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Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Timeless and Universal Gospel For All Nations/ethnicities

To the beloved in Africa, Russia, China, Poland, Ukraine, South America, North America, to the 7 continents, greetings from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Racism is one of Satan's ugliest tools. And one of his most absurd. That speaks volumes about just how depraved and foolish and utterly wicked humanity is, including many who profess faith in Jesus Christ. Do you not know how preposterous hating someone because they're of a different ethnicity is? Do you not know that those who say they love God whom they have never seen yet hate a brother whom they have seen are liars and not children of God?

1 John 2:9 The one who says he is in the light and yet hates his brother is in the darkness until now.

 1 John 3:15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.

1 John 4: 19 We love, because He first loved us. 20 If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.
 


The ubiquitous and egregious existence and popularity of racial supremacy by itself should call out to the redeemed in Christ of the dire need for the gospel in all the world, including within the walls of the visible church. The only cure for racism as for any sin is the new birth and the process of the on-going sanctification of the disciple of Christ.

The residuals of racism remain within the redeemed after conversion (as do all our sins) and must be faced head-on through the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit, the written word of God, and the fellowship of the saints. We are all wretched to a greater or lesser degree but with the knowledge that we are delivered and we are being delivered from the source of our wretchedness, "the body of this death" (Rom. 7:24-8:4).

Racism is a man-centered lie from the pit of hell. Racism is, after all, merely a symptom of the deadness and corruption of man's soul. Blatant racism is hatred; hatred is murder; no murderer will inherit the kingdom of God except it should be that he or she is granted repentance by the grace of God (2 Tim. 2:24-26).

We are to take the gospel, of course, to all the nations, making disciples of them, teaching them all that Jesus taught, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. If your racism stands in the way of the gospel, stay home.

 

Monday, April 28, 2014

The Coming and Present Apostasy


THE COMING AND GREAT APOSTASY: THE INEVITABLE”

2 THESSALONIANS 2:1-12


Someone once said that only two things are inevitable, “death and taxes.” While that truth was meant to be facetious, it was certainly true...to a point. I'm going to add one more inevitable, that is, “the great falling away” from the true God and His written word.

The Spirit-inspired written word of God makes it plain that in the course of the playing out of the last days, millions upon millions of people will choose what is clearly false over what is equally clearly true. They will not make that decision on their own, per se, but will be following in the steps set forth by their “god,” “the god of this world,” the devil (2 Cor. 4:4; Eph. 2:1-3). The deceived willingly follow the deceiver, deeming him superior to the true God and Creator of all that is and his words superior and more desirable than the word of God. And like all the recalcitrant followers of the deceiver, God will give them up to do what they desire to do (Rom. 1:18-32).

NAS 2 Thessalonians 2:1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come. 3 Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God. 5 Do you not remember that while I was still with you, I was telling you these things? 6 And you know what restrains him now, so that in his time he may be revealed. 7 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. 8 And then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. 11 And for this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they might believe what is false, 12 in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.

2 Timothy 3:16 - 4:4 16 All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work. 4:1 I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction. 3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires; 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth, and will turn aside to myths.

THE APOSTASY IS WELL ON ITS WAY

Note this, dear reader, “the mystery of lawlessness is already at work” (2 Thess. 2:7), there is no time to prepare for something that is already upon you.

1 John 2:18-21 18 Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have arisen; from this we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, in order that it might be shown that they all are not of us. 20 But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. 21 I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth.

Again, note the time element in this passage, “even now,” in v.18. Are we in the apostasy? Yes, we are. Are we in the last hour? Yes, we are. Is the coming of the antichrist and the great falling away present or future? Both.

The “mystery of lawlessness” and the arising of the antichrist are both current events. They are also one and the same. The “man of lawlessness” is the antichrist who will be revealed during the fullness of the apostasy. The church in our day is witnessing the “now and the not yet” of the apostasy and the rise of antichrists.

