Sunday, September 27, 2009

God, Water and Word Equals Wow!

When God interacts with water fantastic and devastating things happen. The very first chapter in Holy Scripture shows God the Spirit interacting with H2O.

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. 2 The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. ESV

A swirling chaotic mass covered the new earth. We see here an early on God using a created item to bring forth an everlasting good. We have the water, and the word of God working this creative miracle. When he finished creating the universe, earth and everything in them he said they were operating in a good fashion.

The fall came. Man chose to try to fall upward and to be his or her own God. Things deteriorated drastically to where God was so angry he decided to destroy mankind with a flood. Rather than wiping out the entire human race he chose to see Noah as holy in his sight. So the ark was built and the flood came and took away all the unbelievers. After this washing our Lord told Noah to depart the ark into the new recreated world. Once again thru water, the Holy Spirit creating faith in Noah and the word of God the world was a new creation. St Peter refers to this flooding as symbolic of baptism which now saves us. 1 Peter 3:20-21.

The above shows us how that in the past God has shown himself gracious in using water to effect changes. Today is no different he is still showing us his grace by means of water.

Titus 3:4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. ESV

So we again see a mighty act of God using water to show himself gracious. We have the mightiest act of God with the least amount of water. In this we have The promises of God throughout the scriptures since the first Pentecost baptism. Once again water, the Holy Spirit delivering the goods and the word together in one place in a rebirthing of a new creature. This time it is the delivery of the fruits of the perfect life, innocent, bitter sufferings and death and resurrection of Jesus. We can remember each day we are baptized into these works of Jesus.

In the name of Jesus. Amen. †

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Predestination: A Doctrine of Radical Comfort 2.

Romans 8 is one of the most assuring passages in scripture. It starts out with no condemnation for those who are in Jesus with no strings attached. Then ends with assurance of God’s never ending love from which nothing can separate us. Towards the end of the chapter, while working up to the climax we see:

Romans 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. ESV

Radical! Promised Spirit is aiding us in our prayers and that all things that happen God will work together for our good no matter what happens. The reason for all this is that he knew us beforehand and has predestined those in Christ Jesus to be like him. This causes suffering. Jesus when on earth suffered and told his disciples then and us by extension we will be hated and rejected as well. However, all these God works together for our good. He is also faithful in calling those foreknown and predestined. In addition he justified those whom he foreknew, predestined and called. And has glorified all whom he foreknew, predestined, called and justified. Radically comforting!

What is missing in this chapter is any mention of those outside of Jesus. Some would argue that because of necessary inference we know that those outside of Jesus were predestined to be damned. There again we see where the double predestination idea is forced on scripture. All this will do is rip the sweetness out of the text for a believing sinner either wondering about him or herself or a loved one. We have, therefore, the radical comfort of looking at the crucifixion of Jesus as for us. No need to examine our works or shakiness of our trust at times of being attacked by false and erring brothers, our sinful flesh or the devil.

What also is missing is anything that those in Jesus have decided, exercised anything or did any other work we have done. This further shows the radically comforting knowledge that Jesus is 100% Savior and we have nothing to do with it. Christians under the false impression that it has something to do with them are forever questioning whether they were sincere or if anything they have done measures up. The answer to the former is probably not and the latter definitely not. Let me repeat myself. You have absolutely nothing to do with your salvation. Radical!

In the Name of Jesus. †

Sunday, September 13, 2009

How to Kill Sin in Your Life?

Dr John MacArthur, Grace to You Ministries, wrote an article entitled How to Kill Sin in Your Life. First off it is refreshing to see someone speak against the sins of the heart as treated as not being all that bad. The sin usually addressed is the gross outward acts which destroy the person doing it and those around them. Whereas sins of the heart are not known to those around the believer unless he or she makes them known. These are sins which God can see and finds as repulsive as the most heinous murders.

As loving children of God we desire to rid our lives of sin. We are constantly at battle with it in our lives. Sins which are outward actions or words spoken are relatively easy to control. An unbeliever with proper motivation can curb the desire to say inappropriate things, obey the speed limit, not steal from his or her employer and to be a faithful spouse. A believer when he or she curbs those actions does, by the grace of our Father in Jesus, have proper motivation. As far as sins of the heart is an entirely different matter. Yes we are to resist those as well but can one kill them?

Romans 6:1What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. ESV

We see from the above passage that we do not kill sin but rather we are crucified with Jesus in baptism and are dead to sin. We were crucified with him that the body of sin be brought to nothing. So we have no desire to sin and when we, as always, fall short of the glory of Christ it seems like death to us. That is the one crucial thing missing from the article. Jesus crucified for us. This is what destroys sins power over us is to repent and receive forgiveness for sin. This is given freely with no strings attached but rather out of love and gratefulness to Jesus we strive daily against sin. However in Jesus we are dead to sin and that with no effort from us but we receive it passively. Instead of having to put sin to death Jesus puts us to death and raises us to walk in newness of life.

