Thursday, April 24, 2014

Why the church of Jesus Christ must run to its Head...now. Part One

THE ENEMY OF OUR HEAD WITHIN THE VISIBLE CHURCH

Bickering, gossip, back-biting, betrayals, power struggles, man-centered sermons, an unregenerate membership, no fear of God, rejection of the Holy Spirit and all that He brings to the table, lukewarmness, fraud, sexual immorality, murder, and ignorance of the written word of God are more likely to be found in the average local church than submission to the headship of Jesus Christ and all He brings to the table. This is precisely why we see the carnal assemblies we find on every corner.


And while the devil himself, an actual, real, literal being, is having his way in the world, he is also wreaking havoc in the visible church. Considering the obviously large number of the spiritually dead attending Sunday morning services, we should expect no more than what we have. Listen to how the Holy Spirit describes the unregenerate among us to whom we have for far too long extended a welcome:

NAS 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.  And don't say they're not there, sitting beside us in our pews. And don't say they're not there preaching to us from our pulpits, teaching us in our Sunday School classes. They are there because we allow them to be there. They are there because we have anointed them to do what they do; we have "called" them to be our teachers and pastors and deacons and elders. We have invited them to walk the aisle, sign a card, get baptized and "join" our church. As long as our numbers grow we are like Rhett Butler, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a you-know-what."

From the passage in Ephesians above we can see just what kind of people we have exposed the body of Christ to. They are the leaven that the Lord Jesus and the apostle Paul warned us of. And among them and in our midst are the "savage wolves" of Acts 20 and the damnable heretics of 2 Peter 2:1-3. They are not to be the objects of our evangelization nor are they to be embraced on the grounds of "no one is perfect." We must know they are there and deal with them appropriately.


NAS Ephesians 1:22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church,

Ephesians 4:15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ,

Ephesians 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.

Colossians 1:18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything.

Colossians 2:10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;

Colossians 2:18 Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind,

Colossians 2:19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.

 


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Don't give up. God doesn't.

I know I'm a broken record (does anyone know what that means?). It means I'm a little cracked and tend to stay on one track...a lot. Back in the days of vinyl records it was pretty common to damage the vinyl record so that the needle would get stuck in one spot and play one word or note over and over and over and... That pretty much describes me; I'm stuck in the groove of hoping to convince my fellow disciples of Christ (and clearly myself) that our sins, past, present, and future are forgiven. And that our Father worked out our justification in such a glorious and gracious way through His Son's perfect life, perfect suffering, perfect obedience and submission, perfect sacrifice, resurrection, ascension and perfect present reign and intercession, the gifts of the Spirit and His written word, that all the above are now our source of joy and peace. And when I say that "our Father worked out our justification," I am saying (and please don't miss this, beloved), He ordained it so before the foundation of the world, before time began.

"You sin, I sin, we all sin." It has never been any different. God ordained it so. If He had not, life would be totally different, i.e., we would never have disobeyed Him through our original parents; we would never have died spiritually or physically; we would not sin now. We do forget, do we not, that God is sovereign over all His creation?

If you believe otherwise (and you have the right to be wrong, just sayin'), you're probably a cold, man-centered, works-centered, in-bondage-to-the-law, moralist. And moralist go through life miserable, laying burdens on the shoulders of those with whom they come in contact."Misery loves company." Moralists, by the way, stress obedience and good behavior as the way to be right and stay right before God rather than the grace and mercy and patience and indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the love of the Father that are ours through the giving of His Son on our behalf.

Moralists can make those around them feel so disgusted with themselves that they want to throw in the towel. God never makes us feel that way.

Moralists strive for the unattainable goal of sinless perfection in this life and are so blinded by their wickedness that they literally cannot see their damnable dilemma.

Moralists claim the high ground of spiritual superiority but live in the dust of the devil himself. "Do this and live," the deceived moralists say. "Do this and you will be perfect like God," they say. And when the weak and heavy laden fall beneath the impossible burdens of the law, they give up. And this is where the gospel comes in, beloved.

The finished work of Jesus is so thoroughly finished that for all who are in Him by the grace of God, they will never be rejected. And if God the Father will not reject us who are in Christ, if He will not and cannot give up on us, who are we to give up?

