Monday, October 31, 2011

The Scandal of the Gospel

Galatians 5:11 "But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block (or scandal) of the cross has been abolished."

Romans 3:21 "But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the law and prophets."

As the Apostle Paul was writing the book of Galatians by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he was dealing with a group in the church of Galatia who were teaching salvation through Christ plus law-keeping.  For that group, one could confess Christ if he wanted too, however in order to be made right with God, the ritual of circumcision from the Old Testament had to be performed.

Why mankind prefers performance-based salvation
As it was in Paul's day, we also saw in the last two blogs about the Reformation, wherein Luther had to deal with the performance-based religion of the Roman Catholic Church.  In Luther's day, one was encouraged to have faith in Christ, however they also had to be baptized and purchase extra graces in order to have right standing before God.  In our day, we have religions all over the world that add human performance as a pre-requisite to being made right before God.

Why the cross is scandalous
When I come to the cross, I discover a scandal (quite literally a potential stmbling block) - salvation was achieved by the work of another.  Furthermore,  my performance-based ideas are the source of my own condemnation.  Now this is just the beginning - for in the cross an even deeper scandal is raised - how can The Holy God, a Just Judge, who wants to pardon sinful man, forgive him when sinful man desires to violate and thumb his nose at Holy God?

The Potential Controversy that God alone could resolve
In Romans 3 we find the complete unfolding of the scandal that is concerned with the Character of God Himself: Either God remains just in punishing the treachery of man against Him with no obligation to show mercy; or He needs to ignore His Holy character in order to show love.  God is both infinitely Holy (seperate from sin, pure, in a category by Himself) and infinitely loving.  Mankind on the otherhand is sinful (hateful of God's Holy character) and continuously hateful of God.  This scandal, this controversy cannot be resolved by man - for he is too sinful and too unloving. (The main argument of Romans 3:1-20)  No other religion can successfully solve how Holy God can forgive sinful man without being unjust.

Over the next couple of blogs, we will aim to understand how God resolved this scandal through the cross.  God would have to do five things in order to maintain His infinite Holiness while fulfilling His desire to forgive fallen human beings who by His grace, through faith, believe on Him.  I would invite the reader to read Romans 3:21-31, since it will be central to our study over the next couple of blogs.   

Sunday, October 30, 2011

5 Reasons to Rejoice over October 31st - P2

       In yesterday’s blog we began to explore what took place nearly 500 years ago when a monk by the name of Martin Luther re-discovered how a man is made right with God – faith alone.  We noted that Luther was protesting the Catholic Church’s practice of selling various ways of access to ability to be right with God.  This system of indulging grace was called “indulgences.”  Luther discovered from Galatians 3:11 that the “just shall live by faith”, meaning that a man is made right with God through faith alone. 

What we mean when we say "By Faith Alone"
       Being made right with God through faith alone was the first reason for rejoicing on October 31.  Today we will briefly look at the four other doctrines that came out of The Reformation.  It is not by any faith alone, but by a specific faith, the biblical gifting of faith alone, that a person is made right with God.  The core doctrine that characterizes “faith alone” is what we call “justification by faith”.  The Bible tells us in Romans 4:3 that the Old Testament figure Abraham “believed God, and it was counted unto Him as righteousness”.

      Another way of understand justification is by noting that it is God’s legal declaration of my innocence at the moment I believe the Gospel.  Quite literally, when I am justified by faith, its “just-as-if-I” never sinned.  Four other truths flow from this central feature of the gospel.  Below we will briefly summarize them, since each of them answer a particular question about how a human being is made right with God.

1. How is a man made right with God?  Faith Alone.  Romans 3:4 “For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.”

2. What leads a man to see his need to be made right?  Grace Alone. Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

3. Whose righteousness is counted to me for righteousness the moment I believe?  Christ Alone. 2 Corinthians 5:21 “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.

4. Where do I find out about being saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone?  The Bible alone. 2 Timothy 3:15 “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus”

5. What is the purpose of being saved by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone of the Bible alone?  For the Glory of God alone. Ephesians 1:12 that we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.”

Like five mountain peaks do these five truths stand to make visible God’s saving glory.  What is clearly in the Bible, what was re-discovered by Martin Luther and what is perhaps the clearest summary of the gospel are five reasons for rejoicing on October 31st, and every day.  Have you received God’s gift of salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone of the Bible alone for the glory of God alone?    

Saturday, October 29, 2011

5 Reasons to rejoice on October 31

Today and Tomorrow I want to share with you why I find so much joy over October 31st.  One of the Greatest Revivals occurred almost 500 years ago,  altering and realligning Christianity back to the Bible. We will be surveying what took place, and why there are five reasons to rejoice over October 31st. 


494 years ago the Roman Catholic Church had a repressive system of religion that had people buying what was hoped to be a right standing with God.  Over the centuries a whole system of church tradition had accumulated, telling people that in order to be right with God, they had to make pilgrimages to certain churches and make financial contributions to achieve salvation.  In addition, the church also manipulated people to make contributions, alleging that once paid, their dead relatives would be freed from an imagined place called purgatory, and thus go to heaven.


One man, a monk, a "holy man" in the Roman Catholic system of religion, was very troubled in his soul.  He had dedicated his life to achieving the salvation promised by the Roman Catholic church.  Despite his best efforts, he felt more guilty and alienated from God, even though he confessed to the priests, prayed hours a day and went on long fasts.  That man's name was Martin Luther.


Luther was so troubled that he began searching the scriptures and read these words in Galatians 3:11 - "The just shall live by faith".  God's Grace was at work, and suddenly Martin Luther saw that all of the pilgrimages, the contributions to the churches, the confessions, fastings, being baptized into the church, even being a Monk - all of it - contributed nothing to his salvation.  Alas, Luther rediscovered the heart of the Christian Gospel that all but a faithful few had forgotten over the centuries - that a man is made right before God by faith alone in Christ Alone.  After this discovery, Luther began to research


Luther did a 16th century equivalent of facebook - He made a post.  Only this post was pen and paper nailed to the door of a church (much like if we were to post on facebook or announcements on a bulletin board).  Luther wanted to make a public announcement for all to see, posting what was called his "95 theses" on a church door in Wittenberg Germany.  These 95 reasons or "theses" aimed to protest the Roman Catholic system to which the Bible revealed to be corrupt.  Luther did this on October 31, 1517, sparking the greatest move of God in the past 500 years - The Protestant Reformation.


