Thursday, November 24, 2016

Assurance in Light of Grace

For God so loved the world that He
gave His only begotten Son, that
whoever believes in Him shall not
perish, but have eternal life.
John 3:16

This may well be the most well known verse in all of Scripture (other than, "God helps those who help themselves."...joking here), and it portrays for us the magnificent and magnanimous grace of God; and the gospel of John is chock full of the grace of God. 

One of the ways this grace is presented to us in John is through the use of the word sent.  In John, the word sent is used 40 times concerning Christ so that we would know that it was the Father's will, the Father's initiative, the Father's plan for Christ to come down to earth to deliver men from power of sin and the consequences of its penalty.  The Father's sending of the Son is an act of grace. Grace, that is grace because it was never requested or sought out, but given freely by God to all who would believe. Grace is God's free provision of salvation. God sent His Son, of His own volition, in His own time, and in His own way to be the deliverer for all who would place their faith in Him as their Savior and accept His sacrifice on the cross as their sole means of becoming right with God. It was not Christ on the cross trying to persuade God to pardon us, but God purposefully sending His own Son in the likeness of our sinful flesh to bear His own wrath against the sin of men and women.

Understanding this great grace should also give us great assurance.  Assurance of the love of God for us, assurance of the compassion of God toward us, assurance of the mercy of God bestowed on us, and assurance of the forgiveness of God provided for us. We can rest assured because the Lord has extended the favor of His love, compassion, mercy, and forgiveness to us despite us, not because of us.

Our hope of heaven is not grounded in ourselves, but in the grace of God; and so our assurance of our relationship with God and our standing with God is not just for our life here on earth, but ultimately and most importantly for the life that begins after death. This is why Peter could boldly and confidently state that our inheritance is imperishable, undefiled, and reserved in heaven (I Peter 1:4). The grace that we experience here is only the beginning of the grace that will be lavished upon us for all eternity as Paul states that in the ages to come God will show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:7).

So let our assurance rest on the grace for us purposed before creation, the grace made available for us today. and the grace to be lavished on us for eternity , all through Jesus Christ. For we have been saved by grace through faith, and that not of ourselves it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8) What greater assurance could we have.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

God and the Humble Person

In chapter two of Philippians we are told that we are to possess a humility of mind, and then we are given the example of the humility possessed by our Savior, Master, and Leader.  The Greek word for humility of mind is tapeinophrosune.  This word means to be lowly or humble.  It is a lowliness of mind, a state of mind that esteems itself small. It is a state of mind that has a correct estimation of itself before God, it is a state of mind that regards itself as insignificant before God and before others. It is modest.  The way it is used in its context here means we are to responsible for our possession of this state of mind.  

Another way for us to paint a picture humility is to understand that it is the polar opposite of pride and arrogance, it is the polar opposite of boasting, it is the polar opposite of selfishness and empty conceit. 

In us getting our mind right, we must understand that pride doesn’t just exalt itself against others, but always and ultimately exalts itself against God as all sin is always against God. In the Scriptures, you never see the term humble used to describe the wicked, but you will always see pride associated with wickednessLet's look at a couple of verses that reveal to us what God thinks about the pride of man. 

Isaiah 2:12, 17 For the Lord of hosts will have a day of reckoning against everyone who is proud and lofty and against everyone who is lifted up, that he may be abased.  The pride of man will be humbled and the loftiness of man will be abased; and the Lord alone will be exalted in that day.
Isaiah 13:11 Thus I will punish the world for its evil and the wicked for their iniquity; I will also put an end to the arrogance of the proud and abase the haughtiness of the wicked….
In Proverbs 6:16-19 there are seven things listed that God hates, that are an abomination to Him, and the first on the list is haughty eyes.

What we see from the Scriptures is that God hates pride, but values humility.
Micah 6:8 He has told you, O Man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.
Zephaniah 2:3 Seek the Lord, all you humble of the earth, seek righteousness seek humility.

So let us consider together why the Lord values the humble man so much, and why humility is esteemed in the eyes of God. 

                            The humble person knows his place before God and before men.

  Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit,
but with humility of mind regard one another
as more important than yourselves.  Do not
merely look out for your own personal interests, 
but also for the interests of others.
Philippians 2:3-4

Sitting down, He called the twelve and said to them,
"If anyone wants to be first, he shall be last of all
and servant of all."
Mark 9:35

The Job answered the Lord, and said,
"I know that You can do all things,
And that no purpose of Your can be thwarted.
Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?
Therefore I have declared that which I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.
Hear, now, and I will speak; I will ask You, and You instruct me.
I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my
eyes see You; Therefore I retract, and I repent in dust and ashes."
Job 42:1-6

But now God has placed the members, each one of them,
in the body, just as He desired.
I Corinthians 12:18

O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against His mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.
Psalm 131:1-2

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves 
that they were righteous and looked down on everyone else:
"Two men went up to the temple complex to pray, one a Pharisee
 and the other a tax collector.  the Pharisee took his stand and
 was praying like this: 'God, I thank You that I'm not like other
people--greedy, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax
collector.  I fast twice a week, I give a tenth of everything I get.'
But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even raise
his eyes to heaven but kept striking his chest saying, 'God, turn
Your wrath from me--a sinner!'  I tell you, this one went down
to his house justified rather than the other; because everyone
who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles
himself will be exalted.
Luke 18:9-14

 The humble person is reverent

"For My hand made all these things,
Thus, all these things came into being,"
declares, the Lord.
But to this one I will look, to him who
is humble and contrite of spirit,
and who trembles at My word.
Isaiah 66:2

 Tremble, and do not sin;
Meditate in your heart upon
your bed and be still.
Psalm 4:4

But as for me, by Your abundant lovingkindness
I will enter Your house, at Your holy temple
I will bow in reverence for You.
Psalm 5:7

  and My people who are 
Called by My name humble themselves and
pray and seek My face and turn from their
wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven,
will forgive their sin and will heal their land.
II Chronicles 7:14   

The humble person is teachable

Open my eyes, that I may behold
Wonderful things from Your law.

Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes,
And I shall observe it to the end.
Give me understanding, that I may observe
Your law and keep it with all my heart.
Make me walk in the path of Your
Commandments for I delight in it.
Establish Your word to Your servant
As that which produces reverence for You.

You have dealt well with Your servant,
O Lord, according to Your word.
Psalm 119:18, 33-35, 38, 65

The humble person is contrite

"For My hand made all these things,
Thus all these things came into being,"
declares the Lord.
But to this one I will look,
To him who is humble and contrite
of spirit, and who trembles at My word.
Isaiah 66:2

Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter 
Be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 
Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, 
And He will exalt you.
James 4:9-10

For the sorrow that is according to the will of God
produces a repentance without regret, leading to
salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.
For behold what earnestness this very thing, this godly sorrow,
has produced in you:  what vindication of yourselves, what
indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what avenging
of wrong!  In everything you demonstrated yourselves
innocent in the matter.
II Corinthians 7:10-11

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God,
You will not despise.
Psalm 51:17

The humble person is a worshiper of God

But as for me, by Your abundant lovingkindness
I will enter Your house, at Your holy temple
I will bow in reverence for You.
Psalm 5:7

For a day in Your courts is better
than a thousand outside.
Psalm 84:10a

"If anyone wishes to come after Me,
he must deny himself, take up his cross
daily, and follow Me."
Luke 9:23

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit.
Psalm 51:17a

 Come, let us worship and bow down,
let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.
Psalm 95:6

Exalt the Lord our God and worship at
His footstool; holy is He.
Psalm 99:5

The humble person is obedient

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also
in Christ Jesus...Being found in appearance as man,
He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point
of death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:5, 8

Submit therefore to God.
James 4:7a

…He became to all who obey Him,
The source of eternal salvation.
Hebrews 7:9

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand
of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.
I Peter 5:6

Samuel said, "Has the Lord as much delight in burnt
offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the Lord?
Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams."
I Samuel 15:22

"Why do you call Me, 'Lord, Lord,' and do not do what I say?"
Luke 6:46

The humble person is wise

"For My hand made all these things, thus all these
things came into being," declares the Lord.
"But to this one I will look, to him who is humble
and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word."
Isaiah 66:2

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
fools despise wisdom and instruction.
Proverbs 1:7

When pride comes, then comes dishonor,
but with the humble is wisdom.
Proverbs 11:2

Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men
but as wise, making the most of your time, because the
days are evil.  So then do not be foolish, but understand
what the will of the Lord is.
Ephesians 5:15-17

Who among you is wise and understanding?  Let him
show by his good behavior his deeds in the gentleness
of wisdom...But the wisdom from above is first pure,
then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and
good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.  And the
seed whose fruit is righteousness is sown in peace
by those who make peace.
James 3:13, 17-18

The humble person is empowered

For My hand made all these things,
Thus all these things came into being, declares the Lord.
But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and
Contrite in spirit, and who trembles at My word.
Isaiah 66:2

For thus says the high and exalted One
Who lives forever, whose name is Holy,
"I dwell on a high and holy place,
And also with the contrite and lowly of spirit
In order to revive the spirit of the lowly
And to revive the heart of the contrite.
Isaiah 57:15

 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says,
"God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble."
James 4:6

And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you,
for power is perfected in weakness." Most gladly, therefore,
I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so the the power
of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with
weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions,
with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong."
II Corinthians 12:9-10

...whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving
by the strength which God supplies...
I Peter 4:11b

...God is opposed to the proud, 
but gives grace to the humble.
For though the Lord is exalted,
yet He regards the lowly, but 
the haughty He knows from afar.
James 4:6, Psalm 138:6

The humble person is blessed

The reward of humility and the fear of the Lord
Are riches, honor and life.
Proverbs 22:4

But the one who looks intently at the perfect law,
 the law of liberty, and abides by it, not having
become a forgetful hearer, but an effectual doer,
this man will be blessed in what he does.
James 1:25

Blessed are the humble, for they shall inherit the earth.
Matthew 5:5

But the humble will inherit the land
And will delight themselves in abundant prosperity.
Psalm 37:11

 The humble person will be exalted

Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand
of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.
I Peter 5:6

Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, 
And He will exalt you.
James 4:10

For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled,
And he who humbles himself will be exalted.
Luke 14:11

Here are ten things the Bible teaches us about pride and humility:

  1. Pride ultimately exalts itself over God, and humility ultimately makes itself low before God.  
  2. Pride pushes God away, while humility draws near to God.  
  3. Pride depends on itself, while humility depends on God.  
  4. Pride boasts in itself, while humility boasts in God.  
  5. Pride credits itself, while humility credits God. 
  6. Pride follows its own path, while humility follows God's path.  
  7. Pride is self-seeking, while humility is God-seeking.  
  8. Pride always leads to disobedience, while humility always leads to obedience.  
  9. Pride is the opposite of godliness, while humility promotes godliness. 
10. The proud will be destroyed from the earth, while the humble will inherit the earth.

So, my friends, let us follow the admonition of the following verses:

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus
Philippians 2:5

Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I gentle and
humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
Matthew 11:29

Saturday, November 12, 2016

When a Sin Remains

We serve a holy God.  Holiness has been called His greatest and most distinct attribute.  In looking in Isaiah 6 and Revelation 4 what the angels cry out three times is "Holy, holy, holy is the Lord our God."  When Moses approached the burning bush it was God who said, "Remove your sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground."  In Leviticus 10 the Lord said, "By those who come near Me, I will be treated as holy."  God cannot look upon sin, cannot tolerate sin, cannot abide with sin, and sin cannot enter His presence.

