What We Can Receive From God

God is gracious. God is eternal. God is eternally gracious, there is no end to His desire to give gifts.

People are given the option of receiving these gifts or rejecting them. Most reject them, as denoted by the road to destruction being broad. The world does a good job of looking like it’s better than all God’s gracious gifts. The many choose temporal gifts in exchange for eternal gifts.

Perhaps this decision doesn’t look that bad until eternity starts.

God, as the giver, offers gifts to people. People then can become receivers. Here is a list of all that we can receive from God:

Romans 1:5—grace and apostleship
Romans 5:11—atonement
Romans 5:17—abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness
Romans 8:15—the spirit of adoption
1 Corinthians 2:12—The Spirit of God
1 Corinthians 3:14—reward for his work
1 Corinthians 15:1—the Gospel
2 Corinthians 4:1—mercy
Galatians 3:14—the promise of the Spirit
Galatians 4:5—the adoption of sons
Ephesians 6:8—good things
Colossians 2:6—Christ Jesus the Lord
Colossians 3:24—the reward of the inheritance
1 Thessalonians 4:1—how to walk and please God
Hebrews 9:15—the promise of eternal inheritance
Hebrews 10:36—the promise
1 Peter 4:10—the gift

A fine looking receipt!

Oh the tragedy of man who chooses temporal dirt over all this.

Matthew 12:30, Mark 9:40 and Busting Contradictions

Jesus once said, “He that is not with me is against me.”

As John Wesley said about this passage, “For there are no neuters in this war. Every one must be either with Christ or against him; either a loyal subject or a rebel.” There is no middle ground, if you’re not with Him, consider yourself to be His enemy.

Then Mark has Jesus say, “For he that is not against us is on our part.” This seems much milder and seems to say that the one not against Him, is actually on His side.


Probably, might as well throw the whole book out.

Not really. Seems to me these are two separate contexts. The Matthew passage has Jesus defending Himself against the charge He casts out devils by the power of Beelzebub. The Mark passage is where John tells Jesus he forbade a guy from casting out demons since he wasn’t a follower of Jesus.

Being against Jesus because you’re not with Him is a judgment He is passing on a group because they are clearly showing they have no part with Him. He’s talking about a divided kingdom, pick a side guys!

In the second passage John has passed a judgment on someone using partial knowledge. In this case, Jesus wants to check this impulse and remind the disciples to refrain from judgment. Be lenient with others, don’t assume the worst.

The first case deals with definite rebellion, the second deals with assumptions. The basic tenet seems to be this: when you don’t know, don’t judge, be lenient: when you do know, draw the line and carry on.

Indeed, choose you this day whom you will serve, but don’t judge who is serving whom if you don’t know the facts.

Bonhoeffer on the Beatitudes

From the book Dietrich Bonhoeffer by Dallas Roark, a summation of Bonhoeffer’s views on The Beatitudes:

The poor in spirit are those who have accepted the loss of all things including their own selves for His sake.

Those who mourn are those who do without what the world calls peace and prosperity. Mourning means to refuse to be in harmony with the standards of the world.

The meek are those who give up claims to their own rights for the will of Christ.

Those who hunger and thirst for righteousness  are those renouncing all claims to personal achievement, who wait for God’s reign of righteousness.

The merciful, having given up claims to their own dignity, become men for others, helping the needy, sick, outcasts–all those who need any kind of ministry.

The pure in heart become that by giving their hearts completely to the reign of Jesus. Under His rule, He purifies their hearts with His Word.

The peacemakers renounce all violence and maintain fellowship where others would break it off.

The persecuted for righteousness suffer for any just cause, and will be rejected by the world, but God’s kingdom belongs to them. To this motley crew the world says “away with them” and God agrees with the world. But He intends them for the kingdom of heaven, where their reward is great.

Proverbs 3:5,6, College Freshmen and Wisdom

Lots of kids are heading off to college for the first time, marking a huge transition in their lives. Christian statisticians tell us that something like 80% of kids who grew up in a Christian home leave the faith when they go off to college.

I have no idea if this is true, I’m skeptical of such numbers, but I know it happens frequently and it is a sad thing. There are, no doubt, many factors that cause young people to leave the faith, or at least the faith they grew up in, not least of which is the fact that college freshman are perhaps some of the dumbest smart people in the world. Also, not least of which is that many of the “faiths” college kids grew up in were wrong!

Our fears for their future scare us older folk. We’ve seen many a person ruin their life by a couple mistakes in college. The tendency is to lecture and drop spiritual sounding drivolities. Drivolities? Don’t know what it means, but I like it!

I remember when I left for college I got a number of cards from church people, most of which contained the following:

“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.”

Now, I certainly can’t argue with the verses, but I also know the intended meaning of this quote: “you’re an idiot, just listen to us and you’ll be fine.”

Sticking with God’s wisdom is a good idea. He knows more than you, no matter what time of life you are in. God knowing more than you is not the same thing as your home church fretting over your swerving from their traditions.

