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Friday, December 27, 2013

The Gift of the Spirit Opens the Door To the Forever-Pleasures of God

One of the greatest pleasures the disciple of Jesus can know and literally experience with daily regularity comes from  hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, His written word and the fellowship of His saints. And there is so much more available to us. If we will just submit to Him and pray in faith His word tells us that we haven't begun to see what He can do, will do, and wants to do for us, in us, and through us.

The Holy Spirit is not given to the church for our personal pleasure and edification alone, but that we might know God deeper, glorify Him in all of life, build up one another, and enjoy Him forever.

And He does give me immense pleasure. "Thou wilt make known to me the path of life; In Thy presence is fullness of joy; In Thy right hand there are pleasures forever" Psalm 16:11.

The pleasure I experience comes chiefly from the promises fulfilled in Jesus and the peace and purpose and power He gives me as I fellowship with Him daily and my brothers and sisters in Christ. Through the Spirit moving me "both to will and to work for His good pleasure," I am acutely aware of His presence and His purpose and His power, enlightening me through His word to grow in the grace and knowledge and love of the Lord Jesus Christ. This world knows no such joy.

I get excited every time I go to Him in prayer and praise and open His written word to equip myself and others for His glory and our edification. His word encourages me to strive toward that upward call that I might be filled with all the fullness of God. The possibilities are endless in the kingdom of my God. Meditate on the following Scripture noting especially 3:20:

Ephesians 1:15-23 15 For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you, and your love for all the saints, 16 do not cease giving thanks for you, while making mention of you in my prayers; 17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him. 18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so 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 surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might 20 which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. 22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, 23 which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all.

Ephesians 3:14   14 For this reason, I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man; 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fulness of God. 20 Now to Him who is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, 21 to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen. 


 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

"The law of God makes me break the law?" 1 Corinthians 15:56

For most of us who drive, posted speed limits just don't matter, not really. If I want to do 55 in a 45 mph zone, I'm going to do 55. I'll keep my eyes open for law enforcement officers and even then I'll "push the envelope." The fact is for most of us the speed limit is just never high enough.

I'm seldom in "a hurry." Occasionally I find myself running late for lunch with friends or a movie with my family and other occasions. Getting off to work in the morning and running a little behind does the trick. But in a hurry? Seldom.

Something mysterious happens to most drivers once they get behind "the wheel." Suddenly, regardless of where we're going and how much time we have to get there, we're in a hurry. If it's just a trip to the grocery store to "pick up a few things," I need to be there NOW! And my grocery store is open 24/7. Go figure. I have a theory that it has something to do with the steering wheel. But that's another post.

The day I turned 16 I was at the DMV getting my license. I read the driver's manual thoroughly and knew the laws governing drivers in my state like the back of my hand. I knew the law. I made 100 on the written test and passed the driving portion with flying colors. I was then free to drive. I was also without excuse as far as the law was concerned. I knew the law and was responsible for what I knew and even what I didn't know ("Ignorance of the law is no excuse."). I was free to drive responsibly.

My problem was I wasn't very responsible. I broke almost every traffic law on the books within just a few months. And everytime I did I knew full well what I was doing. It was fun, breaking the law and raisin' hell. Oddly enough, I never got pulled and never got a ticket, not until I was in my 60's. I was pulled for doing 67 in a 45 and but by the grace and mercy of God, I would have lost points and my auto insurance would have gone up. But kind Highway Patrol Officers and judges having mercy on me didn't change my nature one bit. I still find (yeah, like I don't mean to do it) myself breaking the law.

Why am I like this? Why is all of humanity like this? The answer speaks volumes about the nature of man and the nature of the law.

Every human being is born "corrupt" and "corruptible," "dead in trespasses and sins" (1 Cor. 15:50-54; Eph. 2:1-3). Being "born again" doesn't remove our corrupted and corruptible natures. That's the lesson of Romans 7 and 1 Corinthians 15:50-56. We will live out the rest of our born again lives in these mortal bodies with what the Reformers called "remaining corruption." The washing and sanctification and justification Paul applies to us in 1 Cor. 6:11 doesn't rid us of this remaining sinfulness, this remaining corruption.

When God gave the law to the Jews through Moses He gave it to people who were dead in their trespasses and sins. That has been the state of the human race since Adam and Eve died in the Garden. The law wasn't going to do the Jews any good. Other than the fact that the Jews now knew what sin is, it was of no benefit to them. Obedience to the law by those who are spiritually dead can't make them alive. The law can't do that and wasn't designed to do so. In fact, the law has the opposite effect upon the dead. And for those of us who by the grace of God have been made alive and forgiven, the law still has that effect. The law aggravates the lost and the found. It strengthens our remaining corruption.

