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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Yes! He was really,really dead. But now?

Barnabas Piper writes:

Sometimes I think we forget that Jesus died. Not cognitively, that’s easy enough to acknowledge. But we forgot that He was dead. “Jesus died on the cross for our sins” is so much a part of Christian nomenclature that it has lost its shock value. Dead is a big deal and it’s not just a theological point of salvation. Jesus was without a heartbeat. No CPR and no defibrillator could bring him back. He was buried in the ground for days. His body began to decay. It was final. Just because we know the end of the story doesn’t mean we can downplay the finality of death. His friends certainly knew it.
They mourned. They wept. They prepared His body for burial. They feared the same fate would befall them. They were at a total loss as to what would happen next since their Messiah was gone. Gone forever. Dead.
At some point, whether through rote repetition of the story or through a culture that does its best to keep death at bay, we forgot what it means that Jesus was dead. We need to get into the story, to remember. We need to engage our imaginations of what it would have been like to be there, to see Him cry out and breathe His last in agony before slumping lifeless, pulling against the spikes in His hands and feet. We need to see His mangled body wrapped gently by Joseph and dressed with preserving and fragrant ointments and spices. Then we need to imagine how hard it would have been to lay Him on a cold slab of rock and walk away, for the last time. Ever.Except that it wasn’t ever.

Jesus was dead, and then He wasn’t. And this is unbelievable—truly not something to be believed, except that it’s Jesus. Death conquers everyone and everything. It conquers the flowers I give to my wife and it has conquered both my grandfathers. It is working on each of us even now. And when it gets us it doesn’t let go. Death is permanent and unalterable. But Jesus altered it and conquered it. He went from profoundly dead to magnificently alive.

Without death Easter celebrates a comeback, not a miracle. Without a realization of Jesus’ death Easter celebrates the unexpected rather than the impossible. Without a real death there isn’t a real resurrection. Without a real resurrection there isn’t a real point in being a Christian—no hope, no future, no perfect new creation. So Jesus’ death matters. It cannot be underplayed and can scarcely be overplayed. He spend three days breathless, brain-dead, heart-beatless, and decaying. Then He was alive. And, yes, He died for our sins, to give us life. To give us life after death—like Him.
 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

So, do ya have this Holy Spirit thing figured out?

I've tried. But to tell you the truth, I can't wrap my brain around this notion of God dwelling inside me in the Person of the Holy Spirit. I can make a few observations about life as a believer, however.

First, one day I suddenly and quite unexpectedly believed the gospel. A young lady in college explained it to me. A "light" came on in my head and heart and soul and spirit that had never been there before.

Second, I began to think differently about life and the world and others and God and Jesus and the Bible and my way of living. I no longer wanted to do the immoral things I was accustomed to doing (even though I still did some of those things after hearing and believing the gospel).

Third, I repented of my selfish way of living; I changed my mind about who was really in charge of my life.

Fourth, I wanted so deeply for others to know about Jesus and be "saved."

Fifth, the Bible became one of the chief focuses of my life on that day in '74 and still is. Only now I read it with some maturity and carefulness.

Sixth, life went on as usual in many aspects. I worked at a secular job for 10 years and did well. I married and had two wonderful godly daughters. And I went back to college and then seminary. Most believers are supposed to work secular jobs and take care of themselves and their families.

Seventh, I have for 39 years this month been Jesus centered as much as I can be. And that is by His grace. I have at the same time wrestled with my pitiful self-centeredness and sins. I have worried about bills and car repairs and my late wife's illness and my kids' welfare and my grandkids' well-being. I have been guilty of giving in to "the fear of man" way too often.

Eighth, words of knowledge and wisdom and Scriptural understanding bombard my mind constantly and have since the beginning. Those are gifts of the Spirit.

Ninth, times with my family and my time in the word as well as being able to share Jesus with anyone give me my greatest joy.

Tenth, I have known times of fantastic emotional and mental and spiritual highs that can only be ascribed to the filling of the Holy Spirit because they all flow out of praise and worship and singing unto Him and my brethren and revelation from His word.

Eleventh, I have been part of and witnessed "miracles" of healing and salvation and reconciliation that were the result of God-given faith to bring those things to pass for His glory and the good of those effected by them.

Twelfth, the Holy Spirit has given me faith and strength during some very trying times when I didn't have faith.

