Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Just Shall Live by Faith – Part 2

Romans 12:2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

Continuing from the lecture on Romans that I heard: One of the biggest problems we have in our society today is the confusion between two classic words, the word morals and the word ethics. The term “ethics” comes from the idea of “ethos” and has to do with the philosophical or theological foundation for determining the “good” or what is “righteous”. Morals come from the idea of “mores”, which simply is the study of the given practices of a given people in a given society at a given time. Every culture has its behavioral customs and practices, which change from age to age. Things which were thought of as unspeakable evil in the past are now the custom of our society, because our morals have changed. But ethics never change. The character of God never changes. We confuse morals and ethics by the use and practice of statistical morality, saying that we determine what is “right” by what the majority of people believes and is engaged in as being normal, thinking that if it is normal, then it is ethical. If we do this consistently, we have no hope of ending anywhere but hell. We have no hope of escaping the judgment of God because the Almighty Lord is not going to change or negotiate His own righteousness according to our customs or preferences. 

That’s why Christians in every generation have to learn that they walk and march to God will, not the world. God’s people are called to be different, holy and set apart from what everyone else is doing in their culture. That’s why we are told not to be conformed to this world, but be transformed by what it means to be a Christian. God plants His law in the conscience and soul of every human being. We know the difference between “right’ and “wrong”.  All have the law of God written upon their hearts (Romans 2:15). We want the things that can only be found in God, and the benefits that only God can give, but we do not want God, because we love the blessings (happiness, fulfillment, peace of mind, etc), but not the Blessor. We naturally work on the disposition of every fallen creature – sin in thought, word and deed. There is no one righteous, not even one (Romans 3:10). All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). We all belong in hell for our disobedience and rebellion against God. Can we earn our way by the law?

Romans 3:20 “No one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.” The only hope of heaven is not in what we've done, but in what Christ has done. How easy it is to think, “ I've served God all these years.” The truth is that we are going to be judged on our works or Christ’s work. How can people say that they do not feel a need for Jesus. Jesus is necessary for our survival. Justification is by faith, not by works. It’s by faith in Christ and by His righteousness alone we can the righteous judgment of God against sin. God doesn't lower His standard or negotiate His righteousness or do away with His justice, but retains His righteousness and justice by truly punishing sin. Because there really was a Cross, and on that Cross was really propitiation, an acceptable sacrificial atonement, where there was a real satisfaction for the requirement of God’s justice. But it was done vicariously. This satisfaction for sin, if we are Believers, was accomplished by Jesus, not by us ... because we couldn't. It required a sinless person and that eliminates all of us. But the glorious gospel is now the righteousness of God revealed through that One whose righteousness is made available to all who believe in Christ, and Christ alone. The imputation of the righteousness of Christ by God is by faith the grounds of our salvation, not works. Praise be to God and our Lord & Savior Jesus Christ! Amen.

Romans 6:23For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

In Christ, Brian

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Just Shall Live by Faith - Part 1

Romans 1:16-17 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

The other day, I heard a great lecture on the book of “Romans” that really brought excellent clarity to the gospel of Salvation and the reasons why we all need Christ. He spoke of how, in the Christian world today, we are being conditioned to believe that there is no such thing as Divine wrath. And if there is just a loving God that forgives all with no such a thing as Divine wrath, that that is the reason that people do not get very excited about the gospel anymore. Who needs a Savior and why? The gospel is only “good news” when it is understood against the backdrop of the “bad news” of sin and its consequences, which includes the wrath of God being revealed against all mankind (Romans 1:18), before hearing about what God did through Chris for us, to make sense. God’s wrath is against the specific sin of godless and wicked suppression of the truth of God, which He has plainly manifested and clearly communicated  to every single one of His creatures through His creation (Romans 1:19-20). The excuse on the Day of Judgment will be: “God, I didn't know you were there. I didn't see you. I didn't make the connection between the world around me and you as the Creator, so I hope you forgive my lack of drawing the proper conclusion from the evidence before my eyes.” Not only is the revelation of God given to every single person, but that revelation gets through, so we are without excuse.

