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.

 

 

Putting A Smile On God’s Face

Freewill!

What is freewill?

Dictionary.com:  made or done freely or of one’s own accord; voluntary(2)of or relating to the metaphysical doctrine of the freedom of the will.

Webster’s New World Dictionary:  freely given or done; voluntary(2)of or holding the doctrine of freewill(3)freedom of decision or choice between alternatives(4)the freedom of the will to choose a course of action without external coercion but in accordance with the ideals or moral outlook of the individual(b)the doctrine that people have such freedom – determination.

American Heritage Dictionary/New College Edition:  (1)the power or discretion to choose; free choice(2)the belief that man’s choices ultimately are or can be voluntary and not by external causes(3)done of one’s own accord; voluntary

New Comprehensive International Dictionary:  (1)the power of self-determination regarded as a special faculty(2)the doctrine that man is entirely unrestricted in his ability to choose between good and evil(3)opposed to determinism(4)made, done, or given of one’s own free choice-voluntary. 

As you can see, they vary a little bit from each other but they all talk about freedom, choice, free, or voluntary.  Only one refers to morals and only one refers to choosing between good and bad.

Freewill has nothing to do with the end game or end result.  Faith is a journey and what sustains us to the end.  The end is spending eternity with Jesus.  Freewill has everything to do with the moment by moment choices we make throughout the day. Am I going to put a smile on God’s face at the end of the day.  Am I going to accept the fact that God has already counted the cost.  Or, am I going to make things easier for myself by making that moment turn in my favor.  In so doing, I get out of the stress that moment would have brought.  It is human nature for man to not want to live with the burden of pain.  Why say to me we have freewill  if I make a choice that is out of line with God’s will?  I thought that since I have freewill, my choices would be free of external coercion.

If you think about it, one could say ‘the deck is stacked’.  Since man wants to avoid pain, and spending eternity in hell would be full of pain, then he chooses to live a good life, one that is guided by morals.  A life lived that put a smile on God’s face at the end of the day.  If a man wants to live a life free of morals and he is free from outside pressure then why can he not get into Paradise?  The answer is God abhors evil.  He cannot live with evil.  Why?  God is love eternally.  Evil comes from Satan. The status of that relationship is they are diabolically opposed for all perpetuity. Life is temporary, Jesus is eternal.

For the Christian, evil is considered the most potent and dangerous weapon used against the believer and the ability to choose God.  It makes it harder to believe that God knows all and exists.  From a Christian standpoint, God allows evil to exist because of freewill.  He allows it to exist on a temporary basis so that those who choose to love Him freely will one day dwell with Him in heaven but with their freewill intact, free from the influence of evil.  God’s intention concerning evil is to one day destroy it.  Those who do not love Him or acknowledge Him will be hard pressed to find any alternative for how things came to be.  

Let us look at moral attributes.  If my actions are calculated to help one succeed then why should one perform them.  For Christians, the fixed point of morality – what constitutes right and wrong – is a straight line that leads directly back to God. If there is no God, there is no real reason to be moral.  There would be no standard of what moral behavior is.  As a philosopher pointed out, “if God does not exist then everything is permissible.”  According to the Christian doctrine of freewill – with the ability to choose, you are actually making two decisions at once.  If you choose to follow one then you are choosing not to follow thee other.  If you choose to follow God then you are also choosing not to follow Satan and vica versa.  In the end, you are free to make a choice but there are consequences for making that choice. Morals have everything to do with freewill.  It has everything to do with the choices that we make and live out for others to see.  We chose God because He chooses us.

FOOTNOTES
Articles and other resource materials

 

Mercy

Mercy, in the face of or in the wake of a great threat.  We are facing that danger in these times and yet we were made for days such as these.  Days in which we have the opportunity to have an impact – a potential “God sized impact” – on the earth. One that would increase the members of the Body of Christ.  God’s saving and sovereign promises mentioned in the Bible convey the extent of His mercy, many of which are fulfilled.  God is faithful and merciful yet some believers and gentiles squander the opportunity and privileges this affords.  Letting sin mislead or misdirect from the straight and narrow path that God has set us on.  Despite all that God’s is unchanged by unfaithfulness.  In otherwords, unbelief is not a failure for God.  It is an opportunity for us to see the power, mercy and grace that God extends to us to create us into something masterful and unique.  God’s love for us is eternal, faithful and true.

