Christian Doctrine

Alive & Active

Image result for feeding the poor

 

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost.” Titus 3:5

 

“Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” James 2:17

 

There is a kind of faith that does not save, and the only way for you or me to distinguish between the faith of Christ Jesus that saves, and a faith that may profess Christ but does not save, is by what that faith produces.

 

Jesus said, “Just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.” Matthew 7:20 NLT

 

Being aware there’s a possibility of having a false assurance of salvation makes me want to be absolutely certain. I don’t want to go through life thinking I’m saved if I’m not. Jesus makes this truth exceedingly clear in several passages. One such scripture is Matthew 7—in verses 22 & 23 Our Lord said,  “Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”

How horrifying would that be?

Once we are fully assured of our own salvation and we are continuing to grow in that faith daily, God’s love should compell us to compassionately speak the entire truth to all. When we do, it’s usually not popular with the world, but also with many who have joined themselves to the church and yet are still of the world—those who don’t know the real Jesus Christ.

 

“A faith that saves is actively producing the virtues of Christ within the believer.”

 

The virtues of godliness perform—they do stuff—they’re active. The working of His Holy Spirit within is reproducing all the attributes of God in those who belong to Christ. In theological language it’s called being sanctified—set apart from the world to become holy, just as He is holy. Our works of righteousness (good works) can never save us, yet the reason God did save us is so that we can, and will, do good works (Ephesians 2:10).

 

Enjoy these beautiful lines from “The Book of Praise.”

 

Tis from the mercy of our God

That all our hopes begin;

His mercy saved our souls from death,

And washed our souls from sin.

His Spirit, through the Savior shed,

Its sacred fire imparts,

Refines our dross and love divine,

Rekindles in our hearts.

Thence raised from death, we live anew;

And justified by grace,

We hope in glory to appear,

And see our Father’s face.

Let all who hold this faith and hope

In holy deeds abound;

Thus faith approves itself sincere,

By active virtue crowned.

Advertisements
Categories: Christian Doctrine, Church, Devotional, Faith, Growing in Faith, Poem, Poetry, Salvation, Sanctification, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scripture Alone (Sola Scriptura)

Image result for bible

 

It’s painful and sad to hear a preacher trying to explain away a wrong interpretation of scripture. Mans’ nature has always been to create a God of their own, which fits their lifestyle and beliefs. Falsehood runs rampant throughout communities of people who say they have Christ, and yet Christ does not have them—they trust in something more than the finished work of Christ. Worshipping a God of their own imaginations, they’re inculcated with a wrong theology based in humanistic reasoning. We can never come to know God that way.  

 

I remember several times throughout my 40 years of bible study (intermittently), when I’d read something I did not like. It didn’t fit with my idea of God. The enemy is good at offering us alternative meanings that we’re more comfortable with. But I praise God that I learned how necessary it was for me to humble myself and allow the Spirit to lead me into a proper understanding. The scriptures mean what they say. When the text is didactic, we cannot monkey around with its meaning, such as in the epistles of the New Testament. Where the text is a narrative, giving an historical account, we need to have more discernment from the Spirit. We must be very careful, prayerfully studying with a mind yeilded to the Spirit, before trying to claim a truth drawn from inference out of a historical narrative.  

To the intellectually humble, the Lord will give understanding and spiritual wisdom. Surprisingly, the very concepts we had difficulty accepting will be the same truths which end up blessing us the most. Often, we’ve simply had wrong understandings of them, or did not have the complete picture of that truth and the reason for it. Remember what God said, My ways are not your ways. My thoughts are not like your thoughts. Mine are so much higher than yours—as high as the heavens are above the earth. This is why we MUST allow Him to teach us, rather than trying to reason from our own minds. He is God, we are not. 

 

“…Be transformed by the renewing of your mind…” Romans 12:2b 

“…Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.” Colossians 3:10 

 

By Scripture Alone — Sola Scriptura 

What we mean when we say “Scripture Alone” is that here on earth the only thing which has supreme authority over the church is scripture—God’s word. The church is to be in subjection to the scriptures, rather than any member or group within the church usurping its authority—going beyond or subtracting from what has been revealed within it. We do acknowledge that Christ has delegated some authority to His church (to be discussed). The bible not only reveals to us what the truth is, the scriptures are also our Master’s explicit instruction manual. Adamantly proclaiming that the bible is our only supreme authority on earth comes in response to the church’s errors of superseding and adding to scripture.  

 

Scores of heresies have been imaginatively promulgated and thrust upon congregants of various assemblies, compelling them to participate. The veneration of and praying to Saints is idolatry. There’s been the false notion of purgatory and selling of indulgences. There has been the priest’s erroneous use of absolution and forgiving of sins, and a host of other heresies which have wrought much harm to the true church. There was the practice of purchasing deceased loved ones from purgatory, purporting that it would allow them entrance into eternal life in heaven. These are merely a few examples of a plethora of errors which have plagued us. Not to mention the numerous atrocities perpetrated by the church’s use of false authority spanning several centuries. The bible does not support any of these things of which we speak. In fact, many of them are in direct opposition to what God has declared to us in His infallible, authoritative word. 

