Our Only Comfort

“For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” – [Romans 14:7-8 ESV]

“What is thy only comfort in life and death? That I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Saviour Jesus Christ; who, with his precious blood, has fully satisfied for all my sins, and delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by his Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto him.” – [The Heidelberg Catechism, Question 1]

When I was a boy, my grandmother made me a refrigerator magnet out of plastic material and yarn with a picture of a boy  holding a satchel over his shoulder and sub-caption read, “You can’t run from God.”

I believe that everything preaches a sermon and the sermon that this refrigerator magnet preached was one of the omnipresent love of God.

As I read these verses and this quote from the Heidelberg Catechism, I am reminded of the words of Fanny Crosby’s Blessed Assurance:

Blessed Assurance, Jesus is mine
O What foretaste of glory divine
Heir of salvation, purchase of God
Born of His Spirit, washed in His blood.

What a thought that we belong in life and in death. Our family and friends can go with us but when we pass from this life to the next, Jesus will still be with us.

It’s All About Jesus, Part 2: The Praise Hymn, Part 2

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,  to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” – [Ephesians 1:3-14 NIV]

In the last post, we left off talking about the nine things that God has done for us through Christ’s blood.

1. He has blessed us (Eph. 1:3)
2. He has chosen us (Eph. 1:4)
3. He has predestined us (Eph. 1:5, 11)
4. He has made us accepted (Eph. 1:6)
5. He has redeemed us (Eph. 1:7)
6. He has poured grace on us (Eph. 1:8)
7. He has made known unto us the mystery of His will (Eph. 1:9)
8. He has given us an inheritance (Eph. 1:11, 14)
9. He has sealed us (Eph. 1:13)

Before we get started on Predestination, I want to finish up my thoughts about being chosen. We’ve already established that this word ‘chosen’ is an active choosing. It implies that God has chosen us out of a group. We know that the elect are chosen. What find interesting is the word for ‘chosen’ is an active choosing and the word for ‘church’ is ekklesia is ‘ones who are called out’. This is an active calling. Think about it. God has His thumb on you and He’s calling out to be separate from the influence from the world, separate from the negative influence of the culture, separate from the negative influence of society, but even an even greater scale than that, I believe that this is referring to your divine destiny. You are called and chosen to do something great for thing Kingdom of God for such a time as this. What a profound thought that everything that has happened to you whether it is good or bad has been setting you up for great things in God. You might ask me, “How can you say that something bad that’s happened to me has been setting me up?” In Romans there is a promise that all things will work together for good.

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.” – [Romans 8:28 KJV]

“No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” – [Romans 8:37 ESV]

I like where Paul says at the beginning of verse 28, “we know”. He’s saying that “we are confident; we are fully convinced that God is always working and operating for the good of His people.”

I don’t mean to go all Joel Osteen on you or anything but sometimes you’ve just got to determine within your heart that everything is going to be good in the end because God loves you and He might allow bad things to happen but in the end it will all be good.

3. He has predestined us. (Ephesians 1:5, 11)

Again, this is a touchy subject for Calvinists and Arminians alike. After all of the research and studying I’ve done on it I feel like I should side with Finis Jennings Dake on the issue:

“It is God’s plan that He has foreknown and predestined, not the individual conformity of free wills to the plan. He has called all people and all are free to accept or reject the call (Jn. 3:16; 1Tim. 2:4; 2Pet. 3:9; Rev. 22:17). All who do accept, He has foreknown and predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son that His Son might be the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29). Those who reject the plan, He has foreknown and predestined to be consigned to eternal hell as an everlasting monument of His wrath on rebels (Isa. 66:22-24; Rev. 14:9-11; Mt. 25:41,46). This is the sum of foreknowledge and predestination.” – Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible

For me, personally, the issue of predestination and election is something that I keep in the open hand. I can take it or leave it. What I mean by the closed hand and open hand metaphor is this: if someone were to put a gun to my head and say, “Do you believe Jesus died on the cross for your sins?” I said “Yes” and take what was coming to me. If someone were to put a gun to my head and say, “Do you believe that man can choose whether he is saved or not?” I’d say, “Wait a minute. Let’s talk about this.” I’m willing to die for Jesus but not over my position on predestination and election. Moving on…

4. He has made us accepted. (Ephesians 1:6)

“To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved.” – [Ephesians 1:6 KJV]

I absolutely love Scofield’s position on this verse.