Here’s my advice to all college age people:

Go do stuff.
Do stuff you have never done before.
Go ahead, ask the girl out.
Learn stuff, just not the stuff you’re hearing in class cuz it’s all drivel, and or drivolities.
Don’t freak about grades: everything is vain.
Learn to do laundry correctly.
Read the Word and for the first time read it to get a clue as to what you believe.
Understand that you are indeed dumb. If you deny this point, you’re only proving the point.
You will get smarter and usually your wisdom will come by messing up.
Your mother loves you, make her life easy, don’t be a dork.
Get a job. Your college work experience will pay off more for you than whether you get an A or a B in any class.
Refuse to believe that staying up all night is helping your test-taking abilities.
Ignore everything I’m saying.

You’ll figure it out, as long as you don’t rely on what you already know. God knows more than you, this is a good thing. Don’t fear this fact, fear God. He is gracious, merciful, slow to anger and willing to forgive. There’s nothing you can do that can disqualify you for His grace, except being an arrogant, stubborn jerk because arrogant, stubborn jerks never ask for grace.

Proverbs 3:5,6 are true, but trusting in God’s wisdom does not always look like what everyone around you thinks it looks like. You’re on your own. Don’t rely on others. Learn to trust God and not people. Learn by doing, don’t be afraid of failure. Let your failure lead you to God who directs your path, not anyone else, including you.

Laborers for the Harvest

Stirring up folks to go to the mission field is something the church has done over the years. I’m all for this, but not always for the methods used.

I don’t think everyone is gifted to be evangelists, so we should be careful pressuring people into being one. There have been attempted evangelists who have done more damage than good. Quality control could increase on this front.

Typically, churches talk about the exciting adventures of missionaries, that they are Indiana Jones whipping teethy beasties and converting souls while discovering lost civilizations of cannibalistic giants.

Most missionaries lead pretty quiet, unassuming lifestyles. Let’s not overdo the picture.

But after talking up missionaries as larger than life, Bible-wielding action figures, the preacher than gets into his guilt-ridden appeal for “laborers for the harvest.”

“God can’t save souls unless laborers go.”

According to Romans 10, there is some truth to this idea–how will they hear unless someone tells them. But God’s plan of redemption does not hinge on preacher’s abilities to guilt otherwise-lawyers into missions.

Look at the “laborers” verse closely. “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.”

Our job is to pray that the Lord sends forth laborers. The request is not for us to get more laborers or to guilt more laborers into going, but to ask the Lord to send them. He doesn’t even say that we should get more laborers, or produce them, or anything other than pray for the Lord to send some.

Perhaps I’m over-analyzing and parsing too much, but the actual intent of this verse sure seems different from how it’s typically used. Thoughts?

Selfish Sanctification

Sanctification is being set apart, usually implying purity or holiness. It is seen by a separation from sin.

Many Christians desire sanctification. I should be able to say “all Christians desire sanctification,” but I can’t because some don’t. Some have even invented doctrines that make sanctification optional, if not entirely burdensome and unnecessary.

But this is a minority, most desire a separation from sin, but again, sin is fun, so even here we must qualify. There is a sanctification that is entirely selfish and proud. It can look like this:

–I desire sanctification so I don’t have to struggle
–I desire sanctification so I don’t have to keep getting in trouble
–I desire sanctification so I can less hypocritically judge others
–I desire sanctification so I can look better
–I desire sanctification so I don’t keep looking like an idiot
–I desire sanctification so I fit in with “the group” better
–I desire sanctification so I fulfill my dreams
–I desire sanctification so I can write books on sanctification and how great it is to be me

The list could go on forever. Most of our desires for spirituality are still coming from the flesh.

Whole sanctification, the only kind God provides, is ultimately an imitation of Christ. We were given a body not to do our will, but the will of God. This involves the whole person–body, soul and spirit.

Whole sanctification is putting you to an end and makes Christ all. We are sanctified to holiness, but even after holiness appears, we must also sanctify that holiness to God!

In other words, the results of sanctification, holiness every time, are not for our usage but for God’s use. Our holiness is not so we can fulfill dreams, write books or fit in with groups of people we want to be like. Our holiness is for God and to be used by Him for His glory, not yours.

The flesh gets us all over the place. There is no bit of life that we can trust the flesh to, that’s why we should desire to be wholly sanctified! Even our sanctification is His!

Christians, Pet Assumptions and Unity

People are horrible listeners. It is nearly impossible to have discussions with people because they don’t listen to what you are saying. I am just as guilty.

We all know that while talking to others, our minds are off getting our rebuttal ready. Since we are so geared up for demonstrating our flawless logic, we don’t hear what the other person is saying.

But that’s OK, because they aren’t listening to you either.

After talking for a while, and not having heard anything the other person said, both go away thinking, “Man, what an idiot, I’m not convinced one bit by anything they said.”

After being around Christians you can guess what people are going to say. I”m already pretty sure what answer I’ll be given to any question I am asking. Since I already know what the answer will be, there’s not much sense in actually listening to the answer!

