Church

God’s Will For You II

2nd intro: An Inside Track on God’s Plan — Partnering with Christ 

Jesus wants you and I to have an inside track into heaven’s operations here on earth. He wants us to know and understand His plan. You and I are like the soldiersonly, in this army, the top brass invites all soldiers to see and understand a whole lot of the strategy and plan. When I was in the U.S. Army, officers didn’t tell us soldiers anything, except to bark orders at us.  

good life

Christ Jesus affords discernment to know how to walk in the Spirit, which, basically, is obeying/doing God’s will. After our salvation has been obtained, we develop a deep desire to please our Lord. It’s a love relationship. We then secure the requisite changes in who we are, through the step by step training God’s word affordsThe problem is, the bible isn’t always easy to understand, and that’s why we need good bible teachers. The Spirit will confirm our understanding of truth. 

God does mighty works in us, so that He can then do mighty works through our lives. That’s what He wants to do, and that’s a part of His will for each of us.  S.B.

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Dr. Lehman Strauss

Even though we’re still in the introduction phase of this series, you’ll note nuggets of truths from the bible that we’ll want to treasure up in our hearts, so we can be mentally prepared to garner the greatest benefit from the much meatier things to come. Milk first, meat later. 

 

ENTRY 

 “Not everyone that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 7:21  

Here, Jesus makes it abundantly clear that true salvation always  will result in obedience to the will of God. If we’re to be obedient to God’s will, we certainly must know what His will consists of.  

 

So if we’re not at least seeking God’s will, wanting to know the next step in His plan for us corporately and as individuals, how can we believe we have a close relationship with Him? 

 

It’s important that we’re all on the same page in our understanding of what we mean by “God’s will.” There are different aspects to His will. Each of these facets fit together to form God’s ever unfolding plan from eternity past, which impacts the present, and reveals eternity future. His plan (God’s will) was developed before He created thworld, as we see revealed throughout scripture (e.g., 1st Peter 1:20).  

Sometimes I may interchange the words, God’s “will” with God’s “plan” as well as God’s “purposes.” And let’s not forget the awesome promises He’s made concerning His plan. Here are some of the different aspects of God’s will, each of which will be examined according to their component parts. But we want to focus on numbers 6, 7 & 8. 

 

  1. The redemption of man 
  2. God’s eternal kingdom 
  3. God’s purpose for allowing the existence of wickedness 
  4. God’s promises to us for life on this earth 
  5. God’s promises to us for eternity 
  6. Our transformation into children like Jesus 
  7. The church’s role in His plan on earth today 
  8. Your role as an individual Saint 

 

I’ll be setting forth and expounding scriptures in an attempt to reveal how all of God’s plan fits together. I did not come up with all of this on my own. I’ll be drawing from bible lessons of 27 Doctors of Theology. God has used a plethora of blessed saints to assist my understanding.  It’s important for each of us to find good sound bible teachers whom we can trust. There are lots of them out there who surpass my abilities by leaps and bounds. But God has called me to put this together using my unique way of presenting the truths of His word. Recently I’ve been studying under several dozen leading bible professors who truly walk what they talk. And you can do the same. I highly recommend BBN’s Bible Institute. It’s free!  

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Oh, how I praise God for the collection of Godly men who teach those lessons! What a tremendous blessing it has been to my relationship with Jesus, and also to my comprehension. Out of the 3 dozen or so collection of courses I’ve been through, BBN’s BI is at the top of the list for learnability. The Bible Institute is merely one of many online resources to find trusted conference speakers, seminary professors, bible expositors and wonderful pastors. I myself have been a sub-shepherd under Christ and serving a growing congregation for over 9 years now. I have another pastor over me, and also a chief elder. Thank you, Jesus—I’m so blessed! 

 

Please understand, it’s not my intention to tell you what Christ’s specific will is for your unique service in God’s plan. Each of us must do what is needed for God Himself to show us how we, individually, fit into the overall plan. I will, however, walk you through the steps of how to discover that for yourself.  

 

But the majority of God’s will is universal for all who are saved. Such as His plan for Jesus’ church. It’s God’s will that we all love one another, that we all become more like Jesus, and that we encourage and edify one another. It’s God’s will for every believer to share the gospel with others—He’s going to teach us what to say.  The steps, and acts of obedience, which lead to accomplishing these and many other things, are the same for everyone. But He has a special plan just for you too. It’s highly specific to the talents he’s progrmmed into your DNA. Once we start doing it, WOW! We receive a tremendous sense of purpose and draw great delight from Him.

 

 I heard Dr. Howard Hendricks say: 

 

“Prayer is the hand of faith that translates God’s promises into performances.”  