Are church-goers in our day heaping ear-scratching preachers unto themselves, turning away from the truth of the word of God for “feel good” talks? Yes, they are indeed. The Word of Faith heretics are prospering off the backs of their dupes. Even with the egregious and utterly absurd teachings and behavior of men like Joel Osteen and Benny Hinn, the miscreant church cannot see the truth. I personally know followers of these two charlatans and the followers of other Word of Faith heretics.

Is Islam gaining a foothold in the free world by claiming victim-hood, appealing to the bleeding-heart liberals and spiritually dead in our midst? Yes, it is. And there is no greater living example of the “spirit of the antichrist” than Islam.

1 John 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. 4 You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

The proliferation of false religions/prophets/teachers/apostles/pastors/elders/deacons/evangelists/church members is nothing new. But as we draw near to the Last Day they will continually proliferate, deceiving and being deceived.

Now the faithful in Christ Jesus are to faithfully proclaim the gospel and to arm themselves with the full armor of God. The true church must rid itself of leaders who are not God-called; that should go without saying...but it doesn't. The Lord said somewhere in the Hebrew Scriptures that His people love the false teachers, the false shepherds.

There is nothing new under the sun.


Why the church of Jesus Christ must run to its Head...now. Conclusion

It should go without saying that without respect for, acknowledgement of, and submission to Jesus Christ as head of His church, the visible church has given up any rightful claim to being the church that Christ founded and is building. The common sense and logical argument gleaned from Scripture pointing to the absolute necessity of our submission to Christ should settle the matter once and for all. It hasn't. Let me remind us of just why and how Christ came to be head of the church as well as some contemporary examples of what happens when He is rejected as head of His church.

First, God the Father appointed/anointed and authorized Jesus to be head of the church.

Ephesians 1:22-23, And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.  
Now ask yourself, does the local church you attend look like an assembly of believers who take that literally? And seriously? From the pulpit to the pew it should be evident to all who assemble together that this assembly is submitted to the headship and Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Humility, love, wisdom, boldness, joyfulness, and reliance on the Bible are the marks of a church that lives and operates under Christ's headship.

Second, God the Son purchased His church with His own blood.
 Acts 20:28, Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.

What God has purchased, we are to guard. Why? Read the two verses following v.28 in Acts 20: "I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them."

Failure on the part of church leaders to guard the flock from the false teachers/prophets/apostles that are always arising within the visible church is as deadly a practice as is the perverted teachings of those false prophets themselves. It is the duty of every God-called pastor/teacher/evangelist/elder and deacon to name names, to boldly point out the false teachers of their day. Not to do so is to make nothing of the blood of Christ.

America's airways are inundated with false leaders of all kinds, Pentecostals, charismatics, liberal denominations, and Southern Baptists pastors who share the platform with the savage wolves thereby legitimizing damnable heresies, taking upon themselves condemnation.

Note the progression in Paul's thinking as he foretells what is going to happen within the visible church. Savage wolves will come in. Then, having been ravaged by these wolves' teachings, the flock that was not spared rise up to draw away from the church their own disciples, men and women speaking all manner of damnable heresies, "perverse things." Beloved, we are witnessing the fulfillment of the apostle's words. Those not submitted to the headship and lordship of the Good Shepherd will not hear His voice, but will follow the voice of the strangers in their midst.

Third and finally, Scripture makes it plain that Jesus is head of the church and is present in the Person of the Holy Spirit who gives His gifts and guidance to the church.

"The Christian life is nothing if not life in the Spirit." Jesus is head of all who are born of the Spirit. All who are born of the Spirit comprise the church. No one in the body of Christ is exempt from His headship or Lordship. But it is evident that in most local congregations a constant reminder of the Headship and Lordship of Christ and the essential matters of the Spirit are needed.

Church folk tend toward carnality. Pettiness, jealousy, envy, anger, bickering, idolatry and power hungry men and women have made the local church a laughing stock. Rather than turning the world upside down with the bold proclamation of the gospel, church-goers have embraced the world, this age with its evil mind-set, and rendered the only source of change and redemption a mere Hollywood attraction. This lifestyle adapted in the visible church is not that of the true church.

