“Let us look at our lives in the light of this experience [in 2 Corinthians 12:7-10] and see whether we gladly glory in weakness, whether we take pleasure, as Paul did, in injuries, in necessities, in distresses.
“Yes, let us ask whether we have learned to regard a reproof, just or unjust, a reproach from friend or enemy, an injury, or trouble, or difficulty into which others bring us, as above all an opportunity of proving how Jesus is all to us, how our own pleasure or honor are nothing, and how humiliation is in very truth what we take pleasure in.
“It is indeed blessed, the deep happiness of heaven, to be so free from self that whatever is said of us or done to us is lost and swallowed up in the thought that Jesus is all.”
I recently read through the Bible using the NIV. I’ve done this before and it always irritates me.
The NIV is not a bad translation when it comes to reading the stories in the Bible, much of the OT reads much better in the NIV.
However, being a good narrator does not equal being a good theology teacher. Whenever the Bible hits on doctrinal truth the NIV frequently drops the ball.
The thing I hate the worst about it is that it makes up words that are not there and removes other words that are there. A few weeks ago I used a verse and my whole point hinged on one word.
The NIV did not have that one word in their verse making my point seem stupid to anyone who reads the NIV. I assure you, the stupid one (in this instance anyway) was not me.
If you rely on the NIV for your doctrinal instruction, I strongly encourage you to stop now. It is leading you astray. I say this with all seriousness.
Salvation, at its essence, is pretty easy. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. Simple.
The problem is that if it’s so simple, how do you know you actually got it? The Bible has enough warnings about believing in vain that we really must get the answer to this question.
Salvation is necessary so that we might escape the judgment of God that our sin deserves. We must be made righteous. Righteousness is not attainable by sinful men. The only way to get righteousness is to get it from God.
God, in His abundant grace, provides the gift of righteousness, which makes us right with God. Grace always brings with it righteousness.
The way to know you have simply received God’s grace is that righteousness always shows up with it. It has to because God is gracious and righteous. Christ is the embodiment of grace and righteousness. Salvation is the abundance of God’s grace and the gift of righteousness.
This is important stuff and I beg you to listen to my long-winded, and yet thorough, sermon. Thank you.
It’s a fine thing to exclaim “I’m saved!” But it’s also a fine thing to know exactly what it is you are saved from.
Mostly when we ponder the question, “what am I saved from?” We answer with: I’m saved from
From the law
From the curse
These are all fine answers, but they really don’t hit at the main answer.
When a man is saved, ultimately he has been saved from God Himself. God is the Judge, He is the one who casts the soul into hell, He is the one who has wrath against sin, He is the one who can save you and without Him you are lost.
Let us not forget that when we are saved, mainly we are being saved from God.
Deuteronomy 28 lists a bunch of good things that will happen if Israel keeps the law and a bunch of curses that will happen if they disobey.
I want to look at one of them, Deuteronomy 28:29, “and you will grope at noon, as the blind man gropes in darkness, and you will not prosper in your ways.”
We understand, through the New Testament, that Jesus Christ was made a curse for us. What this means is that all the curses of the Law were placed on Christ for everyone who has ever broken that Law, which is everyone.
Therefore, if the curse of darkness at noon comes to those who break the Law, one would expect this to happen when Christ carried the curse of the Law!
“Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour.” —Matthew 27:45.
Where is Paul getting this from? Covetousness is idolatry sounds nice, just a pithy saying of Paul? A conjecture of biblical logic? It is much more, it is a summation of the Law. Get this:
Consider the foundation of the Law, the Ten Commandments Moses brought down from Sinai. Commandment Number one is:
“You shall have no other God before me.”
The last of the Ten Commandments is:
“You shall not covet.”
God starts off and ends with a main concern of His: don’t want anything more than Me. No matter what it is, if it’s not Him you’ve fallen into sin.
God is merciful and this is really beneficial for us! And that is an understatement.
