The Unknown

We all are going to be judged sometime but God’s wrath is also going to be revealed sometime.  The mystery is we do not know when it is coming.  Nobody knows when it is coming.  God’s judgement is based on truth.  It is punitive and sent as a warning to sinners.  His wrath is inflicting and intended as punishment.  Even believers will be judged evaluating how we used our new found freedom to do God’s work.  We are God’s hands and feet.  How did we use them to bring the Good News to the masses.  

It is not the judgement of God that leads us to repentance; it is the kindness of God. We are not in a position to judge.  When we judge we are setting ourselves up as a higher authority, as God.   If it is change we seek by judging, that is the wrong way of going about it.  Some think they are doing good works.  It is not persistence in doing good works but persistence in prayer that brings about change.  Prayer puts us in Gods presence.  We begin to hear and understand God’s law.  It is not just hearing His law but obeying His law.  There is only one man that perfectly obeyed God’s law.  That man is Jesus Christ.  He is the only man to have accomplished that feat.  God did not favor Jesus Christ because He has no favorites.  He was sent to accomplish a mission and He did.

We all sin and will perish if we are apart from Jesus Christ.  It means that there is a true urgency about accepting and believing in Jesus Christ.  God wants us not to turn our backs to Him but to turn back to Him.  He wants our hearts to turn to Him. For it is only those with a new heart that are counted as righteous.  If our heart has not turned to Him, then what is stopping us?  It has eternal consequences!

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The righteous sinner

God declares a sinner righteous because of the perfect life, death and resurrection of His son, Jesus Christ.  The life of His son, Jesus Christ was preparation for the cross.  It was the life of Jesus that prepared Him to go to His death on the cross and take with Him the sins of all mankind( past, present, and future)subsequently purchasing the redemption of man with His blood.  Jesus’ glorification came through the cross.  Jesus said “Love one another as I have loved you.”  He then backs that statement up with an absolute-“There is no greater love then this, for a man to give up his life for the sake of another”.
The love of God is determined by His character.  God is love and He cannot be anything else because He came from love.  When Jesus came to live on earth in the form of a man His life was the crux-and it still is-of what unconditional love looked like.  So Jesus treated Judas no differently than the rest of the disciples.
Based on this and the fact that our identity comes from Christ, love is the greatest outward indicator of our faith.  This causes us to search inward and ask the question “How am I loving like Jesus.”  The love of God is who God is and not who we are.  So what does God think of us?  This is an absolute.  The only way for us to Jesus is thru the Father.  The only way for Jesus to the Father  was the cross.  Therefore, Jesus is the ONLY way to eternal happiness with God.  So, the only way through the muck, mire and pain of this life to the eternal presence of God is through the gate, which is accepting the gift of grace and going thru the narrow gate.  A Christian’s greatest works show that Jesus is God and they spread His kingdom.  When we pray in Jesus’ name we are not asking that a mystical power be released to accomplish what we ask.  We are praying in Jesus’ name so that what we ask comes in line with His will for us.   Nothing tears at a father’s heart like the death of his son.
I have stayed away from defining justification and sanctification – as they have been touched upon here – because they are two very distinct but separate concepts, ones that are worth exploring.  They ‘piggyback’ each other as one is an act and the other is a process.  The act is important in starting the process and the results of the act are instantaneous while the results of the process are life long and may never be seen by the individual.  One is temporal and the other is eternal.

 

 

A Changed Heart

We have all taken a survey or done assessment at one time or another.  A customer service survey or a performance assessment are the most prevalent in the world today.  Everything is built around customer service and we are asked to assess the service that we received.  There is real value in customer service because every business has something to sell and without the customer the business would be unable to exist.  Business needs to retain that customer and have them keep coming back, so they use different tactics and strategies to do that but more important then any of that is the customer service experience.

There are all kinds of assessments out there; a health assessment, workout goals and assessment, teaching assessment, a relative values assessment and the list goes on.   What about a spiritual assessment?  Taking the time to exercise and evaluate where we are in our spiritual life.  Taking the time to see what I need to cut out of my life and what I need to make a regular part of my daily life.  If I think to highly or to little of myself then I am selfish.  I need to be more selfless and more other oriented.