The word tells me and all believers that when by God's grace we believe the gospel of Jesus Christ we receive the Holy Spirit. He gives us the love of God, teaches, comforts, leads, gifts, chastizes and strengthens us. Through a consistent life of prayer (talking with our Father) we can become aware of the Spirit's presence within us on a consistent basis. We can realize and enjoy Him. Through our submission to the Spirit we can witness His work through us and to us. We will go through life just as others go through life with this exception, we have God within. For us, that is the normal life.

The Person of the Holy Spirit has made us alive whereas once we were dead and separated from our Creator. Our inner man is alive. That is where the Holy Spirit dwells with us. We are united to Him spiritually even while living in this corrupt and corruptible flesh and blood mortal body. If we don't know His presence it's because we have failed to submit to Him and His word. And we can know Him, we can "feel" Him, we can experience Him. And He will use us for the glory of the grace of God and our good as well as the good of those around us.
 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Does/can sin end our salvation? Addendum

The apostle John makes it plain that "we" believers still sin. If we say otherwise we call God a liar and the truth of our sinning and what God says about it and has done about it is not in us.

John's words remind us of the nature of our still fallen outward man. Yet he can say about us that "He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous" (3:7). How is it possible for a believer who still sins to practice righteousness? It is possible because we practice righteousness, we experience righteousness, by grace through faith in Jesus Christ. Practicing righteousness means first, trusting in the finished work of Jesus. Second, it means loving our brethren. And, third, it means owning up to our sins. "There is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins" (Ecc. 7:20).

Remember, beloved, God never gives us permission to sin but has made glorious and gracious provision for our sins.

"unto the praise of the glory of His grace."

Does/can sin end our salvation? Conclusion

A stunning revelation!

Nothing God has done has ended our present corruption. 1 Cor. 15:50-56

Nothing God has done has ended either our bent toward sin or our ability to sin.

Our salvation did not end our ability or willingness to sin. Neither does our justification, redemption, forgiveness, sanctification, washing and reconciliation. Our outward man, our flesh, is still corrupt and corruptible; our inward man is not.

Being "born again" and indwelt by the Holy Spirit does not prevent us from sinning.

Paul wrote these stunning words in his letter to the Romans, our chapter 7, verses 24-25:

"O wretched man that I am! (lit., "wretched man I," very emphatic). Who will deliver me from this body of death? (lit., "the body of this death") 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."

The conclusion proclaimed here by the apostle is that we will continue to sin while in "the flesh;" we will continue to serve "with [our] flesh, the law of sin." That is the normal Christian life. But, there's more to it than that. We are not left to the mercy of our corrupt flesh.

"So then, ("on the one hand") with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but ("on the other hand") with the flesh the law of sin."

I can think with my new mind. I can reason. I can reach my own conclusions. And I have concluded that the law of God is right and just and good. That is the conclusion reached by those who are not under the law but under grace. Grace puts law and sin and the flesh in their proper perspective. And that perspective is founded on the word of God and the whole counsel of God.

Viewing the law and our sin from the perspective of grace points the believer to Jesus and Mount Calvary, not the law and Mount Sinai. Grace points us away from ourselves and our "body of this death" to the One in whom and through whose crucified and resurrected body we are made alive and anew. Grace takes us out from being under law and therefore out of condemnation.

Grace frees us from the very thing that empowers the corrupt nature we still possess, that thing being the law (1 Cor. 15:56; Rom. 7). But not even grace removes our propensity toward sin or our fondness of it. That's not the role of grace and never has been. This was never God's intent. Not now.

We are not left to the mercy of our still-corrupt old man. We have a new man within. And "Greater is He who is in us than He who is in the world." That is where "the seed of God" abides. That is where we are alive in Christ. And whatever is born of God cannot sin (1 John 3:9; 4:4).

No! Sin does not and cannot end one's salvation, one's justification. God Himself has seen to that in the perfect once-for-all life, death, resurrection, ascension and reign of the One in whom we have by His grace put our faith. We have been made one with Him and nothing shall separate us from Him. Nothing!

 

Monday, March 11, 2013

The saints can "see the unseeable; hear the unhearable..."

The saints of God, those who are in Christ Jesus and only those who are in Christ Jesus, have all the resources needed for glorifying God. And that is indeed "the chief end of man." We have been "blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He made us accepted in the Beloved" (Eph. 1:3-6). Note that phrase, "to the praise of the glory of His grace." Paul will write a similar phrase two more times in this chapter (v.12 and v.14).

