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Tuesday, July 15, 2014

God is for us, He is not against us...ever!

At times it's really hard to believe. It boggles my mind that infinite, holy, Almighty God is always for me. I know me well enough to know what I'm like when I'm alone and what I'm like in my thought life and it's enough to make me disgusted with myself at times. Not always, but more often than I like. But it's always true for all who are in Christ Jesus, God is for us.

In my flesh I wasn't brought up to think this way. I knew there were people who were supposed to love me unconditionally who didn't; they were not always for me. And to this day I carry that transferred insecurity with me in my walk with my heavenly Father. However, I'm much, much better than I was just a couple of years ago. And here is where the Holy Spirit took me years ago when I was kicking myself for losing my temper in traffic and letting a rude driver know just how I felt about her driving:

Romans 8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? The Holy Spirit brought to my mind so clearly, "Johnny, I'm not against you, I'm for you."

We will always be able to find people who are against us in some form or fashion for any number of reasons. But we can never say that about God. God stands alone. After all, He is nothing like us.

 Paul asks the question, "What then shall we say to these things?" And he answers, "This is what we shall say to these things, If God is for us, and He is, who is against us?" The wording of "if God is for us" is in the form of a "first class condition" that can be and should be read thusly, "If God is for us, and He is...," or, "Since God is for us," any of the three readings is correct if we understand what is going on in the text. But it only makes sense when we ask the question, "what are 'these things?'" In other words, it only makes sense in context. So, what are these things? And how do they add up to Paul's concluding that God is for us?

I'm not about to bore you with the complete list of these things like I would like to, but I'm going to summarize them in a way that should be helpful to you right now. I want to give you enough to build your faith and encourage you in your everyday walk.

First, "God fulfilled His promise to give His Son to save us from our sins." 1:1-4

Second, "God was kind to the ungodly and brought us to repentance." 2:4

Third, "God manifested His way to righteousness to the ungodly through His Son apart from the Law" 3:10-23

Fourth, "God proclaims the ungodly justified through faith and not works." 4-5

Fifth, "The Holy Spirit baptized us into the body of Christ, His death, burial and resurrection that we might have new life, no longer under the Law but under grace, free from the dominion of sin." 6:1-23

Sixth, "Every child of God is alive in his inner man even while our outer man perishes and we will never be condemned. God has ordained it so for His glory and our eternal good." 7-8.

8:31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves;
 Our heavenly Father, and don't forget He is our "heavenly" Father, not of this earth, not of flesh and blood, but pure and just and holy, never changing, is always for us. "How will He not also with Him freely give us all things?" It is not possible that He will not.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Amazing Grace of God At Corinth...and In Every Saint

"In the beginning, God..." After the beginning, God. It's all about what God did for us in Christ Jesus, not about what we have done, are doing, who we were when He called us, or what we had when He called us. He called us...period. He started it...He will finish it (1 Cor. 1:26-31; Phil. 1:6).

Everyone who is "in Christ" is there solely because God chose them, predestined them, foreknew them, sanctified them by the Holy Spirit, justified them and glorified them, even while being ungodly people, dead in their trespasses and sins, enemies of God (Rom. 8:28-30; 5:6; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; Eph. 1:3-14). Dead people can't do anything to make themselves right with God. That takes an act of God, a genuine miracle where God intervenes in human nature and makes alive that which was dead and repulsive to Him. That miracle actually changes us from children of wrath to children of God (Eph. 2:1-10).

And after all that? God loves us and lovingly brings us into His family. He (yes, "He") doesn't make us perfect after adopting us. Go figure. He doesn't make us perfect. And we sure don't make ourselves perfect after becoming God's children.