If we believe that obedience to the law earns us forgiveness and righteousness, we are in serious error. And if we, like some of the Galatians, believe that keeping the law makes us right with God, then we have turned from the grace offered us in Christ to the very thing that Christ died to liberate us from, the law and its demands of perfection.

There is no strength to be found in the law for overcoming sin and temptations. The more one relies on the law for deliverance from one's sins the more that one will sin. It's Paul's illustrative struggle in Romans 7. The law exacerbates sin and our sinfulness.

If we want to be done with sin in this life we will live lives of depression and defeat rather than the victory that belongs to all who are in Christ. We can be "in Christ" and live lives of defeat and depression even though the victory is already ours. Until we understand that the work of the Lord on the cross didn't end our sinfulness but gave us new life and His righteousness and sanctification, we will live as those who live under the law, always striving to earn righteousness by our vain efforts.

Paul wrote this to us, "The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law" (I Cor. 15:56). We have all sinned, haven't we? So if we have all sinned, then we are all dead, right? Death is not portrayed in the word as something we can avoid but a spiritual state that we must be delivered from. That's what God did for us and to us in Jesus. "But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (v.57).

Our frustration comes when we take it upon ourselves to do something God hasn't done for us. Sure we're to be obedient. But our obedience comes as those who are under grace, not under the law. Our obedience will gain treasure for us in the kingdom, not an entrance into the kingdom. That is done only by the grace of God who saves us through faith in Jesus.

The answer to our sin problem clearly isn't the law, it is faith in the finished work of Christ and in His on-going ministry on our behalf. Have the faith of Abraham. Believe that God has fulfilled His promises for all who are in Christ and look unto Him, not your mortal flesh (Rom. 4). Have faith in the finished work of Jesus, not in your unfinished flesh and blood bodies.




Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Are you listening to the wrong ghost?

What a fun movie, "Ghost." Patrick Swayze, Demi Moore, Whoopi Goldberg and a cast of dozens of ghosts waiting to talk to their living loved ones. What a hoot when Goldberg's character actually connects with a real ghost in her phony psychic business. But for the murderers of Swayze's character who soon realize that his ghost has come back for vengeance, they pick a fight with the wrong ghost. Fun and suspense ensue. Do ya see where I'm going with this? Not really? It's kinda like my experience in the Charismatic Movement back in the '70's.

To this day I am eternally thankful that my intro to the movement came after God graciously saved me through a clear presentation of the gospel and not before. God chose me before the foundation of the world; He saved me before time began, thus assuring that I am one of His sheep who hear His voice and guaranteeing that I will not follow the voice (teachings, doctrine) of false shepherds (Eph. 1:4; 2 Tim. 1:9-10; Jn. 10). So while my excursion into the world of the charismatics and Pentecostals was fun, exciting and very interesting, I went through those years with "the red flags of discernment" constantly signaling me to walk this way and not that, turning me to the written word of God and prayer in order to avoid the heresies so many of my friends had embraced.

The infamous and Pentecostal friendly PTL Club had just been born in my hometown of Charlotte, N.C., with Jim Bakker at the helm. Charismatic congregations were popping up everywhere in our area. Most of these congregations were an inharmonious blend of traditional and charismatic folk. And the almost singular emphasis was on the work and Person of the Holy Spirit. At least it was said to be about the Holy Spirit. However, what I saw in the word of God, the same Bible my charismatic friends were supposed to be reading, was a vastly different description of the Holy Spirit from what they were teaching and the teachings of their favorite media teachers. And the extreme heresies of the Word Faith Movement hadn't even sprung up yet.

I wondered many times in those days why the brethren I hung with gravitated toward the absurd and patently false teachings and prophecies of such men as E.W. Kenyon, Oral Roberts and a couple of years later the Copelands, Jesse Duplantis, Kenneth Hagin, Charles Capps, and then the king of all heretics, Benny Hinn. These false shepherds/prophets/teachers are contemporary examples of the "strangers" Jesus said His sheep would never follow. We know almost from day one that these people do not speak the words of the Shepherd.

The Holy Spirit will indeed teach us about Himself because He is in the word of God as one of the essential matters involved in our faith. But that is not His ordained function in the Trinity. He leads us to Jesus and then He proceeds to reveal Jesus to us through inspiring us as we let the word of Christ dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16; 2 Thess. 2:13-14). The Holy Spirit will exalt Jesus first and foremost as the disciples of Jesus mature in their faith. Then through the life-long process of sanctification He grows us in holiness and love and grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.

To have the Holy Spirit is to be His sheep. To have the Holy Spirit then means that we will know the voice of strangers and we will not follow them. It means we will hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and not the voice of the health and wealth deceivers.

Which ghost are you listening to? The Holy Ghost? Or the ghost of the minds of the deceivers? And the sad thing is, those listening to the false leaders won't know if they are. That's why we are to warn them.

