Sunday, January 31, 2010

Washed, Sprinkled Clean and Assured

Assurance. How can I be sure how God our Father thinks of me and beholds my person? This is the question asked of me many times. To what shall I refer for it is normally asked by a believer in Jesus who is coming to grips with being a sinner. The sin maybe one that seems huge or the so called little sins of not being able to forgive another person for some wrong done. Perhaps it is not being content with what the Lord is providing in either lack of things or suffering disease. Or some other sin of the heart which is a constant plague which takes the assurance out of life.

We are indeed by nature turned against God. The sins we commit do not make us sinners but rather are sure proof that we have fallen short of the glory of Jesus. This is the war that is, and should be, ongoing in our persons. It is a necessary battle to keep our inner brat from taking over and once again ruling our lives. This old nature can never be reformed or instructed in righteousness. This will be with us until our departure from this fallen and dying world.

With this battle raging and so many teachers out there proclaiming the victorious and ever improving life for the believer one can really get concerned about assurance of our Father’s favour. Some have actually preached that if you have a habit of sinning daily you cannot be a real Christian. This is a clear contradiction of clear teaching in scripture that we are at the same time saint and sinner. And one is tempted to enquire of the preacher whether he sinned yesterday, will sin today and tomorrow. If he or she says no then we know we are dealing with a person who is lying to his or her self. No good news there. The glorious good news is that we are, in Father’s sight in Jesus a true saint against whom will not call us into account for our sin.

Hebrews 10:19 Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, 20 by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, 21 and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. ESV

There! A wonderful section of scripture which shows our salvation is not based upon anything whatsoever we may or may not do. By the blood of Jesus we enter the holy places of God. We have sweet communication with our Father in heaven in the name of Jesus. This refers in part to the former partition in the Temple to the Holy of Holies which is the flesh of Jesus. The Lord has exited that space and now comes to us first when he took on human flesh and finished his work. When we partake of the Lord’s Supper Jesus comes to us in his real presence to once again assure us of his abiding with us. No more waiting till the last day to have our Jesus with us but he has located himself for us in his supper. This renewal is such a wonderful gift of assurance that the false teaching that we anything whatsoever to do with our salvation need be rejected and rebuked on every occasion.

Jesus, due to his perfect life, death, burial and resurrection has become our great high priest. As this priest he offered himself as a one time payment for the sin of the entire world. The fruit of this sacrifice is delivered to us initially in our baptism. Throughout the toils and troubles of this life we can remember those promises and go forth in newness of life realizing our bodies washed with water and the name of the Father and of the † Son and of the Holy Spirit. No more evil conscience that is turned against our God and in unto ourselves. And a heart which sincerely desires to love our Creator with our whole heart and our neighbour as ourselves. We are true children of God in whom he delights in and because of Jesus for us.

In the name of Jesus. Amen †

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Assurance by Command Keeping? Ooops!

Question: Do you keep the ten commandments of our God perfectly? If the answer is no how do you know that you are in right with our Creator? This is a loaded question which can terrify the most pious of believers. Christians who do not believe, teach and confess the promises associated with the word of God, baptism and the Lord’s supper are left in a quandary. How do I know I am saved? What evidence am I displaying which I can see, and others as well, that I am actually in Jesus and a child of God? Many will point to this section to relieve their terrified mind and on the flip side accuse others of gross sin. This is done by taking the moral requirements of God and believing we are graded on a curve. As the Christian matures, it is thought, he or she is more and more capable of obeying the law. Yes we do progress by recognizing old temptations and avoiding these sins. However, due to being by nature sinners turned against God this avoidance will be followed by pride. If the commandments spoken of in 1 John are to be kept what are they?

1 John 2:3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5 but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. ESV

Now it certainly appears that one should expect the ability to walk in obedience to the law of God. To become more and more like Jesus and derive comfort from that. However, we have no choice but to be honest with ourselves that we in no way keep the law perfectly knowing perfection is all that is acceptable to God. So what commands are these? The commands or mandates of Jesus include behaviour on our part but also what we are to do in response to sin and missing totally the mark set. The close context of these verses hold the key.

1 John 2:1 My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

What is the real sin here? That one may constantly covet, hold ill will against another or perhaps gossip? Yes those are damnable transgressions of the law however, Jesus died for those sins and all other sins. The sin of which we are constantly guilty is unbelief. Every sin is a variation of unbelief. We covet because we do not believe our Heavenly Father has supplied all we need. We know much better what we need than he does. We see in the near context that he is our advocate when we do sin. Jesus commandments to us also include the remedy for us and our sin.

1 John 1:9 If we confess our sins God is faithful and just and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ESV
These words carry forgiveness of sin. Sure and blessed promises from God through his evangelist and will enter our ears when heard and eyes when read. No activity on our part. No valiant effort on our part to cease sinning which we can never do no matter our want. It is the passive reception of the promises associated with the perfect life, death, burial and resurrection of Jesus. No prideful or morbid introspection needed for it comes from outside us in the preaching of the good news.

In additions the promises are also ours in the passive reception of gift of Holy Baptism:

1 Peter 3:18 For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 19 in which he went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, 20 because they formerly did not obey, when God's patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. 21 Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, 22 who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him. ESV

Many will doubt this promise for they see baptism as a work of the humans involved rather than God’s powerful work of delivering the fruit of the cross of Jesus to a sinner. This is robbery to take that which Jesus instituted to make disciples, deliver the forgiveness of sin and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Again trusting in these promises bypass any self examination we may do of what we do. By recalling these promises and trusting in them we know we are true children of God and that he is therefore our true Father and delights in us because of Jesus.

The promise is also contained in the passive reception of the Sacrament of our Lord’s body and blood:

John 6:54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. 56 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. ESV

It is totally amazing. That there are Christians out there who look upon eating a bit of bread and drinking a sip of wine is actually a work. They, unfortunately for them, missing the entire point of Jesus’ instituting this gift for us. We do not understand how Jesus does this. With the bread we eat in the Supper we eat his body yet it remains bread. In the cup we drink both wine and his blood. But it must be true for in the short space of 48 words we see the promise of eternal life, resurrection on the last day and the abiding in Jesus. This is too much for finite minds to fathom. Best to read those words, trust them and rejoice in the promises contained in them. Leave off forever the credentialing ourselves by presenting our behaviour to God, others and ourselves to admire and prove once and for all we are believers. Rather trusting in the sure and blessed promises our Creator gives us for our peace and comfort in a fallen and dying world.

These strong promises of our Lord remove any doubt of his love for us. The strong words of Jesus and his apostles remove the terror of what sinful man may do to us in these last days. These strong words remove any sting of our approaching death holds for us whether near or far off. We need not fear the grave anymore than our sleeping place at night for the resurrection comes on the next day. Alleluia.

In the name of Jesus. Amen. †