There is no such thing as an “honest” Atheist, because knowing God they refused to glorify Him or give Him thanks (Romans 1:21). The two most fundamental reactions of sin against the display of God’s glory through natural revelation is the refusal of the obstinate heart of fallen humanity to honor God as God and to not be grateful. They instead exchange the truth for a lie and serve the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever (Romans 1:25). So the gospel comes into a world that is already under the indictment and judgment of Almighty God.

A question you hear all the time is; “What about the poor, innocent native in Africa, who has never heard of Jesus?” The answer is that the poor, innocent native in Africa, who dies goes straight to heaven. That poor, innocent native does not need Jesus, so leave him alone. I wouldn't spend any time reaching out to the poor, innocent native in Africa for salvation because that person doesn't need it. The only people who need salvation are “guilty” people. Now, if you ask: “What happens to the guilty people in Africa, who haven’t heard of Jesus?”, they’re in deep trouble. They are not in trouble for rejecting Jesus, whom they have never heard if. The fact is that there are no innocent natives in Africa or anywhere else in the world, because the whole world receives the plain revelation of God. Everyone has it and everyone distorts it. Everyone exchanges the truth of God for some kind of an idol. So the universal religion of fallen humanity is Idolatry, so God is moved to wrath against what fallen creatures do against the glory of His majesty by serving idols rather than Him. Then God gives them over to their heinous lusts of their depraved, reprobate minds (Romans 1:24-30).

Then God gives them over to their hennas lusts of their depraved, reprobate minds (Romans 1:24-30). These people knowing the righteous judgment of God, those who practice such things are deserving death, not only do them, but they approve of others who do them (Romans 1:32). Misery loves company. One of the ways that people seek to ease their conscience, when we know that we are living in violation of the law of God, is to encourage others to do what we are doing, because the more that are engaged in it, then the more “normal” it becomes. The more normal it becomes, the less sinful it seems and we say: “After all, this is natural for us to behave in this manner.” Well, it is! Nothing comes more naturally to fallen humanity than sin. The sinfulness of our sin is shown in that we try to defend our sin as if it were legitimate and give approval to others that participate in the same sins that we do. Thinking that God is going to have to rule by referendum and that He is going to have to change His law and character to accommodate our sinful practices. 

Due to the length of this great lecture's notes, I'm going to have to split this post into two messages and deliver the concluding "good news" next time. May the Word of God be a true light in your life, and the Light of the World. And by seeing the light, we expose the darkness, so we can see the truth and get on the "right" road. Shine your light.

In Christ, Brian

Sunday, January 27, 2013

God Gave

John 3:16For God so loved the world that He gave.”

These 26 words form the favorite Bible verse of millions of Christians around the world, because they communicate the love and care of our Almighty Father to, by His grace, provide a way, at His sacrifice, to rescue the world, dead in sin. A verse profound enough to change all of history and split time in half (B.C. means Before Christ, an epoch used in dating years prior to the established birth of Jesus Christ & A.D. stands for Anno Domini, which is Latin for “year of our Lord” and means the number of years since the birth of Jesus). The sovereign Creator of the Universe had no obligation, and the sinful world has no merit, yet God chose out of His character of love, justice and mercy to give. God’s relentless love provides hope, in faith, that is instilled in all our lives. Pastor JJ continues our church’s Sunday Sermon Series, based on Max Lucado’s book and associated Study titled, John 3:16. Here are my notes & thoughts for you. 

Proverbs 3:9Honor the Lord with your possessions, and with the firstfruits of all your increase.”
God has always asked for our “best”, and nothing less. God does not want our left-overs”; what’s left after we spend our resources (time, money, thoughts, etc.) on what we want. He wants our “firstfruits”. There needs to be a priority in making an offering to the Lord, our God. Does God need money? No, it is we who need the character attribute of the general principle discipline of “giving” in our lives, not reluctantly, but willfully, graciously and cheerfully, as God gives and as God gave to us. A heart attitude towards giving as our response to God. God gave; we give. So, the question is: What are we giving? The “best” or the “left-overs”? God only gives his “best” and expects the same from His children. He doesn't settle for anything less and neither should we. Why? Where are we without salvation? What are we “saved from” and what are we “saved to” and how? Romans 6:23For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” God gave.

John 3:16He gave His one and only Son.”

