Tuesday, July 15, 2014

God is for us, He is not against us...ever!

At times it's really hard to believe. It boggles my mind that infinite, holy, Almighty God is always for me. I know me well enough to know what I'm like when I'm alone and what I'm like in my thought life and it's enough to make me disgusted with myself at times. Not always, but more often than I like. But it's always true for all who are in Christ Jesus, God is for us.

In my flesh I wasn't brought up to think this way. I knew there were people who were supposed to love me unconditionally who didn't; they were not always for me. And to this day I carry that transferred insecurity with me in my walk with my heavenly Father. However, I'm much, much better than I was just a couple of years ago. And here is where the Holy Spirit took me years ago when I was kicking myself for losing my temper in traffic and letting a rude driver know just how I felt about her driving:

Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? The Holy Spirit brought to my mind so clearly, "Johnny, I'm not against you, I'm for you."

We will always be able to find people who are against us in some form or fashion for any number of reasons. But we can never say that about God. God stands alone. After all, He is nothing like us.

 Paul asks the question, "What then shall we say to these things?" And he answers, "This is what we shall say to these things, If God is for us, and He is, who is against us?" The wording of "if God is for us" is in the form of a "first class condition" that can be and should be read thusly, "If God is for us, and He is...," or, "Since God is for us," any of the three readings is correct if we understand what is going on in the text. But it only makes sense when we ask the question, "what are 'these things?'" In other words, it only makes sense in context. So, what are these things? And how do they add up to Paul's concluding that God is for us?

I'm not about to bore you with the complete list of these things like I would like to, but I'm going to summarize them in a way that should be helpful to you right now. I want to give you enough to build your faith and encourage you in your everyday walk.

First, "God fulfilled His promise to give His Son to save us from our sins." 1:1-4

Second, "God was kind to the ungodly and brought us to repentance." 2:4

Third, "God manifested His way to righteousness to the ungodly through His Son apart from the Law" 3:10-23

Fourth, "God proclaims the ungodly justified through faith and not works." 4-5

Fifth, "The Holy Spirit baptized us into the body of Christ, His death, burial and resurrection that we might have new life, no longer under the Law but under grace, free from the dominion of sin." 6:1-23

Sixth, "Every child of God is alive in his inner man even while our outer man perishes and we will never be condemned. God has ordained it so for His glory and our eternal good." 7-8.

8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves;
 Our heavenly Father, and don't forget He is our "heavenly" Father, not of this earth, not of flesh and blood, but pure and just and holy, never changing, is always for us. "How will He not also with Him freely give us all things?" It is not possible that He will not.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Amazing Grace of God At Corinth...and In Every Saint

"In the beginning, God..." After the beginning, God. It's all about what God did for us in Christ Jesus, not about what we have done, are doing, who we were when He called us, or what we had when He called us. He called us...period. He started it...He will finish it (1 Cor. 1:26-31; Phil. 1:6).

Everyone who is "in Christ" is there solely because God chose them, predestined them, foreknew them, sanctified them by the Holy Spirit, justified them and glorified them, even while being ungodly people, dead in their trespasses and sins, enemies of God (Rom. 8:28-30; 5:6; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; Eph. 1:3-14). Dead people can't do anything to make themselves right with God. That takes an act of God, a genuine miracle where God intervenes in human nature and makes alive that which was dead and repulsive to Him. That miracle actually changes us from children of wrath to children of God (Eph. 2:1-10).

And after all that? God loves us and lovingly brings us into His family. He (yes, "He") doesn't make us perfect after adopting us. Go figure. He doesn't make us perfect. And we sure don't make ourselves perfect after becoming God's children.

When I got up this morning, I went to 1 Corinthians, chapter 1 and verse 1. I've read this a gazillion times and it continually lifts my spirit and builds up my faith in the finished work of Jesus. Paul describe the Corinthians the same way he described himself, "called," "by the will of God," and "saints," the "holy ones of God." Considering what the apostle knew about the mess that was the church in Corinth, I am so very encouraged by the Holy Spirit's encouragement, exhortations, rebukes, corrections, commandments and assurances given to these confused and even rebellious believers (this letter was written by a Spirit filled man).

This letter is for the true church (and those who do not seem to be the "true" church) universal. For the church in Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Sudan, the UK, the west, the east, the south and the north.

So take heart, beloved around the world. God is with you; God is in you; and God is for you.

1 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2 to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

"My 'Old Lady,' My 'Old Man'": Part Two

Not a day goes by except I long for my new man, my inner man, the new creature that I am, to exercise control over my really annoying outer man, my old man. But I don't lose heart. And here's why:

2 Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.

