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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.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

How can I pray for my brethren in Ukraine/Crimea right now?

That's simple enough. Follow Paul's prayers for the Ephesians and the church timeless and universal.

When I say it's simple enough, I'm not trivializing the situation of the church suffering under the hands of the communist dictator, Vladimir Putin. I am exalting the God who hears and answers our prayers.

So read the apostle's prayers in Ephesians 1 and 3 and pray them for the Ukrainians. If you can, let our brethren in Ukraine know you're praying for them. Some of them read my blog posts. I pray they will read this one as well and be encouraged.

He did for me what I could not do for myself...and didn't want to: Conclusion

I didn't want to change...until I got some outside help.

I didn't care for religion or God or Jesus...until I got some outside help.

And I really didn't care for the church...until I got some outside help.

There are times in all our lives when we need some outside help. There are times when we go through things that we cannot help ourselves with. I recently experienced open heart surgery due to four seriously clogged arteries. I couldn't have unclogged my arteries and I sure couldn't perform the necessary surgery.

If the pain in my chest and my right arm had not sounded the alarm, if my kids had not pushed me to see my doctor, if the stress test hadn't revealed abnormalities in my arteries, and my cardiologist hadn't shown me the video of my beating heart with the clogged arteries clearly visible, I would have died. If all this had not persuaded me that I was in big trouble, I would have gone on to have a massive coronary. Now I want to draw your attention to a parallel in our spiritual lives.

"No one can come to Me except the Father who sent Me draws him" (Jn. 6:44).

"Who then can be saved? With men it is impossible. But with God all things are possible" (Mt. 19:26).

"There is none who seeks for God" (Rom. 3:11; read 9-17 to get a great picture of who we are apart from the grace of God revealed in the gospel).

"And you were dead in your trespasses and sins...by nature children of wrath" (Eph. 2:1-3).

If not for God's intervention in our lives none of us would be saved. If not for God doing a work in our hearts through the Person of the Holy Spirit, we would all be hell bound. If not for God intervening in our lives not one of us would have desired God to the point that we would literally throw ourselves on His mercy through faith in Jesus (John 6:44, 63; 2 Thess. 2:13-14).

Isn't it just mind-blowing that we believe in Jesus and not Buddha or Mohammed or Joseph Smith or the Roman Catholic Church and its pope? Isn't it just amazing that by the grace of God we hear the voice of the Good Shepherd and not that of the plethora of false shepherds?

If the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ hadn't wanted me, I wouldn't have wanted Him.

"To the praise of the glory of His grace." Check out Romans 8:28-30.

 

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

He did for me what I could not do for myself...and didn't want to: Part 2

Romans 8:3-4  3 For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.


 
There it is, the "what I could not do for myself" in my title. And I am identified in this verse by the word "flesh." That is I.

"Flesh" describes all of humanity, in particular in this verse though, it refers to those to whom the law was originally given, the Jews. The giving of the law to the Jews through the prophet Moses made no difference in the lives of the Hebrew children; it did not effect their nature or their behavior. And the law had no effect upon the stiff-necked Jews because they were dead in their trespasses and sins, i.e., they were "in the flesh." This was no surprise to the Trinity. This did not present a dilemma.

Spiritual change always comes from the inside out, not the reverse. And no human being can initialize that change. According to the word of God in Romans 3:10-17 and 8:5-8, no one in and of themselves wants to change. "But God..." (Eph. 2:4ff). The dead cannot initialize anything.

Death in the Bible refers to separation from God. God is Spirit and (re)union with Him requires that one be alive spiritually. The spiritually dead, those who are in the flesh, cannot earn union with God, they cannot work their way into union with their Creator, they are unable to please God. That's what the law could not do and cannot do. Flesh and blood cannot live in union with God (I Cor. 15:50-55). And here's a further word on why.

Ephesians 2:1-3 Ephesians 2:1 And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, 2 in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
It's hard to believe that describes us, isn't it? But there ya have it. Before the "But God" of v.4 we were servants of the devil and didn't even know it. No wonder we were separated from God. It is no wonder that God had to do all that was necessary to redeem us from our lost state.
 