When I got up this morning, I went to 1 Corinthians, chapter 1 and verse 1. I've read this a gazillion times and it continually lifts my spirit and builds up my faith in the finished work of Jesus. Paul describe the Corinthians the same way he described himself, "called," "by the will of God," and "saints," the "holy ones of God." Considering what the apostle knew about the mess that was the church in Corinth, I am so very encouraged by the Holy Spirit's encouragement, exhortations, rebukes, corrections, commandments and assurances given to these confused and even rebellious believers (this letter was written by a Spirit filled man).

This letter is for the true church (and those who do not seem to be the "true" church) universal. For the church in Russia, Poland, Ukraine, Sudan, the UK, the west, the east, the south and the north.

So take heart, beloved around the world. God is with you; God is in you; and God is for you.

1 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, 2 to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 4 I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, 6 even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

"My 'Old Lady,' My 'Old Man'": Part Two

Not a day goes by except I long for my new man, my inner man, the new creature that I am, to exercise control over my really annoying outer man, my old man. But I don't lose heart. And here's why:

2 Corinthians 4:16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.

Another translation says, "...though our outer man is wasting away." "Decaying," "wasting away," you get the picture. And that's what we have to live with until our "corruption puts on incorruption" (1 Cor. 15:50-56, one of my favorite passages, btw). I know that my inner man, that part of me that is "born again," "born of the Spirit," "born from above," that part where the "seed" of God abides, is in God's hands and He's renewing me day by day, faithfully renewing me day by day. What sweet words; what an amazing fact of this new life in Christ.

Read this:

2 Corinthians 4:6 For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves;

"Earthen vessels." That's just another way of saying our "old man," our "flesh." That's where "nothing good inside me" dwells. That's the part of us that is corrupt, corrupted, corruptible and wasting away. With our old man so weak and dying, one would expect the new man, our inner man, to be more consistent in his victories over him. And we can be.

We will never know sinless perfection in this life. But we can know a life lived in a manner that glorifies our risen Lord and Savior. We can live in a manner worthy of our calling and worthy of the name by which we are called. And that is precisely what 2 Corinthians 4:7 makes clear to us. God has designed the new life in such a way that He gets the first glory and shares His glory with us now with our final glorification awaiting us in our eternal home.

Next: Our old man delivered out of darkness.



"My 'Old Lady;' My 'Old Man:'" Part One

No, I never had an "old lady," but I know several real life hard core Harley ridin' bikers who do. And no one, no girl or woman, ever called me her "old man," at least not that I know of.

My hawg ridin' acquaintances were bad news. They did all the stuff you've heard about bikers doing. Drugs, sexual immorality, etc., etc. And I shared the gospel with each of them to no avail. One of them, a new employee where I once worked, was a recent biker convert. His new "friends" talked him into buying a hawg one of their buddies had for sale and he bought it. They also persuaded him to leave his wife. And one night just a couple of weeks after he started riding (he had never been on a motorcycle in his life until his conversion) and shortly after leaving his wife, his old lady, he went to a beer joint north of Charlotte, got plastered and jumped on his bike and promptly ran a stop sign, crossed the road and hit the woods going pretty fast. He was killed instantly. I was heart-broken at the news that following Monday morning.

I had made some headway with this man who was hurting and heartbroken over his life situation. He didn't want to leave his wife, he wanted help. I was giving him some good counsel and he was interested. He was listening; he loved his wife. Whether he intentionally ran that stop sign or not, we shall never know. But he's dead regardless. That old man left his old lady for a way that brought him only heartache, misery and death.

Darkness and death is all those who live in darkness know. I know, I lived there for 27 years. But in March of 1974, by the grace of God, I heard the sweetest words I have ever heard, I heard and believed the gospel.

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. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in Christ Jesus, 7 in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 9 not as a result of works, that no one should boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 11 Therefore remember, that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "Uncircumcision " by the so-called "Circumcision," which is performed in the flesh by human hands-- 12 remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

Billions of people are at this very moment "far off." And it may be that they will and can by the grace of God be delivered out of their present darkness and be "brought near by the blood of Christ." God only knows what will become of them. It may be that we will proclaim the good news to them and the Holy Spirit will open their ears and eyes to see and hear it. We can sow and water and perhaps witness God giving the lost life. We have the sweetest words they can ever possibly hear. Whether or not they come to faith is in God's hands, the sharing of those sweet life-giving words is in ours.