Spirit-indwelt, Spirit-filled, Spirit-led people are in a constant state of conforming to the image of Christ. We are far from perfection but we know and those around us know we're striving for that ultimate goal through imperfectly and inconsistently submitting to the Spirit and devouring the word of God. We walk by faith, not by sight. We are dependent on Him and His finished work, not our fleshly efforts.

Our life can and will only flourish and make an eternal difference in our friends and acquaintances when we are rightly connected to our Head. Without respect for, acknowledgement of, and submission to the head, anarchy will prevail.





 

Friday, April 25, 2014

Why the church of Jesus Christ must run to its head...now. Part two

In spite of what some of the deacons in the local Baptist church may say, they are not the final authority; they do not have the final say. Don't laugh. The history of the SBC has proven this to be the case. The diaconate is the tail that has become the head. But when the God-called pastor points this out to the deacons, lovingly, he can expect to see whether or not this is true. He will find that they hold "the keys of their kingdom" and can fire him at will.

One of the deacons in my first pastorate told me plainly "this is my church." When he was trying to quiet some of the exuberant youth in our congregation, he yelled out, "Not in my church!" He was ultimately the final straw for my time as pastor at that location. Coupled with two mistakes (not moral failures) I made during my five and a half years there, I was too weakened by my guilty conscience to withstand the war that he promised to bring.

The power hungry in any local body are already corrupt so when they are given power they become more corrupt. The Englishman Lord Achton warned us, "Power tends to corrupt; absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely." The powerful can intimidate the weak and humble and wreak havoc in the assembly. This is precisely why the Holy Spirit gives the church specific guidelines for the appointing of elders and deacons, they must be men of God, submitted to and filled with the Spirit and the word.

Man has been given gifts by the Holy Spirit that God might be glorified in His blood-bought church and that that body might be built up according to His will and not the will of the wander-prone ones so gifted. "For it is God who is at work in you both to will and to work for His good pleasure." A God pleasing congregation is possible only when it is a God-lead congregation.

God working in us for His good pleasure is the Holy Spirit. When the Lord Jesus said to His disciples "Apart from Me you can do nothing" and "I will never leave you nor forsake you," He was speaking of His presence in His church through His Spirit. Leaders who are not God-called and Spirit-filled are false leaders. Perhaps not the malicious kind, but false nonetheless.

When the church has been wrested from the hands of her Head, she is not the church.

 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Why the church of Jesus Christ must run to its Head...now. Part One

THE ENEMY OF OUR HEAD WITHIN THE VISIBLE CHURCH

Bickering, gossip, back-biting, betrayals, power struggles, man-centered sermons, an unregenerate membership, no fear of God, rejection of the Holy Spirit and all that He brings to the table, lukewarmness, fraud, sexual immorality, murder, and ignorance of the written word of God are more likely to be found in the average local church than submission to the headship of Jesus Christ and all He brings to the table. This is precisely why we see the carnal assemblies we find on every corner.


And while the devil himself, an actual, real, literal being, is having his way in the world, he is also wreaking havoc in the visible church. Considering the obviously large number of the spiritually dead attending Sunday morning services, we should expect no more than what we have. Listen to how the Holy Spirit describes the unregenerate among us to whom we have for far too long extended a welcome:

NAS 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.  And don't say they're not there, sitting beside us in our pews. And don't say they're not there preaching to us from our pulpits, teaching us in our Sunday School classes. They are there because we allow them to be there. They are there because we have anointed them to do what they do; we have "called" them to be our teachers and pastors and deacons and elders. We have invited them to walk the aisle, sign a card, get baptized and "join" our church. As long as our numbers grow we are like Rhett Butler, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a you-know-what."

From the passage in Ephesians above we can see just what kind of people we have exposed the body of Christ to. They are the leaven that the Lord Jesus and the apostle Paul warned us of. And among them and in our midst are the "savage wolves" of Acts 20 and the damnable heretics of 2 Peter 2:1-3. They are not to be the objects of our evangelization nor are they to be embraced on the grounds of "no one is perfect." We must know they are there and deal with them appropriately.


