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.

"Somebody call the law!" How every believer has established the law of God

The last thing a criminal would want to do is call the police on himself. Except for some extraordinary circumstances, like getting stuck in an air duct, the perp would not want to see the cops anywhere near him. So why would the ungodly turn to the law of God for help? Why would a sinner "condemned, unclean," call on the holy Almighty God who declares him or her to be a sinner in the first place? It wouldn't make sense. If I turn to the law in self-defense before the Grand Jury of heaven, I'm toast.

It would be kinda like getting pulled over by a cop for speeding, doing 65 in a 45, and pointing the officer to the speed limit sign that clearly says 45 and saying, "See. The speed limit here is 45, you moron." Yeah, that would work. Being dead in trespasses and sins tends to make us human beings stupid like that.

Now here's the situation every human being on the face of this planet finds himself in, we're all criminals deserving of God's wrath. Don't take my word for it, take God's. Check out Romans 3:9-17, 23; 6:23; Ephesians 2:1-3 for starters.

We're already on death row. We've already been tried and found guilty of high treason against our Creator and Judge. In fact, we're already dead, separated from God and utterly hopeless (Eph. 2:11ff). The very law that we foolishly try to appeal to condemns us. Our very natures disallow us from justifying ourselves through works of the law. "What the law could not do in that it was weak on account of our flesh...," that's how the apostle put it. So what's a criminal to do? Better, what's a dead criminal to do? Nothing, absolutely nothing. Anything to be done must be done and can only be done by God Himself who is the only one with the prerogative to take an action.

"But God..." And He did indeed take action.

God took action in and through His Son who did for us what it was and is impossible for us to do for ourselves, to please God perfectly. To please God perfectly is an absolute. We must please God in every way at all times...period. That's what Jesus did. And He and our Father and the Holy Spirit did it for all who by God's grace come to faith in Jesus. Now, by our believing in the life, suffering, perfection, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, who fulfilled the law on our behalf, God declares us to be right with Him just as though we had done all that Jesus did. Through our faith, the gift of God, we have ourselves established the law as though we had actually done what is impossible for any of us to do.

Enjoy Holy Week. Praise God for His amazing grace as we remember the gift of life that is ours through the gift of the death of death in the death of Christ.


Sunday, April 13, 2014

Personalizing Paul's prayers

For years I have preached through or piece meal, Paul's letter to the Ephesians. And with each sermon/lesson my heart ached to see my hearers grasp the life-changing truths found in that epistle.

For me, Ephesians is the letter to the churches of every generation in every geographic setting. It contains practically everything the local body of Christ needs. It is universal and timeless.

Does the body of Christ need the assurance of God's spiritual blessings and calling and His having chosen us for redemption and forgiveness and our being made accepted and adopted into His family and saved in spite of our having been dead and separated from Him by our trespasses and sins? We have all that and more in this epistle.

Are there aspects of the believer's new life in Christ that we don't know about when we are converted and "born again?" Of course there are. And we find them in this epistle. For instance, we do not know when we are newly born from above that we have at our fingertips the same power of the Holy Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead and took Him to heaven to sit at the right hand of God the Father. We don't know about the riches of our inheritance in Christ that are actually ours now that we are in His family. We never knew until we either read it for ourselves or heard it taught that we can be strengthened by the Holy Spirit in our inner man so that we might know almost everything God has done for us in His Son after placing us in His Son where we can live our lives experiencing the fullness of God. And none of us knew immediately upon conversion that we have the full armor of God waiting for us to put on that we might successfully fight Satan and all his minions. We don't know until we're informed that we have been sealed in Christ by the Holy Spirit and thereby are given the assurance of eternal life. And I have the distinct feeling that all the above is just the tip of the heavenly iceberg.

I also have come to realize that very few of us have owned the wonderful and dramatic spirituality that is the Christian life as Paul lays it out in this letter. While I may get really excited at all the blessings that are mine as set forth in this letter, have I transferred that emotional high into practical everyday personal experience? Am I walking in the truths I have mentioned above? Have I sought them and applied them to and for myself? Or have they just been great truths for me to teach others?

I want the "power" of the Holy Spirit that is literally mine right now. I want to live out, to "flesh" out the resurrection power of the Spirit in my daily life that I might first glorify God for His amazing grace applied in and to my life. And second, I want to walk in that power that others might see Jesus in me. Third, I want to proclaim/share the gospel and see the Holy Spirit do His work in the lives of those who hear, whether He convicts and wins souls or brings judgment on those who reject the gospel. Fourth, I want to be a source of blessing to the body of Christ that I might minister to it in whatever it may need at any given moment on any given day.

I want to put to practice and experience those wonderful aspects of the Christian life that Paul prayed the Ephesians might experience. And he prayed such prayers for the Ephesians because he knew the necessity of our experiencing those universal and timeless blessings.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Faith in Jesus Christ means faith in His finished work

There is no such thing as faith in a partial work of Jesus. Or faith in the unfinished work of Jesus. There is no such thing as faith in a work done now but left somewhat undone to be finished at a later date. The mission of Jesus Christ was to fulfill the law and the Father's will perfectly in order that He might offer Himself the spotless Lamb of God, the perfect once-for-all sacrifice on behalf of and in the stead of sinners. That mission is/was finished.

Faith is an act of God, nothing less. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them" (Eph. 2:8-10).

The gift of faith, straight from the hand of God, is the gift of knowing absolutely that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, Messiah, Lord, Savior, Redeemer, Reconcilor.

This faith comes to the individual sinner while he or she is hearing the gospel; it comes through no other means. "Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the preaching of the word of God." This "hearing" includes those occasions when the sinner reads the gospel as well.