 

“This concept (Sola Scriptura) came to the fore publicly during Luther’s famous confrontation with the rulers of the state church at the Diet of Worms on April 18, 1521.” Dr. R.C. Sproul 

 

Scores of books relate these events and several films depict Martin Luther’s 1521 appearance before this Roman Catholic council. 

 

Martin Luther was a professor of biblical interpretation at the university of Wittenberg. Earlier that same year (1521) he’d been excommunicated by the Pope. His works subsequent to the 95 theses had set off a chain of reform all across Europe. He was then called upon to appear before the Diet (assembly) of the Holy Roman Empire to answer for charges of heresy. Bound by Christ to remain faithful, he refused to recant.  

 

Standing before the papacy, Luther valiantly stated, “Unless I am convinced by sacred scripture or by evident reason, I cannot recant, for my conscience is held captive by the word of God.” He went on to state, “To act against conscience is neither right nor safe. Here I stand, God help me.” 

 

Sola Scriptura was Luther’s primary thrust or emphasis at this trial before a spiritually illegitimate council, which had blatantly usurped authority over God’s holy word. And as Luther too had earlier pointed out, we know that it is possible for a pope, a pastor, or even a church council to err and make mistakes. Yet the word of God is perfect and does not err.  

 

The only absolutely authoritative written source of Divine revelation is the scripture itself. There is also what we call “General Revelation,” which is drawn from creation, as we see expounded in Romans 1:20 — “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”  

 

Many of the Psalms too espouse this concept of general revelation—things we learn about God by what He has made. “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” Psalm 19:1b 

 

In one of my recent messages, I stated that “Creation in its entirety is designed to reflect the glory of God. By observing the universe, we comprehend a glimpse of His divine; wisdom, love, power and splendor.” 

 

The scriptures are special revelation, rather than general revelation. Primary in the tension between Catholicism and Protestantism, from Luther on down through the years, has been over “Special Revelation.” Protestants proclaim the truth that there is only one source of special revelation, and that being scripture. But the church of Rome espoused the erroneous belief in two sources of special revelation—scripture and church tradition. But Sola Scriptura was not a concept born during the reformation. It was espoused by many church fathers throughout the preceding 1500 years. 

 

“The Scriptures alone are the proper source from which Christian doctrine and morals should be extracted.” Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430 AD) 

 

“I have learned to hold only the holy scripture inerrant.” Augustine 

 

 Rome held the Council of Trent in response to Luther and the Protestant doctrine. This council was spread out over a few years, holding various sessions. It was during the 4th session that the Roman Catholic church erroneously declared the truths of God to be found in both scripture and in the church’s historic traditions. The way it’s stated in the first draft of that session, says “The truth of God is contained partly in scripture and partly in tradition.” In effect this would mean that our doctrine should be drawn half from God and half from man. Granted, the traditions were from the history of the church. But the church is made up of fallible humanity. Redeemed or not, we are still not perfect. Not only is this so, but also: the bible is a perfect and complete revelation and needs no additions—explanation and exposition, yes—additions or subtractions, no. 

 

The bible clearly teaches that the idea which purports mankind can become perfectly sinless in this life, is glaringly false. If you’re not so sure about that, read Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 7, which is only one of many references we could offer to demonstrate that what is known in theological circles as the doctrine of perfectionism is erroneous. But that’s an entire issue in itself which can be addressed at another time. 

 

Our focus here is to declare that scripture is our only source of written revelation and the only written authority that can bind absolutely (though it’s not the only authority). During the reformation came the affirmation that the bible was the “Vox Dei” meaning “Voice of God,” or the “Werbum Dei”: the “Word of God.” It is inerrant because it comes to us through God the Holy Spirit’s superintendence. The bible is inspired to the extent that God is its’ author, even though it is transmitted to us through human writers. Human writers, admittedly are fallible. But we believe that God so assisted these particular 40 human individuals so as to accurately transcribe His intended meaning, His words, without flaw. Scripture declares itself to be authoritative. 

 

 In wrapping up this compendium on Scripture Alone, I’d like to affirm that God has given the church on earth authority. It has authority to teach, exhort, rebuke and to discipline, according to scripture. It has the authority and command to preach the Gospel and shine the light it has been given. The church has authority to act as the preservers of the truths found in scripture. It is to act as salt in arresting corruption and in preserving the word of God. It is given authority to speak and pray in Jesus’ name. No, we do not deny that the church has been granted some degree of authority, and yet its authority is always subject to the scrutiny of the word of God, the Bible. And so, we proclaim “Sola Scriptura.” 

 

Please note the articles yet to come on the Five Solas. We will cover: Faith’s relation to works of righteousness, the grace of God, Christ alone is sufficient. And finally an article on the purpose behind it all: the glory of God. Blessings to all!

Categories: Bible, Christian Doctrine, Christian Living, Church, Reformation, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Reclaiming Truth from Error

Image result for martin luther nailing theses

God has always had His faithful remnant—those who hold to the true gospel of Jesus Christ and the doctrines given through His holy Apostles. And yet, much of that doctrine, along with the genuine essence of the Good news down through history, has gone through periods of being horrendously obfuscated for many. It was progressively obscured for centuries by the devilish deceptions imposed upon the minds of a great number of professing Christians. Much heresy was perpetuated by the Roman Catholic state church. But praise God! He has raised up genuinely heroic reformers who, though threatened with being ostracized, excommunicated, imprisoned, or even killed, shone the light of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ.  