I then launch into my diatribe against the answer I assume they gave and on we go.

In the end, no one has heard anything be we both assume we have.

Our emotions drive our assumptions, not our reasoning skills. Our Pet Doctrines are usually linked with our Pet People, so we hear everything as an attack and our emotions get riled up and our assumptions start flowing.

Soon we’re not talking about doctrine, we’re talking about whether or not people are saved, or whether the foundations of righteousness are being blasted away to make a new parking lot.

I believe that sane Christian dialogue is possible, but only to the extent that we remove self-defensiveness, otherwise known as “pride.” Doctrine is not about defending you, or defending your favorite doctrine or guy, but about growing into Christ.

We all know this when it comes to homosexuals–“we love the sinner, not the sin.” Why is it then so hard for us to love the doctrinal believer if not the doctrine?

Doctrine is crucial. I, in no way, mean to undermine doctrinal integrity or learning. I do, however, mean to help in this area and no help is possible as long as we have Pet anythings that we are sentimentally, emotionally wrapped up in that will keep us from actual growth.

I am also not saying that emotions should be stripped from our doctrine! Emotions are fine, great, indispensable to growth, but not if the emotions are wrapped up in envy, bitterness, pride and selfishness.

I call for doctrinal certitude mixed with personal humility. There is always an outside chance I am wrong, or you are wrong, or perhaps even both of us are!

Christians, Pet People and Unity

Pet Doctrines divide, placing too much emphasis on one aspect of Scripture will inevitably lead to problems. You will see offense when none is intended, plus you will walk all over others and their legitimate points to make your point about your one thing you always have to make your point about.

Another HUGE divider in the Church is Pet People. We all have our favorite guy. Anyone who does not see the brilliance of Our Guy certainly does not have the Spirit and obviously is not saved.

This was a big deal for Paul in the church in Corinth, “I am of Cephas, I am of Apollos, I am of Paul, oh but we are of Christ.” This divisiveness over personalities ruined the church. Paul’s overriding point is that Peter, Paul, Apollos and Jesus are all on the same team: relax.

Another great biblical example is from the odd book of Judges. Micah goes and gets himself his own Levite. Unfortunately, his Levite gets taken by a group of other guys, as priests will often do–they drop you for the bigger congregation.

But let’s examine why Micah wanted his own Levite, “Then said Micah, Now know I that the Lord will do me good, seeing I have a Levite to my priest.”

Micah’s superstitious thinking went like this: If I have this guy on my team, God will like me and we will be highly favored among all others.

This seems to mark out many a group of believers today as well. Our superstar guy gives our theology credibility, recognition, and legitimacy. Furthermore, any group gravitating to any other doctrine that contradicts our guy, we know they’re in trouble, cuz they don’t have Our Guy on their side.

Soon adherence to Our Guy is the test of salvation and riled up emotions enter and division is caused.

Your guy may be great, he may be a man of God, saved, righteous, holy and all else, but so are many others. Furthermore, there is no man who is perfect and right all the time. Our mark to press for is the high calling of Christ Jesus, not anyone else.

Christians, Pet Doctrines, and Unity

I was born into a pastor’s family and have spent my life, except for a few blessed years in college, going to church constantly. But even in my non-church going days in college, I attended a Christian college with Bible classes and chapel and various other Christiany things.

I’ve been surrounded by Christians my entire existence. This has been good in many ways, and utterly defeatingly, soul-suckingly, frustratingly, astonishingly miserable in other ways.

Christians can be nasty people and much of the nastiness has to do with our doctrines. Here is one huge deal I have noticed.

Christians have pet doctrines and these pet doctrines divide.

A “pet doctrine” is your favorite doctrine you think it the most vital doctrine of all. “If people reject this, they probably aren’t saved” kind of doctrine. Often these pet doctrines are pressed out of measure and dabble in heresy, but watch out if you point that out!

Here’s how pet doctrines create division.

One day at the park you run into a guy who starts talking to you and you both realize you are Christians! There is a happiness and joy, a commonality, maybe even a pat on the back from one member of the body to another.

All is good and you rejoice in all you hold in common and rejoice that you are better than the world. It’s great!

Then comes the question, “So, what are your views on ________.” Here comes the pet doctrine. You cautiously spell out your beliefs, knowing that this has to be a trick, you are talking to a Christian, remember.

Much relief comes when you both find out you believe the same thing on this doctrine: so far! Then they bust out their theory, which goes further than any theory they’ve ever heard anyone else share, but that’s how they know it’s right, “There’s only always been a remnant!”

“Hmm, I guess I can’t quite go there with you,” you eventually have to say.

“What? Why not? I just showed you all the verses. You don’t agree with what the Bible teaches?”

“I”m not convinced that’s what the Bible says.”

“What? You’re a moron! How can you not see this? Only those with the Spirit can truly see truth.” KABOOM!

Unity has been destroyed and your initial joy at having found another believer is replaced by the all too familiar dread of remembering this face to avoid in the future.

