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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Gospel Tension.

We see throughout the New Testament a tension between faith and works. There are numerous passages dealing with the subject of salvation through faith, and there are also those passages that pertain to the necessity of works in the life of a believer if he ever hopes to safely reach heaven. On the one hand we must beware of legalism, the futile attempt to be saved through works, and on the other, we must steer clear of antinomianism, the idea that salvation frees us from obedience to God; that it doesn't matter how we live once we are saved.

Let's look at several of these passages, starting with some statements that Jesus made concerning salvation.
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:14-16 KJV
This is a well known portion of scripture that teaches us the concept of salvation by faith. Jesus is speaking to Nicodemus about the need to be born again if one is to enter the kingdom of heaven. In this passage we are the emphasis placed upon our belief in Him as the requirement to find eternal life. There are similar statements Jesus made in other occasions as well.
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is past from death into life. John 5:24 KJV
And this is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day. John 6:40 KJV 
Again, we see the emphasis Jesus placed upon faith in Him. But Jesus placed as much emphasis on obedience to His commands as well, as we see in passages such as these,
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets:  I am not come to destroy, but fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot, or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matt 5:17-20 KJV
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? And in thy name have cast out devils? And in thy name done many wonderful works? And then I will profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Matt 7:21-23 KJV
And why call ye me Lord, Lord, and so not do the things which I say? Whosoever cometh to me, and heareth my sayings, and doeth them, I will shew you to whom he is like: he is like a man which built an house, and digged deep, and laid the foundation on a rock: and when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently upon that house, and could not shake it: for it was founded upon a rock: but he that heareth, and doeth not, is like a man that without a foundation built an house upon the earth; against which the stream did beat vehemently, and immediately it fell; and the ruin of that house was great. Luke 6:46-49 KJV
If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another comforter, that he may abide with you forever. John 14:15-16 KJV
He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that livery me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father's which sent me. John 14:21-24 KJV
I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taken away: and every branch that beseech fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. John 15:1-6 K KJV
These are just a few of the passages of scripture in which Jesus emphasizes obedience to Him. There are others in which he lays out in no uncertain terms what is required of one who would be a disciple of His.

We find the disciples fulfilling the great commission in the book of Acts. In it we see emphasis placed on belief, as well as on obedience.
And it shall come to pass that whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Then Peter said unto them, Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. Acts 2:21, 38 KJV
This is from Peter's sermon on the day of Pentecost. In it he makes it as simple as calling on the name of the Lord, but he also exhorts his listeners to turn from their sins in repentance. Repentance was also a theme of John the Baptist's preaching, as well as that of Jesus Christ's. Simply put, repentance is giving up sin, and embracing obedience to Christ.
And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him. Acts 5:32 KJV
Peter makes these statements to the household of Cornelius, a Roman centurion  desiring to know the way of salvation,
But in every nation he that heareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. 
To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins. Acts 10:35, 43 KJV 
We read of the ministry of Philip in Samaria,
But when they believed Philip preaching the things concerning the kingdom of God, and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women. Acts 8:12 KJV
When asked by the Ethiopian eunuch what hindered him from being baptized, he answered him, "If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest." Acts 8:37

Paul makes this statement in Acts 13:38-39,
Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness is sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses. Acts 13:38-39 KJV
A careful search throughout the book of Acts would reveal many more instances where people were urged to believe in Jesus Christ for their salvation. So we see that the first Christians placed an emphasis upon faith, yet they also understood that their can be no salvation apart from obedience to Christ as well.

We find the apostle Paul placing great importance upon grace and faith in his writings. Some of the most loved and encouraging verses found in his letters are ones like these,
For what sayeth the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to Him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to Him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. Romans 4:3-5 KJV
Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: by whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Romans 5:1-2 KJV
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man boast. Eph 2:8-9 KJV
For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another. But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, not by righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. Titus 2:3-7KJV
We could find others as well in Paul's epistles, but these will suffice to show that Paul, as well as Jesus, preached a gospel of grace. But again, we see that there is no hope of salvation apart from an obedient  walk with the Lord.
Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? Romans 6:16 KJV
For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. Romans 8:13-14 KJV
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them. Eph 2:10 KJV
Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. Eph 5:1-7 KJV
In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Thess 1:8 KJV
Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; and being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him. Heb 5:8-9 KJV
Salvation is a radical life change. We tend to focus on God's forgiveness of our sin, which is a vital part of our salvation, but often fail to understand the power of the gospel to set us free from the dominion of sin in our lives. An individual claiming the grace of God, while living in disobedience to God, is in rebellion, still lost in sin. John states,
If we say we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth: but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin. 1 John 1:6-7 KJV
If we really believe in Jesus, we will follow Jesus. How can we say we are sorry for our sin, desire Christ to forgive us, and yet refuse to give it up? James tells us that real saving faith will express itself in obedience to Christ. If it does not, it is a dead faith.
What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou dost well: the devils also believe and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? For as the body without the Spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also. James 2:14-26 KJV
This is how we reconcile these two contradicting concepts. They are really two sides of the same coin. Faith in Christ will always obey Christ. Faith without obedience to Jesus is no faith at all. It is merely a license to sin. One who holds to this idea has no real salvation. To have obedience without faith is just as grave an error, leading one into a legalistic, works based Christianity that also cannot save. What really counts is faith working by love (Gal 5:6).