 

I mention that quote because each action we’ll need to take, and which we’ll be talking about here, is; preceded by prayer, activated by prayer, and performed during prayer. This makes understanding prayer a vital, and valuable parallel study for discerning and doing God’s will. Without communicating with God, we cannot, and will not, know and understand God’s will, nor His plan. 

 

As an example of God’s promises, here’s one you’ve probably heard before. Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Psalm 37:4 

If we’d like to understand how we could possibly have everything our heart desires, this study is for us. This delight in Him, it’s like a secret key. When the way God thinks is delightful to us, He offers more understanding. And when His laws, His holiness and righteousness become delightful to us, our level of wisdom takes a giant leap upward. And since our desires will then be in harmony with His desires, we receive everything we desire. Our desire will be for God’s will to be done. Being united with Christ is very delightful.

Two important points 

  1. God teaches us in increments—bits at a time.  
  2. We will not move forward in understanding, until we’ve been obedient to what He’s already revealed to us (let that sink in). 

 

If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them. James 4:17 

 Davey2

Dr. Stephan Davey

The way we come to love the will of God is by obeying it—doing it. The result is stupendous joy! and great discernment! We begin to see God’s purposes, even in the really horrible things that happens on planet earth. When we obey (do) God’s will we experience the results—the wisdom of His will. Before we can actually experience God’s will, we must do it. Before we can do His will, we must know what it is. And before we can know what it is, we must trust it. Faith in God, is trust in God and in His infallible, authoritative word: the bible. Each one in succession is a prerequisite for the next. 

 

Proverbs 3:5-6  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not to your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and he shall direct your paths.”  

 

 

From these two verses we learn four dynamic truths. As you read each numbered point, go back to the verses and absorb them again.

  1. We must trust God implicitly. 
  2. We cannot trust our own thinking without Him leading our thoughts (I will demonstrate how this is unequivocal, using many clear scriptures). 
  3. Our relationship with God is to impact the way we do anything and everything. We acknowledge Him in every decision we make and every action we take. 
  4. God will show us the way we are to proceed, each and every step of the way. 

 

But there’s a pitfall to watch out for. 

 

It’s in our human nature to become proud of our spiritual knowledge, and pride is always destructive to the human heart. God had revealed so many things to the Apostle Paul to pass on to us, that the Lord allowed Satan to inflict him with a thorn in the flesh, to keep him humble. In 2 Corinthians 12:7 Paul writes: “…Because of these surpassingly great revelations, therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” 

 

That’s very revealing to us. It’s something we need to pay attention to, because pride will also halt our learning—our inculcation of God’s program. Our goal is to remain plugged into His power and wisdom, and continue growing in understanding and doing His will, working in partnership with Christ Jesus. 

Yes, we will make mistakes and come unplugged every once in a while, but we simply confess our sin, He forgives us, and we move on a little wiser than beforeGod often uses our mistakes to teach us, and to keep us dependent upon His grace, driving us to cling that much more tightly to our Savior. We’ll endure hardshiplearn and grow. There’s nothing easy about walking in the Spirit, obeying God. But doing so is the best that life has to offer. He’s going to empower us to succeed!  

 

“For it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13 

“…equip you in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” Hebrews 13:21 

 

We’ve now had the two part introduction and laid the groundwork, offering some of what this series will entail, but we’ve barely spoken of the dynamic and wonderful benefits of walking with Jesus, partnering with God.

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God’s Plan, An Inside Track

How to move under God’s power instead of your own

 

Introducing an exciting new series!

 

“The Good Life is Knowing God & Doing His Will.”

 

Stanley Toussaint

 

God has designed His will to be deeply enjoyable to you. It’s been specifically crafted to be of ultimate benefit to God’s children. Not only has God designed us, He’s also designed a pattern to make us perfectly joyful through knowing Him, resulting in you and I playing an active role in His plan here on earth. 

 

Moving up the straight and narrow road to the good life of joy, contentment and complete satisfaction is what I like to call getting into the gain lane. We gain all the great things our Lord has in store for us. And this concerns all the things God wants you to know, the first of which is: HIM.  

 

 One of the plethora of great bible teachers, through whom I’ve been inculcated with many blessings was Dr. Tom Taylor who said, “It is only by grace that we can know God and respect Him—to know anything about Him!”

 

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I’m deeply grateful that in God’s grace, He has chosen to reveal Himself to you and I. So, if you’re serious about living for Jesus, we’re going to talk about vital essentials here.  God possesses the greatest thought power in the universe, and He wants to share many of those vital thoughts with you. We’ll discover how to put our old way of thinking to death—to open our minds without our brains falling out, so that God may reshape our thinking. Our philosophy of life is transformed to reflect all of the awesomeness of life in Christ.