You see, we do not save ourselves.  If we could there would be no need for God.  Nor are we saved by others.  We are saved by grace and that comes by way of faith and not by the mercy of others.  It is God’s grace that upholds truth and eliminates superiority.  There is no heirarchy in the Body of Christ.  As Christians and members of one body, we can get ‘uppity’ or turn up our noses at others and think that we are better then others.  As Christians and members of one body we are all valued the same by God through faith.  Even membership in a church can get askew.  Church membership does not make one a member of the body of Christ or the Church of Christ.

A healthy church body needs each member to be functioning with each other.  Lack of function or disfunction can cause disunity among the church body.  It is according to God’s grace that we have all been given different gifts.  We use these gifts to build the Body of Christ.  We use these gifts to build the Church.  We find that it is in serving that we edify others in the Body of Christ.  God has given spiritual gifts for each believer to use in the spreading of God’s Word.  These gifts must be consistent with spiritual doctrine.   Teaching this doctrine is the transmission of spiritual truthes.

We are humbly to use our gifts given to us by God, for God.  A changed heart is not silent.

One Shining Moment

If we take a look at all the characters or people in the Bible, although all of them are important, there are a few that stand out. For example, Eve and Adam are known for eating the forbidden fruit and causing this whole mess.  Another one is David.  Killing the giant Goliath with only a sling shot and stone is David’s defining moment.  There are certainly others but let us move to the New Testament.  The most important here, or rather, in all of the Bible is Jesus Christ.  Death on a cross and rising from the dead is the defining moment for Jesus.  If that never happened then Christianity does not exist.  For the greatest orator that ever existed, the conversion of Saul into Paul and becoming blind by the bright light was his defining moment.  

Again, there are others but the one that stands out to me is in the Old Testament. Siani is the defining moment of Moses’ ministry.  Going up that mountain and still not able to see God but coming down with the tablets of the ten commandments. Then becoming angry about the golden calf and destroying the commandments.  All of this and look at what came of it – the Mosaic Law and a relationship with God that no other prophet has had since.

If we look at the meat of Bible and meaning behind the history recorded within, we can be sure that God’s message is clear – love, acceptance, relationship, eternal life. For me these are the key concepts and everything else falls under one of these.

I see myself clearest when I see God fullest.  What is the practical application of this statement?  The best example of this would be worship.  Direct worship is considered to be sacred because it is time alone with God.  Time set aside to be with God and listen to Him and talk with Him.  Every moment of a twenty-four hour day is God’s.  It is time with Him.  It allows me to rest on the truth that God wants His best for me. Indirect worship is those moments of the day that are not set aside for God and this is secular.  Those moments not set aside are “me” time – they are time for “me”.

I live as long as god wants me to live.  I will be on this earth until God is done with me.  In the mean time, do I stand on the premises of the church and seek the support of the church?  Or, do I stand on the promises of God and seek His support?

 

 

Love one another

As we grow and mature in Christian beliefs, we learn that our focus is to be on God and our debt to love one another.  Love goes beyond liking others.  It was because of God’s divine love for us that the law was given to us.  If love is the fulfillment of the law then no law can sqaush or hinder the power of love.  No law is complete if love is not the motive.

It is love that distinguishes us as Christians.  “—and they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love – yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”  Salvation is a process that is only completed when Jesus returns.  

A sense of urgency distinguishes Christians.  The power of scripture and the power of prayer.  We fight temptation with God’s Word and prayer.  We protect ourselves with God’s armor.  It is salvation that frees us and saves us from the yoke of this world and from the temptation to sin.  “No temptation has seized you except what is common to man.  And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.  But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”(1Cor10:13).  

Salvation is nearer now then when we first believed.

