Thursday, July 9, 2015

My take on the First Amendment and Christianity

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Intent. Several years ago I asked a man-in-the-know about my understanding and interpretation of the First Amendment. He couldn't answer my question, replying that one would have to know the original intent of the Founding Fathers, implying that neither he nor anyone else could be sure of the original intent. Personally, I see the original intent behind the First Amendment in the First Amendment itself. If grammar counts for anything, then the wording of this amendment reveals original intent.

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof" The original intent is clearly that the United States Congress cannot make any laws whatsoever that would interfere with "an establishment of religion." Religious establishments are essential for the well being of individuals, our nation and our government. That is what Jefferson guaranteed would not happen when he wrote to the Danbury Baptists who were concerned about government interference in their church life. It is in that letter and in that letter alone that one will find the phrase, "a wall of separation between church and state." This "wall" is erected for our protection and freedom, not as a tool to be used against religions.

The precise and intentional wording of the "religion clause" reveals intent. First, it is clear that the phrase "an establishment of religion" refers to religious entities. The indefinite article "an" identifies "an establishment of religion" as a religious body (establishment) such as Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. Religions on our shores have freedom from government interference with the exception of acts by these religious bodies that endanger others and pose a "clear and present danger" to our nation. The Constitution guarantees every citizen the right to worship freely.

 "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion,or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." "Or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." The free exercise clause clearly refers back to an establishment of religion in the word "thereof." Religious establishments have a Constitutional right to freely exercise their religions. "The free exercise of a religious establishment."

And finally, the religious clause does not refer to a prohibition against Congress establishing a religion. The word "establishment" is a noun, not a verb. Congress cannot make laws respecting an establishment of religion. Congress cannot make laws respecting Christianity, Judaism, etc., establishments existing in our great nation. What is ironic about what our citizens who are against religion are proposing our government do is precisely what the First Amendment forbids.

 

Monday, June 22, 2015

Charleston, Racism and My Approach, the Gospel

An interesting report on FoxNews.com this morning asks the question "is racism a mental illness?" I believe it is...in some people, not all. Racism is an infection  that spreads hate throughout one's body much like the bacteria contracted from the little deer tick. Racism is spiritual Lyme Disease. It effects mind soul and body. There is no cure for Lyme Disease. There is a cure for racism.

My approach for addressing racism and the first step necessary for eradicating it (new converts can and must learn to turn from their racism and that doesn't happen over night) in individuals is and will be declaring the gospel and allowing the Holy Spirit to give the racist a new heart if He wills (2 Tim. 2:24-26). Others may choose to approach this evil through psychology or psychiatry and drugs. I consider such attempts temporary at best. Not bad, just temporal. My concern as a Christian and as a pastor is to apply the gospel to the racist in hopes of witnessing eternal changes.

A word of warning from the word of God to church-goers

I made a vow of sorts not long after I began preaching that I would never assume that just because the folks in the pews are sitting there and possibly "members" of the church they are saved. One of the reasons for my vow was my one-on-one intercourse with so many of these folks. The hatred that spews from the mouths of church-goers and the worldly lusts that pours from their hearts served as a wake-up call to this young naïve preacher. I have stuck to that vow. Here is the word of warning from the word of God to these people.

1 John 2:6-10 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked. 7 Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning. 8 Again, a new commandment I write to you, which thing is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away, and the true light is already shining. 9 He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. 10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

1 John 3:14-16 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren. He who does not love his brother abides in death. 15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him. 16 By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us. And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.

1 John 4:7-10 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.

1 John 4:20-21 If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen? 21 And this commandment we have from Him: that he who loves God must love his brother also.

For any God-called, God-gifted pastor, those words are deeply disturbing. I hate the notion that there are those in my congregation who are self-deceived into believing that they can love God and at the same time hate anyone, period. God says it can't be done. It is my task to preach the whole counsel of God even when it offends. Perhaps God will use the gospel truth to save the offended (Eph. 4:15; 2 Tim. 2:24-26).

Medication is sometimes needed. But a new heart is always in order.

When Adam and Eve rebelled against their Creator's plain word, they died spiritually immediately and they died physically eventually. That sin that set death in motion effected the whole man, body, soul and spirit. And now most human beings will find it necessary to take some form(s) of medication. Our brains are effected by the fall of man and we experience the fall in that part of our bodies in the forms of depression, bi-polarism, grand mal seizures, autism and tumors, etc., etc., all illnesses requiring serious meds. The same can be said of the human heart. I myself have had open-heart surgery (quadruple by-pass) and am now on blood pressure meds and cholesterol meds. All that because of Adam and Eve.