As His children, as part of His body, as partakers of the Divine nature, as those indwelled by the Holy Spirit, God has an expectation of our holiness.  In Leviticus and I Peter He tells those who are His, "You shall be holy for I am holy."  In II Corinthians 6:17 we are told to come out from the midst of the world and be separate.  In Hebrews 12 He tells us that we are disciplined by Him so that we can share His holiness.  In Ephesians 4 we learn that our new self has been made in God's likeness, and has been created in the holiness and righteousness of the truth.  In just these few verses, we see that God is zealous and jealous for our holiness, and that He has equipped us to deal with our sin, so as to have victory over our sin.

Yet, in spite of all of this, we still sin.  Romans 7Galatians 5, and James 1 tell us that there is an ongoing battle with temptation and sin in our life.  And, accordingly, God has made a provision for our forgiveness and cleansing, which we find in I John 1:9.

Understanding this gives us insight into Psalm 119:25-32.  At the first blush, when just reading through, it seems as if the Psalmist is just battling the blues.  But let's look a little deeper into it.  Why is his soul cleaving to the dust?  Why is his soul weeping?  Why does he need his heart enlarged? The answer is in this section, and we see it in verse 29.  It is because of sin, because of a particular sin he has called "the false way."  We now can see that the Psalmist is in a time of oppression, a time of grief, a time of a small and hard heart, because of sin.

Let's dig down into this section and see what is going on in each verse.

Verse 25-Oppression
"My soul cleaves to the dust; revive me according to Your word." Here we see the state of oppression that the Psalmist is in.  Look at how low his soul is.  It cleaves to the dust.  It is lower than a snake's belly.  It can't get any lower and it cannot escape this lowly state as it clings to his very soul.  What kind of sin would bring on this degree of oppression?  What kind of sin would cause this state of oppression in the life of a believer?

It is unrepentant sin!  In fact a particular unrepentant sin, a false way that has not been turned from. What type of sin, what kind of sin could this be.  Well, it is:
*an unconfessed sin
*a sin that is undealt with
*a settled sin, a steady sin
*a sin that ignores conviction
*a sin that disdains discipline
*a sin that despises correction
*a sin that resists reproof
*a sin that is entrenched in the mind
*a sin that is embedded as a habit of life
*a sin for which the believer has developed a bunker mentality so as to protect it
*a sin that makes excuses for itself
*a sin that rationalizes its continued existence
*a sin that has full knowledge that it is a sin
*a sin with which you do not struggle, but comply
*a sin that the greater the discipline, the tighter you hold on to it
*a sin that believes the lies of Satan, such as
     a. It doesn't matter
     b. No one is noticing
     c. It really doesn't hurt anyone
     d. It is only a small thing
     e. God really doesn't care
     f. God understands
     g. Me and God have an agreement

It is not a sin of impulse or a sin of the moment, but a sin that is deliberately held on to.  Therefore it is not an unknown sin, a sin of ignorance, but a deliberate sin.  This type of sin could be any sin.

God is jealous for the holiness of His people.  He takes our holiness more seriously than we do.  He sent His Son to die for that sin, that unrepentant sin, and He will do whatever He must do to drive it out and kill it.  So if we are not active in putting that sin to death (Romans 8:13), He will be.

Unconfessed, unrepentant sin in the life of a believer always brings about oppression. We usually think of spiritual warfare when we use this term, but there is a spiritual oppression, a spiritual lowliness that comes as a result of unrepentant sin in our life; and it comes from the Lord Himself.  Let's look at Psalm 32:3-4. When I kept silent about my sin, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night Your hand was heavy upon me; my vitality was drained away as with the fever heat of summer.  Notice what is going on in Isaiah 30:18-20  Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you.  for the Lord is a God of justice;  how blessed are all those who long for Him. O people in Zion, inhabitant in Jerusalem, you will weep no longer.  He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when He hears it He will answer you.  Although the Lord has given you the bread of privation and water of oppression, He, your Teacher, will no longer hide Himself, but your eyes will behold your Teacher.  Let's also look at Isaiah 64:7 There is no one who calls on Your name, who arouses himself to take hold of You; for You have hidden your face from us and have delivered us into the power of our iniquities.  

Notice in the emboldened words above that it was the Lord who had given Israel the bread of privation and the water of oppression because of their sin, that it was His hand that was heavy upon them, and that it was the Lord who had cut off fellowship with them and delivered them over to their sin.  So, for us as believers, when we sin and don't confess it and don't turn from it, we can expect the hand of the Lord to be heavy upon us, to oppress us, so that we will turn from our sin. He is serious about dealing with our sin, especially unconfessed and unrepentant sin that is deliberately held on to.

So, what must we do when we are experiencing His heavy hand upon us because of our stubborn unrepentance?  We see what our response should be in the remaining verses in Psalm 119:25-32.

"Revive me according to your word."
We must bring ourselves back under the authority of His word.  When we sin, we rebel against His word, we act in opposition to His word (which is His revealed will), so the beginning of repentance is to submit ourselves again to His word.  As Samuel told Saul, to obey is better than sacrifice.

