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Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I'm not really righteous. My Father just says I am.

It's true. I have experienced what Paul the apostle calls "imputed" righteousness. It is a righteousness that was written down ("imputed," logizomai, a term accountants used in Paul's day meaning, "to write down on someone's account" The Complete Word Study Dictionary, Zodhiates, p.922) on my heavenly account by my heavenly Father. Listen to this from Romans 4:23, "Now it was not written down for his (speaking of faithful Abraham) sake alone that it was imputed to him, but also for us. It shall be imputed to us who believe in Him who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification."

Imputed righteousness always goes hand in hand with justification, justification being that act whereby God proclaims the ungodly to be legally and spiritually right with Him on account of their faith in Jesus (Rom. 4:5, 23-25).
Notice now Romans 5 and v.1, "Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." And v.9, Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him." Those two verses tell the believer that justification is a done deal, "It is finished." And the entire context of these verses make justification the emphatic point of Paul's letter to the Romans. From chapter 1 through chapter 8 Paul's theme is "justification is by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, by the gospel alone, for God's glory alone, and I might add, for our eternal good." So, now that our once-for-all justification has been accomplished for us by the finished work of Jesus and by God's grace we have come to faith in that finished work, we are deemed by God Himself to be right with Him, righteous.

Do I act righteous? Sometimes. But that's missing the point of grace. When God sees those who have by His grace come to faith in His Son, He sees a righteous person. Now that's what matters. For the rest of my miserable life I will continue to sin. But for the rest of my miserable life God will proclaim that I am one of His, I am in Christ, and I am righteous.

Beloved, it really is finished.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Billy Graham and the BGEA's list of cults just got shorter

I grew up watching Billy Graham on a small black and white television set as he preached the gospel to great crowds who were evidently hungry for the gospel. I cried every time the big crusade choir sang "Just As I Am" and the sinners came down to the area in front of the platform where Billy was praying. It wasn't the content of Billy's sermons that so moved me, it was the sight of him praying and so many coming down and the melancholic, emotionally stirring sound of Just As I Am. In my living room I was there with the sinners getting saved.

Billy was America's evangelist.

Reverend Graham was always associated with US presidents, so his involvement with the Mitt Romney campaign is no surprise. What shocked me was learning that after Romney, a committed Mormon, visited Rev. Graham in his home at Montreat, N.C., the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association removed The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints from its list of cults. And however the BGEA and Franklin Graham spin it, they have endorsed Mormonism.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was founded by the heretic (and apparently quite insane) Joseph Smith as everyone knows. The LDS preaches a different gospel and another Jesus. Paul in his letter to the Galatians says plainly that such false prophets are anathema (1:6-9). And John in his second epistle commands us not to welcome such into our homes, saying plainly "for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds" (2 Jn. 7-11). The Grahams not only greeted one who is anathema, they also opened the door for the furtherance of his false gospel to a world already blinded by the "god of this world" (2 Cor. 4:4). And if America's evangelist can remove Mormonism from its list of cults, who am I to call Mormonism a cult. What the Mormon leadership has been trying to do for decades, make Mormonism mainstream, "Christian," with little success, the Grahams have succeeded in doing after one brief visit by a highly visible Mormon.

This is a compromise that could have the effect that Paul and Titus avoided when appearing before the church leaders in Jerusalem; it could mean for some, the loss of "the truth of the gospel" (Gal. 2:1-5).

Monday, October 15, 2012

"But I have the mind of Christ:" Part 2

If I have the mind of Christ, and I do, and I also have my own mind, and I do, and if I want to glorify Him, and I do, then it follows that I will set my mind to submit to His. I want to think His thoughts after Him. I want to think with my new mind informed by the Holy Spirit through His written word. I want my mind to be so submitted to the Holy Spirit, the mind of Christ, that when real temptations arise that are particularly attractive to me, I will continue to do as I am doing at the present, and remind myself that I have the mind of Christ and that my mind working with that knowledge can quickly resist that temptation.

Because I have the Holy Spirit, I have the mind of Christ. To have the mind of Christ is an amazing truth. The Holy Spirit, the mind of Christ (it seems to me that the mind of Christ is the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit is the mind of Christ. We can't have the mind of Christ unless we have the Holy Spirit. Being the mind of Christ in Christ's disciples, as I see it, is one of the roles filled by the Spirit [Jn.14:25-26; 15:26-27; 16:12-15]). The mind of Christ is the Holy Spirit.

The notion that the Holy Spirit is the mind of Christ and the mind of Christ is the Holy Spirit reminds me of Paul's description of the Spirit in 2 Cor. 3:17, "Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty." There is a unique "oneness" in the Godhead, the Trinity, that sometimes blurs the uniqueness of the 3 Persons of the Trinity. But I digress.

Having the mind of Christ is a weapon for the believer in his/her daily walk in this dark age. The peace of mind that gives us courage and faith and strength (and without this peace of mind that comes from our Father we are weak and defeated and fearful due mostly to a guilty conscience that tells us we are unfit to talk with anyone about Jesus or unfit even to turn to Him when we're overcome by our guilt feelings) enables us to leap over walls and move mountains. The God-glorifying possibilities that are at our finger tips are ours because we have the mind of Christ.