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Romans 6.

1. What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?                        
 2. God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
3. Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
4. Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
5. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection:
6. Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.
7. For he that is dead is freed from sin. 
Today is no different than the time Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans. There are those who believe that because of grace, it does not matter if we continue in sin. Paul's answer to this is no different today either. He portrays the Christian as one who is dead and buried concerning sin.

To be baptized into Christ is to be baptized into His death. It is an outward sign of being dead and buried, just as Christ died and was buried. What does this signify? It is the outward sign of the inner reality that we are dead to sin, that sin no longer has dominion or control over our lives. And just as Christ arose from the grave, we also are raised up to walk in newness of life. (See Col 3:1-3).

It a crucified life. The old man with all of his sinful passions and lusts has been crucified with Christ, thus breaking the power of sin in the believers life (Gal 5:24). Paul also wrote, "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who lived me, and gave himself for me." ( Gal 2:20 KJV) 

There is power in the gospel of Christ. Through the new birth we can be cleansed and set free from the power of sin in our daily lives. We read in Romans 7 of the dominion of sin in one's life. It is a cycle of defeat, desiring the good, but giving in to the evil. Apart from the deliverance of the cross of Christ, we find that we are quite controlled by our sinful desires. Through Christ we find victory, but we must walk in it by faith, submitting ourselves to the will of God.
8. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: 
9. Knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him.
10. For in that he died, he died into sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. 
11. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive into God through Jesus Christ our Lord.  
We must consider ourselves to be dead to sin and alive to serve God. It is a line drawn in the sand that we have determined not to cross. It is a reality for us, but does us no good if we remain passive in our faith, and fail to walk it out in our lives. We are to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who is working out His will in our lives (Phil 2:12-13).
12. Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.
13. Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness into sin: but yield yourselves into God as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God.
14. For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace.
It is up to us to decide. Do we choose to live a life filled with sinful choices, or to yield ourselves up to God? God, in His grace, has made it possible to do what the law could not. By His grace, we can do what is right, serving Him in righteousness. The law shows us the just requirements of God, but cannot enable us to live them out. This is what grace does for us. For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world (Titus 2:11-12 KJV)
 15. What then? Shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid. 
16. Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?
17.  But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you. 
18. Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness. 
There are many who believe that somehow God's grace has set aside the law, and as a result we are no longer required to obey it. This cannot be farther from the truth. Jesus taught that he did not come to do away with the law, but to fulfill it (Matt 5:17-18). His fulfillment of the law was to show us through His teaching, and by His example how to live to please God. Throughout the new testament you read that God does have requirements for His people, and they can be found in the law. Ultimately the law is summed up in two commands, supreme love towards God, and loving our neighbor as we love ourselves (Matt 22:37-40).

It is ludicrous to think that somehow because we are covered by grace that it is okay to sin, that God does not expect us to be honest, to be faithful in our marriages, that it does not bother Him if we steal, or kill. Yet those who hold that the moral commandments found in the law are no longer binding upon the believer, are in effect saying this. The truth is that under the new covenant the law is now written upon our hearts, and yes, we will obey it if we truly love Jesus (Heb 10:16, John 14:15).

We are the servants of what we yield to, either sin, or righteousness. We cannot claim grace, while living in sin. Jesus stated that the one who commits sin is the slave of sin, but He came to set the slave free (John 8:34-36).
19. I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. 
20. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. 
21. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. 
22. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. 
23. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.  
Who are you going to serve? To live for one's self leads to spiritual death. It does not matter if you consider yourself a Christian, if you are not living in obedient submission to Jesus Christ, you are in a path headed to death. God's gift of eternal life is for those who will yield to Him. We not only need the grace of God to cover our past, but we also need His grace to live day by day in service to Him.