God is sovereign over our lives, not the moralists.

God has the final say in our lives (and He has had His say), not the moralists.

And even when we go through those "I'm throwin' in the towel" moments, God never gives up on us.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Will God bless you...after what you did? Part 3?

It depends. It depends on what it was that you did, and, it depends on what you mean by "bless."

We can't just go 'round sinning willy nilly. We can't sow to the flesh and expect to reap in the spirit.

For those of us who are "in Christ," we know that what I have just said is true. But there's a greater truth that overrides those truths; "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." And,

NKJ 1 John 2:1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

For those of us in Christ, God's anger and wrath has been turned away by Jesus taking God's wrath upon Himself in our stead; We deserved it, He got it. That's what John says in 2:2 in that word "propitiation."

Now, beloved, keep this in mind, Jesus' life, death, resurrection and ascension were "once-for-all" events. His propitiation is an on-going ministry as "the Man Christ Jesus" before His Father and our Father. His propitiation is part and parcel with His ever interceding on our behalf and on behalf of those whom He has yet to bring into His fold. The once-for-all finished work of Christ on our behalf tells us that all that was and is needed to be done on behalf of the justified ungodly was done and therefore remains done. We are the justified ungodly; we are His saints.

"once for all" - Rom 6:10; Heb 7:27; 9:12; 10:10

"once" - Heb. 9:26, 28
 

There is absolutely no reason for any who are in Christ to fear the judgment and wrath of God. We have been once and for all delivered from His wrath (1 Thess. 1:10). All who have by the grace of God come to faith in Jesus have arrived at the same place and have the same heavenly blessings. However, when we enter into our final state of eternity and receive our rewards, there is going to be a difference. In some cases that difference will be huge. But that's then. What can we expect now?

Whatever you have done, beloved, if you are His now you will always be His, that's His promise to us (Jn. 6:37). You and I may have to enter into our reward as through the smoke of the purging fires with little reward, but we will enter (1 Cor. 3:11-15). We are His beloved children, albeit far from perfection, but our joy comes from being His, not from our works (if the Holy Spirit can say this about the Corinthians, He also says it about you and me: 1 Cor. 3:23, "And you are Christ's, and Christ is God's").

And, finally, there is no "after what you did," as though what you did was a one time thing that stood alone in your life. That sin, that thing that you did, stands out in your mind as unique and not really reflective of who you are. But, my dear friends, you and I know better than that. Sin is a part of everyday life for all of us (Rom. 7:24-25). But God knew all about what we would do as believers and He has never, ever been shocked by any of it. He made provision for every bad thing we can possibly do. So will He bless us after all that we have done? You bet yer sweet bippy He will. Read Ephesians 3:20-21.



 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Will God bless you...after what you did? Well, will He? Resurrection Day answers that question

What a great day to answer that question.

It's Resurrection Sunday. It's the Third Day. Just 2 days ago Jesus was hanging on the cross in excruciating pain and with His last breath He said, tete,lestai "It is finished."

That little word in the English, "it," covers the work of the Trinity since before time began. It refers to the plan of reconciliation that our Creator set in place before the foundation of the world. It refers not only to that pre-determined plan to reconcile the "world" (all that was lost and all that is His) but it's finish. And now from the cross comes the announcement that all of that has been satisfactorily fulfilled. "It is finished."

Jesus came to save His people from their sins; that was finished on the cross. The long-awaited Messiah of the Hebrews had come and paid the price for their sins. It wasn't the kind of deliverance the Jews of the Lord's day had looked for, but it was the right deliverance, the kind that goes to the heart, not the seat of politics. It is the kind of deliverance that is eternal, not temporal. It's that kind of a finish.

Unbeknownst to the Jews, "His people" included the lowest of the low, some out of the Gentiles as well. It would come as a surprise, shock is a better word, that the sins of some out of the Gentiles would be forgiven by the same precious and perfect blood that cleansed the Jews. It would be even more insulting (for a while, anyway) that Jew and Gentile in Christ are one.

There is, after all, only one God; God is One. The God of the Jews is therefore the God of the Gentiles since He is One. This one God is God and Father of all who are in Christ. And the one and the same blood that cleanses the one cleanses the other. Don't forget. God's eternal plan of reconciliation included this cleansing. It is an eternal-kind-of-cleansing. It is a finished-kind-of-cleansing.