NAS Ephesians 1:22 And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church,

Ephesians 4:15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ,

Ephesians 5:23 For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being the Savior of the body.

Colossians 1:18 He is also head of the body, the church; and He is the beginning, the first-born from the dead; so that He Himself might come to have first place in everything.

Colossians 2:10 and in Him you have been made complete, and He is the head over all rule and authority;

Colossians 2:18 Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize by delighting in self-abasement and the worship of the angels, taking his stand on visions he has seen, inflated without cause by his fleshly mind,

Colossians 2:19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.

 


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Don't give up. God doesn't.

I know I'm a broken record (does anyone know what that means?). It means I'm a little cracked and tend to stay on one track...a lot. Back in the days of vinyl records it was pretty common to damage the vinyl record so that the needle would get stuck in one spot and play one word or note over and over and over and... That pretty much describes me; I'm stuck in the groove of hoping to convince my fellow disciples of Christ (and clearly myself) that our sins, past, present, and future are forgiven. And that our Father worked out our justification in such a glorious and gracious way through His Son's perfect life, perfect suffering, perfect obedience and submission, perfect sacrifice, resurrection, ascension and perfect present reign and intercession, the gifts of the Spirit and His written word, that all the above are now our source of joy and peace. And when I say that "our Father worked out our justification," I am saying (and please don't miss this, beloved), He ordained it so before the foundation of the world, before time began.

"You sin, I sin, we all sin." It has never been any different. God ordained it so. If He had not, life would be totally different, i.e., we would never have disobeyed Him through our original parents; we would never have died spiritually or physically; we would not sin now. We do forget, do we not, that God is sovereign over all His creation?

If you believe otherwise (and you have the right to be wrong, just sayin'), you're probably a cold, man-centered, works-centered, in-bondage-to-the-law, moralist. And moralist go through life miserable, laying burdens on the shoulders of those with whom they come in contact."Misery loves company." Moralists, by the way, stress obedience and good behavior as the way to be right and stay right before God rather than the grace and mercy and patience and indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the love of the Father that are ours through the giving of His Son on our behalf.

Moralists can make those around them feel so disgusted with themselves that they want to throw in the towel. God never makes us feel that way.

Moralists strive for the unattainable goal of sinless perfection in this life and are so blinded by their wickedness that they literally cannot see their damnable dilemma.

Moralists claim the high ground of spiritual superiority but live in the dust of the devil himself. "Do this and live," the deceived moralists say. "Do this and you will be perfect like God," they say. And when the weak and heavy laden fall beneath the impossible burdens of the law, they give up. And this is where the gospel comes in, beloved.

The finished work of Jesus is so thoroughly finished that for all who are in Him by the grace of God, they will never be rejected. And if God the Father will not reject us who are in Christ, if He will not and cannot give up on us, who are we to give up?

God is sovereign over our lives, not the moralists.

God has the final say in our lives (and He has had His say), not the moralists.

And even when we go through those "I'm throwin' in the towel" moments, God never gives up on us.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Will God bless you...after what you did? Part 3?

It depends. It depends on what it was that you did, and, it depends on what you mean by "bless."

We can't just go 'round sinning willy nilly. We can't sow to the flesh and expect to reap in the spirit.

For those of us who are "in Christ," we know that what I have just said is true. But there's a greater truth that overrides those truths; "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." And,

NKJ 1 John 2:1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.

For those of us in Christ, God's anger and wrath has been turned away by Jesus taking God's wrath upon Himself in our stead; We deserved it, He got it. That's what John says in 2:2 in that word "propitiation."