Monday, March 24, 2014

He did for me what I could not do for myself...and didn't want to do. Part 1

The natural wonders of the world around me in the rural South convinced me at a very young and tender age that God is. My mother's family Bible and our few trips to our local Baptist church during my formative years reinforced that conviction. However, there was no real substance to my religion.

Believing that there is a god because of what we can observe in nature isn't something to be sneezed at. God holds everyone accountable for their perception of Him or their rejection of Him based on what is observable about Him in nature as well as what our consciences tell us about Him (Ps. 19; Rom. 1:18ff; 2:14-16). Since there is a creation there is a Creator. But natural revelation is insufficient to bring anyone to justification. That takes special revelation, and that is found in the gospel alone.

My little naïve Gentile conscience worked overtime, especially after my parents got me hooked on porn. I never read the Bible and didn't know what lust was, but I certainly experienced it after seeing my dad's little collection of WWII era pornography. Pop thought it was funny; mom was a little concerned; I was addicted.

My conscience became my first source of law just like the Bible says in the Romans 2 passage above.

The female became a mere sex object, all females. No woman was any different from any other woman. And I hadn't yet even heard of the 7th Commandment or the 10th. I had seen the movie.

Whether or not one has seen in the law of Moses that one is not to commit adultery or covet his neighbors stuff and been convicted by those commandments, there is a disturbing truth behind the breaking of any of the commandments that lies at the heart of the matter, we are all born dead in trespasses and sins and separated by both spiritual and physical death from our Creator. We can't keep the law of God on our best day. Dead people cannot obey the law of God.

As far as we're concerned, the law is the glory of God. That's why Paul says "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23). It would appear that if one wanted to experience God's glory or to  "hit the mark," one would have to obey the letter of the law throughout one's life, never once breaking that law. Never once! And if there's one thing dead people cannot do, it's hit that mark of perfection. Enter Jesus.

 

Friday, March 21, 2014

On Heresies and Heretics In the 21st Century


On Heresies and Heretics In the 21st Century


I have been asked, as a pastor, what the word "heresy" means by enough church members to let me know that church folk have no idea what we're talking about when we use that word. So, what does it mean?

Heresy comes from the Greek word meaning "a choice, party, sect, and factions."  It was applied to the sect of the Sadducees as well as to those we refer to in our day as heretics.  Peter in his second letter makes it clear that false teachers are heretics and their teachings are heresies. Below I have posted every reference to the Greek word, hairesis ai[resij

 

 NKJ Acts 5:17 Then the high priest rose up, and all those who were with him (which is the sect of the Sadducees), and they were filled with indignation,

BGT Acts 5:17 VAnasta.j de. o` avrciereu.j kai. pa,ntej oi` su.n auvtw/|( h` ou=sa ai[resij tw/n Saddoukai,wn( evplh,sqhsan zh,lou

 NKJ Acts 24:5 "For we have found this man a plague, a creator of dissension among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.

BGT Acts 24:5 eu`ro,ntej ga.r to.n a;ndra tou/ton loimo.n kai. kinou/nta sta,seij pa/sin toi/j VIoudai,oij toi/j kata. th.n oivkoume,nhn prwtosta,thn te th/j tw/n Nazwrai,wn ai`re,sewj(

 NKJ Acts 15:5 But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, "It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses."

BGT Acts 15:5 VExane,sthsan de, tinej tw/n avpo. th/j ai`re,sewj tw/n Farisai,wn pepisteuko,tej le,gontej o[ti dei/ perite,mnein auvtou.j paragge,llein te threi/n to.n no,mon Mwu?se,wjÅ

NKJ Acts 24:14 "But this I confess to you, that according to the Way which they call a sect, so I worship the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the Law and in the Prophets.

BGT Acts 24:14 o`mologw/ de. tou/to, soi o[ti kata. th.n o`do.n h]n le,gousin ai[resin( ou[twj latreu,w tw/| patrw,|w| qew/| pisteu,wn pa/si toi/j kata. to.n no,mon kai. toi/j evn toi/j profh,taij gegramme,noij(

NKJ Acts 26:5 "They knew me from the first, if they were willing to testify, that according to the strictest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee.