Out of the overflow of His character, our heavenly Father gave a piece of Himself. Out of His love and mercy, He sent His one and only Son as a sacrifice for us. God gave His very essence and presence in Jesus – the Christ, the promised Messiah, the Savior of the world. 2 Corinthians 5:21For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Jesus is God Himself; one and the same. The Greek word translated as “one & only” or “begotten” is μονογενής  monogenēs, “of one gene”. John 10:30 I and the Father are one.” Genes are passed down from parents to children. God says, “I want you to know me”, so He sent Jesus that we may know the Father through the Son. All truth is God’s truth, but God must reveal all truth. Jesus said in Matthew 11:27 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” And in John 14:9-11Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.” God chose to reveal Himself to us in Christ.

God gave it all up for us. He gave of His very “best”. Ephesians 1:4 declares, He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. God gave “the best”, the Good Shepherd that lays down His life for His flock, so we could have life and life abundant (John 10). Will we give our “best” for Him? Have we bough into the lie that the Christian life in this world is to be naturally comfortable and organically peaceful? The child of God is to reflect the goodness of God revealed in Christ and His gospel.

Have we been “holy as He is holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16)? Have we loved out of “selfless” love in church and community? We must live out the reality that “God gave”, in every part of our lives, with strength and courage to face it. It is time to “step up our game”, beyond our comfort zone. Proclaim the name of the Lord in this land, this world, and this culture in His ways, that all may come to a “saving” knowledge of Jesus Christ and live … really live! God freely gave and God freely gives today.

Ephesians 2:1-5As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” God gave.

In Christ, Brian

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Walk the Talk

Ephesians 1:2-8 Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.”

You've probably heard the expression: “Words are cheap”, because “the proof is in the pudding”. People will not take you on “face value”, but will wait and see if your words really are true by your actions. Do you put into “practice what you preach”? Do you “walk the talk”?  This new home Bible Study series has us taking a long, hard look at what we do and why, as Christians, we do them. And it starts with the standard by which we measure our walk, the Word of God. The Bible is not only Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth, but God’s communication to mankind in co-union through His holy Scriptures, which we can delight and rejoice in as community. Note that the words communication and community have the word commune within it; to confer together, engaged in intimate conversation of common interest. A Spirit-filled, fruitful life.

2 Timothy 3:16All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.”

God’s Word (breathed out for us) is profitable (yielding gain and advantage) for doctrine (the basis and principles for knowledge and tenet beliefs held & taught), for reproof (compassionate rebuke without bitterness), for correction (replaces wrong with love and resets right), for instruction (information imparted through teaching for knowledge as training and direction) in righteousness (to be just and equitable, blameless and upright, ruled by that which is right in the eyes of God, our Almighty Maker and heavenly Father). The Bible is the very Word of God and was given to us so we might know truth and faithfully live by it.

We must remember that as His children – those who believe on Jesus Christ and receive Him as Lord and Savior, that our redemption is a release from the bondage of sin and death accomplished upon the payment of a ransom. By grace you have been saved, through faith. The ransom amount that released Christians from their sin was the blood of Jesus Christ. So often our behavior is dictated by the image, the perception we have of ourselves. Proverbs 23:7 says, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he”. What we believe about ourselves determines the way we “walk”. It’s important to not just revere Christ as Lord in our hearts, truly know who we are in the Lord and to always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have, but also to walk the talk in godly living.

In Christ, Brian

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

God Loved

John 3:16For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

Pastor JJ is continuing with our Sunday Sermon Series on John 3:16 and this week he focus on the love of God. God has a profound plan for the world that is bigger than we could ever imagine. The reality of what God is teaching us is sinking into our adult heart. The plan all starts with God, without whom the rest makes no sense because without God nothing starts at all. Stop and think about the vastness of God eternal. How great thou art! We tend not to think beyond our planet. How big is your Creator, who spoke into existence this universe of over 100 billion stars? It would take us 70 year to reach our Sun going 150 miles per hour. And to reach the very next sun in our galaxy, it would take 15 million years.
Psalm 19:1The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows His handiwork.”

The first thing that we need to know in our heart is that God exists. God is real and created everything. Genesis 1:1In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Sure, some disagree, but don’t have answers. The beginning of the world has a problem: no one was there and science is limited. The truth is that the complexity of nature demands a Designer. The probability of happening by accident is so astronomical that it is mathematically impossible. Non-life cannot create life. Can conscious thought, intelligence and knowledge be created by time and chance? No, it’s our eternal Creator God.