In Romans, Paul focuses on mercy in chapters 9 and 11. God shows mercy to whom He shows mercy. This is referring to an act of God, a merciful act, showing compassion to a person.
That’s the way Paul uses the word until he gets to chapter 12, “I beseech you therefore brethren by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies as a living sacrifice. . .”
We do not present our bodies as living sacrifices because God has shown us mercy, he uses a different Greek word for “mercies.” This word emphasizes who God is, His bowels of mercy, His merciful condition of heart.
The point may be this: We do not present ourselves as sacrifices because God showed us mercy; we present ourselves because God is merciful, it’s who He is. Perhaps an overtatement of a minor distinction, but there’s always a reason the Bible uses the words it uses.
God is merciful and we want a merciful God to have our lives.
Everyone has problems and they are always happy to share. Christians, being people, are no different.
The primary difference between Christians talking about their problems and other people is that Christians will end their whine session with a short, out of context verse that makes both sides smile and say “have a nice day.”
“All things work together for good,” wink-wink, nod-nod.
“Sufficient to the day is the trouble thereof,” wink-wink, nod-nod.
“This too shall pass,” wink-wink, nod-nod.
It is my observation, both in watching myself and others, that people with serious problems that they seriously desire to be solved, will not talk about it much. They will ask or tell you the problem, but people who are deeply troubled will be quiet and listen.
Our society is geared for talking about problems. Kids sit in circles and share their feelings in Guidance Class. Adults go to therapy, group sessions, tribal yelling, coffee houses or prayer groups.
All this talking. Whining. Moaning. Groaning.
People with serious problems that they want solved get quiet and listen. Then they do what they were told.
Don’t get me wrong, the whining, moaning, groaning people want their problem solved too, they just want someone else to do it in a pain-free way for them.
This is not a reasonable request, they know it, which is why they still have the problem they are now whining to you about.
People who want their problem solved will be still and know God. They will sit before the Word. They will ask experienced elders about it and then listen. They won’t pop off excuses, they won’t whine about how hard it will be and how “I would but . . .” They will listen and then apply.
Faith comes by an individual hearing. Never once has faith arrived by talking instead. Someone has to say the truth, this is true, but the one with the problem needs to hear. You can’t hear if you’re talking. It won’t happen. It can’t.
If you have a problem, this is your answer, every time. Please hear it.
Yesterday I talked about Boring Faith. One might get the idea that I am calling for extreme faith, as in “extreme sports” kind of faith. The faith that bungee jumps.
I see this all over the place now with Extreme this’s and that’s, with an “X” prefix included just to let you know how extreme it is: it’s so X-treme we don’t even have time to spell it right! Awesome!
Extreme faith is like X-treme bass fishing, it just doesn’t exist. It can’t. It just doesn’t work that way. Bass fishing is still just sitting in a boat fishing with very little extreme anything, I don’t care how much beer you drink.
Many people look for extreme faith, or faith that is thrilling. On the edge with Jesus kind of stuff. This doesn’t really exist. But the suitable alternative is not boring faith.
Non-boring faith acts on what God says. Non-boring faith is a faith that simply does what Scripture says. Boring faith says that Scripture doesn’t work, so I won’t even bother.
Our experience is the greatest cause of boring faith. He didn’t answer my prayer last time, so why pray this time? He didn’t give me back ten-fold last time, so why give this time?
None of us has extreme faith, we don’t even have the faith of a mustard seed. God has never asked us to move a mountain though. He has asked us to witness, to pray, to give, to love enemies and lots of other things that will indeed take the boredom out of faith. That’s what we need.
The just shall live by faith. This is everyday obedience to God’s Word that simply trusts that God will work as I move with Him. It’s a faith that doesn’t give up.
It’s not racing toward precipices and jumping off bridges, it’s just calm and abiding, carrying you through, doing what God asks of His people. A faith that really, honestly, truly believes that nothing can separate me from the love of God and that God has true power that still works.