 

Apostle Paul found what every human heart is searching for—contentment and satisfaction, fulfillment, peace, joy and tremendous purpose. “…For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” Philippians 4:11

His summary of how to find this good life is found in the following power verse, which reveals Paul’s philosophy of life. Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” I understand that by offering this verse here, without explanation, may seem a bit disjointed, but I do have a method, and I promise all the passages shared will coalesce once we get into the study.
We’re going to find out how we can discern the Lord’s leadership, and learn to apply the Master’s leadership principles to help each other. We’re going to discuss the sole means God has ordained for mankind to know His will. It’s how to plug into God’s mind in order for Him to teach us a very specific type of wisdom.

 

This is what Peter was referring to when he writes “Be of one mind.” It’s what Paul was talking about when he told the Corinthians “We have the mind of Christ.” It explains how the following from Acts 2 is possible: “And all that believed were together, and had all things in common.” 

 

“God not only ordains the end, He also ordains the means.” Dr. Howard Hendricks

Dr. H.H.

 

Right now, I want to hit you with a couple bible verses that we’ll be coming back to time and again. We’ll discover that what they teach is the key to everything. They contain the methodology God has prescribed to us, and it’s what we need to do if we hope to get the inside track on God’s plans.

 

Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.

 

While studying The Will of God, I became really excited about being a Christian again, perhaps more so than at any time before. I can’t help but to tell everyone I know how God is blessing my life, and the astounding truths He’s teaching me. For instance, how God’s will is designed for us to enjoy, and doing His will is intensely pleasurable! Being the Creator of life, the Lord knows what you and I need to do in order to get the very most out of life on earth. That’s what He wants to teach us—how to discover and adore His will, and how to do His will, and perceive the path to His blessings.

 

Before we’re through with this series, you’ll be confidently conversant about God’s will, His plan, and your individual role in it, as well as the role of the church as a whole. We’ll begin with the following.

 

  1. A description of God’s will
  2. Discoveries about God’s will
  3. Taking delight in God’s will
  4. Deciding to do God’s will

 

We’ll learn that knowing Jesus Christ and doing His will is the only way to find lasting meaning—to engage in a good, satisfying life. That’s the main thrust of the book of Ecclesiastes, where an aged and wise King Solomon records the summum bonum, the highest possible good. He concludes that if you pile up all your possessions along with all of your life experiences, you’ll find that they do not, and cannot make a full life: they cannot satisfy us. Only by serving God and glorifying Him can a person derive good from life. It’s the purpose for which we were created, so naturally it’s very satisfying.

 

The good life is expressed through industriously applying yourself to whatever God puts before you to do. We eagerly accomplish God’s purposes with vigor, and in so doing He adds vitality to our lives and our efforts. He puts life into your life, and living into your years. God can take the blandness of repetition and turn each recurrence into something brand new every day.

 

Our part is simply to put ourselves at God’s disposal, eager and ready to do stuff. Pardon my highly technical usage of the word “stuff.” I hope you’re smiling, because God’s the one who provides the stuff for you to do, and accomplishing that stuff is where you’ll get the most out of this life on planet earth. Besides, partnering with Jesus is one of the ways we store up treasure for ourselves in heaven.

 

That’s another reason we want to invest ourselves and everything we do into the kingdom to which we belong—God’s kingdom. If we are Christians, then we are citizens of God’s kingdom, and we’re His children, and we’re heirs of the kingdom into which we’re investing. We’re also becoming little microcosms of Jesus, emulating Him in character.

 

As we live for God, we also find Him directing us to invest our lives into other souls. Whatever we have, we use it wisely, investing, sharing and doing. Although money most likely will be involved when we invest in people’s lives, that’s merely a small part of what we’ll be called upon to accomplish. If I have knowledge of how to get to heaven, or, of how to live a good life, how to learn God’s will, and do His will, I need to share that with others. I may invest myself in the kids who live in my neighborhood, or in the widow at the nursing home, or the businessman in my office building. Whatever we have, whatever we are, and whatever we do—it is all used for the glory of God, and for His purposes in moving His program forward here on earth.

 

But in order for any of this to be possible we must learn what God’s will is, and know how to tap into His power to perform our various functions. We’ll need to understand God’s plan—how He is bringing His kingdom to full fruition. We must know what’s most requisite to successfully partner with God in order to propagate His plan—learning how to operate using God’s wisdom and power, instead of our own.

 

I hope & pray you’re onboard to grow along with the rest of us, because I want to see you be happy, fruitful and completely fulfilled. That’s what I want for myself, and so that’s what I hope for you too.