"I have told of my ways, and you have answered me."
 Notice here what happens when we confess...God answers.  And His answer always begins with forgiveness.  True confession of our sins begins with viewing our sin the way God views it, and therefore saying the same thing about it that God says (See Psalm 51).  When we truly confess our sins He truly forgives our sins.
(Psalm 32:5-7, Psalm 86:5, Isaiah 55:7, I John 1:9)

"Teach me your statutes."
Not only do we confess, we ask for guidance in living according to how He would have us live. Again, we know this prayer will be answered, for we know that when we ask anything according to His will He hears us and grants that request.  (Psalm 25:4-5, Psalm 86:11)

"Make me understand the way of Your precepts, so I will meditate on Your wonders."
Not only does the Psalmist ask to know what the word of God says, he also wants to know what it means.  He is asking for spiritual understanding and spiritual insight into the word of God so as to thoughtfully and properly apply it.  (I Corinthians 2: 6-14, Ephesians 1:17)

"My soul weeps because of grief."
Knowing, understanding, and applying the word of God to his life has caused the Psalmist to be broken-hearted over his sin.  The very same soul that was rebelling against God, after comparing itself to the standard of the word of God, cries out, "O, what have I done."  These are not the crocodile tears of insincerity, but tears of true sorrow and repentance.  (II Corinthians 7:9-10, Psalm 51:17, Isaiah 57:15)

"Strengthen me according to Your word."
Here the Psalmist acknowledges his own weakness and asks for strength, the strength that the word gives, the strength to combat sin and its accompanying temptations; so that he will not fall back into this sin again.  This is the true hallmark of repentance and contrition, the zealous desire not to sin that sin again, and the accompanying desire for holiness in all of life.  (Matthew 6:13; 26:41, Psalm 119:133, Ephesians 3:16, 20)

"Remove the false way from me, and graciously grant me Your law."
The Psalmist asks the Lord to give him complete victory over this sin, and to restore their fellowship back to where it was.  Sin does not destroy our relationship with God as we will always belong to Him, but it does impede and impair our relationship with Him.  (Isaiah 59:2, Hosea 5:15, James 4:6-10)

"I have chosen the faithful way; I have placed Your ordinances before me."
After asking the Lord to remove the false way, the Psalmist announces his decision to fully follow the Lord.  It is a decision of a destination, a decision to follow the word of God and let it lead him, wherever that may be.  Following the Lord is a choice, and here the Psalmist chooses to get back on the faithful path, the narrow path that leads to life.  (Psalm 85:13, Isaiah 31:21, Psalm 101:2-4; 119:103)

"I cling to Your testimonies."
The Psalmist is determined to not let go, to remain faithful to the word of God.  This is the commitment that is required to life a godly life, to fully follow the Lord.  Decision and determination go hand in hand.
(Philippians 3:12-14, II Timothy 4:7)

"I shall run the way of Your commandments."
The Psalmist knows where the word of God will take him...ultimately to God Himself, in His presence for eternity.  It is the path of life, the path of joy, the path of fellowship with God, the path of blessing.  Even though it narrow, it is well marked, as it has been marked out by the resurrection of Christ.  (John 14:6)

"For you will enlarge my heart."
Sin shrinks and hardens the heart.  It hardens the heart to the things of God, the ways of God, the will of God, the work of God, and the love of God.  When we walk in the faithful way and cling to His testimonies, the Lord enlarges our heart and gives us a greater capacity so as to love Him all the more; and the greater our love for Him the greater our obedience will be, and the greater our walk will be before Him.

In the response of the Psalmist we see a picture of repentance.  This is the result that the Lord wanted to achieve and there is a cleansing of the soul and a corresponding peace when repentance takes place. How blessed we are that the Lord takes our relationship with him so seriously, so personally, that He deals with the sin that impedes and impairs that very relationship.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

The God Who is for Us

In Romans 8:26-39 we have the greatest section of Scripture that deals with the security of our salvation and our secure relationship with God through Jesus Christ.  In this section of Scripture there is so much richness to meditate upon, so much great truth to let feed our soul and wash over our heart, but the high water mark of this passage is verses 31b-32, "If God is for us who is against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all (those who trust in Christ and His completed work on our behalf), how will He not with Him freely give us all things?"

Think about it, if God is for us, who can be against us?  The truth assumed here is that God is for us, and since He is for us, who, in all the created universe both seen and unseen can stand against us with God on our side.

The God who is for us is:

The God who spoke all things into existence.
The God who upholds all things by the word of His power.
The God who owns the cattle on a thousand hills.
The God who has declared the end from the beginning.
The God who daily bears our burden.
The God who accomplishes what concerns us.
The God whose thoughts toward us are as numerous as His wonders.
The God who has stretched out the heavens, laid the foundation of the earth, and has formed the spirit of man within him.
The God who has fashioned the hearts of us all.
The God who removes kings and establishes kings.
The God who has determined the time and boundaries of the nations.
The God who has ordained our steps, and ordained the number of our days.
The God who delights in the way He has chosen for us.
The God who lifts us up on eagles wings.
The God who is our rock, fortress, shelter, and refuge.
The God to whom nothing is hidden from His sight, and to whose eyes all things are open and laid bare.
The God whose throne stands in the heavens.
The God whose train of His robe fills the temple.
The God who does not sleep nor slumber.
The God who keeps us.
The God who is the shade at our right hand.
The God who is the lover of our souls.
The God who makes us bold with strength in our soul.
The God who delights in the prosperity of His servant.
The God whose word is truth.
The God whose word stands forever.
The God who knows all the stars by name.
The God who tends us like a shepherd does his sheep.
The God who regards the nations as a speck of dust or a drop from a bucket.
The God for whom all the nations are as nothing before Him, and are regarded by Him as less than nothing and meaningless.
The God who is everlasting.
The God who does not become weary or tired.
The God who knows what we will say before the word is on our tongue.
The God who holds all things in the hollow of His hand.
The God who is the Almighty.
The God who is righteous and just.
The God who judges all things.
The God who knows all things.
The God before whom all must appear.
The God who acts and it cannot be reversed.
The God whose purposes cannot be thwarted.
The God who wipes out our transgressions, and does not remember our sins.
The God who stands with us as our Dread Champion.
The God who gives us grace.
The God who is merciful to us and compassionate toward us.
The God before whom there was no God formed, and after whom none will exist.
The God who is our Savior.
The God who delights in our salvation.
The God who causes rivers of living water to flow from our innermost being.
The God to whom we are His beloved.
The God who loves us with the same love with which He loves His Son.
The God who indwells us.
The God who abides with us.
The God who will never leave us or forsake us.
The God who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing.
The God who gives us all things richly to enjoy.
The God who will lavish the riches of His grace on us in the age to come.
The God who has loved us with an everlasting love.
The God who has in kindness drawn us to Himself.
The God who is good and does good.
The God who is holy, holy, holy.
The God who is the Giver of every good and perfect gift.
The God who never changes because from age to age He is the same.
The God whom we can trust and depend upon.
The God who has given us the gift of salvation.
The God who has redeemed us.
The God who has made us alive in Christ.
The God who has caused us to be born again.
The God who has given us a living hope.
The God who was in Christ reconciling us to Himself.
The God whose hand we cannot be snatched out of.
The God who has given us to His Son for safekeeping.