Another translation says, "...though our outer man is wasting away." "Decaying," "wasting away," you get the picture. And that's what we have to live with until our "corruption puts on incorruption" (1 Cor. 15:50-56, one of my favorite passages, btw). I know that my inner man, that part of me that is "born again," "born of the Spirit," "born from above," that part where the "seed" of God abides, is in God's hands and He's renewing me day by day, faithfully renewing me day by day. What sweet words; what an amazing fact of this new life in Christ.

Read this:

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves;

"Earthen vessels." That's just another way of saying our "old man," our "flesh." That's where "nothing good inside me" dwells. That's the part of us that is corrupt, corrupted, corruptible and wasting away. With our old man so weak and dying, one would expect the new man, our inner man, to be more consistent in his victories over him. And we can be.

We will never know sinless perfection in this life. But we can know a life lived in a manner that glorifies our risen Lord and Savior. We can live in a manner worthy of our calling and worthy of the name by which we are called. And that is precisely what 2 Corinthians 4:7 makes clear to us. God has designed the new life in such a way that He gets the first glory and shares His glory with us now with our final glorification awaiting us in our eternal home.

Next: Our old man delivered out of darkness.



"My 'Old Lady;' My 'Old Man:'" Part One

No, I never had an "old lady," but I know several real life hard core Harley ridin' bikers who do. And no one, no girl or woman, ever called me her "old man," at least not that I know of.

My hawg ridin' acquaintances were bad news. They did all the stuff you've heard about bikers doing. Drugs, sexual immorality, etc., etc. And I shared the gospel with each of them to no avail. One of them, a new employee where I once worked, was a recent biker convert. His new "friends" talked him into buying a hawg one of their buddies had for sale and he bought it. They also persuaded him to leave his wife. And one night just a couple of weeks after he started riding (he had never been on a motorcycle in his life until his conversion) and shortly after leaving his wife, his old lady, he went to a beer joint north of Charlotte, got plastered and jumped on his bike and promptly ran a stop sign, crossed the road and hit the woods going pretty fast. He was killed instantly. I was heart-broken at the news that following Monday morning.

I had made some headway with this man who was hurting and heartbroken over his life situation. He didn't want to leave his wife, he wanted help. I was giving him some good counsel and he was interested. He was listening; he loved his wife. Whether he intentionally ran that stop sign or not, we shall never know. But he's dead regardless. That old man left his old lady for a way that brought him only heartache, misery and death.

Darkness and death is all those who live in darkness know. I know, I lived there for 27 years. But in March of 1974, by the grace of God, I heard the sweetest words I have ever heard, I heard and believed the gospel.

Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, that no one should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 11 Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "Uncircumcision " by the so-called "Circumcision," which is performed in the flesh by human hands-- 12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Billions of people are at this very moment "far off." And it may be that they will and can by the grace of God be delivered out of their present darkness and be "brought near by the blood of Christ." God only knows what will become of them. It may be that we will proclaim the good news to them and the Holy Spirit will open their ears and eyes to see and hear it. We can sow and water and perhaps witness God giving the lost life. We have the sweetest words they can ever possibly hear. Whether or not they come to faith is in God's hands, the sharing of those sweet life-giving words is in ours.



Monday, July 7, 2014

Scripturally Balancing Grace: Answering Michael Brown's Sincere Questions: Conclusion

The answer to Dr. Brown's questions are pretty obvious; they are worded in such a way that they are self-explanatory, and that's good. Dr. Brown has Scripture and common sense on his side as far as this particular issue goes. For that reason I'm once again closing this series. And after listening to Dr. Brown's debate with the advocate for gay rights claiming to be a Christian, I'm siding with Dr. Brown. Dr. Brown is a superb debator.

I am very much anti Word of Faith theology; I think for the most part it is a heresy that is both subtly deceptive and damnable. This is where I part ways with Dr. Michael Brown. His fellowship with the likes of Benny Hinn puts up a wall between us. I would like to know more about his involvement with Word of Faith teachers like Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Jesse Duplantis, and Joel Osteen. I'm simply curious; I don't plan on getting on board with him.

"We are children of God, the Spirit Himself bearing witness"

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

Otherwise how would we ever know?
Being indwelt by the Holy Spirit is a remarkable experience that most of us seldom enjoy or appreciate. We have become calloused by the cares of this life so that one would never know that we are indwelt by Him. Our pleasures are earthly and this-worldly, sensual, finding what passes for happiness through our five senses rather than through the new life that is ours in Christ Jesus. Capitulating to temptations is the rule rather than the exception, it is "normal" and "natural" and all that the Christian should expect. After all, we're only human.
But we are not. We are more than mere human beings. We are children of God, spiritually alive creatures, created new through the indwelling Holy Spirit and united with Jesus Christ so that we are now one with Him.
We are spiritual adoptees. Those adopted by God the Father are necessarily adapted for the family of God. God is Spirit, our spirits are made alive by the Holy Spirit and made compatible with life in God's kingdom and with God Himself. The excuse of our humanness cannot stand before the throne of grace and claim an out. God only deals with us according to truth and reality and grace and righteousness. And He desires our presence before His throne of grace.
Only those born of the Spirit by the grace of God can know that inner witness that cries "Abba, Father." Only the made-alive spirit receives the witness of the Spirit that assures us that we are indeed His children.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Scripturally Balancing Grace: Answering Michael Brown's Sincere Questions: Part Four