And there was a lot to be cleansed; a lot of fallen human beings; a lot of sin. Enough blood. And "It is finished."

Will God bless you after what you did? No. But He will bless you after what He did.

So will God hear and answer my prayers, my supplications after quitting my job and putting myself in jeopardy? Will God provide my needs even after I walked off my job without giving notice? Will God hear me and be gracious unto me after I have sinned an innumerable time? Will God grant me the peace that passes understanding when I cast my cares on Him?

Did God cover the sins of Adam and Eve after they brought sin and death into this world through their rebellion against Him? Did God cover the sins of Noah and Abraham, the brothers of Joseph,  Moses and David and Paul and Peter. Did God bless these ungodly men who did things I have never done? My sins are just as great and no worse than those of God's chosen vessels of old. As Paul wrote (my paraphrase), "If God can forgive me, He can and will forgive anyone."

God can and will bless those whom He has justified and washed and sanctified and forgiven and redeemed and reconciled even after we have done whatever it is we have just done. Just as the sacrifice of the Risen Lord Jesus was a once-and-for-all sacrifice that covers every trespass of the justified, the "It is finished" of the cross is a once-and-for-all-kind-of it is finished.

Because it is finished, there is no condemnation, no rejection, no final defeat, and no separation from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.


 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Will God bless you...after what you did?

That's it! That's the question that has been hounding me for years and years. And it is that nagging "no, He won't bless me" that has pretty much destroyed my faith in His love and care for me.

Let me give you a "for instance." Several years ago under some duress and after a month or so without my "meds," I just up and quit my job. I liked my job. I liked the guys I worked with. Physically, it was a breeze. It could get pretty boring and it didn't pay very well, but other than that, I was quite content.

The day I quit was a depressive day in my manic/depressive life. I hadn't taken my med for that ailment in about a month and had been manic for about 3 weeks. My "up" days had been so wonderful that I had subconsciously persuaded myself that I was doing alright. I was doing so alright that I had impressed my new boss with my brilliance and knowledge and humor. Life was fun. But then life hit the bottom. That was 8 years ago. I have been more or less unemployed since then.

Needless to say, I have struggled financially for some time. I worked for a while through a temp agency and that went well until my hernia acted up and my supervisor wouldn't let me work anymore. I have done an interim (2 years) at a local church which was great and a shorter one in a church in Virginia. I am now drawing Social Security, I'm on Medicare and Medicaid so my situation has improved a little, i.e., I can sleep now at night. If not for Medicare I would have gone belly-up, literally, during my recent bout with cardio-vascular disease and open-heart surgery.

But I digress. With what I see as my unfaithfulness and my personal failures (on top of the above there are the "usual sins" that we all have to bear and some I find particularly bad) I can see no reason for God, my heavenly Father in whom I believe through faith in Jesus Christ, to help me financially. I feel I have given up any right to His blessing and care for me. In other words I don't blame Him for ignoring me.

I'm sitting here writing this as though I'm headed toward an answer; I have a clue but nothing I've worked out yet. I still can't see why He would answer any of my prayers. Quite honestly, I doubt that He's listening to my prayers right now and hasn't for a while.

I have answers that I see in the word but they are just "preacher talk," truths that I haven't put to work in my own life but could preach to a congregation for their benefit. I'll get back to you when I can practice what I could preach.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"There's nothin' new under the sun. Especially sin." Romans 7:24

How many of us remember the '60's when it was hip to "find" ourselves? "Man, I'm just tryin' to find myself. I just wanna live in peace and love and flowers. 'Make love, not war.'" We were so cornfused (and Hee Haw didn't help. But LSD did? Yeah, right). And all this finding was as old as the hills. "To thine own self be true." That's pretty good advice. "I think. Therefore I am."

Some of you will recall a recent blog post in which I revealed my epiphany of true self-discovery. It came from 3 of the apostle Paul's words in his letter to the Christians in Rome, "Wretched man I." That's the literal translation of the first words in our v.24 of the 7th chapter of that letter. Most translations rightly read, "O wretched man that I am." That gives the sense of what Paul was writing. It is the truth of that verse that set me on the road to greater liberty in Christ Jesus.

