—“in your heart”

What is the meaning of the heart? So often in our culture we use heart in reference to the emotions. But in the Bible the heart is the center of personality, which includes the mind and will, along with the emotions. It determines what a person is.

So then, to believe in your heart that God raised Jesus from the dead means that the truth of Christ’s resurrection has so secured the consent of what we are that it determines all our convictions about religion and life. Think of a farmer planting his corn. The seed is sown in the ground, and as it grows, a mature corn plant develops. So it is spiritually, the Holy Spirit puts the truth of Jesus and his resurrection in the heart, and a life develops that conforms to that truth.

The person that is Christian in name, but not in reality, may agree to the fact of the resurrection intellectually, but the truth of Jesus and the resurrection has not taken over his life. Contrast this with the apostle Paul (Acts 17:18, 30-31). What has happened in your heart?

The happy result of this kind of belief—“you will be saved”. What does it mean to be saved? To be saved is to be rescued from the holy wrath of God that is against sinners because of our rebellion against God and his laws and to be brought into the possession of eternal life and joy (Romans 4:5-8; 5:1-2, 9-11). Observe carefully that the Scriptures speak with certainty at this point—“you will be saved.” There is nothing of a “hope so” attitude or a “blind leap of faith”. Not, not at all! Instead, we read a solemn guarantee. Read Romans 8:31-39. Do you have this certain hope?

The belief that saves produces a grand outward confession—“Jesus is Lord”. The confession, “Jesus is Lord,” refers to the lordship that Jesus has because he died and rose again. For this very reason, Christ died and returned to life so that he might be the Lord of both the dead and the living (Romans 14:9 NIV).

  • Since Jesus is Lord, all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him (Matthew 28:18).
  • Since Jesus is Lord, there is a message of the good news of peace to all (Acts 10:36).
  • Since Jesus is Lord, he rules over all for the good of his church (Ephesians 1:22).
  • Since Jesus is Lord, all angels, authorities and powers are subject to him (1 Peter 3:22).
  • Since Jesus is Lord, he is waiting for his enemies to become his footstool (Acts 2:34-36; Hebrews 10:13).
  • Since Jesus is Lord, he has poured out the promised Holy Spirit (Acts 2:33).
  • Since Jesus is Lord, he is exalted to the highest place, has a name above every name, and every knee will bow to him and every tongue confess that he is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).

“The thing to be confessed is that Jesus Christ is Lord. That is, we must openly recognize his authority to the full extent in which he is Lord; acknowledge that he is exalted above all principality and powers, that angels are made subject to him, that all power in heaven and earth is committed unto him, and of course that he is our Lord. This confession, therefore, includes in it an acknowledgment of Christ’s universal sovereignty, and a sincere recognition of his authority over us. To confess Christ as Lord, is to acknowledge him as the Messiah, recognized as such of God, and invested with all the power and prerogatives of the Mediatorial throne” (Hodge). The Christian recognizes Christ’s lordship and bows before him now. But what of you?

The confession, “Jesus is Lord,” is the fruit of faith in his resurrection. Someone might say, but confession is mentioned before belief, so how can it be the fruit of faith? The answer is simple. The apostle is following the order mentioned in verse eight. “Confession is here put before faith, as it is confession which gives visibility to faith—Paul following the order suggested by the words of Moses” (Brown). Notice also how he turns confession and faith around in verse ten.

Confession with the mouth is evidence of genuine faith in the heart. If someone believes that Jesus Christ is risen and so has become Lord of all, he/she will confess that verbally and openly. “Confession verifies and confirms the faith of the heart” (Murray).

A person “becomes righteous, perfectly righteous, through believing God’s record concerning His Son. But the evidence that this faith is genuine is found in the open confession of the Lord with the mouth in everything in which His will is known. Confession of Christ is as necessary as faith in Him, but necessary for a different purpose. Faith is necessary to obtain the gift of righteousness. Confession is necessary to prove that this gift is received” (Haldane).

“Those who are ashamed or afraid to acknowledge Christ before men, cannot expect to be saved. The want of courage to confess, is decisive evidence of the want of heart to believe, vers. 9, 10” (Hodge). Since Jesus Christ is risen indeed and is Lord over all, shouldn’t you bow in faith before him and trust him as your righteousness and so be saved?