Scripture quoted from the King James Version.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Upholding the Biblical Standard of Salvation.

It has become a common place practice to graciously place a person in heaven at their death. This is especially true whenever a celebrity passes. It does not seem to matter what the lifestyle of the individual was like during their time on earth, well meaning evangelicals will almost invariably claim that the individual was a Christian, and is now in heaven. In fairness, I believe that many Christians do not wish to appear judgmental or uncharitable. Yet, by doing so, we run the risk of lowering the biblical standard of salvation, and what it truly means according to God, to be a Christian, a follower of Christ.

What does the Bible have to say about salvation, and the Christian life? Let's look at a few scriptures to find out.

  • It is a narrow road (Matt 7:13-14; Luke 13:24). Jesus tells us to strive to enter the narrow gate, for many will seek to enter, and not be able. The way of salvation is a narrow road of surrender and humility, brokenness and obedience, walking against the current of this world. The scriptures plainly teach that the multitudes are on the broad path to destruction, while few are found travelling the narrow road to life.
  • It involves repentance (Luke 13:3; 2 Cor 7:10). Repentance is a turning around, a change of the course of our lives resulting from the knowledge that we have sinned against the holy God who created us, and loved us enough to send His Son Jesus, to take our sin upon Himself. A truly repentant individual loathes not only his sin, but his very self, for what he has done to God by his rebellious actions. Without repentance, there can be no salvation.
  • Jesus tells us that we must be born again (John 3:3-7; Titus 3:4-5). As spiritually dead individuals, it is not enough to become "religious", or to decide we are going to be a Christian now. We are in need of the inner transformation that takes place when one is born again. Just as a baby is conceived and then born, so also we need to be created and born again through the power of the Holy Spirit within our inner man. A new creation in Christ (2 Cor 5:17).
  • A new creation (2 Cor 5:17). To expand upon the last point, as those who are born again, our lives are no longer the same. The old habits of sin are gone, and we now live a new life of righteousness, serving God. John tells us that the one born of God does not practice sin, because His seed abides in him, and as a result of the new birth, he cannot sin (1 John 3:9). This is a total change of life. It is radical, a complete transformation from what we were in the past as sinful people in rebellion toward God, to those who now lovingly obey Him. 
  • Jesus calls us to a radical discipleship (Luke 14:26-27). Following Christ is what we are called to do if we are Christians. To follow Jesus means that we give up all to follow Him. We will go and do What He bids us to do, no matter the cost. Jesus is not interested in becoming a "part" of your life. He will either be all or nothing. It is that simple (Mark 8:34-35).
  • Jesus calls us to a life of obedience (Matt 7:21-23; Luke 6:46-49). Again, we were once living for ourselves in disobedience to the will of God. Upon our repentance and conversion, we gave up sin, and embraced the will of God as the rule and practice of our lives. The one who truly loves Jesus will obey Him. The one who lives in disobedience is not a true Christian, no matter what they may say about it (John 14:21-24; 1 John 2:3-5). 
  • What is true saving Faith? We like to quote John 3:16 where it mentions believing in Jesus for eternal life, but it is of vital importance that we come to realize what true faith is. To believe in Jesus in the biblical sense of the term is to take on the cause of Christ. It is to follow Him, to do what He says, to submit to Him, to love and cherish Him. This goes way beyond mere head knowledge, a mental assent to some historic truths about the Savior. Real faith is lived out in our day to day lives, in all of the choices we make, in all of the events we experience, in all of our actions. Faith in Christ will find fulfillment in doing the works of Christ, or it is a dead faith (James 2:14-26)

A Christian is led by the Spirit (Romans 8:14). Those who belong to Christ will be driven by the Spirit. As a result, their lives will reflect this. their attitudes  and actions will be the opposite of those who live to gratify their fleshly desires (Gal 5:16-25). Paul tells us in this passage that those who belong to Christ have crucified, that is put to death, the flesh with its passions and desires. Is that your testimony? Again, many claim to be Christians, but the proof of it is in the life they live. These points have not been exhaustive by any means, but they should serve to show us that we must be careful to uphold the biblical standard of Christianity. Our very souls depend upon this, as do the souls of those who view our lives as respecting our testimonies (1 Tim 4:16).

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Is the Law Written in Your Heart?

Many people profess to be Christians while disregarding God's law. They believe that under the New Covenant the Law has been done away with; that Christ has abolished the Law, and it is irrelevant to our lives. To these people obedience is an optional thing, it is up to us if we obey or not.