Soon the new invented printing presses all over Germany were distributing copies of Luther's document.  Out of the movement would come five phrases that would describe the gospel rediscovered by Martin Luther.  The first phrase is the most fundamental - namely that a man or woman is made right with God by faith alone.  This is the first reason to rejoice over October 31.  Because  of God's movement in the life of one man, the Gospel, preached by the prophets, Christ and the apostles, would once again shine.  How is it that a man is made right with God?  Paul states in Ephesians 2:8-9 that faith is a gift of God, that salvation is not earned by what one does, lest there would be grounds for boasting.  Faith alone is sufficient grounds for receiving God's free gift of salvation.  It is not faith plus baptism, nor faith plus church membership nor faith plus anything. 


It is time to take back October 31, and use this day to proclaim the truth of scripture and the reformation, sparked on October 31, 1517.  Tomorrow we will look at four other reasons to rejoice over October 31, and look at the four other statements coming out of the Reformation.  As you will see, these statements further clarify the richness of the Gospel message. 

Friday, October 28, 2011

Why God is The Personal God

What is the basic definition of a person?
In today's blog we want to explore another important truth associated with God as Trinity - the idea of personhood.  Many people stumble over the wording that is used to describe the Trinity - namely that He is One God, and yet Three Persons.  Whenever people think of a person, they are thinking of those qualities that are used to define personhood - mind, emotions and will.  Thus my little dog Rico would not be classified as a person, since he does not consciously reason in the way a human being would.  Rico does not possess the creativity of mind or varied expression of emotion nor the intentional actions of a will like my 3 year-old Micah can.

Why a Person is not an individual
In our modern everyday language, we inter-change the ideas of "person" and "individual".  However, whenever we look back into the more ancient usage of the term "person", and compare the more modern-day word "individual", we discover profound differences.  A person is a human being who is in relationship with other human beings.  In fact, whenever you read some of the ancient Christian sources, the concept of people not only included the ideas of intellect, emotions and will, but also the additional concept of relationship. 

When we come into our modern day world, people view themselves as "individuals", apart from relationship to any other person.  However when you think about it, the idea of an individual is inadequate in understanding why people are the way they are.  Even if a person is living alone, their personality has been formed by somekind of interraction with other human beings.  Even in infancy, any type of interraction forms and molds that child's emotional, intellectual and willful development. 

I think the ancient Christians had it right when they spoke of people as "persons", for it is in the context of relationships that human beings are truly termed "persons". 

Why it is right to describe the One God as Three Persons
Now take what you have learned about the idea of "personhood", and you will begin to see why describing God as Three persons is not so contradictory as it may sound.  Truly our idea of "personhood" derives from the One who is in constant interraction within Himself - The Trinity.    God is One in His being.  Within His One Being there is an on-going, three-fold interractive Relationship between Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The Father would not be the Father without the Son, nor the Son be the Son without the Father, nor the Life-Giving Holy Spirit be the Spirit without the Father and the Son. 

Furthermore, without the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son could not function nor live.  All three persons of the God-head (a term that describes God's unity) are in eternal inter-dependence upon One another.  As "Persons", God is not three individuals, rather He is Three distinct identities in relationship with one another. 

Think of Person-hood in marriage
When I look at Debi's and my marriage, we are not individuals, rather we are two persons who are described in scripture as "One Flesh". (Genesis 2:24).  My personality, and hers, have been formed over the years by thousands of interractions from other persons.  When she and I got married, we experienced union.  Now we still retain our distinct qualities, yet we relate so close to one another as if to be One.  No other relationship among human beings achieves this quality - which is why marriage is the cornerstone of all human relationships.

With God Himself being "Personal", that is, in Relationship with Himself, He is pleased to share His Relatedness with those whom He redeems in salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.  When you say God is Personal - you are accurately describing The God of the Bible.  For at His most fundamental level - God is Relational - Three Persons - forever interracting and enjoying one another.  As Christians, let us then enjoy this Personal God. 

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Unending Movement of the Trinity

John 14:1 “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.

Over the past couple of days we have been mediatating on the significance and beauty of the doctrine of the Trinity.  One of the truths that we discover about God in this precious doctrine is that He is constantly moving in and through Himself. In order to better grasp how God is One in His being and yet three in His identity, we must look at the language that Jesus uses to describe what life is like within the "interractive being of God".  Jesus is going to unfold for us what He means in the above verse: believe in God, you believe also in Me."

What life is like within the God
Jesus says these words in John 14:10-11 “Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. 11“Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves." 

As you will notice in the above underlined words, Jesus is speaking of how the Father inwells in Him, and He indwells in the Father.  With the very being of God - which is one being - we see The Father, Son and Holy Spirit mutually moving in, out and through one another.  Older Bible teachers described this constant movement and unity of the Triune God as the "Dance of the Trinity".  God is not a static, lifeless cloud or stark, impersonal idea - He is the source of unending life - since He, within Himself, is constantly acting and interracting within Himself. 

 The Three-fold Distinct Identities within the One God
When you see two people dancing with one another, the movement is as one, even though there are two people.  In the case of God, there is One ongoing dance involving three distinct persons.  Bible teacher R.C Sproul has noted the difference between "distinction" and "separation".  If one were to "separate" their soul from their body - death would be the result; however, if one makes a "distinction" between soul and body - the person will still be alive.  Within God, as he interacts in and of Himself, the distinctions of "Father, Son and Holy Spirit" are made. God is not three "separate" identities, rather He is three "distinct identities", moving in union around one, common, unending life.

Why God's movement and Life is the believer's source of hope
When Jesus spoke these words to the disciples, it was on the eve of His crucifxion.  The Disciples were full of questions - questions about the present situation and questions about the future.  Jesus response was to point them to Himself, since He Himself is in union with and in movement with and is the God of the Bible.  Whenever you see Jesus Christ, you are able to see the beauty and hope of God the Father reaching out by the Holy Spirit to comfort His people.  Whenever you as a Christian are comforted by the Holy Spirit through the scriptures, you are experiencing the love of God the Father and the Son.  Whenever you think on God the Father, you are drawn into the love of the Son by the sweet embrace of the Holy Spirit. 

In a world that is full of darkness and despair, Jesus' words to us, in pointing us to the unending dance of the Trinity, leads us to the only source of hope - The Triune God Himself. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Why the Trinity explains everything

Yesterday I began reflecting on why it is so important to believe in the Trinity.  One writer has noted this about the Trinity - "To attempt to comprehend the Trinity, you will lose your mind, to deny the Trinity, you will lose your soul".  The Trinity is so vital to the Christian faith, and even some of most basic truths of life, that without the Triune God - life as we know it would cease to make sense.