Grace and peace, David

The Importance of the Resurrection (Part One)

Romans 10:9-10

True Christianity is focused on the Lord Jesus Christ. It proclaims the person of Christ, because salvation comes through knowing Christ and so being united to him by faith. The great call of the gospel is believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. True Christianity proclaims Christ’s saving acts that were performed in space/time history. On a literal twenty-four day in the first century, Jesus actually died outside the real city of Jerusalem in Palestine. And three days later he actually rose from the dead. It also proclaims Christ’s word and the word about Christ in the Holy Scriptures. The Lord tells us the meaning of what he did.

Without interpretation, historical events can be meaningless or even misleading. For example, imagine viewing pictures of two groups of men. Both groups appear to be very happy and pleased. Obviously something exciting has occurred as they congratulate a man in the center of the group. You can sense their pride of accomplishment, and perhaps you even might want to smile as you view their happiness. Surely something good has been accomplished for mankind! Then someone interprets both events. The man in the center of the first group is Alexander Graham Bell, but the man in the center of the second group is Adolph Hitler. The interpretation radically alters one’s view of the second group!

It is a fact of history that the tomb of Jesus is empty. Even the most violently determined opponents of Christ and Christianity in the first century could not dispute that fact. But what is the significance or importance of Christ’s resurrection? Let us think about this together. We must start here: The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the basis for justification—for being declared right with God.

Christ’s resurrection is the fulfillment of Christ’s crucifixion.

  • When Christ died, he died to pay the just penalty for the sins of his people. We deserved God’s wrath and the wages of sin, which are death. In Christ’s death on the cross, we see our death put to death. As John Owen said, it is “the death of death in the death of Christ.”
  • But the goal of the death of death is life for his people, and that life is eternal life. So in the risen Lord Jesus Christ we have the free gift of righteousness. That is why we read, “For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified” (cf. Romans 4:25). “Express mention is made only of Christ’s resurrection; which must not be so taken, as though his death was of no moment, but because Christ, by rising again, completed the whole work of our salvation: for though redemption and satisfaction were affected by his death, through which we are reconciled to God; yet the victory over sin, death, and Satan was attained by his resurrection; and hence also came righteousness, newness of life, and the hope of a blessed immortality” (Calvin).

We should think of Christ’s resurrection as the greatest triumph of human history. This day should fill our hearts with inexpressible and glorious joy!

The resurrection of Christ is God’s public declaration.

  • In Christ’s resurrection, God publicly acknowledges that Christ is all that he claimed to be. Consider John 5:20-29 and all Christ’s “I am” statements.
  • In Christ’s resurrection God publicly accepts all that Christ came to perform. Did he die to satisfy wrath? The resurrection proclaims that God is satisfied. Did he die to be the sacrifice for our guilt? The resurrection proclaims that God has taken away our guilt. Did he die to remove God’s alienation from us? The resurrection proclaims that God is reconciled to us. Did he die to set us free from the law, sin and Satan? The resurrection proclaims that God has set us free!

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is proof that something of immense significance has happened. It is like the great day when a large debt is paid and you hold the title to the property free and clear. But in this case it is much better, because in Christ you have eternal life and glory! So then, let us rejoice greatly, knowing that God has accepted every believer in his Risen Son.

Grace and peace, David

Prayer Two of a Struggler

Psalm 25:4-7

People want to know and to be known. These are powerful cravings. Witness the desires for information about what is happening from a multitude of websites and to tell others about ourselves in social media. Yet when we look at life from God’s perspective, we can see our own inadequacies. And this stirs up anxiety in us. David expressed his feelings about seeing himself as God saw him, but he nevertheless drew near to God.

David struggled with walking in God’s ways. Make me to know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long (25:4-5 ESV). David knew his weaknesses. He had an accurate self-image. He knew he had blind spots and an enemy in his own inner person (remaining sin). Still, David had a learner’s attitude. Even godly men need to learn (2 Corinthians 5:9). Years ago, we visited a church where a friend was pastor. He was an accomplished teacher of God’s word. He sought to stir his congregation to attend Sunday School with these words. “I still need to learn; I’ll be in Sunday School.”