It is by His grace that Jesus died for the ungodly and by His grace the ungodly are justified (Rom. 4:5; 5:6). By the grace of God we came to faith in Jesus Christ and only by His grace (Eph. 2:1-10). And along with our justification/salvation comes an ability and power that the church has seldom tapped into.

Ephesians 1:15-21 15 Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers: 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, 18 the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, 19 and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power 20 which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come.

We can know the unknowable, see the unseeable, hear the unhearable, and do the undoable by the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him at the right hand of the Father. We can do these things because we have the Holy Spirit dwelling within us. Because we have the Holy Spirit, God Himself dwelling within us, we can do these things, experience these things for God's glory and the good of those around us. It's what Paul prayed for the Ephesians to know and live out; it's what I pray the saints in the 21st century will know and experience for the glory of God and the building up of the body of Christ as well. And, no, I'm not there yet.




Sunday, March 10, 2013

Does/can sin end our salvation? Part 2

The Bible says that Jesus came to save whom?

I believe that would be "sinners." And that would include me and you. "For all have sinned..."

Luke 5:32 "I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance."

1 Timothy 1:15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.

Luke 19:10 "for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost."




Now, "If God is for us (and He is)..."

My question is, "How can He not be when He has done all this for us?"
Romans 8:26-34 26Likewise 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. 27Now 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. 28And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to Hispurpose. 29For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. 31What then shall we say to these things? If God isfor us, who can beagainst us? 32He 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? 33Who shall bring a charge against God's elect? It is God who justifies. 34Who 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.
Is there an expiration date on God's love for us?
Do our flaws and sins and weaknesses and shortcomings cause God to change His mind about us? Does God experience "buyer's remorse" after He so graciously saved us and bought us with so great a price?
After telling us the history of humanity and our fall from glory in Adam and Eve and of our spiritual deadness and our hopeless condition in the first 5 chapters of his letter to the Romans with the remedy to our separation from God interwoven, Paul brings us in chapters 7 and 8, to the conclusion of his argument; God has graciously and gloriously saved us and justified us by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, through the gospel alone, for God's glory alone, and our eternal good, which includes our being glorified, by the way. And that conclusion is stunning. Listen to this:
"O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" 7:24. His answer? Paul's conclusion? "I thank God -- through Jesus Christ our Lord!" But that's not all.
"So then..." Those two words introduce another conclusion, "with the mind," referring to the new man, the new Paul, the new you if you are in Christ, the inner man, the true you, "I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin."
"I conclude, beloved believers, that this is the way it is for us in this flesh and blood mortal body. Our inward man, that part of you that is "born again," where God's "seed" abides, is alive and has been and remains delivered through faith in Jesus Christ" (8:10; 2 Cor. 4:6-7, 16; 1 John 3:9). We have been made alive and raised with Jesus. And that's a fact (Eph. 2:1-7).
Now consider this. If a true believer could lose his or her salvation by committing sin(s), that would mean that God has commanded somewhere that we never sin again lest we die. It would mean that God would have to take our lives again as He did Adam and Eve's. It would mean that there is a, metaphorically speaking, forbidden fruit tree that we can choose to eat from ... or not, and the eating of which would again bring sin and death into our beings, body, soul, and spirit. It would mean that we are either saved or condemned based upon our obedience or disobedience to that one commandment. It would mean that we have never been under grace but continue to be under the law. And we're not.



Saturday, March 9, 2013

"Rejoice, highly favored child of God!"

"Rejoice, highly favored one." Luke 1:28. This same Greek word behind "highly favored one" used by Gabriel to describe Mary's standing before God is used to describe every believer in Ephesians 1:6. So "rejoice, highly favored ones."

"Your sins have separated you from your God. However,..."

Isaiah the prophet said to the Hebrews "your sins (iniquities) have separated you from God" (Isa. 59:2). It is in Jesus Christ and in Him only that that separation has been healed for Jew and Gentile. That's how the apostle/prophet Paul could say to us nothing "shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:38-39). For those in Christ, not even their sins shall be able to separate them from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord ... and Savior and Redeemer and Reconcilor and Atonement.

In the first 7 chapters of his letter to the Roman believers, Paul addressed our sins. He brought us from condemnation and separation and spiritual death as our state to forgiveness and reconciliation and life in Christ as our present and eternal state.
 
"Unto the praise of the glory of His grace."