But there is a heart disease that only God can fix. And He can fix it. It manifests itself in many different ways, ways which the Bible calls sin and "the works of the flesh" (Mt. 15:18-20; Gal. 5:19-21). But God can perform open heart surgery on our dead-in-sins hearts. And He does every time a soul comes to Him through faith in Jesus. In fact, every believer in Jesus Christ has had a spiritual heart transplant. Our old hearts were that diseased.


Jeremiah 17:9 " The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it?



Ezekiel 11:19 "Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, 20 "that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God.

The only cure for racism and hatred is a spiritual heart transplant. That can be had only by the grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ.





 
 
 










 



 

 


 

 
 



 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

"Just the facts about who God says I am now, ma'am."


Just the Facts, Ma'am.

Are there any Bible verses that bother you because they make you sometimes question whether or not you're saved? Or they make you wonder how God feels about you at the moment you come across them?

Are there ever moments in your day or week when what you need from your heavenly Father is just plain ol' facts? “Just the facts, Father.”

Turn to Hebrews chapter 10 Hebrews 10:26-27 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.

This is what Paul is saying in Romans and Galatians:

You don't have to do this because God has done this.”

Law                                                  Gospel

Don't do.                                       “It is finished.”

Can't do.                                        “Justification is:

                                                       by grace alone,

                                                       through faith alone,

                                                       in Christ alone,

                                                       by the gospel alone,

                                                       for God's and our glory alone

Hebrews 2:1-4 Hebrews 2:1 Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, 4 God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?

Did you catch that? “For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation,”

How many transgressions and acts of disobedience “received a just reward?” EVERY!

And exactly what was this “just reward” these sins received? The sacrifice of the suffering Messiah. Beloved, “It is finished!”

WHAT A GREAT SALVATION!

Romans 7:24 - 8:4 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. NKJ Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did...” Our flesh, meaning here we spiritually dead human beings, Jews and Gentiles, was incapable of doing what God demanded we do. And this is picture-perfect grace, “God did!” for us, on our behalf. His Son fulfilled the law perfectly on our behalf. And now through faith in the One who did this for us we ourselves fulfill the law. Romans 3:31 Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law.

This is what Paul is saying in Romans and Galatians:

You don't have to do this because God has done this.”

Now “just the facts, folks.” (refer to the “facts” pages).




Tuesday, June 9, 2015

"Who are we right now?" Just the facts.

Remember "Drag Net?" Sgt. Joe Friday's most quoted phrase, "Just the facts, ma'am." Well, the other day the Holy Spirit put a wonderful idea in my mind concerning the facts of who we are in Christ and what we have as a result of being in Him. I present them just the way I put them on paper that day followed by a break down of the Scripture I used and a list of the facts from Romans and Galatians. Be encouraged.


Facts of the Christian Life

Various Scriptures


Romans 8:1 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.

Romans 8:2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:3-4 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Romans 8:14 For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

Romans 8:15-17 For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, "Abba, Father." 16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs -- heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.

Romans 3:21-24 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 

Romans 8:28-32 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

Romans 5:1-2 Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Romans 3:21-26 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Romans 4:5-8 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 7 "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin."

Romans 5:6-9 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.

Romans 5:8-9 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.

Romans 6:4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Romans 6:7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.

Romans 6:22-23 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

Romans 7:14 For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am carnal, sold under sin.

Romans 3:21-26 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Romans 4:5-8 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 7 "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin."

Let The Facts Begin
                                                                 Romans

Romans 5:1-2 Romans 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.

Romans 5:8-9 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.

Fact #1. We have been justified by faith and remain justified.

Fact #2. We have peace with God.

Fact #3. We have access to grace by faith.

Fact #4. We now stand in grace.

Fact #5. God demonstrates His own love toward us through the death of Christ.

Fact #6. Christ died for us.

Fact #7. We shall be saved from wrath through Christ.

Romans 7:19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice. 20 Now if I do what I will not to do, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells in me. 21 I find then a law, that evil is present with me, the one who wills to do good. 24-25 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 I thank God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin. Romans 8:1 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

Fact #8. Sin dwells in the believer.

Fact #9. Our inner man serves the law of God; our outer man serves the law of sin.

Fact #10. We will never be condemned.

Fact #11. We walk according to the Spirit.