“Adoption (huiothesia, “placing as a son”) is not so much a word of relationship as of position. The believer’s relation to God as a child results from the new birth John 1:12, 13 whereas adoption is the act of God whereby one already a child is, through redemption from the law, placed in the position of an adult son. Gal 4:1-5 The indwelling Spirit gives the realization of this in the believer’s present experience Gal 4:6 but the full manifestation of the believer’s sonship awaits the resurrection, change, and translation of saints, which is called “the redemption of the body” Rom 8:23; 1Th 4:14-17; Eph 1:14; 1Jn 3:2” – Scofield Reference Bible

I don’t care if you’re Pentecostal or not, that ought to make you want to shout and run laps. We are not just adopted but we are made to know that we are accepted by God’s Holy Spirit that causes us to cry ‘Abba, Father’. Sometimes in families where the child is adopted they can’t sense that they don’t belong. Their adopted parents might treat them well and love them dearly but the child knows that there is something different. It’s like they have an innate feeling that those are not their biological parents but with God there is no vacant feeling. He makes feel wanted and when we become saved he plants the Holy Spirit inside to make us know that we are one of His own.

I hope this has helped you an encouraged you today. You are loved by the King of Kings! Be blessed!

 

It’s All About Jesus, Part 2: The Praise Hymn, Part 1

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,  to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ. In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.” – [Ephesians 1:3-14 NIV]

In our last post we talked about the Christ Hymn found in Colossians 1. In this post we’ll discuss the Praise Hymn found in Ephesians 1 and we’ll compare the two. While the Christ focused more on His preeminence in the cosmos through the church, this hymn focuses for more the redemptive work of Christ for the elect. I believe it’s important that we, as believers, know exactly what it is that we are entitled to through Christ’s atoning work on the cross. There’s nine things are shown here that God has done through Christ’s atoning work.

1. He has blessed us (Eph. 1:3)
2. He has chosen us (Eph. 1:4)
3. He has predestined us (Eph. 1:5, 11)
4. He has made us accepted (Eph. 1:6)
5. He has redeemed us (Eph. 1:7)
6. He has poured grace on us (Eph. 1:8)
7. He has made known unto us the mystery of His will (Eph. 1:9)
8. He has given us an inheritance (Eph. 1:11, 14)
9. He has sealed us (Eph. 1:13)

Before we get into the details of what each of things mean to us I want you to see the use of the pro noun ‘He’. It is God who has done all of these things for us. It was of no effort of our own that God saved us and made us the elect. If you read in Ephesians later it says:

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved– …For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  – [Ephesians 2:4-5, 8-9 ESV]

Going into this study it’s important to realize that our Salvation has nothing to do with our works. I need grace every day. I mess up a lot. I’m a sinner saved by God’s grace. As sinners, we were never meant to have any kind of inheritance in God’s kingdom but God did these nine things for us and now we have fellowship with Him.

1. He blessed us (Ephesians 1:3)

The verse says that God blessed us with every spiritual blessing. Paul was specific in using the term ‘spiritual blessing’. It supposed that he meant ‘spiritual blessing’ as opposed to a ‘temporal blessing’. We know that God can and will sometimes bless us temporally but what Paul is referring to here are the kind of blessings that never fade. Before I get into specifically what those blessings are I believe that it is worth mentioning where they are and how we get them. If read the verse carefully you notice that Paul said that we have these spiritual blessing in Christ. That’s how we get them, in Christ. Which leads us to the next question where are they? Since we get these spiritual blessings from God in Christ we must remember that Christ is sitting at the right hand of the Father in heavenly places. Our Freedom under the new covenant, as New Testament believers, tells that we may boldly come before the throne of grace. What happens is when we pray we have access, by faith, to Jesus who intercedes on our behalf to the Father according to Hebrews 7:25 and 1 John 2:1:

“Wherefore also he is able to save to the uttermost them that draw near unto God through him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” – [Hebrews 7:25 RV]

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” – [1 John 2:1 ESV]

As far as what the blessings are, we know that they are spiritual in nature. The word for spiritual in the Greek, pneumatikos, is used a lot in the New Testament in reference to the Holy Spirit. This tells us that the Holy Spirit is the one that makes these blessings manifest in our life. So the spiritual blessing is our fruit.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. – [Galatians 5:22-23 RV]

In his Commentary over this passage one writer says:

“But the fruit of the Spirit – That which the Holy Spirit produces. It is not without design, evidently, that the apostle uses the word “Spirit” here, as denoting that these things do not flow from our own nature. The vices above enumerated are the proper “works” or result of the operations of the human heart; the virtues which he enumerates are produced by a foreign influence – the agency of the Holy Spirit.” – Albert Barnes

2.      He has chosen us (Ephesians 1:4)

This is where it gets hairy to say the least. This is Calvinists and Arminians will fight to the death over the issue of Limited Atonement. I do not hold to that position but I will try my best to present you the facts as the word of God makes it clear. The word that is used here for ‘chosen’ in the Greek is eklegō and it implies an active choice as seen in this verse:

“but one thing is needful: for Mary hath chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” – [Luke 10:42 RV]

This word implies an active choosing and the whole debate has been over whether Paul meant that God chose us individually or whether the church is the elect and by choosing to follow Christ, God makes us one of the elect. The Bible doesn’t really harmonize this paradox. Honestly, from studying this subject as long as I have, I ‘ve come to the conclusion is that it’s irrelevant just as long as your saved. I’ll probably have Arminians and Calvinists that will send me emails over this issue but it’s just another day at the office for me. What matters though is that whether it is in general or in particular, either way we are chosen and predestined for a restored relationship with God that will lead to an unbroken fellowship with Him in Heaven that only comes through Jesus Christ.

For the sake of time and energy I’m going to stop right here and continue this thought throughout the week. You are loved by the King of Kings! Be blessed this week!

 

Methodology vs. Meth-idolatry

“Say not, “Why were the former days better than these?” For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.” – [Ecclesiastes 7:10 ESV]

“Little children, keep yourselves from idols”. – [1 John 5:21 ESV]

I was listening to a lecture given by Mark Driscoll and he was talking a new movement that he and a few other pastors are a part of called, ‘New Calvinism’. The four points of this movement are:

  1. Reformed Theology (Traditional Calvinism)
  2. Complimentarian Relationships
  3. Spirit-filled Lives
  4. Missional Churches

I won’t exactly dwell on the movement but I’ll provide you with the information and you can do the research for yourself.

What I wanted to focus on was something that Pastor Mark said in his lecture that caught my attention. He said that if you’re not careful, you’re methodology can turn into meth-idolatry. This happens when you love tradition more than you love Jesus. This is why it’s hard to convert a lot of Mormons because they love their religious structure more than they love Jesus. Of course, no one would ever verbally or even consciously admit to loving tradition more than Jesus but if you’ve ever been in a traditional church long enough then you know it happens. And don’t think that because your church isn’t traditional that it means that your church isn’t subject to it. It happens in traditional and non-traditional churches alike. People fall in love with method instead the God who inspired the method. But after a while, culture changes and as the culture changes our methodology should also change. While all this change is taking place our message should remain the same: “Christ died to save sinners.”

I grew up in an old-school Pentecostal atmosphere. I firmly believe that there is no school like the old school but there are some disadvantages to ‘traditional church’. The problem is that the concept of ‘traditional church’ will die. Church hymnals will be in the museum; pulpits and kneeling rails will be nothing more than relics of once was.

One thing you must realize if you’re a young pastor and you’re trying to mix things up in a traditional church is this: If you’re going to move the piano in a Pentecostal church, do it one inch at a time. If you shake things up too quickly then you’ll have a bunch of old religious stiff getting their boxers in a knot over something that has eternal value. For example, the minute you bring in theatre seats in a church instead of pews you have people saying stuff like “This is church; it’s not supposed to be comfortable.” (Yes, I’ve actually heard that one.)

Remember, I also said that more modern churches were susceptible to this as well. What happens is this, they get into a mentality that all tradition is bad and because it’s old is must be thrown out the door. This is an erroneous presumption that stemmed from Emergent Church movement. Pretty much the concept of emergent churches was to throw out anything old, have no kind of tradition at all to the point where they starting questioning fundamental doctrines just because they were a tradition in the church such: the divinity of Scripture, the issue of homosexuality, the existence of Hell. A good example of an emergent church pastor would be Rob Bell. He does not believe in the literal existence of Hell. He also doesn’t believe in the divinity of Scripture because anyone who doesn’t believe in the existence of Hell doesn’t believe in the inspiration of Scripture, it’s just not possible.

Another thing about traditions and methods is that they vary from culture to culture and geographical location to geographical location. A lawn mowing ministry would not be needful to someone who lived in the desert and didn’t have a lawn to mow. If you’re going to do good ministry you need to be a student of your student and learn to adapt in a way where you can bring the message of Christ in their own language and in their own terms.

In conclusion, there’s no need to get into an argument about tradition, culture, and methodology because it’s all going to die anyway. The only thing that will last forever is the word of God.

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” – [Matthew 24:35 ESV]

As for those resources that you were promised:

Four Points of the Movement – Mark Driscoll
http://theresurgence.com/v/h7ue7jqmuff1

Four Points of the Movement Re:visited - Mark Driscoll
http://theresurgence.com/v/zfw9npg3d2r6

Article in Times Magazine about New Calvinism

carm.org on the Emerging Church Movement