BGT Acts 26:5 proginw,skonte,j me a;nwqen( eva.n qe,lwsi marturei/n( o[ti kata. th.n avkribesta,thn ai[resin th/j h`mete,raj qrhskei,aj e;zhsa Farisai/ojÅ

NKJ Acts 28:22 "But we desire to hear from you what you think; for concerning this sect, we know that it is spoken against everywhere."

BGT Acts 28:22 avxiou/men de. para. sou/ avkou/sai a] fronei/j( peri. me.n ga.r th/j ai`re,sewj tau,thj gnwsto.n h`mi/n evstin o[ti pantacou/ avntile,getaiÅ

NKJ 1 Corinthians 11:19 For there must also be factions among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you.

BGT 1 Corinthians 11:19 dei/ ga.r kai. ai`re,seij evn u`mi/n ei=nai( i[na Îkai.Ð oi` do,kimoi faneroi. ge,nwntai evn u`mi/nÅ

NKJ Galatians 5:20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,

BGT Galatians 5:20 eivdwlolatri,a( farmakei,a( e;cqrai( e;rij( zh/loj( qumoi,( evriqei/ai( dicostasi,ai( ai`re,seij(

NKJ 2 Peter 2:1 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.

BGT 2 Peter 2:1 VEge,nonto de. kai. yeudoprofh/tai evn tw/| law/|( w`j kai. evn u`mi/n e;sontai yeudodida,skaloi( oi[tinej pareisa,xousin ai`re,seij avpwlei,aj kai. to.n avgora,santa auvtou.j despo,thn avrnou,menoiÅ evpa,gontej e`autoi/j tacinh.n avpw,leian(

An article I ran across yesterday at The Christian Post prompted me to weigh in on this topic. The author of that article tip toed around the issue, in my opinion.

Back in the mid '70's when I became a Christian and fell in love with my newly found Father, the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the Bible and the body of Christ, I knew absolutely nothing about theology, of course. At that time I was surrounded by young people who were caught up in the Charismatic Movement who knew as little about theology as I did. They were obviously not reading their Bibles and not regularly attending any church for the most part. And when they did go to church they wanted to ask the pastors if they and their churches were “Spirit filled.” That concerned me because they asked me the same thing about myself, “are you Spirit filled?”

It turned out that what they were really asking was “do you speak in tongues?” And, no, I didn't. But I wanted to if for no other reason than I felt guilty and like a second class unregenerate. Televangelists of that day didn't help matters any. Oral Roberts and Jimmy Swaggart both taught that if one didn't speak in tongues there was no reason to believe that that one was saved. That was “the” evidence that one was “born again.” Woe unto them that didn't speak in tongues.

I never saw the belief that tongues-are-for-us-now as a heresy; still don't. I do see the you-must-speak-in-tongues-or-yer-not-saved issue as a damnable heresy. Being that the word heresy contains the idea of some teaching or person that/who causes divisions in the body of Christ and is anti-thetical to the gospel, that teaching is a heresy. It could even be a damnable heresy of the Judaizer kind (remember the problem in the churches of Galatia?). “If you don't speak in tongues you're not a full Christian. If you really want to be in the kingdom of God you have to speak in tongues.” In Galatia it was, “unless you're circumcised you can't be justified.” That is indeed a damnable heresy. It amounts to what Paul condemned as “another gospel which is not a gospel at all” (Gal. 1:5-9).

The issue with tongues and the massive divisions within the visible church that it brought on was bad enough; the heresies that popped up after that made the tongues thing pale in comparison.

Several men and at least one woman came on the scene back in the day (the mid to late 20th century) spewing all manner of weirdness. The late Kathryn Khulman, Oral Roberts, Kenneth Hagin, Rex Humbard, Paul Crouch, the still living Copelands, Pat Robertson, and Jim Bakker all propagated what seemed to be new heresies falling under the umbrella of the “Word of Faith Movement,” or simply, “Word Faith.” Their contributions to modern heresy still flourishes and is also known as the “prosperity gospel” and the “health/wealth gospel.” Some opponents of these heresies refer to them as the “name it and claim it gospel.”