David knew what he needed to learn: what pleases God. He was not interested in a mere outward conformity, but in really learning a way of life that is consistent with God. For this reason, he opened himself to the teacher, his covenant Lord. He wanted practical instruction. We want you to be able to use this article on Mondays, Thursdays and all other days.

David knew the entrance requirements for God’s school of grace. He knew God’s teaching flowed out from the fact that God was his salvation. In God’s school, everything starts with knowing the Lord as Savior. From the full light of the New Testament Scriptures, we know that this is the gospel of Christ (Romans 1:16-17). A profitable next step is to focus on God choosing you, the Savior dying for you, and the Spirit helping you. David knew that the application of the teaching related to an active hope in the Lord (cf. Colossians 1:5-6; Titus 2:11-15). We cannot make progress in godliness apart from living in hope in Jesus Christ (Colossians 3:1-4).

David struggled with his friendship with God. Remember your mercy, O Lord, and your steadfast love, for they have been from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of your goodness, O Lord! (25:6-7 ESV). He wondered if God’s friendship could be depended upon in two crucial areas. But instead of fretting about these matters, he approached God as his friend and talked to him about them.

David wanted God to remember his great mercy and love. Observe his God-focus. “Lord, consider yourself!” Remember your great mercy and love. This is how to pray in faith. Bring God into your story, because you are part of his story. He strengthened this with an appeal to God’s long story of glory.

He did not want God to remember his sins. David confessed his sin clearly. He did not hide or evade. He put everything on the table. He confessed the sins of his youth. The godly man shudders about what the world winks at. He spoke about rebelling against the Lord. It was not little, but major sin. See his example: Use biblical concepts about what sin is to assist in making your confession genuine. But after his confession, he asked his covenant Lord to remember him according to love, God’s love. His plea was not a mistaken reliance on his covenant loyalty, as some wrongly talk in our time. Instead, his plea depended on God’s commitment to be faithful to his covenant promises. Since David was a sinner, how could he do this? He lived in hope that one day God would provide a better sacrifice for sin. He depended on God’s promise of the Savior. And one day on Golgotha, God showed that his promise was completely trustworthy as God himself paid the penalty in full for our sins.

You and I are all sinners; yes, all of us are! Yet I have good news today! The living God welcomes you to forgiveness and righteousness in his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. If you are feeling guilty because of your rebellion against God, God has provided the way to be cleansed from guilt through Christ’s perfect, once-for-all sacrifice.

Grace and peace, David

The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Part Eleven)

SAMSUNG

Romans 8:9-10

But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this one is not his. But if Christ is in you, on the one hand the body is dead because of sin, but on the other, the Spirit is life because of righteousness (my translation).

Previously in our series on the Holy Spirit, we considered from the Scriptures our need of the Holy Spirit’s work; namely, we were dead in sin. Next, we saw how the Spirit met this need by regenerating grace. This grace involved a washing and renewal (Titus 3:5) and conveyed an image or likeness unto God (Colossians 3:10). When the Holy Spirit uses the Word of God to cause us to be born again, four things happen: He gives a new heart (inner person) and spiritual life; he gives the gifts of repentance and faith; he breaks the power of sin; and he opens our hearts to Christ and his glory. The old person of the heart that was dead in sin is born again, so that we are now new in Jesus Christ.

“In Christ” is the key idea of salvation. All aspects of salvation, whether regeneration and conversion, or justification, or adoption, or sanctification, or glorification, happen because of our union with the Lord Jesus Christ. How do we come into saving union with the Lord Jesus Christ? Let us look at our text.

At the time of salvation, the Holy Spirit joins the believer to Christ. When we are saved, the Spirit enters the inner person of the heart and brings about union with the Lord Christ. This is a spiritual reality, and it cannot be perceived by our senses. But we know this happens on the authority of God’s word. In fact, we can say this: It is a serious error to equate this act of spiritual union with certain physical manifestations or acts. (See Edwards on the Religious Affections.) There might be physical effects, but they are not an essential part of this event. This is one reason not to compare your conversion experience too closely to another believer. The Spirit works the same new birth, but there are various emotional effects.