This is the God who is for us. So as we meditate on this great section in Romans, let us meditate in the light of who this great God is, this great God who is for us, this great God in whom our salvation and relationship is secure; and when we gather with others whom He is for, let us all joyfully, gratefully, and confidently open our hearts and our mouths to praise Him for who He is and what He has done.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Election 2016...What Should We Do?

So.....what should we do?  We have an election coming up where there is not a candidate worthy of our vote, not a candidate worthy of the office, not a candidate worthy to be the leader of our land, not a candidate worthy of our trust, and certainly not a candidate that inspires us to be the best we can be for the glory of God and the good of our country.

We have two major parties and a very minor party who through their vetting process have presented us with unqualified people from which to choose for our next President; but at the same time the vetting process was participated in by fellow citizens who voted on who they wanted to represent them and their interests in this election cycle.  We can certainly throw rocks at the political parties involved, but we need to save the biggest rocks for the American citizenry.

The root issue at play here is not the political parties or the political system, it is not the moral fiber or lack thereof in the candidates themselves, as the root issue is the lack of moral fiber in our citizenry; and that is reflected in the candidates that have been chosen.  It is our citizenry who condone abortion, it is our citizenry who condone sexual immorality, it is our citizenry who either have class envy or an elitist mentality, it is our citizenry of every color that are guilty of racism, it is our citizenry who despise and reject authority, it is our citizenry who are guilty of the idolatry of greed, it is our citizenry who are addicted to drugs, alcohol, and pleasure, it is our citizenry who call good evil and evil good. If the citizenry of our country did not condone all of these things, then none of them would be pervasive in our land; but, alas, they are the status quo.  Just as Paul tells Timothy that people will not put up with sound doctrine, but collect for themselves teachers in accordance with their own desires, so the citizenry of our country are collecting for themselves leaders in accordance with their own desires.

Is it any wonder then that we have candidates who reflect who we have become as a nation?  When we look at them...Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and Gary Johnson...we are looking at ourselves as a nation.  Pretty ugly and disgusting isn't it?

So.....what should we do?  We are not voting for a party, we are not voting for Supreme Court nominees, we are voting for a person and what that person stands for...all of what that person stands for...who that person is.  When they take office they will lead in accordance with who they are, regardless of the party they are affiliated with, regardless of the platform their party supposedly stands for.  When the election is over and they are not pandering for votes, they will decide and direct in accordance with what they believe, because you cannot separate a person's behavior from what they a man thinks in his heart, so he is.

There is no such thing as the lesser of two evils, in this case three.  There is only the reality of evil and where it will lead us as a nation when it has secured its victory in the election.  We have watched it do just that over the last eight years.

Yes, we are not voting for Pastor-in-Chief, and we need to participate in the democratic process; but in considering this particular election we need to have a greater allegiance than an allegiance to a particular party or particular philosophy, we need to have a greater allegiance than to our flag and our country, we need to have an allegiance to the Supreme moral authority and support Him and what He stands for.  Patriotism does not equate with righteousness, loyalty to a political party or philosophy will not stand the test of serving the Lord and bearing spiritual fruit, but will be but wood, hay, and stubble, and burned before the judgment seat of Christ.  We will not be advancing the cause of Christ or righteousness in our vote, and let's not be mistaken about that.

So....what should we do?  My answer, but write in a person who is worthy of our vote, a person worthy of the office, a person worthy to be our leader, a person worthy of our trust, a person who inspires us to be the best we can be for the glory of God and the good of our country.  Don't be sucked in by the fear-mongering, don't be intimidated by the guilt-trippers, don't be misled by the supposed evangelical prophets who have misplaced priorities and have sold out for a mess of pottage. Don't participate in the promotion of more and greater evil, instead have your vote count for something good.

I realize that many who read this might disagree, and maybe disagree heartily.  That's okay, such is the religion of politics.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The Value and Necessity of Reminding

In Titus 2:15-3:1a, Paul lays out for us several responsibilities for the Pastor in regards to his preaching.  All of the verbs here are present imperatives, which mean they are ongoing commands, not just for Titus but for everyone who occupies the pulpit.

If you have studied what are called the Pastoral epistles of Paul, and followed his ministry through the book of Acts, most of what is listed here should not come as a big surprise, in fact, the commands are the usual suspects when it comes to preaching the word of God.  We understand that we are to be continually speaking the word, and with the word to be continually exhorting and reproving.  We understand that when we speak the word we are speaking it under His authority, and therefore with His authority.  We also know of the importance of never letting anyone disregard or blow us off as we deliver His word.  However, have you ever thought about how a part of our responsibility as a pastor is to be continually reminding our people about what the word says?