But heresy isn't the exclusive property of the word of faith heretics. No sir. We have mainline denominations who have erred just as seriously. When the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians (PCUSA), the United Methodists, the Church of Christ and other liberal denominations reject the exclusivity of Jesus Christ and embrace lifestyles that clearly give evidence that those practicing such things will not inherit the kingdom of God, that is nothing less than damnable heresy as well. And the SBC had better pay attention to their flock as well. SBC celebrities endorsing the late Paul Crouch and his TBN on that network are partaking with him in his heresies and the spreading of them around the globe.

Dr. John MacArthur did the church a favor last year with his “Strange Fire Conference” held at his church in California. The only problem I had with his and his guest's teachings is that they veered off the heart of the matter by addressing exclusively the Pentecostals and the charismatics.

Dr. MacArthur was stirred to propose and implement his conference after watching TBN while he was recovering from surgery last year. What he saw sickened him and rightly so. I wish he had focused on what he saw on the “heretics are us” network rather than focusing on the history behind Pentecostalism and the Charismatic Movement. The history of the birth and subsequent growth of those two movements is essential if one wishes to know what in the world is going on in the world of religion and heresy. But it seems to me that the conferences time would have been better spent had they met as a council determined to declare as an authoritative body those teachings/doctrines being espoused by the plethora of heretics plowing destructive paths around the world, deceiving millions of unregenerate people, naming names as they did so. After all, these damnable heretics and their damnable heresies come into our living rooms each day and each week by name.

Dr. MacArthur and his co-horts would have been hated and rejected by many, many people, I know. But they are anyway. Those who love the darkness will always hate the light (Jn. 3:17-21).

 http://www.crosswalk.com/church/pastors-or-leadership/3-reasons-we-should-stop-calling-people-heretics-unless-they-are.html?utm_source=Crosswalk%20Pastors%20Weekly&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=03/21/2014&p=2

 




Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Learning to live with your sins. That's right. Rom. 7:24-8:4

Go ahead. Argue for living without sinning. See where that gets ya. I for one ain't buyin' it. You and I sin, unless of course you want to call God a liar (1 Jn. 1:5-10). The result of your denying that #1, you sin, #2, that you have sin, and #3, you have sinned, is that you are in fact the liar and the truth is most certainly not in you. So having pointed that out, lets approach sin from the vantage point of those who are in fact in Christ.

The word of God never, and I repeat, never argues for sinless perfection from those who are in Christ. Just as it says we have all sinned, the Bible also teaches that we all still sin. All one need do is peruse the letters of the New Testament to find churches peopled by believers (and too often non-believers) who are tempted to sin and who in fact do sin. Even the great apostle Paul gave his own struggles with sin and the law as an example and encouragement for the rest of us who struggle with sin and the law.

There is within each of us the very strong urge to take care of our own sins; to take care of our sins on our own. There must be something we need to do and can do to pay for our sins ourselves. It just doesn't seem right that we don't at least try.

If your Roman Catholic or in one of the other false religions such as Islam and Mormonism and The Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses you have a system by which you can work for your salvation, hoping to get in to heaven by your works. It will not turn out as you may hope because works will not do it for you. What you need is truth and grace that are only found in Jesus Christ who did for fallen man what fallen man cannot do for himself. Being in a cult serves only to prove that you have been deceived, blinded by Satan himself into believing a false gospel (Gal. 1:5-9; 2 Cor. 4:1-4).

Now, back to my preposterous notion of learning to live with our sins.

What else are ya gonna do? We have no choice but to learn to live out the rest of our time on earth in these dead-because-of-sin bodies in accord with the set forth will of God for us. I accept that I sin and always will sin during this life. "O wretched man that I am!" I also accept the fact that God has ordained it so. This is the conclusion that I draw from Paul's conclusion in Romans 7:24-25, "O wretched man that I am! who will deliver me from 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."