 

To receive this entire course for free, be sure to subscribe for notification when each installment lands here. Stay Blessed! 

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Alive & Active

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“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.

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Scripture Alone (Sola Scriptura)

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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!

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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.

 

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Categories: Bible, Christian Doctrine, Christian Living, Church, People, Providence, Salvation, 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

God’s Matrimonial Marvels

unity

He was less than attractive to look at, but one might say he was cute, if, that is, they were fond of pugs. When hearing Earnest Farnsworth preach, it was impossible to miss the passion in his voice. Accentuating this auditory indicator was his body language, with movements akin to the conductor of some grand orchestra. Right down to the drool on his chin, Earnest’s messages poignantly manifested his love for people, and for God. Oh he was a beautiful soul. That turned up little nose of his, though repulsive to the casual observer, became a beloved feature to those more astute, who knew him well. Many came to adore this man, whom strangers called ugly.

Some Christians have attempted to conceptualize the physical appearance of the Apostle Paul. Tradition has it that he was a slight man, and unseemly to gaze upon. Austerity marked him as a stern person. Yet, on the inside, he was one of the most magnificent souls to have ever lived.  He was so loved by the churches, that upon hearing they may never see his face again they were deeply saddened. “What grieved them most was his statement that they would never see his face again.” Acts 20:38

What is it that resides on the insides, which can so negate these men’s deficiencies in physical aesthetics? What made them so appealing? Both were Christian men—men of God. But there are thousands of Christians who are ugly both inside and out. What makes the difference? Allow me to propose an answer: Perhaps the ugly souls are not really saved at all? My audacity in suggesting this is influenced by Jesus’ own words.

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 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!” Matthew 21-23


“Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.” Matthew 7:14 KJV

Allow me to make another bold and audacious statement, but before labeling me a heretic, please hear me out. Those who are extremely beautiful souls, who shine forth with the love of Christ, are God. What? That’s right, I said they are God.

Yes, Father, Son and Holy Spirit “alone” are God, the three in one, and that is no contradiction to what I said just previous. Allow me to present to you the doctrine of sanctification, and of God’s Holy Spirit. Please follow through to hear the conclusion, that you may understand my daring statements.

Back in Genesis, God ordained the institution of marriage. “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” Genesis 2:24 NIV

Though a man and a woman are two separate individuals, when joined in marriage, spiritually speaking they are now one flesh. Two become one. This is a spiritual union. We will come back to this in a moment.

Often I hear preachers and teachers of the word speak as if they were not in Christ, while at the same time preaching Christ. I’ve done it myself, many times, but this morning the Lord set something new into my mind. We ask, “What would Jesus do?” Or maybe, “What would Jesus say in this situation?” Really? We don’t already know?    If we are in Christ we should know what Jesus would do, or what He would say, because he lives within us. “…But we have the mind of Christ.” 1st Corinthians 2:16 Either we believe the bible or we do not. That tired old excuse about different ways of interpreting was worn out before it even began. It is nothing more than a rationalization to disobey God.

On this last verse phrase, I was amazed that all translations of scripture were identical, with the exception of a few using “Messiah” in place of “Christ”. We are a part of Him!

In the past I’ve talked a lot about our relationship with Christ, and this relationship is a sweet essence in our doctrine. But there’s a difference between having a relationship to Him, and a relationship with Him. I have a relationship to my desk. I sit before it, and it serves me well. I care for it, wiping off the muffin crumbs and cleaning off the coffee spills. Every so often, I actually tidy up the entire thing, though you may doubt that if you were to see it. It would be rather odd to say, “I have a relationship with my desk.” It is not personal. It has no personage.

We serve a personal God, who is intensely interested in every nanosecond of our lives. Paul speaks in relation to my audacious statements as being a former “mystery” that is now revealed. “To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. “ Colossians 1:27 NIV

Christ uniting Himself to us is the mystery that was not revealed until after Jesus’ ascension to the Father’s side. He is our righteousness, and He is creating holiness within us. This was and is the only way we could overcome our sinful nature. He empowers and enables us to obey God in all things. God did however give a few clues in the Old Testament era, as to how He would change us back into people who are fit to be in His presence. One of those clues is found in Jeremiah 31:31-33.

Here is a key verse when it comes to sanctification. “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” Galatians 5:16 NIV

If we are really saved and are true Christians, then Christ is in us. We are Christ’s church. We are the bride of Christ, but we are still in the engagement stage of this marriage to Him. When Jesus was on earth, a pledge to be married was a serious thing, not like today. It was a prenuptial contract. Our wedding shall take place in heaven, and we now are being made ready by becoming holy, as He is holy. Holiness is a qualification for entering the kingdom of God. We are washing our robes in the blood of Christ.