Life requires both unity and diversity
Have you ever thought about how much we as human beings crave unity, and yet we need diversity?  All good art depicts the artist's sense of unity of a given theme, and yet diversity in color.  Scientists use the term "universe" to describe the world we live in - since the word itself is a combination of two words - "unity" and "diverse".  We have planets, stars and moons, and yet a unified force called gravity pervades throughout the universe

Marriage operates on unity and diversity
Marriage itself is described in scripture as a "unity" and "diversity".  In Genesis 2:24 we read these words - "For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh."  Two people, with two personalities, male and female, come to marriage as a diversity.  However in the marriage union, both physically and otherwise, the Bible states they are at the same time "one" - a unity.  These two seemingly opposite ideas function in harmony with one another.  Without either, marriage would be impossible - with both ideas, marriage alone constitutes the most robust relationship among human beings.

The church operates on unity and diversity
1 Corinthians 12:12 gives the following description of the church - "For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ."  How can the church of God be "one" and "many" at the same time?  The Lord Himself provides the unity, while the gifts He gives to the true believers making up its membership provides the diversity.  Imagine a church where everyone was the same - you would see a very ineffective church.  Or imagine a church that focused only on its diversity - you would see utter chaos and confusion.  The church is so designed by the Lord to thrive on these two fundamental principles.

Love itself operates on unity and diversity
The great Christian thinker Augustine noted that in a love relationship, you need three fundamental ingredients - A lover, A beloved and the love shared between.  Love itself is the purest expression of this incredible concept of "unity and diversity". 

The Triune God created everything, since he Himself is "Unity and Diversity"
If this idea is undeniable in art, science, marriage, church-life and love, then why is it so hard to believe that the God who designed all things would not Himself be the ultimate source and chiefest expression of Unity and Diversity?  God is One is His being, and He is Three in His Identity.  He for instance is Eternal Love - The Father who loves, the Son who is loved and the Holy Spirit who embodies the Love between the Father and Son.  If God were only a unity - then His reason for creating all things would be because He was incomplete - which contradicts the Bible's insistence on God's own completeness apart from creation. (please compare Isaiah 43:10).  If God were only a diversity - then we would have bunch of warring gods and godesses, chaos and confusion, no order and no purpose for our world.  Only the Trinity makes sense of how it is God is at one time both "Unity" and "Diversity" - since His creation, in both its unity and diversity, bears this fingerprint of His identity everywhere. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Why believe in the Trinity

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

In today's blog I want to consider a doctrine, a teaching of scripture, that is so fundamental to the Christian faith, that if one were to deny it, would bring into question their salvation.  The Doctrine of the Trinity has been attacked over the centuries as being illogical and of no real consequence to the everyday concerns of the Christian life.  In today's blog, I want us to consider this simple question: why believe the Trinity? 

Though the word "Trinity" is not found in the Bible, that does not mean the teaching is not found
Immediately some people will note: "If the doctrine of the Trinity is as core to the Christian faith as you claim, then why is the word "Trinity" not found in the Bible?"  True, the word "Trinity" is not found, but neither is the word "Bible", and yet the term "Bible", which comes from a greek word "biblos" meaning book, is doctrinal shorthand for designating the 66 books of the Old and New Testament as "The Book" - i.e "Bible".  Thus too, the term "Trinity" is doctrinal shorthand for bringing together three fundamental ideas that the Bible teaches about the nature of God. 

1. God is one God
Deuteronomy 6:4 states - “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one!"  Isaiah 43:10 tells us - "“You are My witnesses,” declares the LORD, “And My servant whom I have chosen, So that you may know and believe Me And understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, And there will be none after Me." 

These two scriptures commmunicate the first fundamental assertion of the biblical view of God - that there is only One God.  He is One God, not three gods.  The Doctrine of the Trinity never has nor never will deny the underlying unity of the very being of God.

2. The Deity of Christ
1 Corinthians 8:6 tells us something profound about God and Jesus Christ - "yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him."  Jesus Christ is asserted many times in the New Testament as being God.  Not only is He the Creator, as revealed in this verse, but He is also the Savior of the world, as spoken of in passages such as 1 John 4:14.  According to the Old Testament, only the God of the Bible can be deemed the True Savior. (please compare Isaiah 43:11)  So when we come to clear and definite statements about Christ's deity, we come to understand that He shares in the same life as the God of the Bible, who is called elsewhere in scripture "God the Father".  (please compare Deuteronomy 32:18 for instance)  God is one in His being, and now as we probe the text of scripture, we discover that He is at least two in terms of His identity - God the Father and God the Son. 

3. The Personality of the Holy Spirit
Jesus tells us about the Holy Spirit in John 16:13 - “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come."   Notice how often Jesus uses the personal pronoun "He" in reference to the Holy Spirit - clearly the Spirit of God is not an "it", nor a "force", but a genuine personality.  We first meet the Holy Spirit back in Genesis 1:2, where we see Him hovering over the face of the deep at creation.  We discover that the Bible describes the Holy Spirit as being God (Acts 5:3-4) who has the ability to communicate (John 16:13). 

The Personality of the Holy Spirit is the third plank of the doctrine of the Trinity.  Just like Jesus Christ, He too shares in Divine nature.  In fact, when Jesus states in John 14:16 that "another comforter" will be sent after He ascends into heaven, that term "another" means "of the same kind".  Thus The Holy Spirit is God, just as Jesus Christ is God, just as the Father is God.  God is "One what" and "Three Whos" - One God, who is identified as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

Monday, October 24, 2011

Is Jesus your hotel, apartment or home?

John 15:2, 4-6 (2) “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. (4) “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.

In this fifteenth chapter of John's Gospel, we find Jesus giving His final message to His disciples on the night before His crucifixion on the cross. As you look at the above underlined words, His main point is to emphasize the principle that marks the difference between those who profess to know Jesus with their lips and those who have come to possess Him by faith. 

As I think on this subject of abiding in Christ, I compare the ways people typically view Jesus Christ.  Some treat Him as a hotel, some treat Him as an apartment landlord and others treat Him as a Home.  My prayer would be that this blog writer, and you dear reader, would continuously, by faith, regard Christ as our home.  Let me explain what I mean in light of the above scripture.