Bored Christians are a huge problem. Being bored with your faith is a problem that darkens light and de-flavors salt. It’s a dis-grace.
Being bored in your faith does not mean you are not busy in your faith or that you aren’t doing “ministry” or doing Christ-like activities you get paid for, or doing obligatory prayer and Bible reading. You’re probably doing these things.
Being bored in your faith does mean that you haven’t taken a risk in faith in a very long time. You haven’t stayed up late to pray in a long time because you don’t see the point. You haven’t given sacrificially in years, if ever. You haven’t invested significant time and resources into a person whom you pray for who is not related to and who can’t pay you back.
God works through weak people and His work terrifies these people. Even Paul said he got up trembling to speak. He was scared to confront a whole church that was living in sin.
If you haven’t trembled in your faith recently you are bored with your faith. You don’t think it’s all that real. Christ is just an add-on to the browser of your life.
“The prophet says of Ephraim “He loved to tread out the corn” (Hosea 10:11); he loved to work when he might eat, to have always the corn before him: but God, says he, would “cause him to plow”–a labor no less needful, though at present not so delightful.
“Most men love to hear of the doctrine of grace, of the pardon of sin, of free love, and suppose they find food therein; however, it is evident that they grow and thrive in the life and notion of them. But to be breaking up the fallow ground of their hearts, to be enquiring after the weeds and briars that grow in them, they delight not so much, though this be no less necessary than the other.
“This path is not so beaten as that of grace, nor so trod in, though it be the only way to come to a true knowledge of grace itself.”
They should, however, repent.
My interpretation of 1 Timothy 4:3 is this (it also is consistent with John Piper’s interpretation, which may not mean anything, I’m just sayin):
God did indeed create food only for believers to enjoy with thanksgiving. That is what the verse says. It was not made for unbelievers, although, because of God’s grace, they may still eat it.
The little known fact though, is that every time they eat His food they are sinning. It was intended for believers who give thanks. An unbeliever cannot truly thank God (without faith it is impossible to please Him).
Oh the depth of our sin! When I was a baby sucking on a bottle I was sinning. Every meal I had as an unbeliever was one more sinful act on my part. We have so little idea how vast our sin problem is.
Due to our shallow understanding of sin, we also have an equally shallow (at best) view of God’s grace. Oh how magnificent it is!
OK, I got a question for you. I graciously waited until the afternoon of a Monday to ask you this one. Think it over. Here’s a verse, which I will follow with my question.
The context is Paul talking about the apostasy of the latter times of this age, talking about the sinful and how they will forbid people to marry and command that people stop eating meats. Paul says this about meats:
“. . . meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.”
God created meats, this word is a generic word meaning “food, stuff you eat.” It does not necessarily refer to the flesh of animals. Here’s my question:
Is eating food a sin for unbelievers?
Charles Spurgeon said the following:
“The raw material for a devil is an angel. The raw material for the son of perdition was an apostle; and the raw material for the most horrible of apostates is one who is almost a saint.”
Playing around with Christianity, pretending to be familiar with Christ because you know a couple verses, said a few prayers and went to a few churches, is not necessarily getting you ready for heaven.
It could be you are laying the groundwork for the great falling away, the huge apostasy predicted for the end of this age. Make your calling and election sure. Test yourself whether you are in the faith.
People are dumb. This point is not up for debate. Even I’m dumb, we’re all dumb. But I have also found there are differences of dumbness and these differences are very important.
Malachi is a book that gets little attention and that’s too bad. if there is any book that is highly relevant to modern American churchianity, this is it.
He points out all their faults and their response, over and over again, is “What? How have we done that?” To every charge they respond, “How have we done that?”
They are completely ignorant of their sin. They have no clue. Can’t see the point. See no basis for the charge. Who me? They go so far as to say that those who do evil are actually good with God. Sound familiar?
Contrast that with Jesus’ words in Matthew 25. When I was hungry you gave me food, when I was thirsty you gave me drink. Here’s the response of the righteous:
“Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?”