This section of St Paul’s letter is wonderful soaring stuff. So, it may seem, to keep us from fooling ourselves that we will become more and more perfect as time goes on we see later what the Christian life is like.

Romans 7:21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. ESV

There you have it. The Christian life with all its warring inside and also the cure. So it is not using our will power, the words of Jesus as a help, hours of prayer seeking to know our sin or any other such flexing of muscle but rather the finished work of Jesus. As always it is not about you but rather Jesus for you.

Praise to you O Christ. †

Monday, September 7, 2009

Predestination: A Doctrine of Radical Comfort.

One of the most comforting doctrines, when rightly understood and taught, in scripture is predestination. On the outset this can sound harsh and unfair of God to predestine to salvation those who believe. It is assumed that if there is predestination to eternal life therefore those who are damned are predestined to be so. That is reaching around scripture and connecting the dots behind it in order to find explanations which God has not given to us.

Acts 13:47 For so the Lord has commanded us, saying,

“‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles,
that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.’”

48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed. 49 And the word of the Lord was spreading throughout the whole region. 50 But the Jews incited the devout women of high standing and the leading men of the city, stirred up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district. 51 But they shook off the dust from their feet against them and went to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

We see in the above scripture that those who heard the message from St Paul and St Barnabas rejoiced to hear this and some were appointed to eternal life. This is a wonderful truth that God does all the saving and does not leave anything to chance in a decision we have to make or a full understanding we must grasp. It is a total gifting of salvation and all that is needed to receive this gift and trust in it. No need for personal inward gazing to determine if all the ducks are lined up or whether one was sufficiently sincere.

Then we see the effect an unbelieving heart has. It will not only disregard the preaching of salvation but will in response persecute those bearing the good news. We by nature wish to be our own Savior. That is the result of the fall upwards toward trying to be God. This manifests itself in the church by disbelieving the clear promises of God. It also is seen when one is not satisfied with the answers God has chosen to give and ventures off trying to peer into that which God has hidden from view.

We have his written word which gives us plenty to contemplate. This word gives us plenty with which to keep us occupied and presents to us and brings to us salvation. This word reveals God to us in the person of Jesus who after living perfectly for us bore all the sins of humanity to the cross rising on the third day for us. Radical!

In the Name of Jesus. †

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Yes! The Gospel Can Save Even Christians!

Luke 24:44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” ESV

Above, in v. 47, we have what Jesus wants preached in sermons. Often you will hear conservative Christians criticize the preaching of Joel Osteen and other popular television preachers. Topics usually surround what we can get out of God. Name it and claim it sermons have no room for conviction of sin and forgiveness found only in the Gospel.

In listening to several sermons from some of these Christian’s favorite preachers one has to listen to several until one hears Christ crucified for sinners in these as well. At times we are treated to a grand bible study from the pulpit. Nothing incorrect is taught. Perhaps some interesting historic information on first century Christians is shared. Perhaps the doctrinal stance of one of the reformers or other theologian is spoken on and scripture given to either back it up or dispute it. But bible studies and preaching are two separate acts.

Certainly sin is preached on but it is often the sin of others. How that this church body or that one is dropping the ball where we are not. Where impenitent sinners out there need to hear the law to convict them and the Gospel so they can be saved. However, the law is never executed on the person sitting in the seats listening to this sermon. This is very comfortable if one never reads the scripture for him or herself and have the law executed on them from the pages of scripture. They never are taught how that those condemning words from a Holy God is on them as well. Perhaps he or she has quit some gross outward sin and is able to avoid other temptations as well but in the heart and mind is covetousness, spite, anger towards others, grudges and all the other sins that manifest themselves in our hearts and minds. Each of these sins of the heart and mind justly deserves God’s present and eternal punishment as well as all the sins we see those on the outside of our circle do.

One can almost understand why a person like Osteen really does not want to preach that from a his pulpit. He would lose attendees by droves. No one who is seeking his or her own end wants to hear about how far short they fall and that suffering maybe all the experience to be had in this life. But what excuse do the men have who should know better. If one is a supporter of a more traditional preacher on radio or sermon audio he or she should encourage that man to preach Christ and him crucified. The preacher in the pulpit of the church should be encouraged to do so too. Years ago that was the case no matter the sign in the church yard. Christ crucified was preached from the pulpit into the ears of sinners each week. That is the victory which overcomes the world, our faith. 1 John 5:4

Jesus is Lord of the church. He purchased her for himself by his own innocent sufferings and death. It is his desire that repentance and the forgiveness of sins be preached into the ears of sinners. Bible studies are great and a necessary part of a Christian’s life. However, proclamation times, sermons, are for the executing the severe law and giving the sweet Gospel. As Christians we remain full blown children of Adam and need to hear this as often as we can. This is the only way to overcome sin is by repenting and receiving forgiveness of sin. Yes the Gospel can save even a Christian.

In the name of Jesus. Amen. †