If God has pronounced your future sins forgiven in the same way he has pronounced your past sins forgiven, why do Paul and other New Testament writers address these very sins in their letters, and why does Jesus address them in Revelation 2-3? We know that God doesn’t bring our past sins up to us, since he has forgiven and “forgotten” them. Why then does he bring our present sins up to us in the New Testament, even warning us about the dangers of walking in those sins, if they have also been forgiven and forgotten in advance?

This question, question #4 in Dr. Brown's list, is very much like his question #13, Do you see any possible danger in emphasizing that it is impossible for a believer to lose his or her salvation? Of course, we could debate whether the Bible teaches this at all, but simply as a matter of experience, many of us have encountered very lost people – drunkards, fornicators, without the slightest interest in God (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-10) – who have then assured us that they were saved because it was impossible for them to lose their salvation. So, on a practical level, do you feel it’s important to add any scriptural caveats to your teaching of eternal security and, if so, how can you do this without putting an emphasis on “performance”?

Here is why I see a similarity. God has not pronounced my future sins or my past or present sins forgiven apart from His forgiving "me" as though my sins are living beings that need to be forgiven and need His grace. I am forgiven. I am forgiven. He has forgiven me and delivered me from all my trespasses. I am not my trespasses or my sins. My sins are what I do, not what I am.

I am forgiven/delivered now of all my trespasses (Col. 2:13). "There is therefore NOW no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1).  "Now" means now. It comes from the Greek adverb of time and means now, right now. It will mean now tomorrow and the next day and next week and next year and on the day I die. I am in Christ Jesus by the grace of God and will remain in Christ Jesus by the grace of God. "For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man boast." And God will not "recall" either my gift of eternal life or His calling upon my life (Rom. 11:29).

In my early years of ministry I made the decision to never assume everyone in any group or church where I "shared" or preached was saved. That was a good decision. The apostles new this to be the case in gatherings where they ministered. Paul's letters to the Corinthians and the churches in Galatia reveal that he knew there to be lost folk gathering with the justified. The author of Hebrews and John the apostle recognized the presence of the unregenerate among their readers and those of the "spirit of the antichrist." I have met people as Dr. Brown describes who were drunkards and sexually immoral who told me to my face that they "got saved" when they were children and knew they were still saved. But they were clearly not. "You will know a tree by its fruit." A false gospel produces false disciples. And a false gospel is what many people hear. Walk the aisle; sign a card and "yer saved, sister."

There is not a genuine Christian on planet earth who needs no instructions on how to live in a manner worthy of their calling. We need to be admonished, rebuked, corrected and encouraged in the faith. That's why the Lord Jesus and the New Testament authors all addressed the remaining corruption of the new disciples. That's why Paul pointed out that there is an on-going, life-long struggle between our old man and our new man, between our outer man and our inner man, between our new creation and our flesh.

Our "performance" is not a justification-meriting-performance but a because-we-are-justified way of life that is not and never will be perfect. An essential work of the written word of God and the Holy Spirit is to direct us in our walk during our time on this earth in this body (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Rom. 5:5; 8:12-14). Our performance doesn't save us, "dead people cannot perform" (Eph. 2:1-3). But our performance after our conversion does build up treasures in heaven...or not (1 Cor. 3:10-15).

The apostle John recorded the "revelation of Jesus Christ" given to him to give to the church throughout the ages. In the letters to the 7 churches nothing new is said, everything in those 7 letters is said in the New Testament epistles. Warnings are given to those who wrongly assume themselves saved; warnings are given to those who are saved but not living in a manner that glorifies their Savior. And the warnings to the true church are acts of discipline, not condemnation (3:19).

By the act and decree of God the Father, we have been baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13; Acts 1:8; John 14-16). Our being baptized by the Spirit doesn't make us perfect, it wasn't intended to. But our having the Spirit, our union with Christ, our having "the mind of Christ," and our having God's written word assures us that we do indeed belong to Him and have eternal life. Are there those who profess but don't possess? Sure there are. Are we to continually admonish and receive admonition and rebuke and correction? Yes, indeed. God has never and will never give anyone permission to sin. But He has made gracious provision for our sins in Christ Jesus.