"But we have the mind of Christ." 1 Cor. 2:6-16: Part 1

Do you ever wonder why so many people we "share" the gospel with just don't get it? Well, to put it simply, they simply can't. Not without the Holy Spirit working in their hearts and minds and souls and spirits to give them the light and life and faith that is absolutely necessary in order to come to faith in Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 2:6-16; Jn. 6:44, 63; 2 Cor. 4:3-6; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; Eph. 2:4-10). So what can we do in such cases? Present the gospel to them and leave the rest up to the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:5-8; 6:9-11 *Note that the verbs in 1 Cor. 6:11 are all passive. "But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God." It's all God's doing, not ours).

The mind of Christ is absolutely necessary in order to discern and dispense spiritual truths, spiritual things. The natural man, of course, cannot discern spiritual things. That also explains why many "church folk" don't get it; they're unregenerate; they don't have the Holy Spirit and are therefore "none of His" (Rom. 8:5-9). But what about the disciple of Christ, those who have by the grace of God come to faith in Jesus Christ, have the Holy Spirit, are "born again" and do indeed "have the mind of Christ?" What does having the mind of Christ mean to them, us?

It is a mind-altering, mind-changing, life-changing truth that is nothing short of divine. This truth is that powerful. For the last few weeks as I've mulled this truth over and over, I've been able to apply it whenever lustful thoughts of all manner have come to mind, usually when I see a seductively dressed female or an expensive car or a great lookin' "hawg" or I want to be an instant multi-millionaire.

This has been one of the most liberating experiences of my Christian life. This is the fleshing out of Romans 12:2. It is the logical application of Philippians 4:8-9. It explains (at least in part) Romans 7:24-25. And it is an invaluable aid to understanding and applying Rom. 8:9-14, especially v.13b, "but if by the Spirit you (lit., "are putting to death") put to death the deeds of the body, you will live."

We belong to the Lord Jesus (1 Cor. 3:21-23. And this was written to the carnal Corinthians, for Pete's sake). For me, that's a done deal. Now, as a Christian who is constantly bombarded by not-so-righteous-thoughts and not-so-righteous-deeds because of my remaining corruption, i.e., "the flesh," I know the answer to the guilty conscience that always accompanies them and how to put a stop to them as they arise. As one who is indwelt by the Holy Spirit and is a student of the word of God, I can now remind myself that I do truly have the mind of Christ and can turn my transformed mind to think on those things we find in Paul's letter to the Philippians.

I am washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of my God. Amen and amen.

Monday, October 8, 2012

"But Lord, the wicked are so beautiful!" Pro. 24:19-20

It's true. The wicked are so often really physically attractive and many are rich and famous to boot. We see them daily on tv or maybe once a week or once a month in a movie. Their faces (and other body parts) are splashed across magazines, newspapers, billboards and whatever. We have long been a nation of voyeurs. And even when they're in trouble with the law or their lovers and every news cast includes a story about their latest shenanigans, we're still enthralled by them. Some of them we "love to hate," but we can't take our eyes off them. Celebrity is addictive to them and us. And celebrity reigns supremely over common sense and common decency.

Is it too much, too judgmental to call movie/tv stars/entertainers wicked? It is if we label all entertainers wicked. But by far (in my opinion based on many years of observation and the history of the lifestyles of the rich and famous) those whose lives are occupied with entertaining us are in fact very wicked people. And those of us who love to have it so need to take a look in our own spiritual mirrors and not forget what we're really like when we turn away from that mirror of self-examination. It's the whole log and splinter thing. After all, we're the ones who buy the tickets to their movies and give them creds by watching their tv shows. We're the ones who envy them. Ecc. 7:20 reminds us (informs us) of this truth, "For there is not a just man on earth who does good and does not sin." While we have been justified by God through faith in Jesus Christ, we yet sin. And envy of the wicked is there at the top of the list for many Christians.

But I degress.

Proverbs 24:19-20 (NKJV), "Do not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious of the wicked; For there will be no prospect for the evil man; the lamp of the wicked will be put out."

And lest one thinks that perhaps it gets better for the wicked in other Bible passages, it doesn't. The 342 occurences of "wicked" and the 17 of "evildoers" hold out no hope for these folks outside a gracious work of God. Their end in the Old Testament Scripture is never good. And we envy them?

Let me point out to those of us who have by the grace of God been "saved" through faith in Jesus Christ, our own sinful tendencies, or, as the Reformers described it, our "remaining corruption," that Ecc. 7:20 reminds us of. Just answer these questions honestly, "What stirs within your soul when you see a naked or nearly naked entertainer on the big silver screen? What stirs within your heart and soul, what burns within you, what breaks out in your inner being when you see pictures of your favorite celebrities cavorting about on some exotic beach with their lovers/companions having a wonderful fun and luxurious time with no apparent concern for the cost of their vacation?" Admiration? Envy? Jealousy? Lust? Beloved, too often those words describe me. You may not react that way. Good for you.

Both the Hebrew and Greek words translated "fret" and "envious" mean to burn with envy and jealousy. This proverb is written to the people of God pointing out to us that we can get caught up in this world so much that we crave the things of this world more than the things of God. And when we do we lose our God-given desire for Him and His glory. We cease to set our goals on the things in heaven and not on earth. When we burn for the things of this world we cease to burn for the things of God.

Are you burning for the things of God? Actually ... I am. I know that I'm a bit inconsistent but I don't rely on my consistency, I rely on His. The word of God is given to us that we might be aware of our tendencies and our constant need for repentance and the good news of the gospel. The word of God is given for our encouragement and our learning because those tendencies to envy the wicked sometimes raise their ugly heads in the hearts of even the saints (Rom. 15:4; 1 Cor. 10:11).

Check out 2 Peter 1:2-11.