 

We do not reject or deny the salvation of individuals simply because of what denomination they may be. We hold that God has, and will continue to lead many souls across the threshhold of eternal life in Christ regardless of their denomination. Requisite, however, is the hearing of the truth of the gospel. So long as they are exposed to the scriptures, or have had the Gospel of Christ preached to them, for faith comes through hearing the word of God. 

 

Probably the best-known event which effectually launched those trying years of reformation transpired on October 31, 1517, when in defiance of the hierarchal reign of religious tyranny, Martin Luther valiantly nailed his 95 theses to the door of Wittenberg Castle church. There were myriad truths to be reclaimed—truth which had been hazed over by powerful Catholicism. And out of this reforming movement came Protestantism, blazing with luminary, life-giving truth.  

 

Jesus said that He would build His church, and that the gates of hell would not prevail against it. This magnificent promise continues to be a comforting balm of assurance, especially in our society’s current climate. It’s heartening to know our Lord has things well in hand—we need that affirmation. Because, pseudo Christianity is again on the rise, and a plethora of bogus doctrines are promulgated. False gospels abound and antichrists are plentiful. Most of these are nothing new, but merely old heresies packaged a bit differently than they were in the past to better deceive modern day man. Thankfully, God’s word remains flawless, and we strive to defend the faith delivered by our fathers—its precious authenticity, “against the novel opinions of its opponents.” (Augustine)  

 

If we were to condense some of the most dynamic truths recaptured by the reformation and communicated them, at the heart of such a synopsis would surely be the Five Solas; particularly in reference to soteriology (the doctrine of salvation). But equally important is the authority and inerrancy of scripture in juxtaposition with that of the church and its traditions. Sola is the Latin word for “alone.”

 

THE FIVE SOLAS ARE: 

  1. Sola Scriptura:  Scripture Alone: The Bible alone is our highest authority. 
  2. Sola FideFaith Alone: We’re saved through faith alone, apart from works.  
  3. Sola GratiaGrace Alone: We’re saved by God’s grace alone, apart from law. 
  4. Solus ChristusChrist Alone: Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and High Priest, or Mediator. 
  5. Soli Deo GloriaTo the Glory of God Alone: All that we do is for the glory of God alone.  

 

We affirm the faith delivered to us by Jesus’ holy Apostles who teach us that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone. We also affirm the inerrancy and supreme authority of scripture. 

 

Taking each of these vital truths individually, for the understanding of everyone, I’ve already given each of them a brief explanation above. To treat them more thoroughly, I’ll be following up with truncated articles to expound each definition with corresponding examples and applications in succeeding posts and links. We will also discuss regeneration by faith alone, and the righteous works which invariably will follow.

 

These truths are vital for selecting which church to join ourselves to. They are vital for understanding how to be saved. Knowing them can aid us in detecting false doctrine and error. This is why I’ve begun with the most important of the “Alones”—Scripture Alone, from which all five are validated.

 

Please subscribe to be notified when the highly important coverage of these topics are posted. May God bless you with His presence and bolster your peace, strength, hope & joy today.

 

Categories: Bible, Christian Doctrine, Christian Living, Church, People, Providence, Salvation, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

God’s Mysterious Ways

Image result for mysterious God

Today I wanted to share with you one of the great poems of old which expresses the poignant thoughts of many of Jesus’ Saints down through the years. I find it evocative,  stirring deep feelings of awe and filled with reverant compulsions to worship our mighty God. Enjoy.

 

 

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm. 

 

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never-failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sov’reign will. 

 

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head. 

 

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face. 

 

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flow’r. 

 

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain. 

 

William Cowper, 1774  

Copyright Public Domain

 

Please turn on notifications so that you’ll be alerted to new posts.

For those who are truly interested in Christianity, and want to know what the bible teaches about God, about mankind, and about being Saved from our sins, please be sure to catch my upcoming series of posts on “Reclaiming Truth from Error,” In them, I’ll be discussing sound biblical doctrine, which every soul needs to be aware of.

Have a great day, and God Bless You!

 

 

Categories: Christian Doctrine, Christian Living, Faith, Poem, Poetry, Providence, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Power to Spare — Part 3

Image result for Jesus ascending

Today we bring the word of God to bear on the difficulties we face from day to day. We have been supplied with everything we need to live victorious, joyful lives in Christ. We all are like David facing various Goliaths, and without understanding the “what,” we’ll never learn the “how,” in overcoming stubborn sins. We must know the legal facts concerning our case. Jesus is the Judge and He is kindly dispositioned toward us.

 

Being raised up with Christ also means that all that is true of Christ is now true of us, because we’re “in Him.” Let’s say I put a piece of paper inside my Bible. Whatever happens to my Bible happens to that piece of paper. If I take my Bible home, the piece of paper goes home too. If I drop my Bible, the paper drops. The paper is in the Bible. And the believer is in Jesus Christ. We are totally identified with Him. 