That's what Paul says right there in the very first word of verse one of chapter continually reminding them.  It is the last of the commands, and magnifies and reinforces all the others.  When you remind someone, what you are doing is bringing to their remembrance something that they already knew.  It is not giving them new knowledge, but is the re-giving them of something already taught.  It is the re-telling of Biblical truth.  It is the re-explaining of Biblical principles.  Reminding is for remembering and therefore reinforcing.  What are we to remind them of?  What the Scriptures say, and what they already know to do in light of what the Scriptures say.  We are commanded to remind, so it must be important.

The Lord is big on reminders, from Genesis all the way through the rest of the Bible.  We have memorials and altars.  We have covenant reminders.  We have feasts that were to be held every year, and rituals to be continually followed (Hebrews 10:1-3).  In the New Testament we have the Lord's Supper, which is to remind us of His death and our covenant with Him.  In baptism we are visibly reminded or our union with Christ and our new identity in Him.  So why is reminding so important, and why does He remind us so often?  So we won't forget or be neglectful.

There are three primary words in the New Testament that are translated remind:

The first is hupomimnesko, and it just simply means to remind, to bring to remembrance.  We see this word use in II Timothy 2:4-14, II Peter 1:12-13, and the purpose of being reminded here is to remind them about the things concerning salvation and sanctification.  In II Peter 3:1 it is so that they would be stirred up to remember the Scriptures.  In Jude 1:5 it is used so as to remind them about the judgment of God upon those who do not truly believe.  In Titus 3:1-2 it is used to remind them how they are to be behaving as Christians.

The second is anamimnesko, which means to remind again, to re-remind, if you will.  It is used in
I Corinthians 4:17 it is used to remind them of Paul's example, his teaching and its uniformity.  In II Timothy 1:6 it is used so as to strengthen and encourage Timothy.

The third is epanamimnesko, which means to strongly or greatly remind, so as to never forget.  Paul uses this word in Romans 15:15-16 to tell them that he has written this great epistle to them so that they will never forget the gospel.  In other words this epistle was written so that the gospel would be forever etched in their minds.

Additionally, in Philippians 3:1 we see Paul telling the Philippians that to write the same things again is a safeguard for them.  So we see that reminding is also for our protection.

So we see here in these verses some of what reminding is intended to accomplish.

You see, going to church, studying the Bible, and listening to sermons is not always about hearing or learning something new, but many times it is to be reminded of what we already know. We are never too old in Christ or too old in years to learn something new, and we will never reach a place where we have heard it all or know it all.  However, we will never reach a point or ever reach an age where we won't need to be reminded. You see, so much of our Christian life is about being reminded.  We, being the weak frail creatures that the Scriptures tell us that we are, need to be reminded. We need to be reminded so we won't forget.  We need to be reminded so our faith will be reinforced and strengthened.  We need to be reminded so as to be refreshed when we grow weary.  We need to be reminded to be reproved for not doing what we know to do.  We need to be reminded so as to be revitalized so we will fight the good fight and press on in our faith.  We need to be reminded so we can be restored when we have been wounded or brought low.  We need to be reminded so as to be renewed to a greater state of Christlikeness.  Sometimes we just simply need to be reminded that we need to be reminded; and, if you think about it, many times we are the most blessed by hearing a truth that we already hold dear.

So, fellow pastors, let us not forsake, neglect, or forget our responsibility to remind our people about what the Bible says.  Let us not be afraid to remind, for we are in the reminding business.  Those of us who preach should love to tell the story, again and again.  Indeed, that is our charge.

And how is the best way to do this, so that it doesn't grow stale from the repetition?  Preach through the Bible verse by verse, book by book.  This is one of the beauties and benefits of  sequential expository preaching.  This way you will present the same truths and cover the same themes, but in different contexts and from different angles; and, in doing so, the gospel will be kept fresh, both for you and for your people.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Thinking on the Incarnation

Christ said, "If you have seen Me you have seen the Father."  Colossians tells us that in Christ resides the fullness of Deity.  In Christ God came to man, because man in his sinful state could not come to God. Thus the blessedness and joy of contemplating on the incarnation; God in Christ reconciling man unto Himself.  What grace, what mercy, what love!

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Politics and the Pulpit

I have been very disturbed over the past many months with the number of pastors who have come out in support of, endorsed, or campaigned for people running for President of our country.  Even if we had two people of reputable character running for president, which we don't, I would not feel any differently.  One of the things that has bothered me deeply, is that when endorsing the candidate they have chosen, pastors and religious leaders act like or make statements to the effect that their particular choice of candidate will deliver our country.  No man or woman, not the Republican, not the Democrat, not the Libertarian, not the Green Party candidate can deliver our country from the morass of problems that beset us, for there is One and only One deliverer, and that is the Lord. 

The root issue in our country is that we have lost our moral moorings.  In other words, the root issue in our country is a spiritual one which is manifesting itself through the different crises we are seeing and experiencing.  The enmity and hatred behind the racial clashes is a spiritual issue.  The sexual assault on college campuses, which has been called an epidemic, is a spiritual issue.  The sexualization of our culture is a spiritual issue.  The degradation of women is a spiritual issue.  The glorification of violence is a spiritual issue. Pornography of every type is a spiritual issue. Drug use and abuse is a spiritual issue. Public anarchy and its manifestation in rebellion against law and order is a spiritual issue.  Heavy handedness by law enforcement is a spiritual issue. Moral relativism is a spiritual issue.  Islamic assault against us is a spiritual issue.  Class envy is a spiritual issue.  Abortion is a spiritual issue.  Human trafficking is a spiritual issue.  Greed and avarice are spiritual issues.  Immorality is a spiritual issue.  These issues are the root causes of the problems that beset our country, and why would anyone think that our political system or a person can solve the basic issues of the human soul, especially those who should know better....pastors and religious leaders, those who are charged with knowing the word of God.