Ephesians 3:17-19 “That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. For God so loved the world” points to the fact that His love can reach us.

The second thing that we need to know in our heart is that God loves. God is love. It is His essential character. For God so loved the world” is based upon a choice, not because we are so lovable, but because He chose to love us out of His character attribute, despite our faults, sins, hang-ups and bad decisions. We do not deserve His love, but He didn’t wait for us to stop sinning. We have no way to win God’s love and there is nothing we can do to deserve it. God loves because He chooses to, not because of who we are but because of who He is. The Hebrew word for love speak of a tethered love in a bond, a love attached to someone, saying: They are mine.” The Greek word for love here is “ἀγαπάω agapaō” (aka agape); not just an affection, but a deliberate choice and decision; not just a feeling, but an action, which lies in the nature of God Himself. God chose to rescue this world out of pure love. It is truly an unconditional love.

1 John 4:9In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.
We are a part of this world and God offers love to us. Know how amazing and profound this love of God is. We need to drop the fantasy of our definition of love based upon conditions. God chose us to love, and specifically you. Take serious the free gift that God chose to give us. It will change our lives. Take it, embrace it, let it transform you; live in it and use it to make a positive impact on others, or reject it. You can refuse His love. But, why? For God so loved the world”. May your heart be directed into His love.

2 Corinthians 13:14The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.
In Christ, Brian

Sunday, January 20, 2013

What's in it for me?

Hebrews 10:24-25  And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.

Church (Worship, prayer, Bible Study, fellowship, tithing, serving, etc.), God and Christ are a decision and a commitment that many are not familiar with experientially, spiritually or properly intellectually. Why do people avoid church and do those who attend do so for the “right” reason? The questions are different, but the answer may be the same. If the issue is the same, then would it be okay and “no real big deal” to miss church ... because we do not understand why its really there. Church, to some, is NOT an encounter with God, their Creator, Sustainer, Lord and Savior. Like so many, many others, even some within the church do not sense the presence of God there, because they just know the physical world that they live and breathe, in nature experience.

It seems to me that we all need to change the object of our worship from this world to God. No other gods. Sure, we live in a physical world that God, Himself, created and placed us for this time in His purpose. But, do we seek first the kingdom of God? Who or what is the Master of our lives? Who and/or what are we committed to, dedicated to, and devoted to? Is church just one thing on our check list of "things to do today"? If so, then when something better comes along, then we can skip it? Busyness is a serious distraction. What is church really? Why are we there at church? I remember, as a child growing up in a nominal pseudo-Christian family that believed in God but didn't really know Him or the gospel, wondering “what people did when they went to church?”

Maybe the question is really, "Who is God?", because we really don't know Him or the gospel of Jesus Christ. The church can "sour" impressions with its own "things to do today" tradition, that many that attend hold as the chief reason that they are there. Why would anyone want that works-based experience? It would not create a good experience there, just a fulfilled obligation. Is life about mankind, the planet, or me? Or God, then the rest comes into focus? I don’t want to go through motions; I want to experience the presence of God, physically, soulfully, and spiritually - Emmanuel (God is with us), Hosanna (God save us we pray), Abba Jehovah (Father God)!

Hebrews 10:11-23 Every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before, “This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them,” then He adds, “Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin. Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, and having a High Priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.

Catch this truth and get in here! Participate in true Worship and the life of the church, for your sake, for the sake of a church body and for Christ's sake. The pull of the world's routines are strong ... if I don't go to church, I could be doing something that “I” like (is what the world, the flesh and Satan tells us). The world asks, "What's in it for me?" and they need to see it because “what” is there ... not as an entertainment performance, because that leads to the "one up-ing the last time" cycle, and the day that they fail to entertain, many are gone. But God never fails, so the attention needs to be focused on personally "meeting God" in worship and praise with Believers in holiness and righteousness. Not that the church décor, the music, the ambiance doesn't add to the atmosphere and experience. It certainly does! But, does the church offer something ... anything that the world doesn't give? If there is no presence of God ... it surely does not. It seems to be natural verses spiritual, instead of natural and spiritual.