 

In Him “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col. 2:3). While it takes a lifetime to discover and mine out those treasures, they’re ours in Christ. In Christ we have the surpassing riches of God’s grace—His kindnesses toward us (Eph. 2:7). In Christ, we have been made complete, so that He is now our “all in all” (Col. 2:10; 3:11). If we’re in Christ, we have everything we need for life and godliness through His precious and magnificent promises (2 Pet. 1:3-4). 

 

Paul states here (Col. 3:1) the mind-boggling truth (which he also states in Eph. 2:6) that we have been raised up with Christ, who is now seated at the right hand of God. We’re seated there in Him! When you look up all the places in the New Testament that refer to Christ’s being seated at the right hand of God (the phrase comes from Ps. 110:1), they generally fall into three categories: 

 

First, it refers to Christ’s supreme power.

Ephesians 1:20-21, Paul prays that we might know: 

… What is the surpassing greatness of His power toward us who believe. These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. 

 

You can’t get any greater power than that! He is not yet fully exercising that power, but is awaiting the time when His enemies will be made a footstool for His feet (Ps. 110:1; Heb. 1:13; 10:13). But He is now seated at the right hand of the power of God (Luke 22:69). And we are there in Him! Paul’s application of this in relation to our battle against sin is (Rom. 6:12-13): 

 

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its lusts, and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 

 

Secondly, being seated at God’s right hand refers to Christ’s sufficient pardonHebrews 1:3 states, 

And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. 

 

The fact that Jesus Christ is now sitting at the right hand of the Father means that He obtained complete pardon for all our sins.

 

Hebrews 10:12-14 states: 

But He, having offered one sacrifice for sins for all time, sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time onward until His enemies be made a footstool for His feet. For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. 

 

If we’re in Him at the Father’s right hand, we can be assured that He has forgiven all our sins. The enemy has no basis to accuse us (Rev. 12:10). We’re accepted in Christ (Rom. 15:7). 

 

Thirdly, the fact that Jesus Christ is now sitting at the right hand of the Father means that we are the objects of Christ’s sympathetic prayers 

 

In the context of our sufferings, Romans 8:33-34 assures us, 

Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 

 

When you get discouraged and lose hope, it’s encouraging to know that your mother or father or a faithful friend is praying for you. But family and friends are only human; they can’t pray for you constantly. But the fullness of Deity dwells in the Lord Jesus Christ (Col. 2:9), and He is at the Father’s right hand interceding for you in your weakness (Heb. 7:25; 8:1). So when you battle temptation or you wrestle with discouragement, remember that you’re in Christ. You shared in His death and resurrection. You’re seated with Him at the right hand of God, where He has all power, you have all pardon, and you have His prayers. You win against sin by living in light of your identity in the risen Lord Jesus Christ. 

 

But, you still may wonder, how does this work? How do we implement it practically? 

 

To win the battle against sin, constantly seek to understand and meditate on your identity in the risen Christ.

 

 

  1. Our new life is now hidden with Christ in God.

Colossians 3:3b: “Your life is hidden with Christ in God.” What does Paul mean by this? First, he may be taking a swipe at the false teachers, who emphasized secret or hidden truths for those who would be initiated into their so-called “philosophy.” He’s saying that we Christians are the ones with real hidden truths that the world cannot know. Outwardly, we look like everyone else in the world. But our real life—eternal life—is hidden with Christ in God. The world can’t understand it, but it’s true. 

 

This phrase may also point to the security of our new life in Christ. In Psalm 31:20 David says of those who take refuge in God, “You hide them in the secret place of Your presence from the conspiracies of man; You keep them secretly in a shelter from the strife of tongues.” (See, also, Ps. 27:5.) If our life is hidden with Christ in God, we’re safe there. 

 

A third implication of the truth that our life is hidden with Christ in God is that it needs to be mined out as a buried treasure. These truths that God declares about us in Christ may not be immediately obvious, but if we’ll take the time and effort to dig them out of God’s Word, they will be like gold and silver to us (Ps. 19:7-11; Matt. 13:44-45). But, how do we find these treasures? 

 

2. We seek the things above by making them the continual pursuit of our thinking.

 

There are two commands in our text: “Keep seeking the things above”; and, “Set your mind on the things above.” Both are present imperatives, suggesting a continual process. To keep seeking these things means to make the truths of Christ as revealed in God’s Word our constant pursuit, our focus, our aim. Just as worldly people get up early and are focused day after day on pursuing material things, so Christians should be devoted to pursuing the things of Christ. 

 

This doesn’t mean that we should drop out of life and spend all our time meditating on spiritual truth. The Lord expects us to work and live in this world. But it does mean, as Jesus put it, that instead of working for the food which perishes, we should work for the food which endures to eternal life (John 6:27). We should seek first God’s kingdom and righteousness (Matt. 6:33). We should begin each day thinking about God’s perspective: We’re separate from this evil world, dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ. We think about Christ as our life, who lives in and through us. Throughout the day, we keep bringing our thoughts back, again and again, to those things which are true of us in Christ. 

 

To “set your mind on the things above” shows that this continual pursuit of the things above involves our thinking. The Greek word means, “Have your whole attitude characterized by those things.” The present tense implies that we must make repeated choices to focus our thoughts not on the flesh, but on the things which are true of us in Christ so that our whole outlook is determined by these truths. We will view ourselves, not as citizens of this world, but as having died and now being raised up with Christ, so completely identified with Him that He is our very life. 