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Does/can sin end our salvation? Part 1

No, else none of us would remain saved.

The sure indicator that one who professes faith in Christ doesn't possess faith in Christ is their open living-in-sin lifestyle. Those who are "in Christ" have died to sin and can no longer live in; we do not live in sin any longer. And that's a fact (Romans 6:1-11). This isn't to say that there are those who profess Christ but don't possess Christ who don't live outwardly upright lives, many do.

However, since it is Scriptural truth that every believer who has or ever will dwell on this planet in a flesh and blood mortal body sins, has sinned and has sin (1 John 1:8-10; Romans 7. Notice the three truths concerning sin John addresses: "we have...sin;" we confess our sins that we commit now; "we have sinned"), it is also true that God has made provision through the blood of Christ for all our sins, past, present, and future (1 Jn. 2:2; Col. 2:13-14; Eph. 1:3-7). Thus the sins that we now commit do not move to God to blot out our names from the Book of Life. That, beloved, will never happen. Not for those who are in Christ (Rom. 7:24-8:4; Rev. 3:1-6).

Those who profess faith in Jesus yet live freely in the sinful ways of their past are not in Christ. But it isn't their sinfulness alone that brings condemnation but their not being in Christ. Those so living are still dead in trespasses and sins and have not been delivered from the kingdom of darkness where such a lifestyle is the rule (Ephesians 2:1-3).

We do not live in sin and cannot live in sin because we do not live in sin.

We who are in Christ still sin because we still live in these flesh and blood mortal bodies where our remaining corruption has some sway over us and always will (1 Corinthians 15:50-56).

There will never come a time when we will be able to lie and say "I do not sin. I do not have sin. I have not sinned."

As we grow and mature in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, we also grow in our experience with the Holy Spirit, seeking His strength and power and gifts and leading (Romans 8:9-14; Eph. 1:15-19; 3:14-19; 2 Pet. 3:18). A strong relationship with other mature believers and a working knowledge of the word of God all work together for God's glory and our good.
 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Spiritual Warfare In the 21st Century

SPIRITUAL WARFARE IS UBIQUITOUS

It isn't something the believer can opt out of; we are all engaged.

This is the genuine and true world war.

Nothing can get us out of this war. Neither one's denomination nor one's position in the church or life can exempt us from serving. Even those church-goers who aren't convinced of this war or the reality of the devil are in it. Be sure that every believer on planet Earth is in need of "the whole armor of God." A contributing factor to the deplorable state of the visible church is its denial of the reality of spiritual warfare with the devil and its, excuse the pun, devil-may-care attitude.

I'm going to approach this study by briefly pointing out several observations from Ephesians 6:10-18. They are, #1, the victor in spiritual warfare, #2, the reality of spiritual warfare, #3, our demonic foe in spiritual warfare, #4, the wiles (methods) of the devil in spiritual warfare, and #5, our defensive and offensive armor in spiritual warfare. This will be very brief.

First, "The Victor In Spiritual Warfare." 6:10

As John MacArthur once pointed out we enter into this war from the point of victory. That doesn't mean the war is over. It does mean that we can rest assured that in the end whether we are wounded, maimed, or killed in this war against the devil and his minions we will stand victorious alongside the Savior on the Day of the Lord.

Note, beloved, the language of victory in our passage. "Be strong in the Lord and the power of His might." With the whole armor of God we are "able to stand against the wiles of the devil...and having done all, to stand" With "the shield of faith" we are "able to quench the fiery darts of the wicked one."
Every piece of armor in this passage equips not only for the fight but also with the knowledge that by the strength and power of the Lord Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit that is ours through His armor we are indeed victorious. Check out Romans 8:28-39, 1 John 5:4, and 1 Samuel 17:47.

Second, "The Reality of Spiritual Warfare." 6:12.

"For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places."

That is a statement of fact, reality. "For we...wrestle against..." The NKJV doesn't bring out the present active indicative verb as clearly as the NASB, "For our struggle is not against...," "is" being the verb in question. The present tense reminds us that warfare is always present. The active voice informs us that we are those involved in this warfare. The indicative mood is the mood of reality. We are actively engaged in the present in a real spiritual war.

Third, "Our Demonic Foe In Spiritual Warfare." 6:11

It can't get any plainer than this, we are engaged in "clear and present danger" with the devil himself and the powers that serve him. "Principalities...powers...the rulers of the darkness of this age...spiritual wickedness in the heavenlies." That alone should put the fear of the Lord in everyone of us, motivating us to "put on the whole armor of God" every single day. Without this armor, beloved, we cannot stand.