Monday, July 7, 2014

Scripturally Balancing Grace: Answering Michael Brown's Sincere Questions: Conclusion

The answer to Dr. Brown's questions are pretty obvious; they are worded in such a way that they are self-explanatory, and that's good. Dr. Brown has Scripture and common sense on his side as far as this particular issue goes. For that reason I'm once again closing this series. And after listening to Dr. Brown's debate with the advocate for gay rights claiming to be a Christian, I'm siding with Dr. Brown. Dr. Brown is a superb debator.

I am very much anti Word of Faith theology; I think for the most part it is a heresy that is both subtly deceptive and damnable. This is where I part ways with Dr. Michael Brown. His fellowship with the likes of Benny Hinn puts up a wall between us. I would like to know more about his involvement with Word of Faith teachers like Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar, Jesse Duplantis, and Joel Osteen. I'm simply curious; I don't plan on getting on board with him.

"We are children of God, the Spirit Himself bearing witness"

Romans 8:16 The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God...

Otherwise how would we ever know?
Being indwelt by the Holy Spirit is a remarkable experience that most of us seldom enjoy or appreciate. We have become calloused by the cares of this life so that one would never know that we are indwelt by Him. Our pleasures are earthly and this-worldly, sensual, finding what passes for happiness through our five senses rather than through the new life that is ours in Christ Jesus. Capitulating to temptations is the rule rather than the exception, it is "normal" and "natural" and all that the Christian should expect. After all, we're only human.
But we are not. We are more than mere human beings. We are children of God, spiritually alive creatures, created new through the indwelling Holy Spirit and united with Jesus Christ so that we are now one with Him.
We are spiritual adoptees. Those adopted by God the Father are necessarily adapted for the family of God. God is Spirit, our spirits are made alive by the Holy Spirit and made compatible with life in God's kingdom and with God Himself. The excuse of our humanness cannot stand before the throne of grace and claim an out. God only deals with us according to truth and reality and grace and righteousness. And He desires our presence before His throne of grace.
Only those born of the Spirit by the grace of God can know that inner witness that cries "Abba, Father." Only the made-alive spirit receives the witness of the Spirit that assures us that we are indeed His children.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Scripturally Balancing Grace: Answering Michael Brown's Sincere Questions: Part Four

If God has pronounced your future sins forgiven in the same way he has pronounced your past sins forgiven, why do Paul and other New Testament writers address these very sins in their letters, and why does Jesus address them in Revelation 2-3? We know that God doesn’t bring our past sins up to us, since he has forgiven and “forgotten” them. Why then does he bring our present sins up to us in the New Testament, even warning us about the dangers of walking in those sins, if they have also been forgiven and forgotten in advance?

This question, question #4 in Dr. Brown's list, is very much like his question #13, Do you see any possible danger in emphasizing that it is impossible for a believer to lose his or her salvation? Of course, we could debate whether the Bible teaches this at all, but simply as a matter of experience, many of us have encountered very lost people – drunkards, fornicators, without the slightest interest in God (see 1 Corinthians 6:9-10) – who have then assured us that they were saved because it was impossible for them to lose their salvation. So, on a practical level, do you feel it’s important to add any scriptural caveats to your teaching of eternal security and, if so, how can you do this without putting an emphasis on “performance”?

Here is why I see a similarity. God has not pronounced my future sins or my past or present sins forgiven apart from His forgiving "me" as though my sins are living beings that need to be forgiven and need His grace. I am forgiven. I am forgiven. He has forgiven me and delivered me from all my trespasses. I am not my trespasses or my sins. My sins are what I do, not what I am.