But we have been sanctified, set apart as a holy people, a royal priesthood unto God. “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” 1st Peter 2:9 NIV

But we are also, currently being sanctified, as in the process of becoming holy. “For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.” 1st Peter 1:16. We are becoming holy (being sanctified). We are being conformed to the image of the Son of God. “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son…” Romans 8:29a

We’ve been set apart and joined to God through Christ. More specifically, we are joined to Him through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit, or Spirit of Christ. If in marriage two become one, as God declares, then are we not one with Christ? “But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.” 1st Corinthians 6:17 There it is again, our spiritual union (marriage) with Christ. We become one with God.

Is Jesus God, or not?  I pray that you said, “Yes!” If so, and we have become one with Him, then we too, are, in a sense, God. But our union with Him has stipulations. We can only be godlike when we are in full surrender, submission, and obedience to Him. Our union with Christ is contingent upon our submission to His Spirit, who is constantly hoping to unite with our spirits, and have control over us. But he will not take control, we must give it, and surrender ourselves to the will of God. This is FAITH! Do we believe in God’s love or not? Do we believe that He is right in all that he says, and in every way that He leads us? This is what repentance means. We cannot be born of the Spirit until we have repented, agreeing with EVERYTHING God has said, says, or will say. It is a change of mind.

I agree that I am a sinner and in need of God’s grace. I need a Savior, and God has provided that Savior for me in His Son, Jesus Christ. I agree that Jesus is both God and man, that He was born of the Virgin Mary, that he lived and died a physical death on the cross. God placed all the sins of the world in Jesus, and then Christ died and carried our sins to the grave and buried them there. He arose on the 3rd day, was seen by many witnesses, and finally ascended to sit at the right hand of God’s throne in glory. Jesus, our Christ is alive forevermore! We must confess Him before witnesses, and be baptized into Him (Romans 6, 10:9-10) and in obedience to his commands. Yes, salvation is a free gift of God’s amazing grace. This is called justification. But if I am to dwell in His holy presence, I also need to be fully sanctified and made holy. The more I mature in my relationship, which is synonymous with, the more that I trust Him by submitting (obeying), then the more like Him I become. That’s where the beauty comes in.

Our hearts, our minds, and our souls are being fashioned into the most gorgeous creatures you could ever imagine. This is the beauty that made Earnest and Paul so attractive and lovable. It was their union with God, through their submission to God that made them so attractive on the inside. They shone with the glory of Christ, who dwelt within them.

A splendid truth concerning those who are saved and sanctified and being made holy, is that you are the elite, the elect, the chosen of God. You belong to an upper echelon and will one day even judge angels. There is no imagining how exalted your position is. Spiritually you are seated with Christ at the side of the Father. All enemies are being placed under His feet and you are a part of Him. But it is not by your own merits. Jesus has won all of this victory for us. We can accept no credit for simply doing our duty. But kudos anyway, for striving with every fiber of your being to become just like Jesus.

We too can blossom into stunningly winsome people, regardless of our external appearance. So what is your soul and spirit looking like today? Buff it up and make it shine by trusting Christ completely. When we say that we are trusting Him, it means we are obeying Him. We will make mistakes. But they better be mistakes and not deliberate sin! We do not consciously set out to disobey God. If so, then we are not united with Christ, we are still in our sins, and Jesus will say those horrible words we never want to hear. “Depart from me, I never knew you.”  If you still love that sin, then you do not love God with the type of proving love He commands. We love holiness, righteousness and all that is good, beautiful and glorious.

“For if we sin willfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins,” Hebrews 10:26 KJV

In Matthew 18:3 Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

Becoming like children means that He is our Parent and we must be as a humble child and do as our loving Father directs us to do. When a saved soul sins, and they will sin, they will hate that sin just as God does. We won’t be able to stand ourselves until we confess that sin to God. This restores our fellowship with him. We must repent. In addition to the previous definition of repentance there is also this: “I hate my sin, and I never want to do it again!” This is true repentance and confession.

Sadly, we often hear only a partial gospel. “Get your free ticket to heaven.” Yes salvation is free. It is a gift from God. “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 6:23

Yet, this in no way eliminates our responsibility. The New Testament is replete with staunch warnings about our new lives in Christ and what the Lord expects of us. He saved us for a reason, for a divine purpose. One of those reasons is mentioned in Ephesians 2:10 “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which he has before ordained that we should walk in them.” Make no mistake, the redeemed are God’s passionate project. He is working in the world through us, the church. He’s also busy recreating inside us, working to shape you and I into glorious creatures. Let’s rejoice over this next verse: I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. Romans 8:18 NIV Did you catch that? Glory, in us! Praise God!