Find God at church and experience His presence there, and “let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another”. That’s what’s in it for me and you!

In Christ, Brian

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Numbers of Hope

John 3:16   “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Earlier this year, I ran across an email sale from for an “all church” Bible Study on a Max Lucado book titled John 3:16 – The Numbers of Hope, so I bought it and our church is currently going through the series on Sunday morning with discussion questions for all the mid-week small groups. I thought that I’d write down the notes that from the Sermons and share them with you.

We live in a world that desperately needs hope. Each of us has numbers of despair and knows them, but God wants to replace these numbers of ours with hope. What does it mean to be people that live out the words of John 3:16? Sure, life has its “let downs”, but don’t allow them to define you. Return to 3:16, a 26-word parade of hope: beginning with God, ending with Life, and urging us to do the same. These truths - He loves, He gave, we believe, & we life – are like a safety deposit box for us.

Reality is that through sin death entered the world and those that choose to go to hell and perish, He honors their desire and let’s them go, but “whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Whoever (aka “Whom-so-ever”) is one of the greatest words on earth, as it excludes no one from the offer of God. You can replace the word “world” with your name because God includes us all, no matter who we are or what we've done before. And what does God offer us but forgiveness, redemption, salvation, life and life eternal! And this life that He offers now is the Greek word “zoe”, which means life, but more explicitly, the state of one who is possessed of vitality of life.

Find the hope that the world does not offer; a hope from God that comes only by knowing Him. Focus on what’s important in life. What God wants for us. The numbers of hope are 3:16. “For God so loved the world that he gave”. All we have to do is believe to receive.

In Christ, Brian 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Idols - Spiritual Adultery

Exodus 20:2-6 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth. You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing loving-kindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.”

Wrapping up our six week small group Bible Study series, we touched the topic of idols in our life. Christian admonition is not angry scolding. It is loving correction and warning based on God's Word for the purpose of protecting and building up. Therefore, it is important to understand the difference between jealousy and envy. Envy is wishing that you had something that someone else has. Jealousy is not wanting someone else to have what you have. God is sovereign, with supreme power and dominion over His Creation, which shares with no one and no thing. Idolatry is spiritual adultery against our Creator Father God and what the first three of the Ten Commandments address and is the reason that ungodly people do not want them displayed and spoken. 

2 Corinthians 6:16-7:1 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people. Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters,
says the Lord Almighty.” Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.

God has much to say in His Holy Word with respect to idols and their worship. An idol is anything that we bow down to, that we put in the rightful place of God, anything that receives a priority over Him in our affections. An idol is a counterfeit god that will lead us away from loving God with all your heart, mind, soul, body and strength. God does not tolerate idols. They are bad for you and I; they keep us from being all that God, in His goodness, desires for you and for His kingdom. God is divinely jealous. He is jealous for our holiness and our sanctification, without which, He says “No one will see the Lord” (Hebrews 12:14).

Luke 16:13 No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth” … (or any other idol). We can not have to both ways.

Do you believe that Idolatry is a problem today? Do you see people that have something or someone in their life that receives a priority over God in our affections? We must never let our sinful flesh desires, the god-rejecting world system or Satan take the heart of God from us. Let’s walk in the Spirit, praise the Lord and love God alone.

 Mark 12:30Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”
In Christ, Brian

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Majestic in Holiness

Exodus 15:11Who among the gods is like you, Lord? Who is like you— majestic in holiness, awesome in glory, working wonders?

This past small group Bible Study at our house was so jam-packed with biblical truth that it couldn't be unpacked in just one message post. I pick up here with the holiness of Almighty God.  The biblical concept of holiness is difficult to define in a few words, but it contains the idea of being separate. It suggests a separation between what is pure and what is unclean. For example,  hasn't everyone’s mother given the lecture to their child on “statistical morality”, where if everyone is doing something that is wrong, doesn't make it right. “If everyone jumps off a cliff, does that mean you have to jump off with them?” No, wrong is wrong. Thus you see the concept of separation.

1 Peter 1:14-16As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior; because it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.”