The Apostle Paul however, states that instead of making the law void through faith, we establish it (Romans 3:31). The problem with us is our sinful rebellious nature. Apart from Christ, we do not want to submit to God's law in obedience to Him. The answer to this is found in the New Covenant.

The law of God reveals God's standard of righteousness to us. It shows us how God expects us to live, but it does not enable us to live according to its standards. We read that, 

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit.
(Romans 8:3-4 NASB)

The problem is not the Law of God, but as I stated above, it lies within us. We read in Hebrews, that this is why the New Covenant was necessary.

For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second. For finding fault with them, He says, "Behold, days are coming, says the LORD, when I will effect a New Covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in My covenant, and I did not care for them, says the LORD.
(Heb 8:8-9 NASB)

The fault was found in the people. They were the ones who disregarded the Law of God, and failed to continue in the covenant God had made with them. We see a perfect picture of what God desires in the Psalms. He desires us to delight in His statutes (Psalm 119:16), to long after His commands (Psalm 119:20), and to willingly walk in obedience (Psalm 119: 34-35). We read in this last verse that the Psalmist desired God to make him walk in the way of His commandments. He understood his weakness and failures, and saw the need for a heart change.

God, seeing this need as well, foretells of a coming day when this would be accomplished in His people,

"Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.
(Ezekiel 36:25-27 NASB)

"But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel in those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
(Jeremiah 31:33)

This last verse is repeated in Hebrews 8:10, and Hebrews 10:15-17. This is the New Covenant. God's standard was not changed. He still desires us to live in obedience to His commands. Holiness of heart and life is not an option, for we read that without holiness, no one will see the Lord (Heb 12:14). A vital characteristic found in those redeemed under the New Covenant is that of the law of God written upon the heart. These individuals have a love for God's law. Instead of disregarding it as unimportant, or as a non essential, they will go to great lengths to obey Jesus Christ at any and all cost. The difference is found in the change of heart that took place when they experienced the new birth. 

Are you like so many who call themselves Christians, but have no real desire to follow Christ in the the daily choices they make? Does the law of God seem unimportant to you, is it something that seems like a good idea, but does not matter if it is obeyed or not? If so, I would question the validity of your profession by the above quoted verses dealing with the New Covenant. Either God has performed a work in your heart, or He has not. The New Covenant provides what the law could not; the willingness and power to obey God, and live in a manner that pleases Him. God is not only willing to forgive our sin, but He also provides us the means to escape its grip, and live in victory over its power, if we are willing to give it up for Him.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Where Is Your Heart?

     Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
(Matt 6:19-21 KJV)

     Fear not little flock; for it is the Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom. Sell that ye have, and give alms; provide yourselves bags which wax not old, a treasure in the heavens that faileth not, where no thief approacheth, neither moth corrupteth. For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
(Luke 12:32-34 KJV)

     Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory.
(Col 3:2-4 KJV)

     There are many today who would profess to be Christians. They have "made a decision" for Christ, they go to Church, they even hold to a higher moral standard than that which is around them. For all practical purposes, it would appear that they are indeed followers of Jesus; real Christians. 
     There is a danger however, a subtle one at that, that has caught and deceived many. It is known as covetousness; selfishly living for oneself. So many professing believers today lust after the same material things, pursue the same worldly goals, and work for the same earthly possessions and attainments that the unsaved around them work towards. 
     Jesus warns us that what we treasure (that is, the things we live and work for, that consume our time, money, and efforts), are the things that own our hearts. If we are living and working for the kingdom and principles of God, giving of our time, money, talents, and effort for the spreading of the gospel, and the care of the needy around us, our hearts are in the right place. If we truly love Jesus, if He owns our hearts and affections, our lives will reflect this in selfless pursuits. However, if we are living for our own needs only, if our time and money is spent in providing for ourselves, going after the things that give us pleasure, if we are never satisfied with what we already possess, but desire more and more, we have a problem. We may call ourselves Christian, but it is obvious by the way we are living for the temporal things of this life, that our hearts are very far from God.
     The Apostle Paul gives us a sobering warning about covetousness,

     For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, not covetous man who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with empty words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience.
(Ephesians 5:5-6 KJV)

     Many people today have been deceived by empty words. They believe that they are Christians, yet their lives are being lived out in the pursuit of material things. Never satisfied with what they have, they clamor for bigger and better houses, vehicles, motor homes. They seek better jobs so they can afford a more lavish lifestyle. Some get caught up in the fashions of the day, and yet others are caught in the day to day struggle of food and clothing, the basic needs of life. Yet, if this is what consumes their lives, it has their hearts! Yes, they may tithe, they may give an offering of their income from time to time, but their very lives show the proof of who owns their hearts. The above verse calls this idolatry! This is not true Christianity as presented by Jesus and the Apostles, but a fraud.
     Where are you laying up your treasures? Who, or what has your heart?

Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Necessity of Obedience.

     There is a common misconception that if one "believes" in Jesus, they are saved, whether their lives show any change or not. The belief that our works have no consequence toward the salvation of our eternal souls is the prevailing viewpoint in evangelism today.

     To be fair, we must understand that salvation is of grace, and not of works. It the gift of God (Eph 2:8-9). However, what is meant by this, as well as other passages of scripture such as Romans 4:2-5, is that we as sinful human beings cannot earn our salvation by our own self effort. An attempt to reform our lives, give up some sin, trying to be "good", so that we can avoid hell, and instead go to heaven, is only a selfish effort, where we are still on the throne of our lives, and self is still more important than God.

     The thing that separates us from God, and incurs His wrath, is sin, our disobedience to Him. In Romans 8:7, we read that the mind set on the flesh, that is, the individual who is living for themselves, is hostile toward God, and does not, and cannot submit to the law of God! A large segment of evangelical Christianity would agree that sin separates us from God, and agree that in Christ Jesus we find forgiveness for our sin, but they stop short. In their understanding, forgiveness is the end, and from that point on, our behavior and actions have no bearing upon salvation. We must ask ourselves this question however, "How can we be saved, if we are claiming forgiveness, but still living in the rebellious behavior that separates us from God in the first place?"

     There are many passages in scripture that speak to this issue, and we will look at two of them.

Although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered. And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation. 
Hebrews 4:8-9 NASB

     Read this carefully. Just as Jesus was submitted to His Father, and obeyed Him, we too must submit to Christ in obedience. This might shock some of you, but It is God's word none the less. Jesus, according to these verses, is the source of salvation to those who obey Him. It does not say to all regardless of their obedience or disobedience, but to those who obey!

     Look at this next passage of scripture as well. I will quote it from the King James version, as I believe that it more accurately portrays the meaning of this passage.

And behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last. Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city. For without are dogs, and sorcerers, and whoremongers, and murderers, and idolaters, and whosoever loveth and maketh a lie.
Rev 22:12-15 KJV

     Again, notice the emphasis on obedience. Those who are disobedient do not have right to the tree of life, or access to the holy city. Barred from entrance are those who are sinful. More modern translations substitute "washed their robes", for "do his commandments", but the context of Jesus rewarding us for our deeds, and the fact that the wicked are barred entrance to the city, are in keeping with the King James rendering.

     What does it mean to have right to the tree of life? "I thought that we cannot merit salvation", you might ask? Understand this very carefully. God, in His grace, will only confer this "right" on those who are surrendered to Him in a loving, obedient, relationship. Real, biblical salvation is a coming out of the world, a giving up of self, a turning from sin, and an embracing of Christ and His teachings, in an all encompassing surrender. To know Christ, and to follow Christ, is to obey Christ. It is that simple. A salvation that allows one to sin regularly, and carelessly, is no salvation at all, as Jesus came to destroy the devils work, and set the captives free from the bondage of sin (1 John 3:8; John 8:36). 

Friday, October 23, 2015

What Will God's Judgment Be Based on?

     Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.
                                                               John 5:28-29 KJV

     You may have heard this illustration used in an evangelical sermon. You are standing before God, and He asks you this question, "Why should I let you into My heaven?" The correct answer of course is to say something to the effect that you are trusting in nothing but the merits of Christ, or that you have accepted Jesus as your Savior. At this reply, God now allows you entrance into the kingdom. 
     I understand that this illustration is used to show that apart from Christ there is no salvation, and I agree with this. Only those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb, and have been born again by the Spirit of God will enter into the presence of God in His kingdom. However, nowhere in the scriptures do we find God asking us why He should allow us into heaven. It is not there. This is not how it will be on the day of judgment. A well meaning pastor or evangelist may use this illustration to present the gospel, but it is not an accurate description of what the judgment of God will be based on. 
     According to the words of Jesus in John 5:28-29, we see that those who have done good will be resurrected unto life, and those who have done evil, will be resurrected unto damnation. Jesus also states that not everyone who claims Him as Lord will enter heaven; only those who do the will of the Father (Matt 7:21). What about the sheep and goats judgment found in Matthew 25:31-46. Here again, Jesus is basing His judgment upon deeds. In this case they are deeds of love and mercy. Those who have shown compassion and love are bid entrance into God's kingdom. Those who have not, are cast out. Was Jesus teaching legalism here? Is He saying that we earn our salvation by doing good deeds, and keeping the commandments?  Absolutely not! 
     Read what Paul writes in Romans. This sounds similar to what Jesus states in John 5.