Neither politics nor politicians have the power to deliver anyone.  They cannot empower anyone as they have no inherent power to give. They cannot change the heart. They cannot enlighten the mind nor give eyes to see or ears to hear. They cannot provide forgiveness nor promote mercy or compassion.  They cannot prevent bribes.  They cannot bridle the tongue, season our words with salt, and bring words of peace and healing. Nothing they can do, nothing that can be passed through the system will have any affect on the heart of man.  The best that politics and politicians can do is put a Band-Aid on the symptoms, but they cannot provide a cure for the root problem. Therefore, they cannot fix the mess we are in and there comes a point where the Band-Aids just aren't big enough to cover the wound anymore.  Ultimately, all politicians and elected officials can do is stir the pot; and why certain pastors and evangelical leaders continue to put their faith in a man or woman to right the wrongs and lead us to the Promised Land, and encourage us to jump on their bandwagon and do the same, is past credulity. Honestly, they should all know better; but the very fact that they are putting their faith in man shouts loudly about why the church in our country is in the condition that it is in, and why it has become contaminated salt that has lost its saltiness, and now is only good for the manure pile.

As pastors, our job is not to be political commentators or cultural watchdogs, but it is to be heralds of the Lord God, Himself, by preaching and teaching His unchanging and unerring Word.  There is only one Promised Land for the people to be led to, and that is the coming new heavens and new earth.  There is only one kingdom worth promoting and that is the kingdom of heaven; and there is only one King to pledge allegiance to and endorse, and that is the Lord Jesus Christ.  It is the Lord that removes kings and establishes kings (Daniel 2:21).  It is the Lord that determines the times and boundaries of the nations (Acts 17:26).  There is only One who delivers all men from their spiritual bondage, and it is Jesus Christ.  It is Him and His kingdom we should serve, not the leaders and kingdoms of this world.

Maybe, just maybe, if the pastors and religious leaders would work just as hard and be just as vocal in preaching repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ, the issues troubling our country would be resolved and lessened.  But, that is not as popular nor as easy, and will be met with greater resistance, because of the hardness of the human heart towards the things of God. 

Ultimately, we as pastors need to remember that we are but aliens and sojourners in this world and our time upon this planet is so very brief, and that it is our duty and our charge to lead people up to Christ, not down to the politicians of this world.  It is time for the church in our land to repent of our worldliness and dependency on human solutions to spiritual problems, and it needs to begin with us, the pastors and shepherds of the flock of God.  Let us lead forward in repentance and ask God to have mercy on us and on our nation.  Please, Lord, make it so.

Saturday, July 02, 2016

A Simple Outline of Romans 6-8

In chapters six through eight of Romans the main theme is that of sanctification, the being set apart from sin and set apart to God.  Sanctification, both as a position (being set apart as holy to the Lord) and a process (growth in personal holiness before the Lord), is not a doctrine that is espoused in the church much anymore; but its neglect is to the ruin and harm of the church, as Hebrews 12:14 tells us without sanctification, no one will see the Lord.  So sanctification is obviously a crucial issue for us all, and describes what is to be going on in the life of someone who has been saved.  So this is an important doctrine,a foundational truth of the gospel, and it is important that we understand it.

 There is a flow of thought in these chapters that I would like to give a simple outline so as to  give a handle on what is going on in these crucial chapters.

6:1-10  What God has done for us in Christ
                  The power of sin has been broken, and we are no longer its slaves.

6:11-23 Our response to God's breaking the power of sin
                  We present ourselves as slaves to God, as instruments of righteousness.

7:1-13    Our new relationship to the Law
                  The Law fulfilled its purpose, and is holy, righteous and good.

7:14-25   The presence and pull of sin is still there, and will remain
                  Although sin's power is broken, we must still do battle with it.

8:1-27     The presence and power of the Holy Spirit.
                  The work of the Holy Spirit in the life of someone who is truly in Christ.
8:28-39   The purpose and predominance of God
                  The plan and purpose of God is predetermined, cannot be hindered,
                  is carried out in Christ, and we cannot be separated from Him.

What we can see in this outline is that our sanctification begins with God breaking the power of sin, His giving us power over sin through the Holy Spirit, and His purpose for us being impossible to not be carried out.

Obviously, there is much more going on in these chapters, but this will give us a framework from which to view and understand this most important section of what many consider the constitution of our faith.

Thinking of What is Ahead

The completeness of Christ's victory over sin and death
has become ours, and we see it now only dimly; but
when He comes and we are united with our incorruptible
and immortal bodies, then we shall know fully!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

God's Nearness, Our Good

But as for me the nearness of God is my good.
Psalm 73:28

How blessed is the one whom You choose
and bring near to You to dwell in your courts.
Psalm 65:4

But God, being rich in mercy because of His
great love with which He loved us...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.
Ephesians 2:4-7

God's nearness is indeed our good.  In fact, the closer we draw near to God the better it is for us, and the more joy and delight we have in Him and He in us.  The question, though, for all of us is,  "How indeed do we draw near?" How do we as physical and sinful creatures draw near to the Creator who is Spirit and Holy? 