Two facts become clear here, first, we all live in our own "body of this death," the source of our wretchedness. Second, we have been/will be delivered from the body of this death by God through faith in Jesus Christ who has done for us what we were totally incapable of doing for ourselves, a work that God demanded we do but could not be done by us precisely because we live in the flesh (8:3). But in the meantime we still occupy our flesh and blood, mortal and corrupted physical bodies wherein is somehow housed our "flesh," that part of us that is still sinful. Our total deliverance from our body of this death is future as indicated by the verb in Paul's cry "who will deliver me from the body of this death?" This is one of the "now and not yet" facts of the Christian life. If you were hoping to find a "secret key" to living in sinless perfection I can't provide that for you.

How can we learn to live with our continuing sins and sinfulness? By accepting the fact that by God's decree we are the way we are and that He has forgiven us all trespasses through faith in Jesus Christ. The focus of our lives is the "author and finisher of our salvation" and His application of His finished work in our lives. We do not wish to live in comfort with our sins but we can and must learn to live in the reality that God is satisfied with His Son and all those whom He has given to His Son. It is not the way we think it should be done. But it is the way God has done it.

Second, we can trust (we really can) that the Holy Spirit lives in us and is Himself "putting to death the deeds of the body." This is purely the work and the blessing of our having the Holy Spirit dwelling within us (8:13). He is doing for us what we cannot do. Else this verse speaks of our working our way into life. We are instructed in many other places to do this and stop doing this that we might live in a manner "worthy of our calling." But this verse is addressing a deed that only the Spirit can do.

I am wretched! At times more wretched than at other times. But it has been liberating for me to finally own up to that fact of life. After denying 7:24 for most of my life, even denying that it was true for the apostle Paul, I have finally learned to believe it and get on with the freedom that is found in the grace of God.

 

Monday, March 3, 2014

"Wars and rumors of wars...nation against nation." What's up with Putin?

There's a lot going on these days around this dark world. It's kinda scary. Will the US send troops to Ukraine to stand against the Russians? Will the US get more or less involved in the war against Islamists in the Middle East? Will Muslim terrorists attack the US again on our own soil? Will Obamacare destroy our non-existent health care system (I never knew we had such a thing)? Will Obama contribute to the failing world economic system even more than he already has? Is he setting us up for failure? But it's the constant threat of war that is on my mind this morning.

Americans have been blessed for a long time. We have never known the constant unrest in the streets the way many nations have. Sure we had the Revolution, the War of 1812, the Civil War, wars against Native Americans, civil rights unrest with its atrocities during the 50's and 60's, labor related riots, 9/11, and other events that slip my mind at the moment. But we have never experienced the unstable lives so many know on a daily basis due to their unstable governments. I feel, however, that our day will come. America is too hated and too vulnerable these days to avoid fighting on our streets for much longer.

 So what's up? Humanity sucks, that's what's up. People are evil. We're not "basically good." We are a lustful, greedy, decadent, jealous, fearful, prideful fallen race (do you remember the recent Grammy Awards? Did you watch the Oscars last night? Have you been keeping up with the PBS report on the Roman Catholic Church?). It's within all of us to do something heinous. When push comes to shove mankind discovers that it will resort to all manner of violence and deceit in order to save ourselves. To hell with my neighbor. "I'm lookin' out for number one."

Why are we surprised when we find out that our president or any president is living in the lap of luxury while calling for the rest of us to sacrifice? "Power tends to corrupt. And absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely." That's only true because we're all corrupt to begin with.

Mankind is as the Reformers of the Roman Catholic Church said in the 16th century, "totally depraved." True, we're not as bad as we could be, by the grace of God, but we're depraved to the core. And there is nothing we can do to change us.

On our own we are utterly hopeless and helpless. However, believe it or not, we're not on our own.

The Creator of all that is hasn't offered to stop all this stuff we see going on on our planet. In fact, He has plainly told us that it's going to get much worse before it's over. But He has made a Way that we can know Him now, or rather be known by Him, be declared right with Him by Him, and when our time on this earth is over we can be with Him eternally. He has also set a date when He Himself will bring a halt to this corrupt and perishing world. On that Day He will justly apply His wrath to billions while billions will experience His eternal presence.