Be ware of the tendency to elevate doctrines or rank them. I know, I know, there are core doctrines and peripheral doctrines and all that. I know. Be ware anyway because more than likely your pet doctrine is a peripheral one in everyone elses book.

When Paul said, “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some,” I believe he was speaking to this point. Make sure the hill you choose to die on is the right one.

This reminds me of this post from years gone by: the funniest religious joke. It would be more funny if it weren’t true.

Faith, the Law and True Spirituality

Faith fulfills the law to the point that Paul says we are dead to the law, it’s not for the righteous but for the unrighteous.

The law is holy, just and good and is a revelation of God’s righteousness and there aint nothing wrong with that.

Believers have a circumcision of the heart and the law written in fleshy tables of the heart not the coldness of the stone letter.

The Mosaic Law was given as part of the covenant between God and Israel to keep them in or out of the land. We aren’t Israel, we have no earthly promised land, the blessings or cursings of keeping the law don’t make much sense for us today since our calling is heavenward, not an earthly parcel of land.

One cannot escape the fact that applying the Mosaic Law to your life today won’t make sense. Many have tried, picking and choosing their way through, mostly taking the blessings and leaving the cursings, enforcing “easier” commandments and ignoring the “stone the lippy son” ones.

So, why read that huge chunk of your Bible then?

Paul says that the things that were written before were written for our learning. Israel is a giant example for us. There are great examples of faith along with dreadful examples. The temptations and lusts that ruined them, beat against us today.

The way we practice our faith looks different, but in the end, both covenants, new and old, are to produce the fruits of righteousness and the end everlasting life.

Paul says when we learn from the OT “that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.”

Christians today are materialistic, setting their hopes on earthly things. It won’t work. Israel proves this. It doesn’t work. It didn’t work. It won’t work.

This earth is not our home. We are citizens of heaven. We set our minds and affections there, not here. We follow our Lord and refuse to be entangled by the affairs of this life.

The Law, being the basis of the covenant with an earthly people for an earthly land, kept the earthly people focused on the earth! The New Covenant keeps us mindful of heaven.

The OT shows us what faith truly looks like. All the faithful guys of the OT lived for another country (Hebrews 11) and a better rest, not this earth. Faith does this to a person whether under the law or not.

Faith has much better things in store for us than earthly stuff and the self-obsessed touch not, taste not, handle not humanistic drivel that passes for spirituality today.

If It’s All Faith, Why the Law Then?

Faith is what God has always looked for in man, before the law, during the law and after the law. Faith, faith, faith.

But again, let’s reign in our goofy tendencies here, is the law garbage then? Was the law some kind of divine booboo God regrets?

No! Faith does not throw out the law, what does faith do with the law? Let’s let Paul handle this one. “ Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”

Faith and law are not opposed to each other. Law cannot get you righteousness, but faith can. Once you have the righteousness that comes by faith, the law is like, “Hey, cool, that’s what I was thinking!”

The righteousness of God is revealed through the law, but only accomplished by faith.

Once it’s accomplished by faith, the law has no objections to faith. They are not opposed to each other (faith and WORKS of the law are opposed, though).

Again, Paul points to Israel as our great example, “But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone.”

When Israel saw the righteousness of God revealed in the law they said, “Cool, I can do that.” They failed miserably. God was looking for faith that results in the righteousness of the law, not works of the law that will never fulfill the righteousness of the law.

Paul’s own experience taught him the same thing. “not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith.”

There’s only one way to the righteousness of God: Faith. The law can show you what it is, but it can’t help you get it. The law can take you to your end and brings you to Christ.

We live by faith, by the Spirit and thus fulfill the law and do spiritual fruit against such there is no law. The Law does not bring obedience; it either brings rebellion or faith. Faith is the preferred outcome.

We Don’t Need Law, We Need Faith

Those who walk in the Spirit (believers who by faith do what God says), don’t need external human laws (those who do good by God’s standard will not violate man’s lower standard). Believers who by faith do as God says, also don’t need an external law given by God (the law was made for the unrighteous, not the righteous).

So, why did God give an external law to Israel then? or, as the KJV puts it,”Wherefore then serveth the law?” The KJV then answers, “It was added because of transgressions.”

The external, written on stone, law of Moses was given to an earthly nation made up of faithful and unfaithful, righteous and unrighteous people. Deuteronomy says if the nation keeps the laws they stay in the land; if they don’t keep it they get kicked out.

When Israel failed to keep the written law, because people love sin and darkness way more than righteousness and light and that’s what’s going to happen, the physical people were scattered and their physical temple and priests were destroyed and their religion was toasted.

People have always been saved by faith and it is only and solely by faith that we can do what God says. “The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.”

Unrighteous Israel could not keep the written law of God. Instead, as Paul said in Romans 7, the law just gave the flesh ideas of how to sin more!

The only ones who kept the Mosaic law were those who had faith, and even they didn’t keep it, which is why they did sacrifices. But only the sacrifices of the faithful counted, God got sick of the empty, ritual, rote sacrifices Israel did out of duty and judgment rolled (Read these verses).