We are to be obedient, and sin not. But when we do sin, even though we do not want to sin, we have forgiveness. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 1st John 1:9. The Lord is keeping us spotless, if we are truly in Him, united and joined to Him in the closest bond known to the human mind: marriage. We weep and mourn over our sin, forsake and confess it.

Let’s not fool ourselves into thinking we can just take the free ticket to heaven and go on about our business without doing any changing. He will give us the power to make the changes that are requisite for our transformations. Come beautiful butterflies—let’s sing praises to God, who is still at work in you me, and who promises to bring that work to completion.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not believe in salvation by works. But I do not consider obedience a work. We must forsake our sin. How can one rationalize willful sin and explain away the following verses? “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.” Galatians 6:7-8. NIV

This was written to Christians, saved souls, besides, it says “Whoever”.

I can’t wait to see your beauty unveiled in its entire splendor. We see only a small portion of that resplendent loveliness in this life; but it is enough to distinguish those who are truly being conformed to be like the one who is the most gorgeous of all: Jesus. He is the one who has made all of this possible. May Christ Jesus and God the Father be forever praised!

 

 

 

 

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The Bible and…A Beer?

beer & bible

Is Alcohol Sinful?

Alcohol is a subject that touches a lot of folks, and we hear varying opinions today on whether or not it is okay for a Christian to indulge. But as we all should know, the opinions of people are not what matters. It is what God has to say that’s important. So I’d like to lead a discussion here based upon scripture.

A visitor to our congregation informed me that the last church he attended told Him he was going to hell because he liked to drink a beer while shooting pool. It’s what he did twice a week to unwind from work. I can tell you with absolute confidence that it was sin for them to say that to him. They took God’s role of judging a person’s salvation unto themselves. That was the devil’s original sin: trying to take the place of God. In fact, that church’s leadership said the man’s recreation was three sins. That’s putting it to him a little bit better, yet they were still wrong on two of their accusations against him.

*Side Note* Satan is called: “The Accuser”.

These are the sins the congregation had listed against the man. One, he was drinking alcohol. Two, he was mingling with the ungodly. Hmm, I’m wondering…How did they know who was in the bar when that man was present? And three, he was harming his witness for Christ. Well, today he no longer goes to bars or shoots pool for recreation. He took that last judgment to heart, because they were right on that one. Whether or not the beer was a sin, he, and we are to remain above reproach. In other words, we guard against any situation that may be construed to look like we are sinning. I know, that’s a bummer, but that’s just the way it is. Oh don’t worry, God more than compensates for anything we give up for Him. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying anytime you go into a bar you are committing some heinous sin. Individual people and circumstances make that determination. The supernatural gifts Jesus offers are mountainous compared with catching a little buzz. We cannot allow ourselves to publicly do what may cause another person to stumble. For more on this, check what Apostle Paul has to say in 1st Corinthians chapter eight.

One of the go-to passages for answering our questions about alcohol is Ephesians 5:18. And I’ll offer it here in two different translations. The King James says: “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit…”

New International Version renders the verse: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit…”

Straight out of the gate, the thing that stands out to me is the word DRUNK. Nowhere in scripture does it say that drinking alcohol is a sin. However, anything that would conflict with the 9th fruit of the Spirit: SELF-CONTROL, would be counterproductive to our relationships with Jesus. Getting drunk and losing control is excessive and there’s just no way to candy coat it and still be standing for truth. Getting drunk and weakening our restraint is sin. Whereas having a few drinks to calm your nerves, or to relieve our sadness over the loss of a loved one, for instance, is not sinful.

Anything that vies against the Holy Spirit of God is of the flesh, is evil, of the world, and is to be avoided. When we are obedient we are rewarded. “Instead, be filled with the Spirit.” The Spirit always dwells within Christians, yet when we are “filled” with the Spirit it feels far better than any buzz alcohol could ever give us. Whenever you feel the need to reach for something to help your mood, ask God for a super abundance of His Spirit, and buckle up. You’re in for a treat.

If we become drunk to the point that we are no longer being obedient to the Spirit of Christ, we step out from under His Lordship. We are acting contrary to what the Spirit commands us to do, such as to treat everyone with love. That is when it becomes sin.

Let’s take a hypothetical for example’s sake. Let’s say that for me, watching the old television show Bay Watch is a sin. Why? Because I have a weakness, and I am aware of my weakness—God has shown it to me. So if I watch that show, I know I am going to look at those hot babes in bikinis and start to have thoughts that are not Christ-like. Now if that show does not affect you the way it does me, then it’s not a sin for you to watch it.