Some Treat Jesus as a Hotel
Many people are under the mistaken impression that they can "try Jesus" out for a while, or just simply say they are a Christian when times are good, and then not even think about him once the coast is clear.  They treat Jesus like a hotel - they "check-in" and "check-out".  But is that the mark of a true follower of Jesus Christ?  Notice what Jesus says in the above verse: “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned." 

Many people today claim to be Christians, however just because you say it with your lips does not mean you are a Christian.  To treat Jesus as  hotel, whereby I check-in and check-out, means He is nothing more than a name.  Unless true saving faith, worked forth by God's grace, accompanied your profession, you did nothing more than just say a bunch of words.  To become a Christ-follower means giving-up the rights to my life.  Jesus says these words in Luke 9:23-24 "And He was saying to them all, If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. 24 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it."

Some Treat Jesus as an Apartment Land-Lord
Now there are those who truly do trust in Christ as Savior, Lord and Treasure.  However in their Christian walk, there are areas that need to be yielded up to His Authority, His Lordship.  Have you ever met Christians who only call upon Jesus when problems arise?  Its like when you rent an apartment, you have a relationship with the Landlord, however you only call that person when there is leaky faucet or brokendown airconditioner units.  You pay your rent once a month, do what is expected, however your relationship is based mainly on reaction to circumstances.

Jesus says these words in John 15:2 “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit." What His will is for your life dear Christian is for you not only to bear fruit, but to bear more fruit.  God wants every child of God to bear the type of life-style, flowing from a true heart of faith, that looks to Jesus not as a Land-lord, but as their True Lord.  He should not be just someone you and I look to when things are only going wrong, but He must be someone we lean upon at all times.  If He is powerful and precious enough for you at the moment of saving your soul from Hell, surely He is powerful and precious enough for you to lean upon in every moment of your life right now. 

We need to regard Jesus as a Home in which we abide
Jesus' whole emphasis in John 15 is about abiding, remaining, dwelling in Him.  To abide means I have come to not merely "rent out" parts of my life to Jesus, rather I have come to place every nook-and cranny of my life in Him.  When you buy a home, the idea is that it is yours.  Not only do you come to view that home differently, it in a sense becomes a part of you.  You guard it, aim to always keep it from neglect - you take care of it with love. 

As a Christian, Jesus wants you to abide in Him, and He in you.  He says these words in John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing."  To abide in a home means every single area is my responsibility.  To abide in a home means I regard that place as my earthly base of operations.  To abide in Christ means I have given all areas of my life over to Him, and that He is my eternal base of operations .

May you and I today not merely check-in check-out, may we not call on Jesus only when problems come, but may you and I abide.  Jesus Christ not only is the believer's Home, He also aims to make the believer His home. 

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Where the Blessed Mission Leads

Genesis 24:67 Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent, and he took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her; thus Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death

The Son's Pleasure is the Goal of the Blessed Mission
In Genesis 23 the death of Sarah, Abraham's wife and Isaac's mother, dominates the scene.  it was by that set of circumstances that Abraham was prompted to send forth his servant to his extended family some 300 miles away to search for a bride for his son.  Because of His great love for the Son, the Father put out great expense.  The goal of that blessed mission in Genesis 24 was for one ultimate reason - to see his son smile once again. 

When God the Father and God the Son (along with the Holy Spirit) were in eternity, the Father's love for the Son prompted Him to create a universe and a world.  In that world, God already knew that the beings he would have populate its surface would be dead in trespasses and sins.  Not frustrated, nor the least surprised, God the Father's objective was clear - bring joy to the Son whom He has loved for all eternity.  2 Timothy 1:9 "who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity". 

The Goal of the Blessed Mission will succeed
At the end of Genesis 24, when Rebecca is brought to Isaac, love is instant, and the Bible says he took her as his wife, and they dwelled in the tent of his mother, and that she brough him great comfort over his mother's death.  The goal was complete - the Son found joy in the gift of the bride from his father. 

When we consider The Blessed Mission, the question is -what is the goal?  Many will say - it is for the salvation of sinners.  Indeed that is a goal.  We want to see people saved from the wrath of God to come.  Certainly the Bible repeatedly tells us that "it is not God's will that any should eprish, but all come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).  However, once sinners are saved  and growing in the Lord, the question is: for what purpose?  Truly the Great commision, The Blessed Mission, has an ultimate goal.  It is this goal that defines its success or failure - namely, the pleasure of the Son. 

The way we know that the Son will be pleased with the outcome of the Blessed Mission
We read of Christ's desire for a completed people of God - a bride - is what both drives the Blessed Mission.  Ephesians 5:25-27 states - "Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself up for her, 26so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27that He might present to Himself the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless." 

If Christ is this excited now (which he is), we know He will be even more pleased whenever the Divine plan for human history is complete, and when He returns to claim for Himself the bride for which His Spirit has been gathering for Him through the work of world-wide missions.  This is where the Blessed Mission leads. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Why Failure is never an option

Genesis 24:5 The servant said to him, “Suppose the woman is not willing to follow me to this land; should I take your son back to the land from where you came?”

Yesterday we began looking at a blessed mission in Genesis 24 to understand The Blessed Mission that every Christian is called to in evangelizing the world for Jesus Christ.  We dealt with the actual concept of blessing - defining it as God's guarantee of success by virtue of His presence with His people.  Today we want to offer you a defense against the common discouragement that hinders many Christians from becoming involved in The Blessed Mission.

Why failure will never be an option in God's Blessed Mission
Eliezer, the servant of Abraham, raises a legitimate question in Genesis 24:5 about the possibility of not coming back with a bride for Isaac.  If the outcome had taken place, not only would Isaac not have a bride, but the whole plan of God in bring forth Christ in His humanity would had been jeopardized.  This godly servant knew the implications - failure was not an option.   As you go down through the text of Genesis 24, we discover how we can be encouraged as we fulfill God's desire to use us in His effort to call forth sinners to salvation.

1. God's word states that the blessed mission will not fail
Abraham's response to Eliezer's concern is recorded in Genesis 24:8The LORD, the God of heaven, who took me from my father’s house and from the land of my birth, and who spoke to me and who swore to me, saying, ‘To your descendants I will give this land,’ He will send His angel before you, and you will take a wife for my son from there."  Abraham is firm - Eliezer will succeed - a bride will be found, a particular bride, from the family of Abraham's realtives.