Faith is always the key to following God, there is no other way. Laws are worthless without faith. Christians can try to legislate marriage, abortion, homosexuality, whatever pet sin arises next, but until people come to faith there is no point.

All our blathering about making laws to enforce “Judeo-Christian” ethics will merely result in the judgments Israel got to begin with. Let us learn from the things that have been written before. External laws have no power except the power to stir up sin. Faith, faith is what we need.

We don’t need faith to save our land or our nation either, this isn’t our home. We need faith to escape the wrath of God.

Law, Faith and Why God is Annoying

Paul says we are dead to the Law because of Christ. Many take this to mean we are under no law at all whatsoever (a theological belief referred to as antinomian; anti–no or against and nomos–law). Our freedom from the Law, however, is not freedom from all law.

Romans 7, where Paul says we are dead to the law through the body of Christ, is followed by Romans 8, which says “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.”

We are no longer under the law written in stone, the physical, outward law that has no power inherent that allows us to follow it, a law that stirs up sin, a law referred to as “the law of sin and death” by Paul, but there is a “law of the Spirit of life” that does exist.

Galatians 2 says we are dead to the law and Galatians 6 says we are to bear each others burdens and “so fulfill the law of Christ.” Dead to the law but there is still another law!

This is the point at which most Christians’ heads explode. We don’t like being put in head-exploding places, so we revert to our human inclinations and either flop over to “Give me law” or flop over to “Give me license!”

Both are wrong.

External laws don’t help you do what is right. They may intimidate you and freak you out and possibly cause you to not do the bad thing, but our prison population proves the fallibility of that idea.

External laws don’t work well, ask Israel. Deuteronomy is all about an external law that, if followed, resulted in an external, physical land promised to an external, physical people. They didn’t keep it and the physical people were kicked out of their physical land.

In Christ, the believer is not subject to an external law, certainly not to an external law invented by man. In Christ, believers are made alive unto God, the law is written in their heart, and they now have a life-giving law in the Spirit.

This section of verses deals a deathblow to those who love commandment keeping and checklist righteousness and to those who think faith means nothing matters, I can do whatever I want.

Therefore, walking by the Spirit guarantees that most will not be satisfied with God’s answer, which is why there are few who are saved. God’s answer is wholly unsatisfying to your flesh!

Law, Faith and Uncertainty

People like laws. There have been few, if any, governments that went from more laws to less laws, but there have been a multitude of governments that increased laws.

People think laws work. Whenever a tragedy happens in our country, we immediately flee to government to make a law. Have too many tornadoes? No problem, just have the government outlaw them.

People trust people, for some reason. We think that if we listen to other people we will all be better, even though those we are listening too are just as dumb and weak as we are.

But we can’t help ourselves! WE MUST GET MORE LAWS!

Sin made the world uncertain, but this uncertainty is supposed to drive us to God, not to other people who can pretend to have power to curtail sin. Oh sure, Romans 13 says the government was put here to curtail sin. But the believer isn’t out doing the evil anyway, according to Paul’s assumption.

Laws are not made for the righteous but for the unrighteous.

Here’s where Paul gets himself in trouble with us law-loving people. “Ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ.” And again, “For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.”

In both cases Paul is referring to the Mosaic Law. In Romans 7 he addresses his brethren who know the law–Jews, and in Galatians his point is also clearly the Mosaic law as he is contrasting Jews and Gentiles.

We all desire outward, physical things like a law written on stone. We are most uncomfortable with unseen, floaty things. “Just tell me what to do!” our heart cries out. Faith is most uncertain, which is why so few have it.

The Gospel and the Will of God

Satan’s fall is blamed on the fact that he wanted to exalt himself to God’s position. Isaiah 14 records this event and ascribes to Satan a series of “I will” statements. He wanted his will to be done, not God’s.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, right before His betrayal, we know that Christ prayed, “Not my will but Yours be done.” Jesus came to do the will of His Father. His Father’s will consisted of dying and Christ became obedient to even death on the cross.

Christians are constantly praying for God’s will to be done. Young people waste many an hour contemplating their next move until they “discover God’s will” on it, which usually means drinking lots of coffee with other like-minded youth and talking into the wee hours and then deciding to do what they were going to do anyway and chalk it up to God’s will.

With all the interest in God’s will, how come so few do it?

The will of God has been declared to us in Scripture. Not every detail of life, don’t look in the Bible for the verse directing you to attend college at Michigan State or Michigan.

The guiding light for us in all we do is the Gospel. Whether you attend Michigan State or Michigan, you proclaim and live the same Gospel. The Gospel is summed up in death, burial and resurrection. This is our Guide to life. We don’t need the 613 laws of the OT, we need the life of the Spirit guiding us into Gospel life.

The essence of being dead to sin but alive to God is that we are living sacrifices. Living sacrifices prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God!

Christ, in order to do the Gospel, submitted Himself to His Father’s will and Gospel life for us consists of the same thing. This is true if you are nailed to a cross for a few more agonizing hours of life or if you’re around for another 87 years.