When the Spirit enters a person, he effectively calls us to Christ; he unites us to Christ, so that we are “in Christ”, or as Paul states in verse ten, Christ is “in us”. Notice that the apostle speaks interchangeably of being “in Christ” and “in the Spirit”. This is not because of confusion about the Trinity in his thinking, but it flows from the truth of Jesus Christ as the Ascended Lord, and so the giver of the promised Holy Spirit. The Spirit mediates the presence of Christ, and the Father, to us (cf. John 14:18, 23).

A basic definition of a Christian is to have the Holy Spirit of God living in the inner person of the heart. “However much we may need to grow in our relationship to the Spirit; however much we may be graciously given fresh and invigorating experiences of God’s Spirit, from the moment of conversion on, the Holy Spirit is a settled resident within” (Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, p. 490).

Observe that the Spirit “lives” within us. He is active, residing in our hearts. He gets involved in changing us to become increasingly like Christ. He does not like unChrist-like activity and he will let you know his displeasure. He does like righteousness, peace and joy, and he will also let you know his pleasure in them.

This saving union with Christ produced by the Spirit is the basic experience of salvation (2 Timothy 2:10; Colossians 2:10). This is a practical matter.  “To the degree you understand union with Christ, to that degree you will understand the Biblical concept of salvation. Pause right now and ask God to make the doctrine of union with Christ a reality to your heart as well as to your mind… Every spiritual blessing which is necessary for our full salvation and which renders us complete in grace flows out of and is derived from our union with Christ” (Morey, The Saving Work of Christ, pp. 87-88, his emphasis). Understanding this will contribute much to a proper focus on Christ in our relationship with the Lord and his people. We will have confidence before God, since we are in Christ. We will accept one another because we are jointly in Christ. As we think on this reality, we will sense how sin is an ugly violation of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. Instead, we will desire to know the Lord better and to stay close to him.

Grace and peace, David

The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Part Seven)

dscn00411 Corinthians 12:3

To evangelize is one of the great purposes of the church. The Lord Jesus has sent us out on his mission. What is this mission? Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20 HCSB). Since we are to make disciples or learners of Christ, our mission is to turn people from the pursuit of sinful desires to become fully committed followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. We ought to share the good news of Jesus Christ with our friends and families; in fact, this should be our great joy and desire. However, this message is unwanted and disliked by those who need to hear it. Rebellion against God and his ways, refusal to love God, and rejection of God as God, what the Bible means by sin, is deeply rooted in the ideas, attitudes, and desires of people who do not follow Christ.

It should be very clear to us, not only from the Bible but also from our evangelism experiences, that the work of the Holy Spirit is necessary for anyone to turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God (Acts 26:18). Since we are considering the doctrine of the Holy Spirit, it is very appropriate to consider his work in salvation at this point. A correct understanding of the work of the Spirit of God is essential for evangelism and growth of the people of God. It is also important for us to grasp where the Spirit has brought us from, in order that we may understand what we now are in Jesus Christ.

The answers to three questions will help us see the need for the Spirit’s work in salvation. In this article, we will think about the first question. Let us begin with, “What is the difference between religious ritual and spiritual reality?”

Consider the context of verse three. From 7:1 through 16:4, the apostle Paul is answering a number of questions that the Corinthian church had asked him, questions about marriage, Christian liberty, the Lord’s Supper, spiritual gifts, the resurrection of the body, and collections for God’s people in need. The Corinthians were very excited about the subject of spiritual gifts, but they were also very confused, which is clear from the length of this section (chapters 12-14)! From my experience, it is hard to tell what subject will get professing Christians revved up the most. Is it prophecy, predestination or spiritual gifts, especially speaking in tongues?

Highlighting the Corinthian problem:

  • They had a problem regarding a proper focus on Christ. This contributed to their fascination with things like spiritual gifts rather than Christ.
  • They had a problem with realizing and appreciating their unity in Christ. They pursued the individual rather than the community.
  • The Corinthians had a problem about spiritual discernment. They had trouble with testing every teaching or statement by the Scriptures, assuming that if someone manifested some kind of spiritual experience that it must have come form the Spirit of God. That is the reason for Paul’s statement in 12:3.