Fact #12. We have been made free from the law of sin and death.

Fact #13. We will be delivered from this body that is dead because of sin.

Romans 6:4 Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.

Romans 6:7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.

Romans 6:22-23 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.

Fact #14. We were buried with Christ through spiritual baptism.

Fact #15. We now walk in newness of life by being raised with Christ.

Fact #16. Sin does not have dominion over me.

Fact #17. We are now set free from sin.

Fact #18. We have died.

Fact #19. We are under grace, not the law.

Fact #20. We have the gift of God, everlasting life, eternal life.

Romans 3:21-26 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Romans 4:5-8 But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, 6 just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: 7 "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; 8 Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin."

Fact #21. We are the “justified ungodly.”

Fact #22. God has written down on our heavenly account that we are righteous.

Fact #23. Our faith is accounted to us as righteousness.

Fact #24. All have sinned and are justified by grace in Christ Jesus.

Fact #25. Our sins are forgiven and covered and will never be imputed to us.

Let The Facts Continue

Galatians

Galatians 3:2-3 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? 3 Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?

Galatians 3:13-14 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree"), 14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

Galatians 3:26-27 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Galatians 4:6-7 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.

Galatians 4:31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman but of the free.

Fact #26. We received the Spirit by hearing and believing the gospel. 2 Thess. 2:13-14

Fact #27. We began life in Christ by receiving the Holy Spirit.

Fact #28. We have been redeemed from the curse of the law.

Fact #29. We have the blessing of Abraham.

Fact #30. We are sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. We are sons of God.

Fact #31. We have put on Christ.

Fact #32. We have the Spirit of the Son by whom we call God our “Abba, Father.”

Fact #33. We are heirs of God through Christ (we are joint heirs with Jesus).

Fact #34. We are children of the free woman (metaphorically speaking...and lit.).


Addendum



Romans 11:29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Fact #35. God will never recall either the gifts or calling given to you.

Romans 8:28-32 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

Romans 8:37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. :38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Fact #36. All things are working together for our good.

Fact #37. We are the called according to His purpose.

Fact #38. God foreknew us, each of us who are in Christ.

Fact #39. We were predestined to become like Jesus.

Fact #40. We are the called, the elect, the predestined, the justified and the glorified.

Fact #41. We are glorified and will be finally glorified.

Fact #42. We are victorious in Christ, though we do not see the final victory yet.

Fact #43. No created things is able to separate us from the love of God.




"Salvation from God's vantage point."


Ephesians 1:13 In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise,

“The Christian life is nothing if not life in the Spirit.”

Coming to faith in Christ, for those who do, from our vantage point seems like our decision. And there is certainly some truth to that. However, that vantage point is not the whole truth. There is another vantage point that sees precisely what happens when the ungodly come to hear and believe the gospel.

It turns out that working inside each dead-in-trespasses-and-sin-by-nature-child-of-wrath human being (Eph. 2:1-3) is none other than God Himself, the Holy Spirit of God. If it were not so then no one would be saved; no one could be saved.

The Lord Jesus said this, “No one can come to Me except the Father who sent Me draws him” (Jn. 6:44). He also said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me” (14:6). If you caught the two occurrences of “no one” then it should be clear that there's more going on in one's salvation than meets the human intellect.

I came to faith in Jesus when the gospel was clearly presented to me in a college cafeteria one Tuesday morning back in 1974. My coming to faith was made possible by the preaching of the word (Rom. 10:17). As a new-born babe in Christ I had no idea of what had just happened other than the wonderful truth that I had just been forgiven of all my sins. The notion of my having “made a decision for Christ” never entered the picture. I just knew that God was now my Father and He loved me. I knew in an instant that this was all about Jesus and His death on my behalf and not about my having to be good or doing anything in order to be forgiven.

God the Father, Jesus His Son and the preaching of the gospel are all essentials in one's salvation. But what about the Holy Spirit of God? What is His role in the justification of the ungodly? In the moment of my conversion I knew nothing of the Holy Spirit. I had never heard that there is such a Person. But whether I had heard of the Spirit or not, He had just given me life and light and faith. He had already baptized me into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13).