 

The truest thing about you is what God says is true, not what you may feel. How you think about yourself determines how you act. Your thought life also determines, to a large extent, your emotions. Here Paul is saying that we must constantly, by deliberate choice, focus our thoughts on the risen Christ and on the truth that we are totally identified with Him. In Christ, we have been separated from this evil world and from our old nature which seeks to pull us back into sin. Now, we should repeatedly think, “I am now in Christ.” As that truth shapes your identity, it becomes the key to a holy life! That’s how you win against sin. One final thought: 

The motivation for seeking the things above is that when Christ is revealed, we also will be revealed with Him in glory.

 

Colossians 3:4: “When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.” What an amazing truth! When Christ, who right now is our life, returns, we will discover the full truth about ourselves in Him. We will be revealed with Him in glory! Then we will know fully, just as we have been fully known (1 Cor. 13:12). As 1 John 3:2-3 states, 

 

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 

 

Knowing that one day we will be revealed with Christ in glory motivates us to godly living right now. Seeing ourselves in Christ is the key to winning the battle against sin. 

 

Conclusion 

Years ago, a plastic surgeon noticed some interesting things about the people whose faces he operated on. For some, the operation resulted in immediate and lasting changes in their personalities. People who had been embarrassed about some disfigurement became confident and outgoing after the problem was fixed. 

 

But in spite of successful surgeries, there were others who insisted that the surgery made no difference at all. The doctor would show them before and after photographs, but the people still insisted, sometimes angrily, that their faces were no different. They refused to believe the truth and went on living just as they had before, dominated by their previous disfigurement, which no longer existed (These stories are in Maxwell Maltz, Psycho-cybernetics [Prentice-Hall, 1960]. I do not recommend the book, which is full of spiritual falsehood.) Their lives were not changed because they didn’t believe the truth about the change that had taken place. 

 

As Christians, we’ve been given much more than a face lift. We have died to our old lives and have been raised up to new life in Christ. All that is true of the risen Christ is now true of us. Now we must continually keep seeking and setting our minds on the things above, where our true life is hidden with Christ in God. As we live in light of our new identity in Christ, we will win the battle against sin. 

 

Application Questions 

1. Does a Christian ever reach a point where he is dead to sin in the sense that it no longer tempts him? 

2. How can we believe that we’re dead to sin when we feel so alive to it? Are we just playing mental games? 

3. Practically, how can we seek and set our minds on the things above? What daily habits can help the process? 

5. How would you help a Christian who said, “I feel so weak when I’m tempted; I just can’t resist”? 

 

Categories: Bible, Christian Doctrine, Christian Living, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Power to Spare — Part 2

Welcome to the life giving words of God that we will be using in this post. I hope you’ve read part one of this series. Reading the book of Colossians will help you to understand the context of what we’re talking about—living in the power of the risen Christ!

be-prepared

In our Colossians text we find an empowering master key, both for conquering sins of the flesh, and for practicing godly relationships in the church, the home, the workplace, and the world in general. Here in Colossians the Spirit in essence is saying: 

To win against sin, live in light of your new identity in the risen Christ. 

 

  1. As Christians, we all battle against the sins of the flesh. 

Occasionally you’ll meet a dear saint who claims that he lives above all temptation and sin. That he or she has learned the secret of victory, where they abide in Christ to the point that sin is never a problem! They intimate that they have no more temptation, and they always respond correctly, with never even a wrongful thought. I wouldn’t purchase a used car from a person who says that. In order to disprove their claim, just talk to those who live and work with them. You’ll no doubt hear a different story.  

 

I pray that every one of us is able to admit our continuing need for God’s grace and mercy, and confess that we fight a daily battle against the sins of the flesh. These sins are mainly what Paul has in mind when he directs us in Col. 3:2 not to think “on the things that are on earth.” That phrase is repeated verbatim (in the Greek text) in verse 5, where Paul tells us (literally) to put to death our members “that are on earth.” He goes on in 3:5 & 8-9, to list many sins that we may struggle against: immorality, impurity, fleshly passion, evil desire, and greed, along with; anger, wrath, malice, slander, abusive speech, and lying. Paul wouldn’t tell us not to have our minds characterized by these sins, and to put them to death, if we were not going to face some battles concerning these things.  

 

Through the new birth (regeneration or salvation), we are radically different than we were before. We were once enslaved to sin, but Christ has set us free—free to choose the things above and walk in the Spirit, rather than being controlled by the lusts of the flesh. Our old nature, however, was not eradicated! It’s up to us to seize upon the power made available to us to resist temptation by walking in the Spirit, which is relying on God’s power. It is great news that we are no longer bound to obey the demands of the flesh. As Christians, we have to actively fight against these sins, BY living in the victory that Christ won for us. Though we still sin at times, that’s not what we want to do—we want to be holy as He is holy. Our hearts and minds have been redeemed, so that we now want what God wants. And that brings us to the question: How can we be more obedient to the One we love? 