I am forgiven/delivered now of all my trespasses (Col. 2:13). "There is therefore NOW no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus" (Rom. 8:1).  "Now" means now. It comes from the Greek adverb of time and means now, right now. It will mean now tomorrow and the next day and next week and next year and on the day I die. I am in Christ Jesus by the grace of God and will remain in Christ Jesus by the grace of God. "For by grace are you saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man boast." And God will not "recall" either my gift of eternal life or His calling upon my life (Rom. 11:29).

In my early years of ministry I made the decision to never assume everyone in any group or church where I "shared" or preached was saved. That was a good decision. The apostles new this to be the case in gatherings where they ministered. Paul's letters to the Corinthians and the churches in Galatia reveal that he knew there to be lost folk gathering with the justified. The author of Hebrews and John the apostle recognized the presence of the unregenerate among their readers and those of the "spirit of the antichrist." I have met people as Dr. Brown describes who were drunkards and sexually immoral who told me to my face that they "got saved" when they were children and knew they were still saved. But they were clearly not. "You will know a tree by its fruit." A false gospel produces false disciples. And a false gospel is what many people hear. Walk the aisle; sign a card and "yer saved, sister."

There is not a genuine Christian on planet earth who needs no instructions on how to live in a manner worthy of their calling. We need to be admonished, rebuked, corrected and encouraged in the faith. That's why the Lord Jesus and the New Testament authors all addressed the remaining corruption of the new disciples. That's why Paul pointed out that there is an on-going, life-long struggle between our old man and our new man, between our outer man and our inner man, between our new creation and our flesh.

Our "performance" is not a justification-meriting-performance but a because-we-are-justified way of life that is not and never will be perfect. An essential work of the written word of God and the Holy Spirit is to direct us in our walk during our time on this earth in this body (2 Tim. 3:16-17; Rom. 5:5; 8:12-14). Our performance doesn't save us, "dead people cannot perform" (Eph. 2:1-3). But our performance after our conversion does build up treasures in heaven...or not (1 Cor. 3:10-15).

The apostle John recorded the "revelation of Jesus Christ" given to him to give to the church throughout the ages. In the letters to the 7 churches nothing new is said, everything in those 7 letters is said in the New Testament epistles. Warnings are given to those who wrongly assume themselves saved; warnings are given to those who are saved but not living in a manner that glorifies their Savior. And the warnings to the true church are acts of discipline, not condemnation (3:19).

By the act and decree of God the Father, we have been baptized by the Spirit into the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:13; Acts 1:8; John 14-16). Our being baptized by the Spirit doesn't make us perfect, it wasn't intended to. But our having the Spirit, our union with Christ, our having "the mind of Christ," and our having God's written word assures us that we do indeed belong to Him and have eternal life. Are there those who profess but don't possess? Sure there are. Are we to continually admonish and receive admonition and rebuke and correction? Yes, indeed. God has never and will never give anyone permission to sin. But He has made gracious provision for our sins in Christ Jesus.

Scripturally Balancing Grace: Answering Michael Brown's Sincere Questions: Part Three

Question #3. "Is there anything you can do to disappoint the Lord? If the Lord always sees you as perfect in his sight, as is commonly taught in the hyper-grace gospel, is there any way for you to disappoint him? I’ve heard it said that we can only grieve or disappoint him by not trusting his grace, but according to your message, hasn’t that sin been forgiven as well?"

Attempting to balance God's grace is an exercise in futility. One can abuse grace and some will reject it, but there is no balancing the gift of God because it can't be done, it doesn't need to be done. We cannot fix what ain't broke. The title of my blog series is "Scripturally Balancing Grace," but that's simply a dig at those who practice "gracebut," those who insist that they believe in grace, but...