It’s all about God’s will. Satan doesn’t want to do God’s will and tries to convince you that God isn’t worth listening to. Satan is colossally wrong and he knows his days are numbered.

God’s will is perfect and righteous and has our true best interests in mind. The Gospel provides the only way in which His will can be done. Gospel life is God’s will.

Contrast of Covenants

The Old Covenant was made with every Jew, whether a true believer or not. But not all Israel are of Israel.

This was a good thing for unbelieving Israel because even they would benefit from the faithful majority of Israel–unbelievers during the time of Solomon. But this was a bad thing for the remnant of faithful Israel during the idiot times of Israel–believers during Jehoiakim’s reign.

Being part of the general Old Covenant did not imply salvation. This was a hard concept for Israel to accept. When the prophets came and warned about judgment coming on Jerusalem, they were met with incredulity. “No way, we’re God’s people, why would He judge us?”

God would judge them because of the covenant God made with their earthly fathers. If you do what I say you will dwell in the land and prosper; if you disobey you will be destroyed and driven off the land.

We know the story.

But now there is a New Covenant in Christ’s blood. God is now making a new people, a peculiar nation, a royal priesthood, and members of a new and better Covenant.

The New Covenant is made only with believers. You don’t get in any other way than through faith in Jesus Christ. Unlike the Old Covenant, in the New, once you’re in; you’re in. No one is booted for disobedience. Members of the New Covenant are no longer under God’s wrath.

Now, some take this knowledge and begin to go crazy. “Cool, we don’t have to obey and can still be in the Covenant and not be judged! It’s the best of both worlds!”

Not exactly. There’s a reason why members of the New Covenant are not under God’s wrath: they keep the covenant.

The peculiar people of the New Covenant are zealous of good works and are bought out of darkness into the light. Even when they mess up, they know how to handle it. Members of the New Covenant do not revel in sin and fleshly license, they see the preciousness of the blood that seals and forgives them.

There are no unsaved members of the New Covenant and the Bible says it’s pretty easy to tell who is really in it and it’s the same way you could tell who was saved under the Old Covenant: obedience to your Lord and Savior. It begins and continues by faith and always results in loving obedience to the one who paid the price.

We don’t obey to get in or to stay in; we obey because we’re in through the blood of the One who gave Himself for us to redeem and purify us. Our faith and security is in Him and He is faithful to work in us and conform us to His holy image.

Salvation works this way no matter what Covenant a person was under.

The Thief on the Cross and Your Lack of Good Works

I have had discussions with people who try to deny the reality that salvation always results in good works. Why people would even argue the ineffectiveness of the Gospel is beyond me, but they do.

The Thief on the Cross is always trotted out as proof-text number one. “The Thief on the Cross didn’t do any good works and he was saved.”

Let me express my two primary arguments against this case.

1) There is a big difference between you and the Thief on the Cross.

The last person I had this argument with said they had been saved for 15 years. The Thief on the Cross didn’t do anything, so neither do I. Two huge points loom:

A) The Thief on the Cross had only a few hours of life left, you’ve had 15 years. Are you serious?

B) The Thief on the Cross was nailed to a tree! He didn’t have many options, it’s not like he could get off the cross and go on a missions trip.

If you are content to say that your many years of life as a Christian are comparable to a few hours of a guy nailed to a tree, I’m guessing the Judge of all things might point out some facts. Sounds like a guy hedging his bets and burying his talents to me (Don’t forget that he was slain by his master for this rationalized disobedience!).

2) The Thief on the Cross did good works.

Luke is the only Gospel that records the conversion of the Thief on the Cross. In this account, the Thief on the Cross does three of the tests the Bible gives to see whether you are saved.

1) Confess that Jesus is Lord. Test in 1 Corinthians 12:3 fulfilled in Luke 23:42
2) Confession of sin. Test in 1 John 1:8-10 fulfilled in Luke 23:41
3) Tell others. Test in Romans 10:9-10 fulfilled in Luke 23:40

Indeed the Thief on the Cross has done more works than most professed Christians.

Now, this man was not saved by works, he was saved by calling on the name of the Lord and that day he was with the Lord in paradise. The Thief on the Cross did have works that showed faith and that is the point.

Faith without works is dead (James and Paul). The Thief on the Cross had faith and it resulted in works. He was a different man dying on that cross than he was being nailed on that cross. The other thief did not get a blessing of being with Christ in eternity and his works showed his lack of faith.

Defending pathetic faith by using the Thief on the Cross is a really bad idea. It has no legs to stand on. We like to say Christ is our standard, not other people, but how quickly that ideal fades when we really want to keep sinning. Don’t disparage the name of this recipient of God’s grace by defending your sin.

Click here for a message I preached on this two weeks ago.

3 Uses for The Thief on the Cross

The thief on the cross was a scummy guy. Luke calls him a “malefactor” which is the KJV word for “criminal.” Matthew calls him a thief. He must have been a notorious thief to get crucifixion.