 

soldier

 

  1. To win the battle against sin, we must understand our new identity in Christ.

 

These verses are very Christ-centered. Paul mentions “Christ” four times in four verses. There are two sides to our identity in HimFirstly: 

 

  1. We died with Christ.

In Colossians 2:12, Paul states that we were “buried with [Christ] in baptism.” And then in verse 20 he says that we died with Christ to the elementary principles of the world, which I believe refers to a rules-based approach to God. Now again in Col. 3:3 he explains, For you have died Jesus wants us to understand that when we trusted in Christ we became identified with Him in His death. (See, also, Rom. 6:3-11; 7:4, 6; Gal. 2:19-20; 6:14.) 

 

The problem with this truth is that I don’t feel dead toward sin, or to the world. In fact, to be honest, when I am tempted to sin (which is often), my old nature feels very much alive and well! There’s a strong inner desire to indulge in sin because the sinful flesh is still in my body waging war against my mind, but it’s not in my spirit. So then, what does it mean that I am dead to sin, in Christ? And how can this help me to overcome sin in my life? 

 

One answer lies in our remembrance that death, in the Bible, never means cessation of existence, but rather, it means separation. When we die a physical death, the soul is separated from the body. To be identified with Christ in His death means that I am separated from the power of the flesh, from the power of sin, and from the grip of this evil world. I am now a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven, so that I do not have to obey the sinful laws of my old country, of this sinful world. 

 

I like using the illustration of a man who was a citizen of a country which had imposed a 6 p.m. curfew, but then he moved to the United States and becomes a citizen there. He’s no longer under that old curfew law. But because he has lived under that old law for so long, he still may feel if he’s bound to keep it. But the truth is, he’s not. He died to that old law and its power over him so that he now can live under the new laws of freedom that characterize his new country. 

 

Here’s a different analogy of the same principle. I grew up sort of country, so I’ve seen a lot of old cars sitting up on jacks in people’s yards. If you’ve ever seen a car with the wheels off the ground, you know that (if it runs) you can step on the gas pedal and the wheels will spin like crazy, but the car doesn’t go anywhere. The wheels are separated from the ground. When you’re tempted to sin, your old nature may get all revved up and make a lot of noise, but we now can say, “My old nature died with Christ—I am separated from its power.” It has been rendered inoperative, so that it doesn’t have to go anywhere! As Paul says in Romans 6:11, “Even so, consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” 

 

Therefore, it’s not a matter of feeling dead to sin, but rather it’s a legal fact. If we’re joined to Christ by faith, we’re one with Him in His death. We’re divorced from the old life, which was like a tyrant, keeping us in sin. But now we’re married to a new husband who gives us new life and freedom from sin. But we didn’t just die—we have new life! The stellar flip side is this — 

 

  1. We have been raised up with Christ to the right hand of God.

 

Paul mentions this in Colossians 2:12-13: 

… having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised up with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead. When you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions. 

 

Now, again in Col. 3:1 — “Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.” In the Greek text the word “if” does not imply uncertainty. We can be certain. And Paul is writing that God wants us to consider the implications of it. Like being united with Christ in His death, being raised up with Him is not a matter of feeling, but one of fact. When Jesus was raised from the dead, if by faith we’re in Him, we also were raised. 

 

Being raised up with Christ teaches us that salvation is not a matter of human decision or will power, but rather of God’s mighty power imparting life to us back when we were dead in our sins. Salvation is not making a resolution to kick our bad habits to the curb, or to clean up our act. It rather involves the life-giving power of God, who raised Christ from the dead. It means, as the Puritan, Henry Scougal, put it, “The life of God in the soul of man.” It means that we are so united with Christ that He is our life! Col. 3:4 says When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.”
 

Just as a branch draws its life from the vine (John 15:1-6), so we must live in dependence upon the supernatural power of the risen Christ. We place no trust in our own human strength or will power, as if we merely receive a little help from God now and then when we think we need it. It means living in union with the risen person of Jesus Christ. He is our new identity. 

 

(To Be Continued)  Have  a Power packed day in Christ! God Bless You.

Categories: Bible, Christian Doctrine, Christian Living, Devotional, Faith, Growing in Faith, Sanctification, Self Improvement, Success, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pure in Heart

Image result for pearl

I pray all will re-familiarize themselves with Jesus’ parable in Matthew 13: 45&46 — The Pearl of Great Worth. 

 

In eastern cultures, the pearl is a beautiful simile, which affords us an opportunity to discover significant symbolic value in Jesus’ parable. There’s a lot more to this parable of the Kingdom of God, but for now, we pluck up this up one thing that we may elucidate its truth.

 

Momentarily we set aside the aesthetic and artistic desirability of pearl and instead discover its symbolic worth, by discerning the spiritual truth it represents. By doing so it may aid us in discovering the true interpretation of Jesus’ parable of “The Pearl of Great Worth.” I hope to offer that interpretation more fully in a later post.

 

The pearl is produced by a living organism. Its manufacture is the result of injury or harm to the life—to the health of the creature. Some foreign thing such as a grain of sand intrudes, and becomes lodged within the oyster or clam. The shellfish then secretes nacre, or mother of pearl, coating the harmful intruder with layer upon layer, until a pearl is formed.