The answer is that we draw near in Christ.  And how then do we draw near in Christ?  Because we are baptized in Christ (Romans 6:3-4).  We have been placed in Christ through the baptism of the Holy Spirit, and through the Spirit's baptism are united with Him (Romans 6:5); and because we now have a spiritual union with Christ, we remain in Him (I Corinthians 6:17, II Peter 1:4).  This is what water baptism pictures for us, the spiritual immersing of us into Christ by the Holy Spirit, and the subsequent oneness that we have.

The term united in Romans 6:5 is an organic term as compared to a mechanical term.  So instead of being bolted to Christ, or glued to Christ, or welded to Christ we are planted in Christ and grow in Christ, thus picturing a planting and growing together as one.  We are not a part to be added to Christ, nor is He part that has been added to us, but we live and grow in Christ.  It is a picture of a progressive and intimate relationship  

Once again, we see the wondrous provision of God, in giving to us from Himself and of Himself what we cannot possibly provide or accomplish on our own.  Terms such as immeasurable grace or unconditional love do not capture the fullness of what He does for us. So let us rejoice today, and marvel in the nearness we have with the One who has created it all. 

Saturday, April 09, 2016

God's Immutability-The Anchor of My Relationship with Him

For I, the Lord, do not change; 
therefore you, O sons of Israel
are not consumed.
Malachi 3:6 

If you read any book or article on the attributes of God you will find Him described as immutable, and usually they will go on to talk about the unchangableness of His nature and character.  However, the word has a deeper meaning than just being unchangeable, it means that in being unchangeable, one is not capable or susceptible to change.  When you grasp that concept, then considering God's immutability takes on a whole new light.

This means that it is impossible for God to change, impossible for God to be other than He is. There is never the potentiality of His changing in any way, in any measure (James 1:17). His mercy will always be His mercy, His wrath will always be His wrath, His grace will always be His grace, His power will always be His power.  There will never be any diminishment in who He is, because there cannot be any diminishment in who He is; and He cannot be more than He is, He cannot be improved upon, because He is already perfect.  When God tells us that from age to age He is the same, we must understand that from eternity past to eternity future it is impossible for Him to not be the same.  Change in His person, purpose, thoughts, and very nature literally cannot take place.  He is the rock that does not erode, the fortress and refuge that is always secure, the love that will never fail. Therefore, His yes is always yes, and His no is always no; and, therefore, His word never changes or shifts, even ever so slightly.  He is the model of absolute consistency.  He is the same God in the Old Testament as He is in the New Testament.

To me, this is very comforting.  It gives me a deeper trust and confidence in not only Him, but in His word.  It is this unchangeableness that is behind the Scriptures. It is why the Word of God cannot and will not change to meet the demands of the shifting moral climate of each era of the human race.  All of this means that He is absolutely dependable, reliable, and trustworthy.  It means there will be a consistency in His dealings with me, a consistency in His love for me, and a consistency in His patience with me no matter the twists and turns that I encounter in this life.  It is the anchor in my relationship with Him.

So, my friends, let us consider the absolute unchangeableness of this God who has called us and claimed us, who has loved us and blessed us, and who leads us in the paths of righteousness. Let us draw near and draw great comfort in knowing it is impossible for Him to change.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Salvation and Sanctification

Most people have heard of the three tenses of salvation:

Past...We have been saved from the penalty of sin.
Romans 5:9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.  (I Thessalonians 1:9-10)
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now not condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

Present...We are being saved from the power of sin.
Romans 6:14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law but under grace.
Romans 6:17-18 But thanks be to God that though you were slaves of sin, you became obedient from the heart to that form of teaching to which you were committed, and having been freed from sin,you became slaves of righteousness.
Galatians 5:1 It was for freedom that Christ set us free.  (John 8:31-36, Romans 6:5-13)

Future....We will be saved from the presence of sin.
I John 3:2-3 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be.  We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.
(I Corinthians 15:52-57, Revelation 21-22)

In a very similar fashion we also see the three aspects of sanctification. To be sanctified is to be set apart from sin, and set apart to God. It is to be set apart from seeking our own pleasure, our own way, and our own purposes, so as to seek God's pleasure and accomplish His will in all that we do.  It is to be spiritually taken out of the world and placed into Christ.  In a practical sense it is to be repurposed and reoriented.  In a spiritual sense it is to be conformed to the image of Christ.

We are sanctified:

Positionally...we have been sanctified
I Corinthians 1:30 but by His doing you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification.
I Peter 1:1-2 To those...who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father by the sanctifying work of the Spirit

Progressively...we are being sanctified and are becoming more sanctified
I Thessalonians 4:4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification
Hebrews 12:14 Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord.
Philippians 2:12-13 So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear trembling; for it is God who is at work in you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
I Thessalonians 4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification...
Romans 8:28-29b And we know that God cause all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son...
II Peter 3:17-18 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ...

Perfectly...we will be sanctified
Philippians 1:6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Colossians 1:28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.
I Thessalonians 5:23-24 Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Faithful is He who called you, and He will bring it to pass.
I John 3:2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be.  We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.

Salvation and sanctification are inextricably linked, and you cannot have one apart from the other. God's will for us is encompassed in our salvation and accomplished through our sanctification. Romans 6:22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life.  Sanctification then is the means by which God separates us from sin unto Himself, first postionally, then progressively, and finally, perfectly.

Where are you in this process, my friend?  Have you been separated and freed from sin so that you do not practice sin as a habit of life and can say no to sin (I John 3:9-10)?   Have you experienced His enabling power so as to do His will (Hebrews 13:20-21)?  Is the growing desire of your heart to please Him all the more (II Corinthians 5:14-15)?  Are you becoming more like Christ in thought and deed (Romans 12:2)?  If so, then praise God for His work in your life.  If not, then confess to God your separation from Him, repent from your own ways and in faith ask Him to save and sanctify you.