God’s sovereign mercy is specifically directed.  It is specifically directed at our sin and His intention is to erradicate it from the body that He created in His image. How have I seen God’s sovereign mercy in my life?  That promise of mercy is referenced to Abraham by God – “and Sarah will be with child at this time, next year.”  As a child of God all believers are co-heirs but it is God’s choice to determine the heir and He did.  God chose His Son, Jesus Christ.  I cannot save a loved one from death, God can!

So what does God’s sovereign mercy and glory reveal about Him?  That He is holy, trustworthy, is in control, forgiving, a living God that is always present.  This makes it easier to face God in times of trial and great threats that come our way in our journey with God.  If  I do not believe in God’s sovereignty then life will be difficult. I will not trust God, I will go out on my own and I will fall into despair.  In the end, God’s justice is sovereign.  It is fair and just.  Our salvation does not depend on our effort but on God’s sovereign mercy.  No human effort, desires or accomplishments can trigger God’s mercy!  I can be sure of my salvation because God did it and promised it.  God desires to share His glory.  His mercy is rooted in His great love. His LOVE is the greatest expression of love in the human experience.  

Increasing Grace

We become followers of Jesus Christ when we accept Him into our life/heart.  His followers unite with Him in death and resurrection.  As followers, the only thing that keeps us from experiencing that union is sin.  Sin is like a grenade.  When a grenade explodes, the shrapnel goes out within a certain radius depending upon the amount of explosive used.  The shrapnel of my sin however, “a bouncing betty”, goes out not only to all those around me but can go out to and affect generations.  In other words, my acts of sin always carry destructive consequences.  In the word picture above, that shrapnel flies in all directions.  The most deadly “bouncing Betty” there is comes in the form of pornography.
The good news is that we have been set free from the slavery of sin.  We are set free by the blood of Jesus Christ which was shed on the cross for our salvation.  Said another way we NEED Jesus’ blood for our salvation.  We start the process of salvation when He is accepted and Baptism is a part of the Christian conversion.  It unites one to Christ.  Now, as believers, we are saved from God’s wrath and the shackles of sin.  Eternal life begins at the conversion of a sinner to a believer.  The biblical doctrine of salvation tells us that God is relational.  It tells us that our union with Christ is for all perpetuity.
Everyone was born under the mastery of sin.  The shrapnel of Eve and Adam’s sin has long lasting and far reaching consequences that have extended beyond generations and for many generations to come.   My Saviors death has ended my life in Adam and I am alive in God and am dead to sin.  Jesus, fully man and fully God, died for that reason.  Living to God gives my life purpose.  So, if you want to cheer up because the burden of sin has you down, just remember the one true Living God has given purpose to my life.  
As for increasing grace, there is no such thing.

Why do we pray?

There are many different reasons why people pray.  The list I make here is not all inclusive.  I can say this though – we pray for direction and we ask for protection. We pray for His guidance and leading.  Then we ask to be protected from the spiritual warfare that we encounter everyday.  He gives us the armor of God!

Some of the other reasons we pray:  to grow consistently closer to Jesus, to have private worship times be more intense then public worship, to lead out of the overflow of our walk with God, to lead our homes in worship, to reach out to those around us, to live a life of integrity, to be pure as we lead, to worship as we lead others to do so, to lead solely in God’s power, to receive and be open to the gifts and blessings that are sent by God.  All the gifts that God sends us are good.  It is what we do with them that matters.   So the list goes on.  There are those who bear their burdens silently and do not let others know.  We would pray for peace them and for the disenfranchised.  

There are many reasons to pray for the Body of Christ, the church and the world.  A word to the wise – be careful what you pray for.  Take note, to pray is not a simple one time act.  It is a way of life.  Prayer is to the church, as a bat is to a ball.

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.