The apostle Paul wrote this to the church in Thessalonica, 2 Thessalonians 2:13 But we are bound to give thanks to God always for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, 14 to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The word “sanctification” means “to be set apart for a particular purpose.” And the One who sets apart according to the word of God as we just read is the Holy Spirit. Now we can see God the Father, Jesus His Son, the preaching of the gospel, and the setting apart work of the Holy Spirit all working together to bring us to salvation. So while there is certainly a decision on our part that is necessary for us to be saved or “justified,” our decision was only possible because God so worked life and light and faith in us by His sovereign decision to do so before we were born, before time began, before the foundation of the world (2 Tim. 1:9; Eph. 1:4; 2:4-10; Tit. 1:2; 2 Cor. 4:6).

The vantage point that can see “behind the scenes” of one's salvation is the one that gladly gives all praise and glory and honor to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:6, 12, 14).

There's one more passage that we really need to add to make our vantage point even more advantageous. Romans 8:26-39.

Romans 8:26-39 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. 27 Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. 31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? 33 Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written: "For Your sake we are killed all day long; We are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." 37 Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. 38 For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, 39 nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

All the glory for the sinner's salvation goes to God and to Him alone. We can't even pat ourselves on the back for “deciding to follow Jesus.” God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit decided to save us and in so deciding decided to do the entire work of salvation. It probably didn't take a lot of thinking to do all the work for us being that we were all dead and literally couldn't do anything about our situation.

I am what I am and I am who I am by the grace of God who began my life in Christ and who guarantees that He will bring it to His desired end, eternal life.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

My Ambiguous Anxieties


Putting a Finger On My Ambiguous Anxieties


I'm sitting in a restaurant this morning trying to enjoy the beauty of the spring morning and breakfast but my long-time friend, Ambiguous Anxiety, has joined me once again. I see him everywhere I go everyday.

There is something wrong with me and there always has been.

I know it began at home during my early childhood years. Daddy was a mean and angry man. Why, I don't know. I do know that he beat (literally) all the confidence and self-esteem out of my little soul.

It was usually over deeds (or perceived deeds) that were so trite as to warrant no more than a word of correction following an inquiry into what really happened and the seriousness of the deed. But Daddy seemed to derive some sort of sick twisted pleasure out of beating me and my older brother.

Mother never beat us and seldom spanked us but she stood by or sat by while Daddy did. As adults my brother once arranged a meeting with Mom in order to ask her why she allowed the years-long abuse and why she never left the “sob.” She made herself the victim and ignored my brothers charges.

Mother committed adultery a few times during our early years according to Daddy but he took her back and we boys never knew anything about those adulterous affairs. We didn't know about that until she committed adultery in the company of my first wife in 1970 and left Daddy for another man. We learned about this (not my first wife's involvement in adultery with Mother) when the sheriff came to tell Daddy that they were going to arrest Mom for occupying a room for immoral purposes, which they did. And Daddy took her back. Shortly after that my first wife left me over the phone.

It has only been in the last decade or so that surgeons learned how to sew up patients in such a way that no scars, virtually no scars, could be easily seen. No one has learned to do that with soul-scars, at least not like physical scars.

Soul-scars are the reason for my ambiguous anxieties. Putting a name on an affliction often helps to heal it. If one can identify what's wrong there's hope that one can remedy what's wrong. It's kind of like learning one has sinned against God and that is what's wrong between that one and God. Having identified our sin-problem by the grace of God we can then turn to Him and say, “What must I do to be forgiven?”

God has graciously taken care of my sin-problem and separation from Him by sending His Son to do all for me that He demands.

As far as the soul-scars go, I'm working on it. It ain't easy.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Damnable State of Hate


The Damnable State of Hate/Racism

The Blessed State of Faith

The Evidence

INTRO: Everyone in this room this morning was born with a sin nature and dead, spiritually speaking, without exception. To be dead spiritually is to be separated from God. It's entirely possible that some of you here this morning are still dead, separated from your Creator. To be dead in trespasses and sins is not a way of living we choose to live in, it is simply the state all of us are born in. But it is a state many choose to remain in.

According to the gospel of John, ch. 3, this is why. John 3:18-20 "He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19 "And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. 20 "For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. Without God's gracious and merciful intervention in our lives we all would have continued in that state.

TRANS: Lets take our Bibles and turn to 1 John, John's first epistle, not his gospel, and chapter 2. This is our starting point in our study this morning. We're going to go to other places in this same letter as we're recalling three kinds of evidence that stand either for us or against us presented in this letter. This is going to hopefully make us all eternally thankful that we have the Man Jesus as our attorney. 1 Jn. 2, vv9-11.

1 John 2:9-11 He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. 10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

I'm not a lawyer and I've never played one on tv but I've watched a lot of Law and Order episodes, so I know what I'm talking about when I talk about the law and going to court and evidence.