Jesus says these words concerning the certainty of His Great Commission in Matthew 24:14 "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations, and then the end will come".  Christ connects the certainty of His second coming to the certainty of the fulfillment of the Great Commission.  As God the Holy Spirit calls and convicts sinners to saving faith, He through Christians are compelling people to be reconciled to God. (please compare 2 Corinthians 5:15-21).  Thus God's word tells me that when I am telling others about Jesus Christ, I cannot fail.

2. God's Law, when accompanying the Gospel message, always points to the Bridegroom
As Eliezer set out on his long journey of some 300 miles, the Bible states in Genesis 24:10 - "Then the servant took ten camels from the camels of his master, and set out with a variety of good things of his master's in his hand; and he arose and went to Mesopotamia, to the city of Nahor."  Camels in Bible times were the status symbols of Abraham's day.  They always pointed to the wealth and power of the owner.  Commonly too, whenever a bride was being sought for a son, the father would always send gifts to be given as a way of communicating to the bride and her family the intentions of the marriage proposal.  Unless Eliezer would had brought those ten camels, Rebecca's family most likely would had ignored his claims.  However when he came with all those camels, suddenly the intrest level increased. 

When God the Holy Spirit begins His work, He does so through the Ten commandments, the law of God.  Psalm 19:7 reminds us that "The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the heart" (KJV).   The goal of the law of God is to show sinful man the awfulness of his sin, and that he falls short of the glory of God. (please compare Romans 3:13-21)  The fact that God would even do that is remarkable, since mankind is bent towards only one thing - being at war with God. 

The ten commandments also function to point the sinner to Christ.  When the Holy Spirit convinces the sinner of the Awesomeness of the Son, the sinner sees that He is more desireable than his sin, and thus chooses Christ.  That's true conversion.  God the Holy Spirit's convicting work through the law of God (both written and on the human heart) is required if the sinner is to be convinced to choose Christ. 

3. Remember, the person's response hinges upon God's work, you just have to go and tell
When Eliezer finally arrives at Laban's (Rebecca's brother's home), a big meal is placed before him.  It has been over 70 years since Abraham has had contact with his extended family.  To hear that his chief servant has come with a wedding proposal is big news.  However the servant of Abraham is so eager to tell them what his master has to say, he refuses to eat until he has given them the good news - Isaac, the son, is seeking the hand of your daughter in marriage.  The servant brought gifts to Rebecca, the would-be bride's family - paid for by the Father on behalf of the son.  The gifts and the message do their work.  Rebecca is given the choice - go with the servant, or stay with mom and dad, fetching water for the rest of her life.  Which would you choose?

4. The Blessed Mission is all about the Master's Message about His Son 
In our evangelism, we present as it were the message of our master.  We tell people that salvation has already been bought and paid for.  We tell them that Christ, the bridegroom, would desire them to leave their reliance upon themselves and take their place at his side.  All we do is tell the message.  If God is so working in that person's heart at that time, and if the Holy Spirit has so chosen to affect our message, that person, like Rebecca, will come.  If that person does not come, it is not our fault, and it is not God's fault - rather it is that person's fault.  When Jesus did miracles, the Bible says in John 12:37 - "But though He had performed so many signs before them, yet they were not believing in Him".

Thus we have nothing to fear.  In doing the Lord's bidding of going into all the world andmaking disciples, we are succeeding.  In the realm of God's will, failure is never an option. 

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Blessed Mission

Genesis 24:3 "but you will go to my country and to my relatives, and take a wife for my son Isaac.”

A Blessed Mission, 0ver 2,000 years before Christ
Abraham, the great patriarch of what would become the Jewish nation, is growing old and is concerned about his son having a wife.  In the prior chapter, Genesis 23, Abraham's wife Sarah dies.  Clearly his advanced age is prompting him to a realization that his son must marry in order to carry on the promise that God spoke to him concerning his descendants. 

Genesis 24 certainly is historical, and it tells the account of Abraham sending his chief servant Eliezer to search out a bride for his son, a bridegroom, Isaac.  This account helps the reader to see how God is still keeping His promise to Abraham that through his son Isaac would come the ultimate "seed" or promise of salvation.  Remarkably, this same chapter gives us a great picture of what God is doing right now as He, by the Holy Spirit, is sending out the saints of God with the life changing gospel, so as to gather a "bride", the church, for the Bridegroom, Jesus Christ. 

To be blessed means God's guarantee of success 
The servant, Eliezer (whose name by the way means "helper") asks Abraham a legitimate question about his mission in Genesis 24:4 "The servant said to him, “Suppose the woman is not willing to follow me to this land; should I take your son back to the land from where you came?”  How is it that Abraham is so convinced that his servant's mission to find a bride for Isaac is going to result in success?  Abraham and the whole chapter of Genesis 24 bases that conclusion on the fact that God's blessing is upon the servant and Abraham Himself. 

What does it mean to have God's blessing?  In Genesis 24:27, we discover that after finding the bride - Rebecca, the servant of Abraham states - He said, “Blessed be the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who has not forsaken His lovingkindness and His truth toward my master; as for me, the LORD has guided me in the way to the house of my master’s brothers.”  On six occassions we find the word "blessed" throughout Genesis 24, revealing to us the main thrust and theme.  On three occassions we find the idea of God's blessing being associated with the word "success" (Genesis 24:21,40,42).  Thus the servant was successful in his mission, because he had God's blessing.

The Blessed Mission, over 2,000 years after Christ
As we noted earlier, Genesis 24 is a picture of how God, The Holy Spirit, works through Christians to search out and find those who, by grace through faith, will believe and become a part of the bride of Christ.  Jesus says these words in the Great Commission text of Matthew 28:20 "teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."  So when Christ pledges His presence with his church doing the work of Evangelism, He is blessing it.  That is, Christ is guaranteeing the success of the Great Commission.  It too, like Eliezer's search for a bride for Isaac, will be a successful mission. 