 

It’s very suggestive that the equivalent word for “pearl” in New Testament Greek is margarites, meaning purity. That word was likely derived from the Sanskrit word for purity. The pearl is a symbol of purity and innocence.

 

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8

 

Purity (pearl) is the response of a living organism to the introduction of something harmful into its being. Think of the introduction of sin into the human heart in the Garden of Eden—certainly a very injurious contamination.

 

Perhaps it’s a person’s response to the harsh realities of life in a sin cursed world which will determine whether or not the production of purity begins? By response, I’m intimating “faith.”

 

“For it is by grace you are saved through faith…” Eph. 2:8a

 

We can see the similarity between a grain of sand entering a clam, which is first an irritant to the shellfish, but later on, if not dealt with, it can actually destroy the life of the clam. God has purposes for allowing evil to temporarily enter into the world, of which, we are woefully incapable of comprehending. Knowing the end from the beginning, God allowed sin to enter every human heart, for a purpose. Remember, He has the cure for sin, paid our penalty for sin, and makes a way for us to be sin-free again, through faith in Christ Jesus.

 

As a former weight lifter, I can attest to the fact that resistance builds strength. And, “…Suffering produces perseverance…” (Ro. 5: 3), and, “the trying of our faith works patience.” We see this principle demonstrated throughout scripture and in our lives on this big spinning rock called earth.

 

God uses hardships, difficulties, trials, persecution, etc., as tools in sanctifying us (making us pure, or holy). And all of these bad things result because of sin.

 

There’s much more I could say, but I wanted to leave you to ponder the simple thought I’ve presented. For though simple, I believe it sublime. Comments welcome.

Categories: Bible, Christian Doctrine, Christian Living, Jesus' Parable, Sanctification, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Three Phases of Salvation

 

Been Saved, Being Saved & Will Be Saved

 

Without a lucid understanding of God’s entire and perfect plan for the redemption of mankind, certain scriptures could possibly be confusing. There are three phases to salvation; hence, the bible uses three tenses in delineating the doctrine of salvation. For me personally, it took many years to understand this—I was saved at 12 years old.

 

Briefly, let’s lay the following stone of truth that we may clear a path to our main topic.

We are saved by a free gift from God called Grace. Grace is bestowed upon those who believe and place their trusting faith in Christ Jesus— the truth. And forever after that, God’s grace continues working for the soul who is saved. Grace is not a once and done kind of thing. When the Lord regenerates us (2 Cor. 5:17) we’ve been born again, and a magnificent transformation has begun. All that we shall be discussing here is included in the works of God’s amazing Grace. In fact, all of God’s dealings with every soul He has regenerated (saved) is included in the works of His grace, even His discipline. All the various giftings for service and for glorifying Him, and for the propagation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ are gifts of grace and works of grace: God’s work, not ours. His grace even fulfills every one of our needs and provides love, peace, joy, bodily provisions and inner strength, etc., etc.. When it comes time for our bodies to turn back to dust, the Lord even gifts us with grace to die with inner peace and assurance, looking forward to where we’re going.

 

SALVATION

 

The study of salvation, known among theologians as soteriology, includes all three tenses of past, present and future. The bible uses all three in referring to those of us who’ve been redeemed and are heaven bound. Some verses indicate that we who are in Christ have been saved. Other passages say we are being saved, while still others say we will be saved. The truth in Christ reveals all three to be correct at the same time. The past tense is true because God is doing this work of saving us, and that which from our perspective is yet to be done, is so certain that we can speak of it as already having taken place. If we have truly believed, then we have been saved, and the next two phases or stages both: are happening, and will happen, just as sure as water is wet. God is not bound by time—He is the creator of it and is outside of time, so He sees the completed products of His grace. He sees you and I as we will be in heaven. Time is for us, though it serves God’s purpose. He does not need the differing tenses, but we do, because we are bound within time, until it, at a final point, shall cease to exist. From our current perspective we could say that eternity is one exceedingly long and never ending day.

 

In view of demonstrating the varying tenses scripture employs I’ve cited three verses—each refers to salvation and each uses a different tense.

 

First, we have Past Tense.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” Ephesians 2:8–9.

 

Next, we move to present tense.

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 1 Corinthians 1:18

 

Finally, here’s an example verse containing both the past and the future tense of salvation.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! Romans 5:9

 

This last verse is the perfect launching pad from which to discuss all three tenses. Because the doctrine of salvation, known in theological language as Soteriology (repetition deliberate) makes it exceptionally clear that there are 3 Phases to Salvation.

Those who have been born again of the Spirit, and who belong to Christ Jesus, AKA the redeemed or believers are right now in the middle, or current phase of salvation.

The gospel of Christ discloses:

  1. What has already taken place in the past for those who believe.
  2. What is currently taking place within those who believe.
  3. What will happen to those who believe when Jesus returns.