As concerning the devil's rule over the lost and blind, the apostle Paul labels him "the god of this world" (2 Cor. 4:4). John the Apostle records in The Book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ that the devil is: "Satan," "the serpent of old," "the dragon," "the accuser of the brethren," and "the deceiver of nations," Rev 2:10; 12:9, 10, 12; 20:2, 10;  12:9, 14f; 20:2. And check out 1 John 4:4.

Fourth, "The 'Wiles' of the Devil In Spiritual Warfare." 6:11

They are many. The word "wiles" is plural after all.

That word comes from the Greek word where we get our English word "method(s)." There is method to his madness and his wickedness. The devil knows what he's doing when it comes to deceiving the nations as well as believers (1 Peter 5:8-9). He uses unregenerate men and women within the visible church to propagate damnable heresies, liberal theology, sexual immorality, and the love of money, all as being God's will for everyone.

The men and women who teach damnable heresies do it by bringing these heresies in "alongside the truth" in order to make them palatable to those who have a religious bent (2 Peter 2:1-3). These false teachers "even" deny "the Lord who bought them" and get away with it for the time being.

Liberal theologians have inundated the American church scene by convincing their dupes that homosexuality is an acceptable alternative lifestyle. That Jesus Christ isn't the only way to the Father or heaven. That Jesus did not come to die for sins but to provide us with a good example. And that the Bible is no more the word of God than the newspaper is. *Google PCUSA and The United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church for a glimpse into their inner workings.

Adultery, fornication, sodomy, homosexuality, and pornography have come into the visible church with boldness, daring anyone to challenge those who live such lifestyles. And this isn't confined to liberal denominations; it is in every denomination.

With the births of Pentecostalism around the turn of the 20th century and the Charismatic Renewal beginning in the late 1950's, man-centered teachings gained a stronger foothold in the visible church. The Enlightenment in Europe had already played its part in the apostasy of the church.

Pentecostalism emphasizes man as the final factor in whether or not one "gets saved," that one making a "decision" followed by having to clean himself or herself up before salvation can happen. And then except one keeps himself clean, salvation can and will be lost. The Charismatic Renewal while doing a great work of reminding the church of the Person and power and ministry of the Holy Spirit, paved the way for the damnable heresies of the so-called "Word Faith" movement with its accompanying "health, wealth, little god, and name it and claim it" teachings. One might want to read 1 Timothy 6:1-11 before jumping on this band wagon.

And we can't leave out the so-called "Conservative Movement" that so emphasized morals and the inerrancy of Scripture. Their rejection of the gifts of the Spirit (except for those gifts they find to be helpful for their itinerary and convenience such as preaching and teaching and giving and administration and various music gifts) have contributed to the spiritual desert most of their congregations were living in to begin with. Their strong emphasis on living moral upright lives turned an already man-centered church even more so in on itself, giving the impression that morals trump grace and the lack of them negate grace.

Fifth, and finally for now, "Our Defensive and Offensive Armor In Spiritual Warfare." 6:14-18

We must have both. Every soldier in the battle must have both armor and weaponry. And that we have in the "whole armor of God."

Our defensive armor consists of:

The waistband of truth
The breastplate of righteousness
The gospel of peace boots
The shield of faith
The helmet of salvation

Our offensive weapon is "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."

That's pretty straight forward, isn't it? It isn't confusing or complicated armor. The weapon is certainly simple enough. And it's all we need. Which is good because it's all we have. So, let's use it.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

My Utter Depravity: An Autobiographical Sketch of Me and Humanity


 

Ps. 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.”
(And I was brought up spiritually dead by the spiritually dead.)

There is a time for every human being that only ends when by the grace of God one comes to saving faith in Jesus Christ and is transformed into a “new creature” that is best described by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians where he informs us that without exception we were all disciples of the devil (Eph. 2:1-3; 2 Cor. 5:17). And being spiritually dead, separated from our Creator, we are unaware of our being the devil's disciples and the deliverance that God has provided through faith in His Son (2 Cor. 4:4-6; Col. 1:9-13).