We don’t know much about him. Luke is the Gospel that gives us the most information and the only Gospel that records his conversion or repentance or whatever word people use to describe his about-face.

The Thief on the Cross comes up in three main ways, two of which are horrible and probably cause the Thief on the Cross to roll over in his grave:

1) It’s never too late to come to Christ for salvation. There is always time, even if you are scum of the earth, forgiveness is near.
2) Hey, the Thief on the Cross waited until just before death to get saved, that’s my plan too! I’ll live it up in sin and then right before death I’ll come to Jesus and I’ll be good to go.
3) Good works are not necessary fruits of salvation, that’s legalism and works-righteousness! Look at the thief on the cross!

Number One is the only legitimate usage of the Thief on the Cross.

Number Two just shows hard-hearted rebellion that is trying to game the system. If you know that much about Scripture and willfully decide to play this game, I don’t think it will go well for you. Also, not everyone has hours to die to make this plan work anyway.

Number Three is probably the most common usage out of the Thief on the Cross. I’ve heard it many times and it gets me riled each time. I’ll explain more tomorrow.

Crucified With Christ

Christ died for us. This is a biblical fact.

Apart from the death of Christ and His resurrection there is no hope for humanity. Through Christ, and Him alone, is the way to salvation. We place our faith in Him–who He is and what He did–to receive salvation.

Once salvation has occurred things get interesting! But few in our day know of the interesting things that follow because most of our Gospel teaching centers on and is concluded with salvation.

It is true that Christ died for us, but for the believer it goes much deeper than this. The aspect of the Gospel that gets skipped in our day is what Romans 6 expounds on–we were crucified WITH Christ.

Many have the idea that Christ did the dying, I carry on in my sinful living, but this is not what the Gospel is. Consider:

I am crucified with Christ
They that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh
Our old man is crucified with him
We are buried with him
We be dead with Christ
Ye be dead with Christ

Most of these passages go on to explain that we are also raised up with Christ to a new life in and with Christ, and this is not referring to heaven, but our life on earth too.

Our heavenly, eternal life begins upon salvation. Christ didn’t just die for you, He died so that we might die with Him and thus truly live with Him.

The Gospel is all about death, not just Christ’s but even our own death. The power of the Gospel is to save and this salvation begins to work in and through us from the point of salvation all the way through eternity.

It’s a beautiful thing. Don’t chop the Gospel off at “get out of hell.” It is not just an escape from hell, it’s an invitation to heaven that begins at the moment of salvation. A glorious thing.

Book Review: Spirituality According to Paul

Spirituality According to Paul
By Rodney Reeves
IVP Academic, 2011

Paul is the Apostle to the Gentiles, trying to explain to a bunch of heathen scum why the Jewish Messiah should mean anything to them. Paul tells Gentiles to imitate him as he imitates Christ.

What an odd idea! Isn’t that a tad arrogant?

Not really, because Paul is trying to show Gentiles, who probably weren’t paying attention to Jesus and have little knowledge of the Old Testament Law, what it means to follow Christ.

The summation of spirituality for Paul is death, burial and resurrection. These ideas make up the three parts of the book with ample scriptural citations to back up each point. Being joined with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection carries implications in what it means to follow Paul as he follows Christ.

Reeves does a great job of capturing the reality of what it means to follow Christ in the Gospel. This book is not so much focused on Pauline Theology as it is a look at the practical implications for life his teaching has.

It’s a good read and very thought-provoking. I recommend it highly.

Unplugging the Power of the Gospel

Many years ago I spoke a message on taking up the cross and tied it in with Galatians 2:20 and various other verses that talked about dying.

It didn’t go over well.

When Christians talk about the Gospel they are content to talk about salvation and that’s it. It’s as if God only cares about the one second when a person decides to get saved and nothing else.

But salvation is more than just a transaction that pays off in the future; salvation is a whole package deal that begins eternal life in the moment of salvation and carries on through eternity.

When we are content to merely speak of the Gospel as having power to save and that’s it, we cut it off too early.

The Gospel does have power to save but it also has power to transform.

Preaching about the Gospel’s power to transform seems like it would be a powerful, joyous thing. But instead is often met with skepticism, dismissal, or charges of suddenly being works-oriented.

Theologians refer to this “Gospel is for salvation and that’s it” approach as the “Soterian Gospel.” It’s a selfish, me-first understanding of what Christ did.

If the Gospel purely exists to get you out of hell it leads to several outcomes that destroy:

1) I’m the focal point of everything. Christ did it all for me.
2) What I do doesn’t matter before or after my moment of “belief” because if I think I’m good to go, then I’m good to go.
3) Obedience is optional at best, but mostly a hindrance to truly being under grace.
4) The salvation of others is secondary.

Any believer who turns grace into license, or has the idea that salvation does not result in doing good works (contrary to Ephesians 2:8-10 and many other verses) shows they have no concern for the salvation of others.

Paul said that a refusal to stop sinning keeps others in unbelief and is to our shame.

To separate the life of the Gospel from the salvation of the Gospel is nonsensical and yet marks the majority opinion on the Gospel today. It’s a sad state of affairs.