But the crux of the matter is this: Do you see how something can be a sin for one person (me), but the very same thing can be okay for another? The same is true of drinking alcohol. It becomes sinful when you do it in excess. Drunkenness, by the bible’s definition is EXCESS. It means losing control. Jesus is our Master, and anything that denies or takes away His dominion over us is sin.

Paul discusses our liberties in Christ in 1st Corinthians 6. Verse twelve says, “I have the right to do anything,’ you say… but not everything is beneficial.” Apostle Paul acknowledges the freedoms we have in Christ. Yet he goes on to say, in essence, that just because I am free to do something does not mean that I should do it. We need to apply wisdom and discernment and prudence to every decision we make. Now here’s the rest of the verse: “I have the right to do anything—but I will not be mastered by anything.”
Do you see the part about being mastered by things of the world? When something else takes control away from God, then it becomes our master. That activity has become sinful to us. It may also become an idol if we put it before our relationship with God. As Christians, Christ is our Master!

So let’s answer our question, “Is alcohol sinful”? No, it is not. But how we use or abuse it will determine whether or not it is sinful for us as individuals. If you are an alcoholic, you already know that you cannot take just one drink. When you drink, you get drunk. Face it, you drink to get drunk. Sorry folks, I cannot in good conscience dance around the issue. For alcoholics it is best to simply leave the alcoholic beverages alone altogether. Much easier said than done, I know. I’ve been working as an AA and an NA sponsor for many years now. So if you or someone you love has a problem with the stuff, I just want you to know, that I care very deeply about all people. I don’t judge any person, and I am here for consultation or counseling anytime. But be advised, as the Spirit leads and according to God’s word, I do judge actions to be right or wrong.

“The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things.” 1 Cor. 2:15a

As a sponsor helping other men to slay the dragon of addiction, I have to be very careful about alcohol or any type of medicines. I must remain standing tall in the eyes of the men I counsel if they are to trust my words. So for me, I might have one or two drinks once or twice a year, and I am a servant of the Gospel of Christ.

I do enjoy a good draft beer now and then. And I have a taste for very expensive wines, though it’s not often I’ve had the pleasure of tasting them. Maybe when you and I get to heaven we can ask Jesus to whip up another batch of that miracle wine!

 

 

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Successful Christian Leaders

Upward Leaders in Christ

lead

Have you ever seen someone receive a promotion to a leadership position, then all of a sudden they get all wrapped up in their own greatness? Their head gets so big you wonder how they can remain standing upright without tipping over. It’s not a pretty sight. Sadly, they’ve sabotaged their own position. No one wants to follow a strutting peacock. At least not until they have learned to humble themselves and begin to view their position as responsibility rather than simply wielding authority.

Christian leadership is unique in that God has clearly laid out a plan for success. Operating under the lordship of Christ, Christian leaders can be assured of shining achievement. Looking to our perfect paradigm, Jesus’ life of humble obedience to the Father in combination with His service to mankind is the perfect pattern for servant-leadership. That means I need to do as Jesus did: Be a good follower. Only then can I be a more effective leader. In the realm of perfection one must be a good sheep if they are to be a good shepherd. We follow Jesus, our Chief shepherd. And, we learn to humbly follow our leaders here on earth. Leadership is the role of a good servant first, and leader second. Maintaining a servant mindset is essential if we hope to advance. God Himself will “lift us up”, as Apostle Peter writes. Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.” (1 Peter 5:6 NIV)

Humility is one of the most important character traits of a successful Spirit-led leader.

Our Shared Purposes, Objectives & Directives

When we seek to do God’s will we are issued wonderful purposes which undergird everything we do and say, and this helps us to correctly align our priorities. Our purposes are three fold.

  1. Bring glory to God/Christ Jesus. (Matt. 5:16)
  2. Build up, teach, and strengthen the faith of other believers (the church). “…Let all things be done unto edifying.” (1Corinthians 14:26b)
  3. Share the good news of salvation by grace through faith in Christ Jesus with nonbelievers. “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.” (Mark 16:15) V

When we determine to perform God’s will, He leads us on to victory. God’s word establishes our objectives, giving us a cause for which we all together stand and promote. The Lord assigns our ultimate goals to accomplish, which will always bring glory to God instead of to the earthly leader. The Lord also provides the principles by which we operate. In other words, He gives us our means of how to get it done—our modus operandi.

By following Jesus closely we have access to constant guidance from God Himself, through His Holy Spirit residing in us. Wow—talk about having a great panel of advisers! Who better than Father, Son and Holy Spirit?

  • Great Christian leaders surround themselves with other good leaders who are sound counselors and advisers, and to whom they hold themselves accountable.
  • If we hope to be a great leader, it is imperative that we learn to take advice and weigh it well.