ILLUS: Recently there was a preview on television of a movie that is playing now in theaters where two bumbling cops are speeding along a city street. One of the cops is scared out of his wits and says to the one driving, “What are you doing?” The other cop says, “Trust me. I've watched a lot of movies.” From what I've observed on tv shows there's basically two kinds of evidence presented in court. There's evidence for and there's evidence against. Does that sound pretty accurate?

Speaking of lawyers,

Q: What do you have when 100 lawyers are buried up to their necks in sand?

A: Not enough sand.

The first kind of evidence is that kind of evidence that's against the plaintiff, and here it is, “Hating your brother for any reason is evidence of an unsaved soul.”

1 John 2:9 He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. 10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

ARGU: That's disturbing, isn't it? We have all experienced hatred at times in our lives even as believers. But that isn't what this passage addresses. The verb “hates” refers to someone who lives in hatred to such a point that it characterizes his or her life. You and I know when we meet this kind of person what to expect. Sooner or later their hatred is going to come out.

It's like when we meet a person who's given to gossip. We know that sooner or later while we're talking they're going to gossip about someone.

Listen to these verses again:

1 John 2:9 He who says he is in the light, and hates his brother, is in darkness until now. 10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

APPLI/ARGU: Did you catch that? But he who hates his brother is in darkness and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. That speaks of the darkness and the deceitfulness of hatefulness.

Those who profess faith in Jesus Christ yet hate others who have faith in Jesus cannot see that they're dead and living in spiritual darkness. And please note that the hater is supposed to be a Christian because the one he hates is his “brother,” a Christian. This verse points out the darkness and deceitfulness of hatefulness that exists within the visible church..

It is common to be smug in one's hatefulness.

It is common to be comfortable in one's hatefulness. Being religious has a way of sanctifying sins. Being religious has a way of confusing light and darkness.

It is It is common to be blind to one's own hatefulness.

It is It is common to think one's hate is justifiable.

ILLUS/APPLI: Recent events that have been broadcast nation wide have brought haters to the surface. Police officers shooting unarmed men for whatever reason have kept the spirit of racism alive and well in our nation. And, beloved, racism has no place in the body of Christ. Racism is one manifestation of hatred. And hatred is the same as murder in God's judgment. 3:15 Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

I love repentance. I need repentance occasionally. Perhaps you as one who is in Christ need the gift of repentance this morning. Remember, beloved, every Christian will experience hatred now and then but we don't live in it. We confess it and repent of it. I love repentance.

Even more, I love the grace of God. It may be that someone here this morning needs to experience the saving grace of God. It may be that the Spirit has shown you this morning that you are living in hate and that there is one remedy for it. If the Holy Spirit has shown you that then He has also shown you that Jesus is the Son of God.

Here is the second kind of evidence, the kind that is in favor of the plaintiff, and I'll phrase it this way, “Loving our brothers is evidence of the new birth.”

...and this evidence has evidence.

ILLUS/APPLI: I watch the tv show “Bones” and usually enjoy it. It is way beyond my head when they talk about scientific stuff but I do like it. If you've ever watched it you have probably noticed that cadavers can have lots of evidence within evidence. The body will show that the killer used a knife to kill the victim. But the stab wounds themselves will give evidence of what kind of knife was used. So when Bones and her husband or some other police officer finds a knife at the scene of the crime or in the home of a suspect, Bones can tell whether or not it was the weapon used in the murder.

ARGU: Here is the evidence within the evidence in our favor. Here is all the evidence we need in order to be able to say with confidence “I am in Christ. I am saved.”

#1, 1 John 3:14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brethren.

#2, 1 John 5:1 Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him.

#3, 1 John 4:15 Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.

Can you see the evidence within the evidence? First you know that you love the brethren. Second you know you love the brethren because you are in Christ.

I will close with this, “God's love in us will always trump hate.”

10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him.

This is not to say we will never experience fleeting hate or hatred. It is to say that those who belong to the Lord Jesus Christ will recognize hatred when it arises and deny it from building a nest in our hearts.

Fleeting hate is like anxiety in a believer's life. We're told to be anxious for nothing, not to worry about anything, but we all experience times of worry and anxiety. It's what we do with worry and anxiety and hate when they arise that is important.

Where does the evidence lie in you life this morning? For or against you?

There's a simple solution. Your sins were paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ. Trust Him if you're a Christian; trust Him if you aren't.