The response of the righteous is, “What? How were we ever good? I don’t remember that.” They are completely ignorant of their good deeds. They have no clue. Can’t see the point. See no basis for the charge. Who me?
I love it. What we are ignorant of is highly telling.
A. W. Tozer preached about Shepherds and he said a little something like this:
The safest place for a sheep is by the shepherd’s side.
Wolves are not afraid of sheep. They aren’t even afraid of all the sheep in America. What can sheep do? Gang up and Baaa louder? Give a wolf enough time and he will clean out America of all sheep.
But the presence of a shepherd changes everything. Shepherds can scare off wolves. They can kill and hurt wolves. If it weren’t for shepherds, wolves would have enacted the survival of the fittest on the sheep.
Here’s my riff off of that: “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me.” They don’t follow at a distance either, they get right up close to Him.
People who say they are saved and yet don’t live like they are next to the Shepherd are deceiving themselves. Odds are they’ll get eaten by a wolf soon enough. Who wouldn’t want to be with our Good Shepherd?
Apparently lots of people because there are an increasing number of wolves. Be careful out there. Be a true sheep by following the True Shepherd.
If you worship a Jesus that is not the real Jesus, you are not worshipping Jesus. There are many false Christs in our world, here are a few.
*The Jesus who exists only to meet your physical needs.
*The Jesus who is all grace and no judgment.
*The Jesus who is all judgment and no grace.
*The Jesus who is all love.
*The Jesus who is all hate.
*The Jesus who is all giver instead of the gift.
*The Jesus who talks about pretty things.
*The Jesus who smashes your enemies.
*The Jesus who doesn’t notice that your whole life is not in accord with what He said.
*The Jesus who gets you parking spots but has no power to rescue your marriage.
The list could go on. Many believe in Jesus, few believe in the Jesus of Scripture. Get to know Him, then decide if you really believe in Him.
Anytime you talk about true spiritual things, most people will have no idea what you are talking about. It just happens that way. It’s not your fault, it even happened to Jesus, the best spiritual teacher ever.
“You must be born again!”
“How can a man enter back into his mother and be born again?”
“I will give you living water and you will never thirst again!”
“You don’t even have a bucket and the well is deep.”
“Roll the stone from Lazarus’ tomb.”
“But Lord, by this time he stinketh.”
On and on we could go. The natural man does not get spiritual truth.
So next time you are teaching and someone says something and probably even quotes a verse that has absolutely nothing to do with what you just said, in fact, might even be the exact opposite of what you said, don’t be surprised.
Of course, there’s always a chance you are the natural man!
*A politician says he has a mandate to rule because he was elected by the people.
*God says He has a mandate to rule because He elected people.
Thank you. I made that up myself.
Allow me to digress.
Saw this article about how parents are yelling more at their kids since they aren’t allowed to spank anymore. I have also noticed this trend. In our children’s schools they don’t discipline in any effective way, so teachers spend their days frustrated and constantly yelling.
I also notice this in other parents. Those who I know don’t spank much tend to yell more. I was happy to see someone noticed this.
However, the conclusion of the article is not only should we still not spank, we shouldn’t yell either. Yelling is destructive and ruins families. I agree, but am at a loss as to what a parent would do otherwise if not allowed to effectively discipline through the liberal application of sensory discomfort.
Reminds me of Isaiah chapter three where God says that as part of His judgment on the nation of Judah is:
“And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them.”
The inmates are running the asylum. The End is nigh.
“We cannot but conceive it to be a state of matchless happiness, if we consider the persons enjoying and delighting in each other: he [Christ] was with God, John 1: 1. God, you know, is the fountain, ocean and centre of all delights and joys: Psal. 16: 11, “In thy presence is fulness of joy.”