    WE NEED TO MASTER PARTICULAR ARTS

  • Listening to those who are under us within God’s structure of spiritual authority
  • Empathize with everyone
  • Communicate from reason rather than out of emotion
  • Rather than gaining followers, our goal is to help create more leaders. We advance by helping others to advance. This is an attitude.

History offers accounts of lots of guys who may have risen to the heights of success, but their morals and principles were not Christian and not of God. Adolf Hitler rose to great power as a leader and led many down a path of destruction. So we see that by using ungodly principles one can become a successful leader, at least by the world’s standards. However, it’s a short lived success. And can cost not only our soul, but the eternal lives of others as well. That’s the exact opposite of Jesus’ program for us.

GIFTS

Every Christian is given at least one spiritual gift or special ability to use for the cause of Christ. It is for the sole purpose of carrying out God’s plan here on earth. As that gift or talent is used, it increases, becomes better and more productive. Gifts are for use in edifying the body of Christ


“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. …if it is to lead, do it diligently…” (Romans 12:6,8 NIV)

Diligence is a prerequisite for every good leader. Christ represented the Father here on earth and He diligently carried out His will. Likewise, we represent Christ as His ambassadors on earth, and we must be diligent in carrying out the ministry He has entrusted to us. Lackadaisical leadership falls flat.

Pre-determined Goals

Three overshadowing goals for every Christian Leader:

  1. Bring glory to God
  2. Fulfill Jesus’ commission of sharing the gospel
  3. Build up fellow believers (edification).

 

“Effective Christian leaders are committed to advancing the mission in ways that also enable others to make their kingdom contribution”—Unknown

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:18 NIV)

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us.” (2 Corinthians 5:20a NIV)

 

We have our preponderate goals from the Bible.

We have the counseling of God’s Holy Spirit.

We have our people advisers.

We have our special gifts to use (of which Paul urged Timothy to not neglect).

We have the great commission of Christ to go make disciples of all nations.

And we have the call to build others up, strengthening their faith, teaching them to observe all things Christ commands us while; encouraging, expounding knowledge, enabling, and edifying those who follow us.

We have everything we need.

All that remains is our diligence in carrying out our marching orders from God.

Full Steam Ahead!

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True or False—Continued

apple

Please do not misunderstand my intent in this message. I love the fact that being a Christian gives me a close relationship with God. My relationship with Christ, who lives within me by His Holy Spirit, is the greatest love interest in my life. Yes, Christianity at its core is based upon our relationship with God. We are intimately united with Christ. We are IN Christ. Yet, within that relationship there are things that God requires of me, just as any Father requires of his children. These things I am to do fervently with great devotion and out of love for Him and reverence for Him. Practicing what God asks of me is religion. Just because an apple has a designation of its own does not mean that it is no longer a fruit. Likewise, because our religion includes the glorious privilege of having an intimate relationship with our Creator, makes it no less a religion. I delight in doing God’s will, and my sweet relationship with Jesus makes doing God’s will as delicious to me as a sweet, crisp apple. God also commands me to have a relationship with the body of Christ, His church. We worship and praise Him together and individually. Also, I am to relate the things of God to the world. I must obey Him and do these things religiously.

While both of the images above have true statements, they each also have a false statement. If you’ve had a relationship with Christ for any length of time, then He has taught you, just as He has taught me: things that are only partially true are meant to deceive. Because they are not completely true, they are false.  Whenever the truth is mixed with a lie, the entire message becomes false. That’s a tactic of the devil: mixing truth with error in order to make it sound plausible.

So let’s see if we can discover what the enemy is hoping to accomplish by getting Christians to deny their religiosity.

Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world. ( James 1:26-27 NIV)

In these verses James reminds us that our expression of love towards others, practicing self-control, and striving to live pure lives IS our religion. Yet too often today, Christians hope to fit in with a world which God has commanded that we separate ourselves from. Yes, we are to witness to the world, but we are different and separate from those outside of Christ. There should be a huge distinction perceived through the love we have for one another within the body of Christ.  By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.  John 13:35 KJV

Are we willing to be Christ’s followers, and have we counted the cost? Will we be obedient to Him? If so, then the following will be true of us.

If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you. John 15:19 NIV

Again, I understand the love which compels you and I to make the gospel as attractive as possible. But God’s word does not need that kind of assistance. People will believe or they will not, and trying to blend in with them does not help our cause. But that’s what the enemy would have us do: attempt to dull the sharpness of the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Now I can already hear someone coming back with something Paul said concerning winning souls. I’ll save that for when someone brings it up.

It is my prayer that your relationship with the Savior of the world will grow closer and more intimate every day. His love is sweeter than any apple. God Bless You!

 

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