Little children, of course, even the little ones brought up by Christian parents, never give such matters a thought, which is right and good. They are to be fed baby food, spiritually speaking, as they grow that they might be drawn by the Holy Spirit through the “milk of the word” to the Lord Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 2:1-2; Jn. 6:44-45; Eph. 6:1-4). Too much talk of Satan too soon will probably do much more harm than good. Their Lord Jesus Christ must be the center of all nurturing and training. The children of believing parents should they die are separated unto God the Father; they are sanctified by Him for Him according to His promises and covenant (1 Cor. 7:12-14). And don't forget that Christian parents begin nurturing up their children from birth. Infants can hear the soothing, life-giving words of God.

MY LIFE AS AN UNBELIEVER

Ps. 51:5, “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.”

That certainly describes me. My mother, whom I loved and forgave her several betrayals of me through her adulterous affairs, raised me and my older brother, my only sibling, to focus on sexuality. Her lifestyle in deeds and words encouraged us to be sexually active from a very young age. My father was involved in this as much if not more than my mother. And when I did become active as a child they scorned me, my father taking a particular dislike for me, if not hatred.

The irony in all of this can be seen already. But the incident that cemented my obsession with all things sexual came the day they were both sitting on their bed looking at pornographic material my dad brought home with him from his years in the Navy during World War 2. I stood at the foot of the bed looking at all this stuff imprinting it all on my mind and heart and soul while they smiled at me. Mom finally say to my dad that I shouldn't be looking at these things. It was too late. I was hooked.

I may have been 5 or 6 years old at the time, no older than that, but the titillation I experienced infected my whole body. The point of bringing this up is to illustrate the utter depravity we are all born with and that manifests itself in a myriad of ways.

My dad was an extreme racist and a mean-tempered man. He thought nothing of beating me and my brother for the slightest infractions. He would hit us, slap us, kick us, and hold us up by one of our little arms and flail us while we screamed in terror both while we were being beaten and as we watched our brother being beaten knowing that we were next. He would pull our underwear down when he flew into one of these rages and flail us either with his hand or a belt. He once pulled my clothes down to the floor in front of guests while he “whipped” me. I stood there before our guests naked from the waist down while they cringed in horror at what my daddy was doing to me. And mom always stood by saying nothing in our defense. After daddy had been dead a couple of years, my brother called me and said he wanted us to meet with our mother and talk about some things. These were the things he wanted to confront her with. She broke down during our talk and pleaded “But what about me?”

During my early school years, first through sixth grades, I was a good kid at school. There was only one incident during those years that moved one of my teachers to call me over to talk to me about a shoving match I instigated on the playground. I had demonstrated a certain cockiness before but it was so childish that it went unnoticed. It was in the seventh grade after a particularly bad year with my daddy that I began showing symptoms of his verbal and physical abuse. It seemed the older I got the more my daddy hated me and the more his abuse became verbal. That verbal abuse contributed to the destruction of any self-worth and self-esteem I might have had. He literally beat all the confidence out of me. I experienced a mental and emotional “melt down” in the seventh grade brought on by a mean-spirited teacher who verbally abused me several time causing me to cry uncontrollably and eventually run away from school. My little world fell apart beginning that year. I have been mentally and emotionally ill since. I'm now at this writing 66 years old and still fight to be normal on an almost daily basis.

I became cruel to others without ever becoming a bully; I despised bullies. I did some acts of cruelty to one girl in my eighth grade class that I regret to this day. She was “white trash” and dirt poor. Several boys in my class were mean to her but especially I. As I was recalling this with some friends recently the idea of this autobiographical sketch came to mind as an illustration of my personal utter depravity. And as others told of their cruel youthful goings on I made reference to our depravity, but my remark wasn't received. I wonder why?

I became promiscuous and indulged myself in that life style. My brother and I began drinking beer around the age of either 13 or 14 with the help of an older friend who was a high school drop-out and whether he was old enough to buy beer in our area at that time, I don't know. I just know that he bought it freely from bootleggers or at a hamburger/beer joint we called “the county line.” I got drunk many, many times during and after high school up until I became a Christian at the age of 27.

A family and race of the devil's disciples

My parents knew nothing about the Christian faith except what they had picked up from their own twisted childhoods. They and my brother and I were all disciples of the “prince of the air” (Eph. 2:2). We were all dysfunctional and depraved. We were all conceived in sin.

I was born of the spiritually dead and raised by the spiritually dead.

Being religious doesn't change that fact. In fact, being religious too often masks that truth of our being born spiritually dead. It is the spiritual blindness that we're all born with that our adversary takes advantage of as he tries to keep us from the light of the gospel (2 Cor. 4:3-6). Even the lost are engaged in spiritual warfare, albeit unknowingly.