God, majestic in holiness, in sovereign grandeur, is separate from all that is evil or defiled. His character is the standard for moral perfection. Right is not what is “right” in our own eyes, or in the eyes of others, but in the eyes of our Creator and Lord. God says it; that settles it, because His Word is “holy ground”. The word holy and holiness are used approximately seven hundred times in the Bible. The idea of separation, being set apart by God, for God’s purposes, is affirmed over and over.

1 Peter 2:9-12But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

Consecrated is not a word that we hear very often today, but needs to be lively and growing in our culture, because the word means “Set apart as sacred and dedicated to God”. I wonder if we take the majestic holiness of God far too lightly in our world today? What exactly are we offering up to the Lord daily? Do Christians truly understand the holiness of the Lord and live their lives accordingly? Is Holy God’s presence real in our lives? Do we see His omnipotent hand at work in our lives and our world? Do we sense it? Do we see it? Do we feel it? And if His majestic holiness is missing in our life, why?

1 Corinthians 6:19-20 “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.

What God wants you to know is that you are made holy by the indwelling Holy Spirit, not by trying to keep the law. Remember that holiness comes from yielding to the Spirit and walking in the Spirit, rather than trying to control your flesh by a list of do's and don'ts. Reedeemed, You shall be holy, for I am Holy.” 
In Christ, Brian

Saturday, January 12, 2013

God's Righteous Wrath

Romans 2:4-8 “Do you have contempt for the wealth of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, and yet do not know that God’s kindness leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath for yourselves in the Day of Wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed! He will reward each one according to his works: eternal life to those who by perseverance in good works seek glory and honor and immortality, but wrath and anger to those who live in selfish ambition and do not obey the truth but follow unrighteousness.”

My old mentor Bill always said that we cannot truly know what we have been saved “to”, until we truly know what we have been saved “from”. Our Small Bible study looked this last week into the “just” wrath of God. Bottom line: God is good, all the time. All the time, God is good. Why? Because it is His nature. Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good! How blessed is the one who takes shelter in him!” Some ask “Why isn't evil punished by God ? Where is the justice?” But the one word is missing at the end of that first question … the word “yet”. The Day of Judgment & Wrath is in the future, because there are more people coming to a “saving” knowledge of the Savior. It is liberating to know that our Heavenly Father, in His love and mercy, has provided, as a free gift, a way to the sinner for redemption, forgiveness, salvation and eternal life, so that all may make the choice.

Romans 5:8-9But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.

Jay Edward Adams wrote a paragraph that puts it into perspective. “From the Garden of Eden with its two trees, one allowed, one forbidden, to the eternal destiny of the human being in heaven or in hell, the Bible sets forth two and only two ways...God's way and all others. Accordingly, people are either saved or lost. They belong to God or the world. There is Mt. Gerizim, the mount of blessing and Mt. Ebal, the mount of cursing. There is the narrow way and the wide way. One leads to eternal life. The other to eternal destruction. There are those who are against and those who are with us. There are those within the Kingdom and those outside the Kingdom. There is life and death, truth and falsehood, good and bad, light and darkness, the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan, love and hatred, spiritual wisdom and the wisdom of the world. And Christ is said to be the way, the truth and the life and no one may come to the Father but by Him. He is the only name under heaven by which one may be saved.” 

Romans 1:16-19For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith.’ For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.

God’s wrath comes because of unbelief, disobedience, and any act that is contrary to the perfect will of God. Wrath is God’s response to sin in all its forms. His righteousness, His justice, His holiness command His just judgment against all who choose to perish in eternal damnation. I remember listening to baseball star player Albert Pujols speak on a radio program about, while dating his soon-to-be wife, she told Albert that she needed to break up with him because he was not a Christian and she couldn't bear the thought that he was going to Hell. He immediately replied that he didn't want to go to Hell and she presented the gospel of Jesus Christ, which he accepted and has been “on fire” for the Lord since. Know the choice, make the choice, accept the gift and use the gift. 

John 3:36 “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”

In Christ, Brian

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Present Problem

Psalm 114:7Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob.”

The other day, I received an e-mail from one of our church member asking many of the Men’s Bible Study group to watch an on-line video by Pastor Darrin Patrick of the Journey church in Missouri, titled “Why Churches Die?”. By some Divine coincidence, I had just read an article by Pastor R.C. Sproul of Saint Andrews church in Florida that addressed the question of why people stay away from church. Not so amazingly, the problem and the answer were the same.