The Corinthian believers needed to learn that error is to be rejected, regardless of how spiritual it might seem. This is the issue of show versus substance. Also, truth only comes from the work of the Holy Spirit in a human heart. When the Spirit is at work, he glorifies Christ and produces the confession that Jesus is Lord (cf. Romans 10:9-10). Christ is both God and Ruler of the person who truly makes this confession. This is where spiritual reality is, not in loudness about personal experiences of spiritual gifts. The Spirit produces passion to follow Christ, not to glory in spiritual gifts that one claims to possess.

The Corinthians sound a lot like contemporary Christians, but that is not how we should be! A proper grasp of the Holy Spirit’s role in salvation will help us toward spiritual maturity.

Grace and peace, David

The Lord’s Sudden Coming (Part Two)

img_4308Luke 17:31-37

Pause for a moment and think about your life today. What did you do? Probably you did stuff you usually do, starting with your wake-up routine, unless you work third shift like I used to. Third shifters begin their days with work! In any case, most of what you did was what you usually do on any work day: get dressed, have breakfast, commute to work, work, talk to people, work, lunch break, work, commute home, take care of your pet, talk to family, have supper, try to relax, and go to bed.

The world is often deceived by “usualness” (2 Peter 3:3-7). Worldly-mindedness ignores the next world and only lives for and in conformity with this present world. Everything went along fine for those people, up to the day Noah entered the ark or Lot left Sodom. But you see, they had not thought about any sudden catastrophe ending their world! Everyone proceeded on the assumption that everything would always go on as it always had (2 Peter 3:4)! God and judgment were not in the thoughts. They thought that God will never bring judgment, just as everyone thought jets would never be used as bombs to destroy buildings. “It will never happen,” is the carefree attitude.

The people of Noah’s day and of Sodom were not expecting judgment. The sun rose on both mornings, as it had on all other mornings. You can almost hear them taking about the weather, breakfast, their plans for the day, Uncle Herman’s bad knee, and how nosy Aunt Mabel had been lately. Yet sudden judgment fell. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape (1 Thessalonians 5:3 NIV).

The worldly-minded person ignores God, his kind warnings, and his gracious offers of salvation. Again, we see that human nature does not change. People ignorantly imagine that to be godless, irreligious and antichristian is very modern or postmodern. “Don’t be bound by the chains of a worn-out religion! Be chic, urbane, sophisticated and pleasure loving!” The truth is that godlessness and wickedness are very ancient. Noah was a preacher of righteousness and the whole world ignored him. Lot pleaded with his sons-in-law, and they thought he was just joking (Genesis 19:14).  “Irreligion and godlessness should never cause a true Christian to be pessimistic or to be filled with doubt as to whether the gospel is true or not after all. For it has all been predicted” (Lloyd-Jones, p. 292). When people ignore God’s warnings, they only spite themselves. The refusal to hear Noah or Lot did not stop those judgments from coming. My friend, do you think shutting your ears to Christ’s kind words will prevent his coming? You deceive and injure only yourself.

Christ’s return will be a time of separation (17:34-35). Some will be rescued from the wrath about to fall; others will be left for judgment. The Bible does not teach in anyway “universal salvation”. There is a heaven to gain and a hell to flee, and all people will experience both: some the one destiny, some the other. The Lord’s sudden coming will affect the righteous and unrighteous at the same time. In a moment, the godly will be removed from the judgment about to fall, just as Noah and Lot were. Life was going on normally for God’s people, too, when God rescued them from wrath. Salvation will come suddenly. So will wrath. Some people will be left for judgment, just as those of Noah’s day and the people of Sodom.

Physical closeness will not save. In this way, the coming judgment is different from the Flood and Sodom. What mattered then was whether you were inside or outside the ark or outside or inside the city. Physical relationship or personal friendship will not matter when Christ returns. One will be taken and the other left.