     But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his deeds. To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to them who are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath. Tribulation and anguish upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; but glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile; for there is no respect of persons with God. For as many have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; (for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these having not the law, are a law unto themselves: which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.
                                                           Romans 2:5-16 KJV

     Many of us may read this and think that Paul is preaching works. We may think to ourselves that this cannot mean what it seems to be saying. After all, isn't Paul the "Apostle of Faith?" Doesn't he teach us elsewhere in Romans, as well in his epistles, that salvation is of grace by faith, and not of works? Yet we have just read that those who persist in doing good will receive eternal life, while the disobedient, and workers of unrighteousness will face wrath, tribulation, and anguish. Again, we read Paul's words, as inspired by the Holy Spirit, For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
     Again in 2 Corinthians 5, The Apostle Paul states that we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, where we will be recompensed for the things which we have done in our bodies, whether good or bad (2 Cor 5:10). This follows what we have already seen, God's judgment will be based upon our deeds, whether good or bad. We will receive from Him accordingly.
     In the book of Revelation, we read the account of the great white throne of judgment,

     And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life, was cast into the lake of fire.
                                                            Revelation 20:13-15 KJV

     The books, containing the record of their deeds, were opened, and men were judged according to these deeds. You can be certain that no one judged as guilty in this way, might still be found in the book of life. Their deeds are the final proof that they have no spiritual life within them. God's judgment will be a righteous judgment (Acts 17:31). He will show no partiality, He has no favorites. His standard is absolute. We can be assured of this fact.
     The point is this: God demands obedience. Simply put, an individual who obeys the traffic laws does not need to fear the Highway Patrol car that is approaching. But if he has been speeding, he can expect to be pulled over. He has been caught and the officer has the evidence. When Paul states that those who obey the law are justified (Romans 2:13), he is stating the fact that God desires obedience, and if we are obedient, we are pleasing to Him. Of course if we are disobedient, we are guilty before Him, and must face the penalty.
     Jesus tells us plainly that those who love Him will obey Him.If we are disobedient to His commands, we do not love Him. It is that simple (John 14:21-24). What really counts in the eyes of God is a faith that works by love (Gal 5:6). True faith in Christ will work itself out in a loving obedience to the commands of God. If it does not, it is not faith (James 2:14-26).
     The Bible tells us that those who have their minds set on the flesh are in opposition to God. They will not subject themselves to the law of God (Romans 8:5-8). In Galatians we read of the works of the flesh,

     Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
                                                     Galatians 5:19-21 NASB

     To mind the flesh is to live for yourself. It is selfishness; not caring how your actions affect others, or God. When we live in disregard of God's law, the above mentioned sins become rampant in our lives. Jesus tells us that it is out of the heart of man that evil actions come,

     And He said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness; all of these evil things come from within, and defile the man.
                                                                  Mark 7:20-23 KJV

     To sum it up, our actions are a direct reflection of what is in our hearts. We are what we do! If we tell lies we are a liar. If we commit sexual immorality we are a fornicator. One who commits adultery is an adulterer. An alcoholic is a drunkard, and a covetous person is an idolater (Eph 5:5). What we do is who we are. Our deeds flow out of our heart. This is how God can fairly, and with complete impartiality, judge us according to our works.
     This is why we need a Savior, not only to forgive us our past life of sin, but to change our hearts and life as well. The Bible also tells us that if any man is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old  way of life is gone, and the new has come (2 Cor 5:17). We also read that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil, and the one born of God no longer sins (1 John 3:5-8). This is not to say that the possibility of sin does not exist, but a true child of God will live a radically transformed life free from the power and dominion of sin. If one should sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous one (1 John 2:1). If we walk by the Spirit we will not fulfill the desires of the flesh (Gal 5:16). I once read a quote that went something like this, "The Spirit of God will never lead you where the grace of God cannot keep you." You see, as born again, obedient, followers of Jesus Christ, we can stand before Him on the day of judgment with confidence instead of shame. Instead of our works condemning us, they will justify us; that is prove that we are true children of God, living our lives for Him.