What measures success in the Blessed Mission?
When you or I go out and share the gospel of Jesus Christ, whose responsibility is it to compell, persuade, position that person to trust and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ?  If it were the Christian's responsibility to get that person saved, then we would have to deem the task of world-wide missions a failure.  However, when we look at scripture, we discover that only the Holy Spirit of God, being God, can convince, persuade sinners to trust in Christ.  Thus the measure of success is not on how many souls are won, the measure of success is: have you and I shared the Gospel?  Have we went out to do the bidding of our Master?  With that thought, everytime you and I share the Gospel, we are achieving 100% success. God's blessing and glory is the measure of success.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Christ is All-Sufficient is what He does

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life

In this final blog of our little series on John 3:16, we have been unfolding this incredible verse, noting why it is that Jesus Christ is the All-Sufficent Savior.  We saw by the phrases "Only-Begotten" and "gave" that He is All-Sufficient by virture of His full Deity and Humanity.  Thus His All-Sufficiency lies chiefly in Who He is.  Today I want us to look at this beloved verse and note how He is All Sufficient in what He does.  Bible teachers have identified three offices that Jesus Christ occupies on behalf of the saints of God: Prophet, Priest and King

As Prophet, He reveals the true and Living God
A prophet in the Bible is someone who represents God to the people.  As the "Only-Begotten Son", Jesus Christ has the ability and Sole capacity to reveal who God is, since he is God.  Salvation in John 3:16 has as its outcome the goal of imparting "eternal life" to all who believe.  This idea of "eternal life" is defined by Jesus in John 17:3 - "This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent".  Unless you know the true God, you cannot say that you have true salvation.  Only Christ, and Christ alone, can gain you access to the true God, for He is both the revelation of God and God Himself. 

As a Priest, he represents believers to God
A priest in the Bible represents the saints of God before God.  Jesus Christ is that One Mediator, that One Advocate, between God and man. (please compare 1 Timothy 2:5; 1 John 2:1)  When John 3:16 states "whosoever believes in Him will not Perish", clearly that truth is rooted in who Jesus Christ is as the believer's High Priestly representative.  As it was in the Old Testament, when a saint of God would come to the temple to worship God, they could not just go into the temple unrepresented.  The child of God had a priest who could represent both God's interests and their's.  For us today, Christ fulfills that Office.  As Jesus Himself states in John 14:6 - "I am the way, the truth and the Life, no one comes to the Ftaher but through me".

As the King, He alone has the authority to grant eternal life
When a prisoner in ancient times was sentenced to die, only the King had the authority to reverse His sentence.  When John 3:16 states "should not perish, but have eternal life", that statement is pointing to Christ's All-Sufficient authority as the King of Kings and Lord of Lord's.  When any one by Grace through faith believes on Jesus Christ, they are grabbing hold of His Kingly authority to reverse their death sentence into a sentence of life. 

As Prophet, Priest and King, Jesus Christ forever functions as the Believer's All-Sufficient Savior.  Praise God for John 3:16!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Why Christ is the All Sufficient Savior - P2

John 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life

Jesus Christ as the All-Sufficent God, came to be the All-Sufficient man
Yesterday we pointed out why Christ is the All-Sufficient Savior, noting that He is Equal to the Father in both Being and Authority.  Today we want to take this familiar verse again and point our a second reason why Jesus Christ is the All-Sufficent Savior.  Notice that underlined word "gave".  When God the Son, Jesus Christ, came to this world, He did not come displaying His full, unveiled Deity that He has shared with God the Father from all eternity.  King Solomon reminds us in 1 Kings 8:26 that the universe could never contain the full and unveiled glory of God. 

Rather Christ veiled Himself by taking up Himself a human nature through the virgin birth.  He did this in order to dwell among human beings, and to perform the only act that could make salvation possible - His death on the cross.   Christ in His Deity never ceased being God.  When He died on the cross, it was not Christ's Deity that was killed, rather it was Christ's humanity that was crucified, buried and risen.  

As the Only Begotten Son from All eternity, Christ was able to take upon His person a human nature by being born.  Now we witnessed yesterday the difference between "birth" and "begotten".  I won't labor the comparison between the two terms, however, it must be remembered that as true as it is that Christ is "the Only Begotten" touching His Divine nature, He taking upon Himself a human nature required a birth.  When we say nature, we mean the means through which one expresses their existence. Thus Christ expresses His existence through two ways: An unlimited, Eternal Divine way and through a limited though sinless human way. 

Christ in His Humanity makes Him capable of being the All-Sufficient Savior
As God, Jesus Christ is able to be the All-Sufficient Savior, and as man, He is capable of being the All-Sufficient Savior.  Why?  First of all, it was a man - Adam, who rebelled against God in the garden of Eden.  According to God's Law, the penalty, the curse of sin, committed by man, could only be reversed by a man.  The problem is, all of Adam's descendants inherited the sin nature from the bloodline of Adam and Eve. 

Furthermore, the curse of sin, pronounced by God on Adam and his descendants, could only be reversed by One who is God.  To complicate the issue, If God would had reversed the curse after stating it in Genesis 3, then He would had violated His Holy character, since sinful man committed high treason against God. 

Why Christ's Virgin birth qualified Him to be the All-Sufficient Savior
Therefore in order to alleviate this dilemma, there had to be a way in which God, who alone could reverse the curse, could become man, who must pay for the penalty of sin.   Christ as God accomplished this by being born a man.  His birth was not just any normal birth, it was a virgin birth.  Now that is important, since the sin nature of fallen Adam is transmitted through the father's blood-line. (please compare 1 Peter 1:18-19)  Thus Christ, being fully man, did not have a sin nature, and so he could in a real legitmate way represent humanity before Holy God as the New Adam. (please compare Romans 5:11-21)  As God, Christ also has the authority to reverse the curse of the penalty of Sin upon all those who by grace through faith belive upon Him as the All-Sufficient Savior. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Christ, The All-Sufficient Savior

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

In today's blog I want to share some observations about what is perhaps the most familiar verse in the Bible - John 3:16.  Sometimes the most illuminating moments in our Christian walk is when God takes what we deem familiar, and unfolds for us truths that are indeed precious and profound.  What John is stating here in this verse is this central idea: that God's choice to accomplish salvation through Jesus Christ is tied to the fact of Who Jesus Christ really is.  In short, He is enough, He is All-Sufficient. 

When we read in the above text that "God so loved the world", we come across the incredible statement: "that He gave His only Begotten Son".  Now many English Translations today will render that phrase as "One and Only", which is an acceptable rendering of this description of Jesus Christ given by the Apostle John.  However the NASB above chooses to retain the phrase as "Only Begotten", which as you will see below, is actually the preferred rendering. 

What is meant by "Only Begotten"?