My answer to Dr. Brown's third question is an unequivocal "no, we cannot disappoint God." First, disappointment implies surprise on God's part. It implies that we have done something, committed some sin that caught God off guard. That cannot happen. God is not a man that He could be disappointed. Nor is His knowledge of us limited by time or space.

Second, to say that a believer can disappoint God would imply that God has a higher view of man than He actually does. "I thought better of you than that" said God never.

And third, "nobody's perfect." Seriously. No believer, including Paul the apostle, was or is perfect. We are "complete" in Christ but not yet perfect ( Phil. 3:12; Col. 2:10). God sees us in Christ but He's not blind to the truth of our remaining sinfulness and corruption (1 Cor. 15:50-56). If hyper grace teachers teach that we are now perfect, that is cultish, not Christian.

"I’ve heard it said that we can only grieve or disappoint him by not trusting his grace, but according to your message, hasn’t that sin been forgiven as well?" I have been guilty of not "trusting his grace" on occasion when I have figuratively flogged myself for some sin, trying to pay for my sin by punishing myself rather than receiving the punishment He took on Himself on my behalf. I'm sure I grieve the Holy Spirit at such times but it is impossible to disappoint Him as I have already suggested. Thankfully, every believer is "in the light as He is in the light and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin."

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Scripturally Balancing Grace: Answering Michael Brown's Sincere Questions: Part Two

Question #2 "The New Testament writers often exhort us to live in ways that please the Lord. Does that mean that it is possible to displease him? We agree that he relates to us as his beloved children, but is he always pleased with us? And since Paul urges us not to grieve the Spirit, does that mean that we can, in fact, grieve him?"
Yes, I would say that it is not only possible to displease God but we in fact often do. Paul,  John and James use some pretty strong language warning those who profess faith in Christ about this very thing (1 Cor. 3:1-4; 11:17-22; pretty much all of Galatians and James; 1 Jn. 1:6-10; 2:9).
If my Greek grammar classes mean anything then I must say "Yes, we can indeed grieve the Holy Spirit."
There is a grammatical construction known in Greek grammar as a "negated present imperative" which means that the reader is being told to stop doing something that he or she or they (is) (are) currently doing. That employment of this imperative says that the audience to whom this imperative was applied was at the time they received this letter practicing what was being forbidden by the negated imperative. In chapter 4 of Paul's letter to the Ephesians he employs that negated imperative several times.
It is clear that the Ephesians were young in the Lord, immature and unaware yet that they could not just keep on stealing and lying to one another (4:17, 27, 28, 30 are examples of the negated present imperative. But this entire section of this chapter reveals that believers can and do live in ways that should be and can be put aside and that we need to be told to stop or reminded to stop such behavior).
It's amazing, isn't it, that the Ephesians were at the time of the writing of this epistle somehow grieving the Holy Spirit? Paul says, "Stop it! And stop it now." Chapter 4 gives us a clue as to how they were grieving the Spirit but we don't have the whole picture; we don't need anymore. You will find the same negated present imperative in 1 Corinthians 6:9 where Paul tells the Corinthian church to "stop being deceived."
So, yes we can grieve the Holy Spirit. And, yes, that means clearly that we can and do displease the Lord who sealed us with the Spirit until the day of redemption. If hyper grace teachers say otherwise they have badly missed it.
Ephesians 4:30 Kai. mh. lupei/te to. pneu/ma to. a[gion tou/ qeou/( evn w-| evsfragi,sqhte eivj h`me,ran avpolutrw,sewjÅ


Friday, July 4, 2014

Scripturally Balancing Grace: Answering Michael Brown's Sincere Questions

Dr. Michael Brown is offering his book "Hyper Grace" once again to the public and once again I have read his blog ("Ask Dr. Brown") addressing the issue of what is being labeled "hyper grace." I find his questions completely reasonable and much needed, unlike how I felt when I first read them and took them personally. I still question his motives (I'm a sinner saved by grace, so please forgive that motive-questioning on my part) when he says he's not trying to pick a fight (my words, not his). There is a definite attitude that comes across in his preface to his questions and in the questions themselves. Over the next few days or less, I'm going to attempt to answer from my perspective and as objectively as I can, his questions. I am not a hyper gracer, btw. Biblical grace, yes indeed, just not hyper. It is Dr. Brown's thoughts on grace that prompts me to return to this issue.