“To be wrapt up in the soul and bosom of all delights, as Christ was, must needs be a state transcending apprehension; to have the fountain of love and delight letting out itself so immediately, and fully, and ever lastingly, upon this only begotten darling of his soul, so as it never did communicate itself to any; judge what a state of transcendent felicity this must be. Great persons have great delights.”
Once upon a time I said some stuff in a sermon that wasn’t exactly true. Seriously. It happened many, many years ago when I was young, of course. It went something like this:
God is fed up with people, He’s in heaven waiting to wipe out sinners. But Jesus Christ intervened, died for sinners and the grace that was on display holds back God’s judgment. Christ is holding back His Father from judging.
Notice anything wrong in there? Besides my poor grammar?
Here’s the error: the notion that God the Father is the bad guy and Jesus Christ is the good guy who restrains the bad guy, is all wrong. God the Father is given a bad reputation. We view Him as the maniacal, judgmental God of the Old Testament, the one that Jesus stopped.
This is wrong. Here is why:
“For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.”
The Father doesn’t judge anyone! He’s not a bad guy being restrained by good guy Jesus! Oh no! The Father doesn’t judge anyone!
All judgment has been given to the Son, the same one who restrains judgment by His own sacrifice. It is Christ who returns in Revelation with blazing eyes and a sword riding a white horse.
The One who paid the price is the same One who will rip that price out of your flesh for not letting Him pay it for you. It only makes sense, even if at one point I didn’t get it.
G. Campbell Morgan said that humanity can be divided into three phases:
Generated–God generated all human life. He is the creator and sustainer, without Him the breath of life is removed and we be dead.
Degenerated–Man took their life and followed Satan, the destroyer, and gave up on God, the Creator. Human life fell into sin, disease and waste, falling into a completely degenerate state.
Regenerated–God is not satisfied with our choice and wants to bring us back to perfection, so He graciously provided a way for humanity to be born again, to be regenerated.
God loves His creation. He hates what we’ve done to it. He wants it back and one day He’ll take it back. If you are not regenerated before then you will eternally be being destroyed.
All humans take part in phase one and two. Only a remnant responds to phase three. If you have any desire to be with God you must be born again. Regeneration is required for access to God.
“Love believes all things” is a tough statement for me to cope with. Seriously? All things?
Love sounds naive, gullible. Reading the rest of what God says makes this interpretation impossible. Love gives the benefit of the doubt, it hangs in there, believes until proven otherwise. Innocent until proven guilty.
People say stuff all the time, most of which is unnecessary and often just plain evil. Some of that talk is directed at you and the Bible counsels us to not listen to everything we hear.
“Also take no heed unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse thee.”
It’s not that you don’t hear them, that we walk around with our thumbs in our ears “nahnahnahnahnah I can’t hear you” kid type stuff. It’s that we just let it go. We hear it in love, and love often just forgets stuff.
The reason Solomon says not to listen to others is because pretty soon you’re going to say something you don’t want others to remember! The next verse says:
“For oftentimes also thine own heart knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed others.”
Love others how you would be loved. I want people to listen to me, but I also want them to give me a break. Give me the benefit of the doubt that I am indeed trying to be helpful. Forget the dumb things I say (which shouldn’t excuse my dumbness or make it OK to continue to be dumb), but lovingly give me a break.
I think this is a foundation of unity in the Body of Believers. Let us also not forget this verse:
“Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.”
If you’re doing what is right, someone will have a problem with you. It’s a fact, one that needs to be handled with love!
“Christianity got over the difficulty of combining furious opposites, by keeping them both, and keeping them both furious.”
–G. K. Chesterton
“Truth is not in the middle, and not in one extreme, but in both extremes.”
“Most heresies come from espousing one opposite at the expense of the other.”
“Heresy is simply a school of opinion in which something is particularly pressed out of proportion to its logical place.”
“Do not be overrighteous,
neither be overwise—
why destroy yourself?
Do not be overwicked,
and do not be a fool—
why die before your time?
It is good to grasp the one
and not let go of the other.
The man who fears God will avoid all extremes”