Now, beloved, keep this in mind, Jesus' life, death, resurrection and ascension were "once-for-all" events. His propitiation is an on-going ministry as "the Man Christ Jesus" before His Father and our Father. His propitiation is part and parcel with His ever interceding on our behalf and on behalf of those whom He has yet to bring into His fold. The once-for-all finished work of Christ on our behalf tells us that all that was and is needed to be done on behalf of the justified ungodly was done and therefore remains done. We are the justified ungodly; we are His saints.

"once for all" - Rom 6:10; Heb 7:27; 9:12; 10:10

"once" - Heb. 9:26, 28
 

There is absolutely no reason for any who are in Christ to fear the judgment and wrath of God. We have been once and for all delivered from His wrath (1 Thess. 1:10). All who have by the grace of God come to faith in Jesus have arrived at the same place and have the same heavenly blessings. However, when we enter into our final state of eternity and receive our rewards, there is going to be a difference. In some cases that difference will be huge. But that's then. What can we expect now?

Whatever you have done, beloved, if you are His now you will always be His, that's His promise to us (Jn. 6:37). You and I may have to enter into our reward as through the smoke of the purging fires with little reward, but we will enter (1 Cor. 3:11-15). We are His beloved children, albeit far from perfection, but our joy comes from being His, not from our works (if the Holy Spirit can say this about the Corinthians, He also says it about you and me: 1 Cor. 3:23, "And you are Christ's, and Christ is God's").

And, finally, there is no "after what you did," as though what you did was a one time thing that stood alone in your life. That sin, that thing that you did, stands out in your mind as unique and not really reflective of who you are. But, my dear friends, you and I know better than that. Sin is a part of everyday life for all of us (Rom. 7:24-25). But God knew all about what we would do as believers and He has never, ever been shocked by any of it. He made provision for every bad thing we can possibly do. So will He bless us after all that we have done? You bet yer sweet bippy He will. Read Ephesians 3:20-21.



 

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Will God bless you...after what you did? Well, will He? Resurrection Day answers that question

What a great day to answer that question.

It's Resurrection Sunday. It's the Third Day. Just 2 days ago Jesus was hanging on the cross in excruciating pain and with His last breath He said, tete,lestai "It is finished."

That little word in the English, "it," covers the work of the Trinity since before time began. It refers to the plan of reconciliation that our Creator set in place before the foundation of the world. It refers not only to that pre-determined plan to reconcile the "world" (all that was lost and all that is His) but it's finish. And now from the cross comes the announcement that all of that has been satisfactorily fulfilled. "It is finished."

Jesus came to save His people from their sins; that was finished on the cross. The long-awaited Messiah of the Hebrews had come and paid the price for their sins. It wasn't the kind of deliverance the Jews of the Lord's day had looked for, but it was the right deliverance, the kind that goes to the heart, not the seat of politics. It is the kind of deliverance that is eternal, not temporal. It's that kind of a finish.

Unbeknownst to the Jews, "His people" included the lowest of the low, some out of the Gentiles as well. It would come as a surprise, shock is a better word, that the sins of some out of the Gentiles would be forgiven by the same precious and perfect blood that cleansed the Jews. It would be even more insulting (for a while, anyway) that Jew and Gentile in Christ are one.

There is, after all, only one God; God is One. The God of the Jews is therefore the God of the Gentiles since He is One. This one God is God and Father of all who are in Christ. And the one and the same blood that cleanses the one cleanses the other. Don't forget. God's eternal plan of reconciliation included this cleansing. It is an eternal-kind-of-cleansing. It is a finished-kind-of-cleansing.

And there was a lot to be cleansed; a lot of fallen human beings; a lot of sin. Enough blood. And "It is finished."

Will God bless you after what you did? No. But He will bless you after what He did.

So will God hear and answer my prayers, my supplications after quitting my job and putting myself in jeopardy? Will God provide my needs even after I walked off my job without giving notice? Will God hear me and be gracious unto me after I have sinned an innumerable time? Will God grant me the peace that passes understanding when I cast my cares on Him?