Lost and Found: The Glory of God In the Christmas Event

"For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23).

BYZ Romans 3:23 pa,ntej ga.r h[marton kai. u`sterou/ntai th/j do,xhj tou/ qeou/(

"For all have sinned." This is the universal reality/truth that explains why and how mankind falls short of God's glory. The verb "fall short" is present passive, informing us that our falling short of God's glory is what our sin did to us, the effect of which remains with us.

THE REST OF THE STORY
But note this, beloved, this verse is followed by 5 powerful chapters of encouragement and enlightenment and joy and peace, providing us with the good news that by the grace and love and mercy of God He has restored that lost glory to all who are in Christ.

The sin and death of Adam and Eve is passed on to all humanity and has this effect on us, we fall short of all that is necessary for a relationship with our Creator Lord (Rom. 5; Eph. 2:1-3). This "glory" was ours until our original parents rebelled against God (all of mankind was in Adam). This glory was the essential ingredient in our being created in the image of God.

God's glory realized in man has to do with man's relationship with his Creator God. When man fell in the Garden God's glory in man was destroyed. Glory and death and sin cannot co-exist any more than sin and death can exist in the kingdom of God. There is no sin and death in God's kingdom thus the necessity of the new birth for fallen man if we are to inherit the kingdom. For all and in all who by God's grace see and enter His kingdom, the glory of God is restored.

Colossians 1:27 to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.

Romans 8:28-30 28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; 30 and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

2 Thessalonians 2:13-14   But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.  And it was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may gain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

THE "NOW" AND THE "NOT YET" OF OUR RESTORED GLORY

For all who are "in Christ," there is now the bud of God's glory. It's more than a seed. It is the fresh bud growing out of that seed. What we see now is but a mere shadow of the glory that is to be ours on our Day before the Lord. But it is God's glory nonetheless. Christ in us is that bud, "the hope of glory." God has already sealed our future and final glory by the Holy Spirit and that glory is ours though not in its fullness (Eph. 1:13-14). That is our inheritance, signed, sealed and delivered in the One born in Bethlehem.

Merry Christmas! Rejoice in the knowledge that the blood of the child born unto us has cleansed us of all sins and recovered the glory that was lost.



 





 
 

Friday, December 20, 2013

How Can I Get Into Heaven and What Can Keep Me Out? Conclusion.

The Bible teaches that sin is rebellion against our Creator and that the result of sin is death, physical as well as spiritual death. Death is "separation from God." Being both physically dead and spiritually dead means being separated from God in every way possible. Being separated from God in this all-inclusive state has rendered all "by nature children of wrath," which designation, "children," translates into our being born separated from God (Eph. 2:1-3). We are born separated from God; we are born "dead in our trespasses and sins."

This is where we all begin. We are already "out" when we're born. It isn't what can keep us out of heaven, that's where we're born. We are "naturally" children of God's wrath and outside His kingdom. And being dead, there is absolutely nothing we can do to get into heaven, or, inherit eternal life. Inheriting eternal life takes an act of God. The dead can do nothing.

This "act of God" that is absolutely necessary in order for the dead to inherit eternal life, happens when God the Spirit working in conjunction with the preaching of the gospel, gives the dead life and light and faith. This is what Jesus referred to when He said, "No one can come to Me except the Father who sent Me draws him" (Jn. 6:44-45, 63). This is why He said, "You must be born again." Before the dead can enter or see the kingdom of heaven, they must ( dei/ "it is necessary") be born again, or, "born from above" (3:3-8). The new birth is the act of God necessary for eternal life.

This act of God begins with God's sovereignty, not fallen man's (Rom. 9:14-18). God's sovereign will is applied to the ungodly via the gospel and the Holy Spirit who gives the ungodly, the sinner, the dead in trespasses and sins, the lifeless, the unregenerate, the child of wrath, the life and the light necessary in order that they might freely choose to call upon the name of the Lord thereby entering the kingdom. Only the sovereign act of God can command "light to shine out of darkness" into the formerly darkened hearts of the spiritually dead (2 Cor. 4:1-6; Eph. 2:1-10; 1 Cor. 6:9-11. Note the 3 passive verbs in v.11, "...you were..."). That's the only way the dead are enabled to see and enter the kingdom.

All who hear a proclamation of the gospel are offered the opportunity to "believe" and "come to the light" (Jn. 3:18-20). It is the love of darkness by those who are in the kingdom of darkness that turns many away from "the light." Those who finally perish after having heard the gospel do so of their own volition. Those who finally perish do so in accordance with their own choosing, the only choice any of us (the dead) could have made but for the grace of God.  If not for the grace and mercy and love of God, we would all perish.