For more on the selfishness of the Soterian Gospel, click here.

Living Sacrifice

Romans 12:1,2 get a lot of playtime in Christian circles.

These are great verses, oft-repeated to inspire us to live a Christian life.

Perhaps their familiarity keeps its truth obscured though.

What in the world is a living sacrifice? Sacrifices, by nature, are dead. How can something dead be living?

If we are to be a sacrifice, what actually are we sacrificing?

Paul specifically says to present your bodies as a sacrifice. This is not some floaty, spiritual, hazy, inner-child weirdness, this is concrete reality.

We are sacrificing ourselves, not as a propitiating sacrifice, but as offering up yourself to your Savior.

Christians then are living dead things. We see our flesh as dead but our Spirit is now alive. We have died and been reborn. Crucified and raised up.

“If we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him.”

“To the one we are the savor of death unto death; and to the other the savor of life unto life.”

“Always bearing about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life also of Jesus might be made manifest in our body.”

We are dead and alive. Dead to sin, dead to self, dead to the law, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. Living sacrifices live to God by laying down their own needs, rights, lusts, wants, cravings and all else that is wrapped up in the flesh’s worldly desires.

Only by dying can we live.

Living Gospel Death

Believers truly are the living dead! We were crucified and buried but we also now live in Christ.

There is a part of me that is now dead and I now live to reckon that death to be true and legit.

When I put off the old man and put on the new, when I flee fleshly lusts and follow righteousness and holiness, I show the work of Christ in me.

This is the same way people showed faith under the Law.

The two greatest commandments are to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and to love your neighbor as yourself.

These are all-encompassing commands!

You can’t partially love the Lord your God with ALL your heart.

You can’t love your neighbor as yourself if you are loving yourself at the same time!

Unfortunately, even though the Law put forth these beautiful ideals, it provided no power to accomplish them–enter the Holy Spirit.

Gospel faith is all about death.

You can’t live for another if you are living for yourself, so the only answer is to die to self to live for others.

As we love our neighbor we love our God–as you do to the least of these you do to Me.

But understand that apart from faith loving God and loving others is impossible.

Therefore, a man is saved by faith, by the transformation brought on by the Gospel, allowing him, empowering him, to put self to death, to put off selfish desires, to love God and love neighbor.

Dying in the Gospel

The Gospel is all about death. The Gospel Believer sees himself as dead, but also as alive in Christ. He is no longer satisfied with living his flesh-driven life, but now wants to put to death the deeds of the flesh and live the life of Christ–being a servant of righteousness (this paragraph sums up Romans 6).

Not a servant of righteousness? Odds are you don’t believe the Gospel, have the life of Christ, or want to put your flesh to death. You’re still trapped in sin.

The Gospel is not just something you nod your head to, raise your hand to, or mentally agree with. The Gospel is something you live. It’s a new way of life, an impossible way of life apart from rebirth and Spirit led-ness.

But I thought we just had to believe the Gospel? You do and we live by faith! If you’re not living the Gospel, you aren’t a saved person.

It’s frightening and amazing that this is controversial in some spheres. The nerve to tell people faith in the Gospel means a way of life that leads to righteousness!

Living after your own fleshly lusts is the mark of an unbeliever. But we have not so learned Christ!

I believe Christ died for my sins, has set me free from condemnation and that apart from Him I have no hope. Along with this knowledge comes the sheer joyful knowledge that the sin that so easily besets me can now be put off!

I can now be delivered from those sins that brought me death and no fruit. I can now live to please my Creator! Being set free from sin is what I long for, why I came to Christ and now desire to grow into the perfect man Christ Jesus.

Setting self and fleshly lust aside to live the life of Christ is every believers’ desire. It’s what the Gospel showed–Christ did this perfectly giving up His own self to save sinners–and what Gospel life consists of.

The Gospel and Death

Paul’s summation of the Gospel in 1 Corinthians 15 encapsulates the Gospel in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ.

That’s it.

People have often wondered how OT believers were saved since they were around before Christ was killed, buried or resurrected. But we know the Gospel is everlasting and there’s only ever been one and it’s the same one Abraham heard.

The Gospel is centered on death. The Bible is one bloody book. The life is in the blood. Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. The day you eat of the tree you will die.

The Gospel, whether before or after Christ, was about death. Sacrifices made this abundantly clear. Cain eventually figured it out while Abel got it right away.

Paul goes on to explain what Gospel living is like after Christ’s actual death, burial and resurrection. It’s no longer I who lives but Christ who lives in me. We are buried with Him and raised up with Him. Mortify the deeds of the flesh. Our old man is crucified behold all things are new, etc.

How do you know you believe the Gospel? The same way Abel, Abraham and Paul knew–death becomes vital to you. We know we’re doomed, death is our wages for our sin. The sooner you see death, the sooner you will run to a Savior, a Savior who also died and now gives eternal life.

If you know this it will be reflected in a life that puts self to death and comes alive to the life of Christ.

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