Though Christ will come to rescue his chosen people, his return will be the instrument of judgment on those who do not believe (17:27, 29-30, 37). Universal judgment will fall on all those left (17:27, 29-20). The haunting refrain is “and destroyed them all”. Certain judgment will fall on all those left (17:37). As vultures feast on carrion, so the ministers of God’s wrath will come on the spiritually dead.

Are you ready for the return of the Lord Jesus Christ? In the Gospels, Jesus often spoke about his return. He exhorted people to be prepared and alert. The only way to be ready is to turn to God in repentance and faith in Christ. If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved (Romans 10:9-10 NIV).

Grace and peace, David

Enriching Your Prayers

img_16752 Chronicles 20:6-12

If we will all be very honest for a few moments, we must all admit that at times our prayer life can seem lifeless, very routine and predictable. When I was in college, five thousand people would repeat the Lord’s prayer together in chapel services, and it was a great struggle to have it retain meaning, because it seemed that many were interested in how quickly they could push through the required recitation. We are instructed to give thanks at meals (1 Timothy 4:4-5), and if we do what we ought, we can easily fall into a meaningless habit, unless we concentrate on what we are doing. And I could multiply examples.

This makes the prayers we read in the Bible precious to us. As God tells his story, he graciously includes accounts of the conversations that his people have had with him. Their prayers written in the word provide hope concerning how we may talk with the true and living God in our life situation. Let’s look at Jehoshaphat’s prayer.

  • Jehoshaphat declared God’s rule (20:6). There are four key ways that YHWH (Yahweh, the Lord) is described in the Old Testament Scriptures: he is Creator, Ruler, Judge, and Savior. Notice how three of these are prominent in this prayer. He worshiped God for his sovereign authority and power to exercise that authority. He knew he was in the presence of the Boss. We focus on God’s rule, because it is the one of the core elements of prayer. Why would you worship a God who lacked power and authority to make changes in the world? God claims that he has both in his word. Listen to his voice and respond in worship.
  • Jehoshaphat claimed a covenant relationship with God (20:7). “This God is our God.” He boldly reached out on the basis of past grace. God had given the land to Abraham, God’s friend (cf. Isaiah 41:8; James 2:23). So then, he appealed to the Lord about a gift given to his friend. We ought to claim our covenant relationship with God when we pray. In Christ, we have the relationship with God set forth in the new covenant (Hebrews 8:10c). So then, this ought to influence our conversations with the Lord. Consider how the apostle Paul prayed. “God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…” (2 Corinthians 1:3; Ephesians 1:3). However, you can only really pray this way when you have a saving relationship with God in Christ. How can you have this? First, have a change of mind about sin in the way you live. What does this mean? Turn from a life of rejecting God’s right to rule your life. Turn from a refusal to love God with all that you are. Turn from rebelling against what God tells you to do. Second, believe in Jesus. Rely on Jesus Christ and his death on the cross as the only way you can have forgiveness of sin and a righteous standing before God. Perhaps you know you need to be saved. Right now is an excellent time.
  • Jehoshaphat set forth their covenant worship (20:8-9). Later in Jeremiah’s time, this idea was to be abused, since sinners tend to abuse everything! But Jehoshaphat used it, not for a sense of false security, but as an evidence of their repentance. He pointed back to Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple (2 Chronicles 6:14-42; 7:12-22). He appealed to the progress of redemptive history. About ninety years before, Solomon had prayed similar words at the temple dedication, while praising God for keeping his covenant to David. Now Jehoshaphat built his request upon what God had done. At this point we must recognize that we interact with God in Christ and his better covenant. We need to apply what we find in this passage, using new covenant realities. In Christ, his people, the church, are his temple (1 Corinthians 3:16-17), because of the finished work of our Great High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ. We should remember that accomplishment of redemption every day. So then, in this new covenant age, we don’t regard any earthly building as special, because in Christ, we are God’s building, in which he lives by his Spirit. And also all our repentance and faith is based on the finished work of Lord Jesus, God’s Anointed One.