What Paul penned for the Romans isn't new; it is true. It's been the heart-cry of fallen man since Adam and Eve blew it for all of us in the almost perfect setting of the Garden in Eden. At least its' been the heart-cry for those loved and called of their Creator for His glory and purposes. Not all recognize and acknowledge their utter depravity. Not all acknowledge God (Rom. 1:18ff).

"O wretched man that I am! who will rescue me from the body of this death?"

The godliest of the godly cry out for deliverance from the body of this death. Augustine wrote "No man can call himself wretched who is not also spiritual." It is only the spiritually enlightened who confess their wretchedness. This is one of the truths referred to by the Lord Jesus when He said to His true disciples, "You shall know the truth. And the truth shall make you free." Spiritual enlightenment comes only by the work of the Holy Spirit writing the word of God on the disciple's heart (Jn. 8:30-32; Eph. 1:15-19; 3:14ff). Read the psalm written by the man of God, a man after God's own heart, Ps. 51, for a look into the soul of one who knew all too well his wretchedness. And see how this prophet of God found freedom in truth in Ps. 32.

The believer has already been delivered from the body of this death just as suredly as though that deliverance were now complete. It is the coupling of our assurance of final deliverance through faith in Christ with the recognition of our on-going wretchedness that reveals our present liberty. To deny one's wretchedness is to imprison one's soul in a prison of ones own making.

"For freedom Christ has set us free."



 

Monday, April 14, 2014

"Well, yes, we're saved by grace. And sure, faith is a gift, but..."

I am proud (and deeply humbled) to coin a new word, "gracebut." I will add this to my computer's dictionary and get rid of that squiggly red line under my new word. "Gracebut." Pronounced as one word, of course, much like the proper name Nesbit.

Many who profess faith in Jesus acknowledge that they are saved by gracebut. It's salvation by grace plus the spiritually dead sinner's final and authoritative decision to "get saved," having weighed the pros and cons of eternal life in heaven and eternal damnation in a burning hell (perhaps Jimmy Fallon could use this on his Pros and Cons segment one night) as well as the truth claims of God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit which heretofore the spiritually dead found to be untenable for whatever reason.

Gracebut obviously comes from two words that are commonly said within the same breath but heretofore have been separated by a respectable space or a pregnant pause. "Yes, we're saved by grace, but..." Now we can skip the niceties and say what we're really thinking, "we're not really saved by grace, after all. I ultimately have the final say. 'If it's goina be, it's up to me.'" Sorry, Dr. Schuller.

Gracebut is the child of "Freewill" and "Ichose," not to be confused with the movie, "Free Willy" and boxer "Ichong."

Gracebut, Freewill and Ichose might pop up some night on the tv series The Walking Dead. I mean, really. Man apart from the grace of God is the walking dead. Spiritually speaking, all the walking dead want to do is kill people and then devour them. Yuk! The walking dead can't do any more than that. Such life is described in minute detail in Paul's letter to the Romans, 1:18-32; 3:9-17; Ephesians 2:1-3, 11-12; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, and Galatians 5:19-21.

But what if God brings the walking dead to life? What if God works it out somehow that the dead are made alive by His giving them or breathing into them the "breath of life, the wind of life, His Spirit, to pneumatos ho hagios, so that the now formerly dead are enabled to do more than just walk around in their deadness and can now actually and literally believe and experience for the first time true free will? Wouldn't that be awesome?

And, Voila! That's exactly what happens every time a sinner hears and believes the gospel. John 6:44-45, 63; Ephesians 2:1-10; 1:4-14; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; Romans 10:1-17.

But didn't I choose to believe? You bet yer sweet bippy. When the Holy Spirit gave you, the walking dead, life and light and faith, you gladly and freely called upon the name of the Lord Jesus who had just saved you out of darkness, the darkness of death and of the devil. Check out 2 Corinthians 4:1-6.

I personally find any claim to a part in my justification, repulsive. I do not find free will in the life of the spiritually dead. Sure I called upon Him. But that was after He sought me out, chose me for salvation and justification and sanctification and reconciliation and glorification before time began and from the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4-6; 2 Tim. 1:9-10; Tit. 1:2; Rom. 8:28-30).

There is no such word in the Bible as gracebut.