Question #1 Does God require anything from you as his child? Is there anything he says that you must do as his child other than receive his grace? If so, are their spiritual benefits that come through obeying these requirements and spiritual losses that come from ignoring them?

Dr. Brown is kind in assuming that he is addressing a "child" of God. And in asking "Does God require anything from you as his child?", one knows that the answer must be "yes, of course He does." Dr. Brown is wondering if a hyper grace teacher will answer "No. He requires nothing of us." And it may be (I haven't read every book written by those teachers) that some have indeed answered no.

Having been saved by grace and now living "under grace" and not "under the law," does not imply nor does it translate into "now I can live life as I see fit," much less does it translate into, "now I can sin with impunity." And it certainly can't mean that from now on God does not and will not require anything of me. That would mean I do not need the written word of God for guidance or wisdom or anything. It could imply that one doesn't need God involved that much in my life now that I'm His. Hyper grace teachers certainly do not go that far. But they do possibly come close. Hyper grace could easily discourage the study and reading of the word of God.

The second part of his first question is confusing, "Is there anything he says that you must do as his child other than receive his grace?" The "must do" question in this question followed by "as his child other than receive his grace" begs the question, "Is Dr. Brown asking about our lives before our justification or life after justification/salvation?" Is he asking if we must do something in order to become His child since he mentions the requirement of our receiving God's grace? Or is he asking must we do stuff to fulfill God's requirements after being saved?

"Does God require anything from you as his child other than receive his grace?" Are we in fact required to receive His grace at anytime? That is poorly worded if not worse. One does not receive a required grace. If grace is required it is no longer grace. The way the question is worded presents an oxymoron. I think the question just should've been stated better. Unless Dr. Brown meant it the way it is.

My objection to this question is that grace isn't something required of one but is something one receives by grace; it is the "gift" of God.

"If so, are their spiritual benefits that come through obeying these requirements and spiritual losses that come from ignoring them?"

 "Is there anything he says that you must do as his child other than receive his grace?" I must return to this earlier question in order to keep the last one, "If so, are their spiritual benefits that come through obeying these requirements and spiritual losses that come from ignoring them?" in context,. I will address only the part of this question up to the words "as his child," since I have made it clear how I feel about the grace part.

There are hundreds of imperatives in the New Testament epistles alone, more than I ever imagined. But none of these imperatives or "commands" are of the "do this and live or do not do them and die" kind, with the exception of those pointing out in one fashion or another that there is only one way one is justified. This is, after all, the New Covenant, not the Old. So, in the matter of how one is justified, no, there are no requirements that must be met in order to be saved/justified. But afterward? Lets just take one example that could be the template for things required that have a reward if followed and the clear removal of spiritual benefits when not.

1 Corinthians 3:6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building. 10 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But let each man be careful how he builds upon it. 11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. 14 If any man's work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man's work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.

There ya go. And do not miss the context of this passage, to whom was it written and what did the apostle have to say to them? Yet with all their "sins," he could still affirm them as belonging to the Lord Jesus Christ:

3:21 So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, 22 whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, 23 and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.

Really Free On the Fourth

I love my country. I even appreciate the laws of the land (and keep them often). NO other form of government affords its people freedom like ours; we're unique and exceptional. No other country allows its people the freedom we live in; our government is actually still "government for, by and of the people." We are not really "allowed," we pretty much call the shots. We don't always call the shots well, but if we've a mind too, we can change what we don't like. "When in the course of human events..."