God demands perfection of us, all of us. But you see how we are. We're far from perfect. Perfect can't even be used in the same sentence with humanity. So what He did before time began (as we know time) was declare that He would send His Son, God the Son, to live the perfect life that He demands and to all who would believe in Him He would proclaim right with Him. His Son's perfection becomes our perfection. After that those who have receive the Son have a remaining corruption as ordained by God (2 Cor. 4:7; Rom. 7:24-25) but their relationship with the Creator is assured.

So let the rumors fly. Let the wars commence. Let corruption reign upon the earth. And let those who will, "call upon the name of the Lord" that they might be saved. It's the only way any of us can escape the hopeless and helpless plight we are all in.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

"Be good and you'll go to heaven...not!" The gospel in a nutshell: Rom. 7:24-8:4. To my readers in China, Russia, and all over the world.

All dogs may go to heaven but not all mankind will make it. Here's why and what God has done about it on our behalf.

God is boss, He's the one in charge. He's the one who says what is right and wrong, He defines sin and righteousness. We don't have the option of determining what is sin and what is not; what is right and what is wrong. And since God is in charge of all that, we should be thankful that He has told us.

God is just, that means that He will always do what is right as He determines what is right. That means that when the day comes when He will pour out His wrath on this world and all who will perish He has a just reason for doing so; no one will be able to say otherwise.

Now, having said all that, after having established that God is sovereign over His creation, we would be well advised to acknowledge what God says about us. He says that our sins have separated us from Him, those sins rendering us dead, spiritually and physically speaking. He says that all of us are dead in trespasses and sins and cannot go to heaven because of that condition. Being dead means that we are all without hope and utterly helpless. He also says that He has provided on our behalf the one and only way of escape from this damnable life. Here it is: "Jesus answered and said, 'I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me.'"

God let us know what is sin by giving us His law, the Ten Commandments. However, fallen, sinful man thought that the law was given as a way of earning God's favor. Wrong! The law was given to make matters worse, to make sin even more sinful. The law was given that we might see our total depravity and fall on our knees before our Creator and call upon Him to have mercy on us and save us from His coming wrath; to save us from eternal damnation. Instead, sinful fallen man rejected the law of God and His word and chose to try to please God by keeping the very law that he could not keep. Yes, trying to be right with God by trying to keep His law is in fact rejecting His law and the purpose behind His giving the law. "The just shall live by faith," not by the law.

From the beginning, almost, there have been men of faith, Noah and Abraham being two of them. After that, there came many, many more, some of whom are identified in the word of God by name. These believers were aware of their sinfulness but understood the promises of God that the law gave witness to that their sins were forgiven by One who was to come at some time in the future. This is the faith by which the just live, including, of course, the Old Covenant just. It is the same faith by which 21st century believers live.

We who have by the grace of God come to faith in Jesus Christ have been baptized by the Holy Spirit into union with Jesus. In this union we are awakened to our remaining sinfulness, our "flesh," our remaining corruption, and we live with that knowledge day in and day out, sometimes reaching the point of such frustration with our remaining sinfulness (our flesh, our "old man") that we cry out with Paul, "O wretched man that I am! who will deliver me from the body of this death?" Paul's answer to his own question is "I thank God through Jesus Christ that my deliverance from the body of this death is accomplished both now and not yet and God has ordained it so. So then, I conclude, I myself with my mind, my inner man, my new man, my spirit, serve the law of God while at the same time I see that I myself with my flesh, my outer man, serve the law of sin." It is a dilemma ordained of God, believe it or not, that He might get the glory for our justification as we live out our new lives on this celestial plane. "Let him who boasts boast in the Lord." 1 Cor. 1:30-31; 2 Corinthians 4:1-7

Now here is the gospel in a nutshell, we cannot be right with God by our works, by trying to be right with Him by keeping His law, our flesh will not allow it. And God demands perfection from us if we do try to be right with Him by keeping the law. But what we cannot do, God has done for us by sending His Son to keep the law perfectly, to do His will perfectly. And by simply acknowledging this fact, by trusting His Son, God says that we have ourselves established the law (Rom. 3:31). By faith in Jesus and that alone we are justified, saved.