2 Corinthians 5:7We live by faith, not by sight.”

Pastor Sproul states that the whole person is to be engaged in the experience of worship. When we come to worship, we do not come as disembodied minds, hearts and souls. None of our experiences are purely intellectual, emotional, or spiritual. The experience of human life also involves physical aspects. We are creatures who live not merely with our minds, hearts, and souls, but with our senses. Pastor Patrick states that over 3000 churches in the USA will close their doors this year because the story and the glory of the church become bigger than the story and the glory of God.

Sproul states that the two leading reasons that surveys claim for people staying away from church is that they find worship boring and they find the church irrelevant (applicable, pertinent and related to life). If God appeared at any church one Sunday, no one would come to that service and go away saying, ‘I was bored.’ So given the fact that worship is, in its most basic sense, a meeting with God, Sproul concludes that people attending churches are experiencing no presence of God. That is tragic, because if people have no sense of the presence of God, they cannot be moved to worship and glorify God.  

Pastor Patrick explains that churches that thrive believe that Jesus (God the Son) was sent by God the Father, lived a sinless perfect life, died a brutal death in their place for their sins, then rose again, triumphing over sin and death. They believe it has implications for their lives because their sins can be forgiven and they can be born again with a new heart and a new identity (saved to eternal life as a child of God), that they are sent on “mission” with this God, who is omniscient (All-knowing). But reality is that most Christians are not on mission. A poll showed that 60% of Christians feel no obligation to share their faith. We need a glimpse of the presence of the God that is omniscient.

I do not want their Bible-believing churches, my gospel preaching church or your Christ-centered church to become a museum or vacant building, but to be alive, solving the present problem, relevant with the presence of God, and to be a part of the movement of what God is doing today.

1 Thessalonians 3:9How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you?”

In Christ, Brian

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Put on the New Self

Colossians 3:5-6Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these, the wrath of God is coming.

Our Friday night Bible Study group has resumed after a short break for all the family busyness of Christmas and New Years, and we concluded our final lesson on “The Power of Knowing God”. But this was actually three lessons in one, as a trifecta of important life issues were addressed, which I will unpack over the next few posts. But to start, I’d like to give you the conclusion because the bottom line is solid ground for a balanced life that we seek.

Colossians 3:9-10Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.

The study closes with: From Genesis, the book of beginnings, we know that God (the Father, Son & Holy Spirit) first created us in their image. Although that image was marred, distorted, cut off from God because of the sin of unbelief and disobedience, we have hope of restoration, because God is love and merciful. He called us beloved when, in our sin against Him and His holy way, there was nothing lovely about us. Out of His love, grace and kindness, the eternal Creator Father justly redeemed us through the life, death, burial, resurrection and ascension of the Holy Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ.

Greater love has never been known and  never been seen, in that while we were sinners, without hope, helpless, ungodly – literally enemies of God – Christ Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, died for us. Grab and hold onto this! Jesus took on our sin, even though that wages of sin (the penalty for sin) is death, and paid for it in full. And because God’s holiness was satisfied in this acceptable substitutionary atoning sacrifice, He raised Jesus from the dead, defeating sin and death forever. Thus when we repent and believe in the name of Jesus Christ, our sin are forgiven and we pass from death to life – eternal, everlasting life. And because Almighty God is sovereign – because all is under the dominion of the kingdom of the Most High God – you and I have absolute assurance of it. Put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of our Creator.

It is breathtaking, awe-inspiring and humbling that as we grow in “the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3), we become more and more like Him. Strengthened, able to be courageous, to actively serve the Lord wherever and however He, in His omniscience (all-knowing) desires us to live until He calls us home. And as a child of God, our home is Heaven! Jesus is there now, in His Father’s house, preparing a dwelling place for us (John 14:2-4), and you know the way.

John 14:6Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Oh beloved of the Father, walk by the Holy Spirit, aligned with the perfect Word, Will and Way of God. Be holy (set apart from sin) as He is holy, so that when you see the Holy One on the glorious day, you’ll hear Him declare; “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your master!” (Matthew 25:21).

1 Timothy 1:17Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
In Christ, Brian