Did God cover the sins of Adam and Eve after they brought sin and death into this world through their rebellion against Him? Did God cover the sins of Noah and Abraham, the brothers of Joseph,  Moses and David and Paul and Peter. Did God bless these ungodly men who did things I have never done? My sins are just as great and no worse than those of God's chosen vessels of old. As Paul wrote (my paraphrase), "If God can forgive me, He can and will forgive anyone."

God can and will bless those whom He has justified and washed and sanctified and forgiven and redeemed and reconciled even after we have done whatever it is we have just done. Just as the sacrifice of the Risen Lord Jesus was a once-and-for-all sacrifice that covers every trespass of the justified, the "It is finished" of the cross is a once-and-for-all-kind-of it is finished.

Because it is finished, there is no condemnation, no rejection, no final defeat, and no separation from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus.


 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Will God bless you...after what you did?

That's it! That's the question that has been hounding me for years and years. And it is that nagging "no, He won't bless me" that has pretty much destroyed my faith in His love and care for me.

Let me give you a "for instance." Several years ago under some duress and after a month or so without my "meds," I just up and quit my job. I liked my job. I liked the guys I worked with. Physically, it was a breeze. It could get pretty boring and it didn't pay very well, but other than that, I was quite content.

The day I quit was a depressive day in my manic/depressive life. I hadn't taken my med for that ailment in about a month and had been manic for about 3 weeks. My "up" days had been so wonderful that I had subconsciously persuaded myself that I was doing alright. I was doing so alright that I had impressed my new boss with my brilliance and knowledge and humor. Life was fun. But then life hit the bottom. That was 8 years ago. I have been more or less unemployed since then.

Needless to say, I have struggled financially for some time. I worked for a while through a temp agency and that went well until my hernia acted up and my supervisor wouldn't let me work anymore. I have done an interim (2 years) at a local church which was great and a shorter one in a church in Virginia. I am now drawing Social Security, I'm on Medicare and Medicaid so my situation has improved a little, i.e., I can sleep now at night. If not for Medicare I would have gone belly-up, literally, during my recent bout with cardio-vascular disease and open-heart surgery.

But I digress. With what I see as my unfaithfulness and my personal failures (on top of the above there are the "usual sins" that we all have to bear and some I find particularly bad) I can see no reason for God, my heavenly Father in whom I believe through faith in Jesus Christ, to help me financially. I feel I have given up any right to His blessing and care for me. In other words I don't blame Him for ignoring me.

I'm sitting here writing this as though I'm headed toward an answer; I have a clue but nothing I've worked out yet. I still can't see why He would answer any of my prayers. Quite honestly, I doubt that He's listening to my prayers right now and hasn't for a while.

I have answers that I see in the word but they are just "preacher talk," truths that I haven't put to work in my own life but could preach to a congregation for their benefit. I'll get back to you when I can practice what I could preach.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

"There's nothin' new under the sun. Especially sin." Romans 7:24

How many of us remember the '60's when it was hip to "find" ourselves? "Man, I'm just tryin' to find myself. I just wanna live in peace and love and flowers. 'Make love, not war.'" We were so cornfused (and Hee Haw didn't help. But LSD did? Yeah, right). And all this finding was as old as the hills. "To thine own self be true." That's pretty good advice. "I think. Therefore I am."

Some of you will recall a recent blog post in which I revealed my epiphany of true self-discovery. It came from 3 of the apostle Paul's words in his letter to the Christians in Rome, "Wretched man I." That's the literal translation of the first words in our v.24 of the 7th chapter of that letter. Most translations rightly read, "O wretched man that I am." That gives the sense of what Paul was writing. It is the truth of that verse that set me on the road to greater liberty in Christ Jesus.

What Paul penned for the Romans isn't new; it is true. It's been the heart-cry of fallen man since Adam and Eve blew it for all of us in the almost perfect setting of the Garden in Eden. At least its' been the heart-cry for those loved and called of their Creator for His glory and purposes. Not all recognize and acknowledge their utter depravity. Not all acknowledge God (Rom. 1:18ff).

"O wretched man that I am! who will rescue me from the body of this death?"