 

God’s Will

If we cannot know God’s mind then how can we know God’s will for our life?  
The Bible is replete with metaphors that make it hard to understand how we are to do this when we cannot do that.   
The removal of the Kingdom of God from Isreal and its leaders.  Is that by election or grace?
Election and grace  —  they are inseperable.
Paul make it clear in his letters that God did not reject His loved ones.  God did not reject Isreal. Isreal rejected God.
Through every generation, God has reserved a remnant, by grace.
The hardening of Isreal’s heart is part of God’s redemptive plan.  He does not harden a neutral heart.
The riches of salvation are given to believers by God.
The fulfillment of prophecy is not a matter of seeing what will happen and acting accordingly.  Rather, it is a matter of living and acting according to God’s word now and when we see what will happen, we let it happen for we are prepared.  We let God be God and do what He does best and that is LOVE us.
God is immutable; man is mutable.  God’s call of redemption is irrevocable.

Proclaim

God sent people (prophets) to proclaim the gospel and today He still sends people to proclaim the gospel (missionaries) today and spread God’s Word.

Evangelism!  That is what it is all about.  Spreading the message of Jesus Christ to allow the Holy Spirit to work in the heart and soul of unbelievers and gentiles so that they may turn their hearts to God.  We are commanded by God to go out and lead those people to Him.  Matthew 28: 18-20 is that command.  The Great Commission.  Jesus Christ says “All authority both in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you.  And surely I will be with you always, to the very end of the age.”  

There are steps to evangelism.  First though, let me talk about gifts.  When we turn to Jesus and submit our lives to Him and invite Jesus into our hearts, we are given gifts – gifts to help build and advance the Body of Christ.  Not everyone is given the same gift.  One of those gifts may be evangelism.  We are all commanded to evangelize through either words or actions or lifestyle but those given the gift are going to be more effective and should use that gift.

I talked about steps earlier so lets look at the first one, which is to be sent.  Again, we are all sent but some will be more effective.  That is not a bad thing at all.  Some have that ability and some don’t.  Second, we must hear the word of God.  If one does not hear it then how can they believe and what do they believe.  Third, we must preach the Word of  God to others so that they may hear it and believe it.  If we do not believe then how can we preach what we do not believe.  Fourth, we must believe.  Fifth, we must call on the name of the Lord for His strength to advance His kingdom.

An important part of evangelism is repentance.  Repentance is the heart of Christian faith.  The result of repentance is a changed heart.  A changed heart is not a silent heart.  If it is there are consequences – eternal consequences.  The gospel story MUST be spoken; the gospel story must be heard for no one is saved apart from the gospel.

God forms faith from hearing the gospel.  Psalm 19 tells us that the “heavens proclaim the glory of God and the skies proclaim the works of His hands.  Day after day they pour forth speech and night after night they display knowledge.  There is no speech or language were the voice of God is not heard.  It goes out to all the earth, even to the ends of the world.”

For those that do believe and have faith in Jesus Christ comes salvation.  One could argue that salvation is unfair but it is in our favor.  If we accept Him into our hearts we are saved and granted eternal life.  So God’s self-revelation leaves the unrepentant without excuse.  God’s call of salvation is humbling and we must look for opportunities to spread God’s word.

 

Character

Showing up!

Showing up is a reflection of character.  It is more than ones presence or being physically there.  It is being accountable to a higher standard.  It is rectifying a wrong when you know that wrong is yours.  It is part of integrity.  

Showing up also plays a role in love and relationships.  Sincere love for the Lord leads to sincere love for others.  It makes love interactive.  Interactive love is actively choosing and loving and doing it sincerely.  Sincere love selflessly serves others, transforms minds and changes hearts.  It sacrafically serves others.  Sincere love for the Lord is seeking Him first and is welcoming others in.

Loving something other then Jesus is painful.  One tolerates evil instead of hating evil.  To not truly hate it is hurting others.  We need to be devoted to one another and be joyful in hope.  Hope in Jesus and everything else fades away.  Being patient is not a means of controling other people.  It is not a means of manipulating other people to get what you want.  It is a steadfast hope built on the promises of God.

To God be the Glory

Following Jesus means that God can lead me somewhere that I have not planned.

Passionate proclamation of the Gospel brings God glory.  God allows us to share in His work which is for His glory.  Jesus’ work gives us new life; it is all God’s grace and we can do nothing to earn that new life because it is a gift from God given to us by the work of Jesus.  New life – eternal life for those who believe.  This is a gift for all, not just the one who believes in God and His son Jesus Christ but for the baker, the athlete, the criminal, etc…but your faith must be in Jesus, His son.  We need to ask God to strengthen us in our journey for it is by grace that we have been saved (Eph 2:8-10).