When John writes the term "Only Begotten", He is making a statement pertaining to Jesus Christ being equal in authority and nature to the One who sent Him - God the Father.  Now you have seen the word "begat" in those genaeological lists that mention about how "so-and-so begat so-and-so".  Why is it that the biblical authors don't say "birth" or "born"?  When we compare the term "birth" to "begat", we can understand the reason why:

     Meaning of "birth"                      Meaning of "begotten"
-Begins in time                            -Is not bound to time
-Refers to individual identity      -Refers to an office or title
-Is different in age from birther  -Same qualities as begetter
-Mother centered                        -Father centered
-Based upon human bloodline  -Based on Eternal Decree 

Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten, is God

Now when you apply the above observations of "begotten" to what John is saying here in John 3:16, you begin to understand why it is Jesus Christ alone is the All Sufficient Savior.  In Isaiah 43:11 we read - "I, even I, am the LORD, And there is no savior besides Me".  Without a doubt, Jehovah God, THE LORD, is making this statement.  Only God can create, and only God can be the Source of salvation. 

To say that Jesus Christ is the Only-Begotten Son of God is to say that, touching His Divine Nature: He is not bound by time, that He occupies a position that has existed from all eternity and that He shares the same Divine, Eternal nature as God the Father.  Thus what John is arguing for is the reason why Christ alone is All-Sufficient - He has the same Eternal Qualities, Power and Life as the One who sent Him. 

This means then that He is All-Sufficient.  No matter how deep my sin, Jesus Christ can span that depth.  No matter how high my wickedness may run, Christ alone can overcome it.  Despite the gulf that existed between Holy God and sinful man, Christ alone can span it.  He is God.  In tomorrow's blog we will look at the second truth drawn from John 3:16 - namely how Jesus Christ is the All-Sufficient Savior due to the fact that He is also man.   For only as both God and man can Christ bring man and God together. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

Rooted in the Everlasting

Genesis 21:33 Abraham planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God

In today's blog I want to continue from where we left off yesterday in reference to God, the Everlasting God.  When Abraham referred to God as "El-Olam", He was affirming the truth of God's perpetual and unending character and commitment.  This name for God is made up of two Hebrew words: "El" meaning "mighty One, One who affirms a Covenant" and "Olam" meaning "eternal, unending".   As a way of applying the significance of this name of God to your life and mine, I chose to compose a short poem that speaks about God as the Everlasting God.  I pray you find it to be an encouragement to your own walk of faith.

Rooted in the Everlasting

Rooted in the Everlasting
Unmoved by Circumstance
Guided by Sovereignty
Not led by Happenstance

The Eyes of His Eternal Love
Guide my weary soul
Living in a changing world
Walking by faith I go

The Scripture He opens to me
To quench my thirsty soul
He feeds me and sustains
To overcome the defeated foe

Though life may grow dry
And opportunities may wilt
Yet the Everlasting God is the One
On Whom my faith is built

Sunday, October 16, 2011

God's Goodness in His Permanent Relationships

Genesis 21:33  Abraham planted a tamarisk tree at Beersheba, and there he called on the name of the LORD, the Everlasting God.

In these past several blogs we have explored how to see God's Goodness as the focal point of your Christian walk.  We have noted how God's Goodness can be witnessed through His Promises fulfilled and answered prayer.  In this blog we want to discover how to see God's goodness in the permanent relationships He makes with His people. 

When we speak of that word "permanent", we are referring to God's unending pledge of Himself to those who by His grace evidence faith and trust in Him.  Abraham has been walking with God for over 25 years.  He has experienced the fulfillment of a major promise from God - the birth of his son Isaac.  After meeting and making covenant with a king by the name of Ablimelech, Abraham decides to plant a tree in commemoration of the relationship he has with God.

The tree tells it all
Tamerisk trees are interesting trees that grow in the land of Israel.  From what we know about them, they are the type of plant that flourishes in poor soil and hostile environments.  Undoubtedly Abraham saw himself as that Tamerisk tree.  By God's grace he had flourished and grown in circumstances that many would consider to be hostile to his faith-life.  Dear believer, understand that you and I are called like Abraham to flourish where God plants us.  Though we may seen frail, yet in Christ our faith cannot fail. 

God is the Everlasting God
Abraham then utters a name of God, revealed to Him for this occassion - El Olam.  The name means - the Everlasting God.  This name tells us that God, the Everlasting God, was in perpetual relationship with Abraham.  Indeed God's Goodness is as long and High as His character.  Jesus Christ tells us as Christians in Matthew 28:20 that He will be with us always - even to the end of the age.  In Philippians 1:6 I am told that the work God began in me will be completed.  We are reminded in Hebrews 13:5 that Jesus will never leave us nor forsake us.  God is Everlastingly Good - He will not fail you.  He is there all the time.  He is Good. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

God's Goodness in Answered Prayer

Genesis 21:17 God heard the lad crying; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven and said to her, “What is the matter with you, Hagar? Do not fear, for God has heard the voice of the lad where he is.

When Impatience Accompanies the Christian walk
Not all was peaceful in Abraham's house when Isaac, the child of promise, the long awaited fulfillment, had finally been born.  Years earlier Abraham and Sarah grew impatient with God, and so Sarah gave her slave Hagar to Abraham to be his wife.  Much was done wrong in the whole decision, but chiefest of the issues was that Abraham and Sarah and Hagar all assumed God had forgotten His promises.  Hagar got pregnant and gave birth to Ishmael.  Now Abraham had an heir - but it was not God's chosen heir. 

Is God Good no matter what?
The above event occured in Genesis 16, and now it is 13 years later in Genesis 21.  After Isaac, the son of promise is born, Ishmael, now 13, taunts Isaac.  Sarah tells Abraham to get rid of Hagar and her son, and so they are sent packing into the desert.  It is a hostile environment, and soon Hagar and her son run out of water.  Life was draining  from the both of them - and all seemed lost.  The text of Genesis 21 tells us that Hagar set her boy at a distance, under a bush. He is crying because he is hungry, scared and dreading his pending demise.  However Hagar is weeping, not only for herself and her boy, but crying out to God.  Will He hear?  Is He listening?  In Genesis 16, some 13 years earlier, this same situation had occured.  She cried out to God, and He came as the Angel of the Lord.  She evidenced a heart of faith.

God's Goodness is seen in answered prayer
But now would He hear her again?  Is he still the God who sees?  He is!  The Angel of the Lord appears to her once again - most likely an Old Testament appearance of Jesus Christ.  God permits what he hates in order to accomplish the good He intends.  He knew this was going to happen, yet He used the circumstance to reveal His goodness.  He preserved both Hagar and her son, He answered prayer.  Psalm 102:17 reminds us - "He has regarded the prayer of the destitute and has not despised their prayer." 