 

At this point we should identify the biblical terms for each of these 3 stages of salvation. They are as follows:

  1. Justification
  2. Sanctification
  3. Glorification

pho1

JUSTIFICATION

Through the atoning blood of Jesus, shed on the cross, that is, through His sacrificial death, we are forever justified before God. Justified means our sins have been forgiven.  A simple way to remember what justification accomplishes is “It’s just as if I never sinned!” Our sins are taken away and we are covered (covered is the meaning of the word atonement) by the righteousness of Jesus. We are given the righteousness of Christ as a covering. The blood of Christ cleanses us and His righteousness covers us. We are made right in the sight of God, by God Himself. To justify is actually a legal term and is important in keeping with God’s nature of being a “just” (right and good) judge. Jesus took our sins upon Himself, and in return covered us with His righteousness, making us right with God. We are straight up and down, perpendicular or justified before God. As a good judge God has seen to it that justice was done when He poured out His wrath against sin as Jesus hung on the cross. He saw to it that the penalty for sin was imposed and carried out. Jesus became sin for us, so that He could take the penalty that we deserved. Now that our sin debt has been paid, we have been (past tense) justified in God’s sight.

Jesus Christ is our deliverer! He delivered us from the penalty for sin. The penalty is death. This is being Justified.

 

But wait, what about the real us on the inside? I’m only covered with righteousness, viewed that way by God, but not righteous in actuality. We still sometimes sin! God did not pay our sin debt for us just so we could continue being such horrible sinners. On the contrary, He has justified us so that He could give to us His Holy Spirit, that we may have the requisite power to say “No!” to our sin nature, and overcome it in this life. Simply being justified is not the final product of salvation. Once justified we begin the growing process of sanctification. We are becoming holy, like Jesus. He is our perfect and exhaustive deliverer. God’s power in the form of His Holy Spirit doesn’t only give us the ability to do what pleases God, He also gives us the desire to do what is right and what pleases God—the urge to do His will, and the power to work it out.

“For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” Philippians 2:13 NLT

 

I’ve been saving this point for right here, but first allow me to preface it with the following. I myself still have urges to do what the sinful flesh wants, like to be noticed as someone of importance. Vanity and pride still wage war against my new life in the Spirit, and this conflict will continue for you and for me until we are glorified. Romans 7 & 8 make this clear. But I am saved. I love God and all that is good. But my flesh still loves the world. I have to deny myself (the flesh), take up my cross and follow Jesus. I must decide daily to die to the flesh and choose to love God more than myself. See Luke 9:23, and Galatians 2:20.

I’ve stated that to ask, which do YOU love more? Oh wow, yes, I just shifted to a personal and pointed voice, because I love YOU and I don’t want to see you be eternally lost. But this is between you and God, I’m just a messenger. I believe a true test for whether or not we are saved could be: which do we love more—God or ourselves? Has God given you the DESIRE to please Him? If so, you are saved. If you choose to follow the flesh over the Spirit most of the time, you probably do not have saving faith. But you still can be saved by TRUSTING Christ with your life. Among other things, this involves doing things His way, knowing that He is going to give us everything that is good. I can humble myself because God has promised to exalt me. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time.” 1 Peter 5:6

 

SANCTIFICATION      pho2

To sanctify in the biblical sense means: to set apart as holy, to be used for holy purposes. The words; Saint, Holy, Set-apart, and Sanctify all come from the same root word in the Greek.

Currently, those who are in Christ are saved, and also are being saved, by undergoing sanctification: maturing and growing in holiness. True believers live in the resurrection power of Christ. We are buried with Him by baptism into His death, identifying with Him in His death, so that we may also rise with Him to walk in a new life by His power. We are being conformed to the image of God’s holy Son, Jesus. During this sanctifying process Jesus delivers us from the power of sin, giving us His Spirit. Holy Spirit is the dynamic employed to overcome personal sin, and live in a way that is pleasing to God. Jesus and Holy Spirit are both praying for us.

 

 

GLORIFICATION

When Jesus comes and calls us home to heaven and the saved are raised to life, we shall receive new spiritual bodies that do not sin—ever! The bodies we have now will be raised and radically changed from fleshly bodies to spiritual bodies (see 1st Corinthians chapter 15). We will be delivered from the very presence of sin. This is the final phase of salvation and it is called glorification.

 

“For those God foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brothers. And those He predestined He also called, those He called He also justified, those He justified He also glorified.” Romans 8:29-30

Did you notice how the “glorified” is in the past tense? That’s because it is so certain to happen! And God sees the completely saved you—after the 3rd phase.

 

Jesus saves us in three ways.

  1. He has delivered us from the penalty of sin—Justified (past).
  2. He is currently delivering us from the power of sin—Sanctifying (present).
  3. Jesus will deliver us from the very presence of sin—Glorified (future).

 

Once glorified we will never again sin, we will never see a sin committed—we will be completely taken away and separated from all that is sinful, evil and wicked—in a utopia known as heaven in the very presence of God with all His splendor and glory. God’s plan for the redemption of mankind is flawless, genius, and displays His love and patience with mankind in an extremely poignant manner.

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8

I pray that you hunger and thirst to know the Lord God with increasing passion, through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He has saved me and set me free from sin.

pho3 

 

If you would like to go a bit deeper and do a proper study of what we’ve discussed here, I recomend prayerful study of the New Testament. But the following is a resource that may help you further. Bakers Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology.

Blessings!

 

 

Categories: Bible, Christian Doctrine, Church, Faith, God's Faithfulness, Salvation, Sanctification, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Blog at WordPress.com.