Jesus Christ is the only mediator between God and man.  Passionate participation in God’s work gives Him the glory and specific prayer displays confidence in Him. Good clean living is not enough(Jn 14:6).  We have many opportunities to turn to God and say “I do” but one day those opportunities of service to God and others will one day close.  We must persevere in our journey.

When the Creator gave man the experience of thirst it is because water exists to fill that thirst.  Thirst for the Living God.  We are called to a life of sharing, prayer and service to God and others

Who sets the limit?

As the body of Christ, we need to edify and accept one another.  We need to let go and let God.  In other words, we need to stop putting limitations on people and putting stumbling blocks in their path.  We do this even though we may not know we are doing so.  Instead, build each other up and let go.  Do not hold each other back. Let God be God and do His thing and have His way with them.  Letting God do the work is the most effective way of allowing a person to grow.  Besides, God knows what He wants from each of us.  

Encouragement is a powerful tool when it comes to growth and development. Encouragement, is used right, leads to motivation and a desire to plow ahead. Imagine what that could do to the Body of Christ.  That is tremendous energy that can be used to strengthen and improve the Body.  Loving a person and allowing and them to use their skills is allowing them to grow.  Then, the converse is true as well. It is a sin to not let a person use their God-given skills and talents for the good of others.  This point was made a little more than ten years ago when my wife asked me to have surgery to correct a neurological disorder that I have had all my life. My first response was no.  The human body is a temple of God and to open it up and expose it to the outside world is to allow it to be infected by Satan.  That was my thought at the time.  The result of having the surgery is a blessing and I am glad I allowed the surgeon to use those skills.  What it comes down to is that we work and allow others to work to please our neighbor.

Encouragement is an agent of sanctification and an agent of grace.  When we become a Christian, we are young in faith and as maturation takes place through out our growth, others can see that growth in us.  Self pursuit in any given area presents a barrier to santification.  I have to ask myself ‘who do I live for other than God?  Do I live for myself?’  The Christian life centers on strengthening others.  This is moral unity.  Living for God and others!  It is a process – a life long process to become like Christ.  This is also known as santification.  It is our job to encourage one another in that life long process.  If we reject what God has in store for us we become less responsive to God’s call for us.  Rejecting someone that Christ accepts implies that we are superior to God and others.  This is something we do not even want to think about doing!  Romans 15:7

Who’s in charge?

Romans 13:1-2  “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities.  For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.  Therefore, whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.”

Throughout history, God’s sovereignty establishes governing leaders.  ALL governing authority is established by God.  It is an absolute truth thru which His character comes.  All human authority is morally culpable.  We all have someone to whom we are accountable.

So why should we submit?  If not, the cost of rebellion is greater!  There are four reasons (for the purposes of this post) that are for consideration.  First, it is not tied to any human rule.  The authority of God establishes who we are and the purpose behind God’s platform.  The platform of social media reflects upheaval of society, going on in the world today.  Second, it is not predicated upon any human authority. God’s authority is internal and individual.  It changes everything, that is it changes hearts – the human heart.  It requires a response.  Human authority on the otherhand is external and temporal.  It is created for the good of the masses.  It requires not a response but causes a reaction.  Third, death – usually a consequence of disobedience.  God calls this sin.  Lastly is capital punishment.  Here on earth that is leathal injection or the electric chair or capital punishment.  God’s capital punishment is eternal damnation.

Submission to authority honors God and conscience.  It brings about a peace that this world cannot offer.  This submission to God’s authority and sovereignty involves integrity.  God’s sovereignty is reality.  It is there for all to see but not everyone does.  Instead, some take a stand that is against authority, whether it be God’s or man’s.  A stand is a physical manifestation of an internal decision.  Some of those stands happen on the wrong side of  morality.  This spirit of protest runs counter to the authority already established or in place and is wrong.  It may be politically legal but it is morally wrong.  It is an insult to God and His established creation.

If we take a look at history once again, we see that every empire, every society, regime, kingdom etc… has failed.  This is in contrast to Jesus’ perfect and future reign.