The entire work of one's justification/salvation is of God, from beginning to end. God has the ungodly in the right place at the right time with the one who will proclaim the gospel to them. The Holy Spirit gives the ungodly light and life and faith, setting them apart for this very thing (2 Thess. 2:13-14; Jn. 6:44-45, 63; 1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1:30-31).

This is vital to grasp if we are to rightly present the gospel to our ungodly, unsaved friends and neighbors. We can and must understand that it is not by oratory or men's words that the lost come to Christ but by the preaching of Christ, and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:1-5).

Rest in this knowledge. Do not take upon yourself what you cannot deliver. We are mere servants of God, some sowing, some watering, rejoicing to see the God of the Harvest reaping.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Christian Mind and This Age (world)

The Christian mind is a terrible thing to waste.

It's a shame and disgrace when any mind is wasted. But for those who have by the grace of God come to faith in Jesus Christ to then waste the gift of regeneration, the gift of the new birth, the gift of the indwelling, life-giving, faith-giving Holy Spirit is more than a mere shame and disgrace, it is nigh on to infidelity. Such a one is no better than an infidel.

The Christian's mind is another way of saying the Christian's spirit, the Christian's inner man, or even the Christian's heart. All of these terms are used interchangeably at times to refer to all that the born again human being is. Check out the following Scripture.

NAS Exodus 35:26 And all the women whose heart stirred with a skill spun the goats' hair.

Exodus 35:30-35 30 And Moses said to the children of Israel, "See, the LORD has called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah; 31 "and He has filled him with the Spirit of God, in wisdom and understanding, in knowledge and all manner of workmanship, 32 "to design artistic works, to work in gold and silver and bronze, 33 "in cutting jewels for setting, in carving wood, and to work in all manner of artistic workmanship. 34 "And He has put in his heart the ability to teach, in him and Aholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. 35 "He has filled them with skill to do all manner of work of the engraver and the designer and the tapestry maker, in blue, purple, and scarlet thread, and fine linen, and of the weaver -- those who do every work and those who design artistic works.

Psalm 19:14 14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart Be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my strength and my Redeemer.

Psalm 27:14 14 Wait on the LORD; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD!

Ephesians 3:14-19 14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height -- 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

 The Christian mind, the heart, the spirit, the inner man is at constant war with this age. The Romans were living in the midst of a culture not unlike ours in the 21st century. And just like us they had to be exhorted to live out the process of sanctification that began at the moment of our rebirth.

We are bombarded by the ways of this age (world, as it is often translated) and it is common for believers to be conformed to this age. Paul's imperative in Romans 12:2 to be transformed and not conformed is a negated present imperative which tells us that the believers in Rome were doing the same things Christians in our day do, we are being conformed to this age. Paul says "Stop it. Quit being conformed to this age!" That's the idea behind the negated present imperative. It's telling the reader to stop doing something he or she is presently doing.

How are we conforming to this present evil age? You know how you're doing it. Stop it. If you take your faith seriously then you are appalled at how easily you (and I) are caught up in the stuff of this age.

How do we stop it? By "the renewing of your (my) mind."

It's called "sanctification." It is the process that we are all involved in, some more so than others. The renewing of our minds is a life-long process whereby the believer cooperates with the Holy Spirit in striving for a life that reflects who we truly are in our inner man. Sanctification is our striving to live in a manner worthy of our holy calling. And while we will never reach perfection in this life and will continue to sin (yes, we will always sin), we can live out our lives in a manner worthy of our calling whereby we glorify God and realize the "joy of the Lord."


Monday, March 31, 2014

The more the disciple of Jesus learns about Him, the more we must be blown away.

The great old hymn Amazing Grace doesn't do justice to the concept of grace set forth in the word of God. And the words, "that saved a wretch like me," and "blind," and "see," and "lost" and "found," demand to be succinctly defined by the disciples of Jesus who truly grasp their depth for those disciples who do not at the present. Talk about amazing!

The apostle Paul certainly got it right when he wrote chapter 13 of the letter we call First Corinthians. We have only scratched the surface of divine knowledge. We only know in part; we can only know in part. Only the Trinity and those in their presence know fully even as they were known. But, oh my, what can be known by us who have the mind of Christ!

  • Man is not like God; God is not like man. Yet He has so worked in our lives that He has brought us into union with Himself.
  • He is holy to the absolute; we are the justified ungodly. We are at the same time sinful and saved; sinful and righteous; sinful and sanctified; sinful and justified; sinful and reconciled to Him; sinful and saints ("holy ones"); sinful and born of Him.
  • He set us apart for Himself, His uses, His purposes, His glory, and His love.
  • He called us and gifted us with a calling and gifts that He will never recall.
  • He has empowered us for His glory and our good with the same power that He used to raise His Son from the dead.
  • When we were dead in our trespasses and sins and His enemies, incapable of making ourselves right with Him, He made us alive in Christ by placing us in Christ by the baptism of the Holy Spirit.
  • We are His elect, His called ones, the ones whom He foreknew before time began, before the foundation of the world.
  • We are the ones whom He is for and not against.
  • We have been so graciously given eternal life.
  • We have been delivered from God's wrath to come.
  • We have been so redeemed and forgiven and justified by grace that we will never be condemned.
  • We have the seal of the Holy Spirit through whom we have the guarantee of an eternal inheritance.
  • We have the blessed inner witness that God the Father is our Father, our Abba.
  • And we can see what cannot be seen; we can hear what cannot be heard; we can know what cannot be known; and we can do what cannot be done.