Humanity's utter depravity is manifested around us everyday of our lives and always has been. I won't begin to list the particulars. It would take an entire library to contain such a work. I will in closing say that I see my own depravity on a daily basis.

The some times violent fantasies or racist thoughts or sexual fantasies that flash through my mind remind me that I yet possess what the Reformers described as “our remaining corruption.” They would say to their hearers and readers that saints have remaining corruption, not “reigning corruption.” Remaining corruption is the residue from our lives before God graciously and mercifully saved us, forgave us, redeemed us, washed us, sanctified us, justified us, and reconciled us to Himself through faith in Jesus Christ. I refer to that as “the leftovers of the lost life.” Every saint has them. But the work of God overrides them all. While He never gives us permission to sin, He has made gracious and merciful provision for our sins in and through the blood of His Son (1 Cor. 15:50-56; 6:9-11; Eph. 1:3-2:10; 1 Jn. 1:5-2:2).

Lest anyone should boast

Why? Why did God leave us in such a state after graciously saving us? Why do we still too often see our depravity rise to the surface? That all the glory for our salvation might go to Him and not to those who are saved (1 Cor. 1:30-31; Eph. 2:8-10). Our salvation, our justification is “by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, through hearing the gospel alone, for God's glory and our glory and our eternal good.” As the apostle wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:16, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day.” And, in v.7 of that same chapter, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” I still don't like it. But that's how God ordained it. I can rest in that.

The good that we would do in Christ's name is even instigated by God (Phil. 2:13; 1 Cor. 15:9-11). Like Abraham, we have nowhere to boast as having accomplished anything of ourselves concerning God's gracious gift of righteousness (Rom. 4:1-5).

My autobiography and yours is still being written. Let God be God and let Him be glorified by the word of our testimony as we acknowledge His Lordship, Sovereignty, Substitutionary Atonement, our remaining corruption and the blood and grace that are greater than all our sin.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

He Still Has the Scars. Why?

After the Lord Jesus was crucified, dead, buried, raised from the dead, He appeared bodily to His disciples in a locked room. And when I say "appeared," I mean He "suddenly" appeared out of nowhere and gave His disciples a good fright. Well, not really "nowhere," He was always "somewhere."

In His resurrection body He still had the scars from His execution (John 20:26-29). After this He appeared to several hundred followers (1 Cor. 15:1-8), in this same body, I might add, scars and all. Then He made one last appearance to His apostles before His ascension (Acts 1:1-11). The angels who spoke to the crowd as He was taken up into heaven told the observers that He "will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven." He left in the clouds, He will return in the clouds. He left with scars, He will return with scars. He left in a physical body, He will return in a physical body.

Why? Why didn't He return to "Spirit" when He was resurrected? (Jn. 4:24). That's easy enough to figure out. He had to be seen by His followers after His death in order to prove He was indeed alive again as He had promised (Mt. 16:21). But there's more to it than that.

Since by man came sin and death, it had to be that by man also would come righteousness and life (Rom. 5). And the only way that necessity could be realized was through a perfect Man who would go through all the temptations that Adam experienced and all the temptations that man faced after Adam fell and brought the world into death and sin and darkness. Jesus Christ was and is that perfect Man (1 Tim. 2:5-6; Heb. 2:9-18; 4:15).

No imperfect man could or can enter into the presence of the Father (1 Cor.15:50-56). That's what Jesus did for us, on our behalf. Everything that God demanded/commanded of fallen man as declared through the law (Ex.20) Jesus fulfilled, including the righteousness required in order to appear before Him, in His presence in all His glory and holiness. There Jesus appears as a Man for us just as though we were there in the Father's presence ourselves physically (Eph. 2:4-6; Col. 3:1-4).

Jesus Christ "is our life." His life of absolute sinlessness and perfection is now accounted to our lives as though we had done all that He did for us. His resurrection sealed, guaranteed our justification (Rom. 5:25). His ascension and present position at the right hand of the Father guarantees our ultimate perfection (Heb. 10:11-14). And His present indwelling through the Person of the Holy Spirit of every believer guarantees that the glory that was lost in Eden has been restored to the faithful fallen (Col. 1:27).

He took His scars with Him because He took our sins upon Him that when He returns with those scars He might take us with Him (2 Cor. 5:21).