We all deserve condemnation. Those who die and go to an eternal darkness are simply getting what we all deserve. If not for the grace of God that would be every man's end. Those who perish without ever having heard the gospel perish in the same manner as those who hear and reject; their end is to continue separated from God eternally.

Man's spiritual state keeps him out or ushers him in. The dead either remain dead and continue in their state of separation from God forever or, God sovereignly intervenes for millions of the dead and has mercy upon them. Ultimately, man's end is determined by God. It is not "double predestination." It is either the ungodly get what we all deserve or God sovereignly has mercy on those who are finally saved.

"But God..." (Eph. 2:1-4).
 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

How can I get into heaven and what can keep me out? Part 1

Do you believe in life after death? Would you say that there is a "place" where one goes after dying? For arguments sake, lets call this place "heaven." It could just as easily be called "paradise." But to simplify matters I will refer to this place as heaven.

What do you think you have to do to get to heaven? Be good? Well, do you have to be absolutely good or just good enough? And to complicate this line of thinking, can you ever know that when you die you will have been good enough and can die in peace with the assurance that you're goinna make it? Can you ever know when you have been good enough?

What do you mean by "good?" What do you mean by "being good?" Who defines good? Is there a standard that determines what is good?

By being good do you include a lifetime of good thoughts, good deeds, and being good to those around you?

When should one begin being good? What do you need to do to keep being good through your entire life?

Do you believe that God sees you as "a good person?"

Do you believe that how you live will be the determinate factor in where you go after you die?

Are you ultimately the one who determines your eternal fate? Can you make the "decision" that determines where you will spend eternity?

Do you believe that you have "sinned?" What is sin? Where does the word sin come from? Is it a ubiquitous concept?

Is sin important in your belief system? Do you ever define the bad things you do as sin? Why? Is there another word you would prefer to use? Is the word sin archaic? Is it too negative in your way of thinking?

Monday, December 16, 2013

"Are you finished yet?" A word from the Cross.

I remember my little girls yelling at whoever was in the bathroom to hurry up, asking, "Are you finished yet?" If the answer came, "No!", the reply would be, "Hurry up! I gotta go."

Jesus answered the question for all of us when He said from the Cross, "It is finished." "I have finished the work that my Father sent me to do. I have lived a sinless life. I have fulfilled the law perfectly. I have done my Father's will perfectly. I have saved my people from their sins. I have done for the ungodly what they could not do for themselves and that is please the Father perfectly. No one else could do this. No one else could've done this. I did it and it is finished. And from this day forward all people, Jew and Gentile, who believe in Me, will be declared by my Father to be right with Him just as I am. It is finished. There is nothing else to be done by anyone."

"It is finished!" The works of redemption, sanctification, reconciliation and justification are finished. The promised Person, the Holy Spirit, has come and is doing what He was sent to do. He draws the ungodly to the Lord Jesus Christ, gives them light and life and faith and love and knowledge that they by their own truly free will might call upon the name of the Lord and be saved (Jn. 6:44-45, 63; 7:38-39; Rom. 4:23-5:2, 5;10:9-13; 1 Cor. 2:9-16).

"It is finished." The "now and the not yet" of this life in Christ.

"It can't be finished. I still sin." Ah ha! Here's the rest of the story.

"For it is the God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ." The light that has shone out of darkness is the Person of Jesus Christ. Now we have salvation/justification and the Holy Spirit, the finished work of Jesus. "But...we have this treasure (the finished and applied work of Jesus) in earthen vessels (that's why we still sin), that...the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us" (2 Cor. 4:5-7). And God ordained it so. It really is finished.

It is finished God's way, not ours. It is finished in such a way that all the glory for our salvation goes to God and God alone. Read 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 and be reminded of our humble estate. Read 1 Corinthians 15:50-56 to be reminded of our remaining corruption and the "not yet" state of every believer, the end of corruption. And rejoice that God gets all the glory yet has glorified us through our union with Jesus with a glory that will not be finally realized until we are in His blessed presence (Rom. 8:28-31; 1 Cor. 6:17; Col. 1:27).

I stand amazed in His presence because it is finished.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Once Justified, Always Justified: Justification Is All of God

Once Justified, Always Justified

If a true believer can lose his or her salvation, then the New Covenant is no different than the Old Covenant. Calvary is no better or any more redemptive than Sinai and Jesus is no more a savior than Moses.

While salvation is obtained only by God's grace through faith, it can be lost by disobedience? Works can not save us but lack of them after we are saved can make us lose our salvation? THIS MAKES NO SENSE WHATSOEVER! We have obviously been misled from one set of laws to another. This renders Christianity the dumbest religion on the face of this earth.

To believe that one can lose his/her salvation is to live in unbelief, not faith, fear and not faith.

To believe that one can lose his/her salvation is to live under the law, not grace.

To believe that one can lose his/her salvation is to believe another gospel. And those who preach such a gospel are anathema.