The lives of many millions have been intimately involved in keeping our freedom and the way of life that goes with it. Millions of our people have died since its founding, fighting for what they believed in and sometimes for what they didn't believe in.

The fighting wasn't on the world's battlefields alone. Much of it was done on our streets by our people fighting against egregious injustices; much of it was done in our Capital by our elected and America-loving officials. And much of it was done by divinely inspired church leaders who followed in the footsteps of our founding fathers. In America, finding liberty in God through faith in Christ Jesus moved many Christians to fight for the liberty of all men, even while many ignorant and hateful fought to keep their fellow man enslaved. And the ignorant and hateful of every creed and color live freely among us today even though they protest otherwise.

It is the nature of man, not his color, that sees aggressions and war and hatred and greed and racial supremacy and racism as the way to personal and selfish fulfillment. Only when that nature is truly changed will any of us realize the peace and equality and liberty that somewhere deep inside of us we all long for. It is through the renewing of the "inner man" that one can find peace and liberty in the midst of aggressions and war and hatred and greed and racial injustices. Dr. Martin Luther King, jr. exemplified that truth and taught many others, black, white, Asians and Latino to strive for that inner renewal, that inner peace.

This nation has never been "Christian," not in the way it believes or behaves. But the seed of the Christian faith has always been here. The church of Jesus Christ hasn't always behaved like the church of Jesus Christ, the "visible" church, that is. But an element of the real thing has always been here. And for many, that church has made a difference, temporal and eternal.

The true liberty that sets men free begins and can only begin with the transformation of the soul and spirit that comes only through the "new birth" that is experienced by the grace of Almighty God through faith in Jesus Christ. We who have been the recipients of that grace are far from perfect. But we know the answer and we seek to set others free into the glorious liberty of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Provision, Not Permission: Concerning the Believer's Remaining Corruption

Grace is the most amazing aspect of any believer's life. Think about it.

Every one who has ever been saved or ever will be saved has been saved from the wrath of God that is surely coming (1 Thess. 1:10). And, to make this life even sweeter, we know that we were saved and delivered from death solely by the grace of God; dead people can't save themselves, that takes an act of God (Eph. 2:1-10). And it just gets better. God has given us (and this is how we were made alive and given faith and light [Jn. 6:44, 63; Rom. 5:5; 2 Thess. 2:13-14; 2 Cor. 4:6; 1 Cor. 2:1-16]) the Person of the Holy  Spirit.

After arguing for the grace of God that saves through the gift of God, faith, Paul concludes that we will experience an on-going battle with our flesh, our remaining sinfulness and corruption (Rom. 7:24-8:4; 1 Cor. 15:50-56). It makes sense to those of us who care about living in a manner worthy of our calling; it explains why we continue to sin and at the same time how God works in our inner man, our minds (Rom. 1-8, note 7:22, 25 for the synonymous "inner man" and our "minds"; Eph. 4:1; 1 Thess. 2:11-12). And Philippians explains why we have that desire to please God and to live in a manner worthy of the name by which we have been called even while we occupy these dead-because-of-sin bodies (2:12-13; Rom. 8:10)

What do we now do when we sin? We confess them and exercise the faith of Abraham. Abraham, whose body was as good as dead, did not consider the deadness of his body or of Sara's womb, but believed the promise of God considering God's word as good as fulfilled for him and his coming children who are of the faith of Abraham. That's why God proclaimed Abraham righteous. And amazingly, God has proclaimed us righteous, justified, right with Him, through our faith in His Son. That's what we do. We do not consider our dead-in-sins-bodies when we sin but look unto the author and finisher of our faith, Jesus Christ. We confess that the promise of God to Abraham was and is fulfilled by Abraham's "Seed" and we are right with God because of it.

What a provision! "The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us of all sins" (1 Jn. 1:5).

It is blasphemy and a horror to take sin lightly (forgivable, but horrible). It is just as blasphemous to think that we must do something to earn God's forgiveness and favor.