The godliest of the godly cry out for deliverance from the body of this death. Augustine wrote "No man can call himself wretched who is not also spiritual." It is only the spiritually enlightened who confess their wretchedness. This is one of the truths referred to by the Lord Jesus when He said to His true disciples, "You shall know the truth. And the truth shall make you free." Spiritual enlightenment comes only by the work of the Holy Spirit writing the word of God on the disciple's heart (Jn. 8:30-32; Eph. 1:15-19; 3:14ff). Read the psalm written by the man of God, a man after God's own heart, Ps. 51, for a look into the soul of one who knew all too well his wretchedness. And see how this prophet of God found freedom in truth in Ps. 32.

The believer has already been delivered from the body of this death just as suredly as though that deliverance were now complete. It is the coupling of our assurance of final deliverance through faith in Christ with the recognition of our on-going wretchedness that reveals our present liberty. To deny one's wretchedness is to imprison one's soul in a prison of ones own making.

"For freedom Christ has set us free."



 

Monday, April 14, 2014

"Well, yes, we're saved by grace. And sure, faith is a gift, but..."

I am proud (and deeply humbled) to coin a new word, "gracebut." I will add this to my computer's dictionary and get rid of that squiggly red line under my new word. "Gracebut." Pronounced as one word, of course, much like the proper name Nesbit.

Many who profess faith in Jesus acknowledge that they are saved by gracebut. It's salvation by grace plus the spiritually dead sinner's final and authoritative decision to "get saved," having weighed the pros and cons of eternal life in heaven and eternal damnation in a burning hell (perhaps Jimmy Fallon could use this on his Pros and Cons segment one night) as well as the truth claims of God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit which heretofore the spiritually dead found to be untenable for whatever reason.

Gracebut obviously comes from two words that are commonly said within the same breath but heretofore have been separated by a respectable space or a pregnant pause. "Yes, we're saved by grace, but..." Now we can skip the niceties and say what we're really thinking, "we're not really saved by grace, after all. I ultimately have the final say. 'If it's goina be, it's up to me.'" Sorry, Dr. Schuller.

Gracebut is the child of "Freewill" and "Ichose," not to be confused with the movie, "Free Willy" and boxer "Ichong."

Gracebut, Freewill and Ichose might pop up some night on the tv series The Walking Dead. I mean, really. Man apart from the grace of God is the walking dead. Spiritually speaking, all the walking dead want to do is kill people and then devour them. Yuk! The walking dead can't do any more than that. Such life is described in minute detail in Paul's letter to the Romans, 1:18-32; 3:9-17; Ephesians 2:1-3, 11-12; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, and Galatians 5:19-21.

But what if God brings the walking dead to life? What if God works it out somehow that the dead are made alive by His giving them or breathing into them the "breath of life, the wind of life, His Spirit, to pneumatos ho hagios, so that the now formerly dead are enabled to do more than just walk around in their deadness and can now actually and literally believe and experience for the first time true free will? Wouldn't that be awesome?

And, Voila! That's exactly what happens every time a sinner hears and believes the gospel. John 6:44-45, 63; Ephesians 2:1-10; 1:4-14; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; Romans 10:1-17.

But didn't I choose to believe? You bet yer sweet bippy. When the Holy Spirit gave you, the walking dead, life and light and faith, you gladly and freely called upon the name of the Lord Jesus who had just saved you out of darkness, the darkness of death and of the devil. Check out 2 Corinthians 4:1-6.

I personally find any claim to a part in my justification, repulsive. I do not find free will in the life of the spiritually dead. Sure I called upon Him. But that was after He sought me out, chose me for salvation and justification and sanctification and reconciliation and glorification before time began and from the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4-6; 2 Tim. 1:9-10; Tit. 1:2; Rom. 8:28-30).

There is no such word in the Bible as gracebut.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Personalizing Paul's prayers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, April 7, 2014

Faith in Jesus Christ means faith in His finished work

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Christian Mind and This Age (world)

The Christian mind is a terrible thing to waste.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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