Read and think carefully on Ephesians 1-3 or Colossians 1-2. Drink in what the Spirit has written for your delight in Jesus. Feel the vibrancy of the Lord of Glory in Colossians; admire the beauty of his accomplished work in Ephesians. For example, consider each phrase in Ephesians 1-3 as a masterpiece of redeeming love. But do all this in the Spirit: “Holy Spirit, touch my eyes that I may see the wonders of salvation!”

Grace and peace, David

The Wise Estimator (Part One)

img_3172Luke 14:25-33

My first experience in contracting was as a “go fer”. You know, “Dave, go for this, and Dave, go for that”. In between running from construction site to construction site, I would sometimes work as a laborer. One day as I was nailing on some sheathing, the foreman came up to me and said, “Erl (the owner of the company) wants to see you in the office after work.” All that I could think of was, “I’m going to get laid off. I can tell things are slowing down, and I’m the most recent one hired.” So bracing myself with prayer, I drove to the office on Green Island Ave, in Latham, New York. “Lord, what am I going to do? You know our needs! How will I provide for Sharon and Kyle?” As I walked with trepidation into the office, expecting bad news, Erl asked in his usual straight to the point manner, “How would you like to estimate for me?” I was quick to reply, “I’d be glad to, but I don’t know anything about estimating buildings.” His simple answer was, “That’s no problem; I’ll teach you.” So began my career as a construction estimator!

Sometime later as I was reading through Luke, I “found” verses 28-30, which became my “life’s verses” as an estimator. I have had farmers tell me that they had a real-life understanding about what Jesus meant in passages like Luke 9:62. I think I have a similar appreciation for 14:28-30. I could tell you many stories about construction estimating. But the main point of this passage is not about estimating the cost of buildings or preparing proper strategy for a war. Instead, Jesus is confronting the crowds following him about the true cost of discipleship, of following Christ.

Let us not mistake what Jesus is talking about. He is talking about eternal life, for to be saved in the teaching of Jesus is to be a disciple or follower of Christ (Matthew 28:19). But in this passage the Lord Jesus is not talking about how to be saved, which is by turning from one’s sin to trust in Him, but about the character of those who truly turn from their sins to be saved by faith in Christ alone.

The Lord Jesus made solemn statement about following him. First, think about the form of this solemn statement.

  • It is a conditional statement in the general form, “If anyone does not… he/she cannot be my disciple.”
  • This conditional statement is repeated three times. When anyone repeats in this way, he is obviously and deliberately making a point. Jesus is clearly saying that some people cannot be his followers. This bothers people, and it ought to! But Jesus seeks true followers, who will receive eternal life, not false followers, to whom he will say those most terrible words, “Depart from me. I never knew you” (Matthew 7:23).

This was a shocking statement in Jesus’ time and it still is in ours. People are impressed by numbers. If the crowds are present, people think that something is successful. But one thing that you learn as you study the Bible is that the Lord is not afraid to “thin the ranks”. God is not impressed by crowds of people or by anything else he created. He wants quality before quantity. A graphic example is the size of Gideon’s army. The Lord reduced it from 32,000 to 10,000 to 300.

We must watch out for a trap of the enemy at this point. The evil one will attempt to use this to lessen our zeal and to draw us into inactivity. He will whisper, “That’s right! Just minister to the few you have. Build them into strong converts. Most large churches are terribly shallow anyway. Don’t be like them!” The trap is that the evil one wants us to think that the choice is between, on the one hand, large and zealous and, on the other, small and spiritual. But the truth is that we ought to be both zealous and spiritual and let God take care of the results.

The Lord Jesus Christ wants us to understand that no one can follow him unless he or she truly repents. A deep change of mind about God, Christ, oneself, sin, and salvation is required! Until this happens, a person cannot really follow Christ. Oh, we might be religious, attend church, read our Bibles, but have we truly become followers of Jesus Christ? Are we pursuing Him?

“Hark, Ten Thousand Harps and Voices”: (second verse)

Jesus, hail! Whose glory brightens all above and gives it worth;
Lord of life, Thy smile enlightens, cheers and charms Thy saints on earth:
When we think of love like Thine, Lord, we own it love divine.
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Amen!

Do you have this view of the Lord Jesus?

Grace and peace, David