God dealt personally with Hagar in a redemptive way - He heard her prayer.  His immediate plan for her was situated in His ultimate plan for her son and the situation in which she found herself.  Paul in Galatians 4:21-31 points back to Hagar's expulsion from Abraham's household as a picture of how the Law of God points to the need for the Grace of God.  More could be said on this point, however for our purposes here today, we will move on to understanding how we know God is good all the time.   

How we know God is Good all the time
God's purposes for His people and His answers to prayer never conflict with the motives pertaining to what He permits to enter into their lives.  As Romans 8:28 reminds us - All things work together for the good, to those who love God, who are thee called according to His purpose.  God's goodness is seen in answered prayer.  As you pray, not only fix your eyes on God's goodness, but remember that while waiting for your answer, God can even reveal His goodness in the process of your waiting - you and I just need to ask Him to help us see it. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

God's Goodness in His Promises

Genesis 21:1 Then the LORD took note of Sarah as He had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as He had promised.

How a waiting couple were kept by God's goodness
Today we want to consider God's goodness as the reference point for focusing your Christian walk and mine.  In Genesis 21 we see God fulfilling a promise to the great Old Testament Patriarch Abraham and his wife Sarah.  For 25 years they had been told that through them God would bring forth a physical descendant - for you see Sarah was unable to have children, and furthermore she and Abraham had become past child bearing age.  Over the course of Genesis 12-20 we see Abraham and Sarah triumph and at times stumble in their walk with God.  However they did not fall from grace, but were kept by the Goodness of God. 

God's goodness is seen in His promises
After 25 years and over 1,000 miles of journeying over the deserts and lush fields of the land of Canaan (which by the way would become the land of Israel), the promised child, Isaac, is born.  Galatians 4:28 tells us that Isaac is the son of promise - he embodies the very principle of God's goodness to His people in fulfilling His promises. 

God's promises are telescopes to seeing God's goodness
Over 8,000 promises exists in the Bible.  In 2 Corinthians 1:20 we read these words - "For as many as are the promises of God, in Him they are yes; therefore also through Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us." God's Promises function as telescopes, bringing into focus the fixed NorthStar that is the Goodness of God.  Just as Abraham and Sarah witnessed and experienced, so can you dear saint - that God is good all the time, and all the time God is good. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Praying through the Scriptures

Hebrews 4:12 the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

Hebrews 4:16 Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Why the Bible and Prayer go hand-in-hand
As we continue today in the small blog series called "A Bible Study Tool-box", we want to consider how you can take prayer and unite it with your study and reading of God's Word.  As you look at the above two passages, they are only separated by four verses, the first being about God's Word and the second concerned with your prayer-life.  If we had included the verses in between, you would discover that the author is connecting prayer and God's Word together. 

Four types of Prayer
There are over 600 prayers recorded in the Bible, prayer by different sorts of people.  In looking at those prayers, we can classify them under four main types and use the acrostic A.C.T.S to aid in our memory of them.
Adoration = This is when I praise and worship God in my prayertime
Confession = This is when I confess, or fully admit of my sins to God in my prayertime
Thanksgiving = This is when I thank God for Himself and other things in my prayertime
Supplication = This refers to how I ask God for things in my prayertime

Applying the types of prayer to the scriptures
By once again appealing to the little Bible book of 1 John, we can observe how you can combine your prayer life with God's word.  I will use 1 John 1:9 as the example, since it is a wonderful promise for every Christian to claim.  1 John 1:9 states - "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."  Now as you look at that passage, you can plug in those four types of prayer, and pray through that passages in the following ways:

-Adoration = Lord, I praise you, I adore you for that fact that through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, I have the right to come to you by faith.  I praise you Jesus that you are sufficient and just to forgive me of my sins. 

-Confession = Lord, I confess to you my sin this day.  I admit I have done wrong in this or that area.  I confess Lord that may I should have done this or not done that.  Lord, please forgive me.

-Thanksgiving = I'm thankful to you Lord that having confessed my sin to you, by the blood of Jesus Christ, I stand innocent before you.  I am so thankful that you and I can walk in fellowship and friendship with one another.  I thank you Lord that you cleanse.

-Supplication = I ask Lord that you would enable me to walk by the power of your Grace to embrace my Lord and Savior, and that by your grace I would hate sin.  Enable me Lord to flee to your word when I am tempted, and to not rely on myself, but soley on you - amen.

When you take a verse of scripture, and pray it, it is like adding high octane fuel into the tank of your prayer life.  May the Lord bless you today dear friend - as you live and walk for Jesus. 

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Bible Study Tool Box - Six Questions

Yesterday we began exploring "How to Study your Bible".  We aim in this short blog series to give you some tools to put in your own personal Bible Study tool box.  We are using 1 John as our template, since the book itself was written by the Apostle John to bring assurance of salvation and understanding of one's identity in Christ (1 John 5:13).  As we continue exploring how to study your Bible, we will consider another tool, what I call "six-questions".  As you come to the scriptures, it is helpful to ask the following:

1. Is there an attribute of God to enjoy?

John writes these words in 1 John 1:5 "This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all."  When we speak of God's attributes, we are referring to His characteristics.  Those attributes point us back to who God is - since He is the sum of all His attributes, and each of His attributes are infinite and perfect, capturing all who He is.  This attribute of God as light is enjoyable because as you go down through the passage, we discover that in His light is found true fellowship and proof of our forgiveness of sin through Jesus Christ. 

2. Is there a promise to claim?

This second question takes adavantage of the more than 8,000 promises in God's word.  1 John 1:9 gives us an incredible promise to claim - "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

3. Is there a Warning to heed?

At times the Bible passage you are atudying will issue warnings.  1 John 2:15-17 states -  :"Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. 17The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever."

4. Is there a command to obey?

Commands are found almost 1,000 times in the Bible.  For every command of scripture there is always at least one provision of God's Grace given to do it.  Jesus Himself states that when we obey what He says, it is proof that we genuinely love Him (John 14:15, 21,23).  John gives commands such as this one found in 1 John 2:3-5 By this we know that we have come to know Him, if we keep His commandments. 4The one who says, “I have come to know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him; 5but whoever keeps His word, in him the love of God has truly been perfected. By this we know that we are in Him: 6the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.

5. Is there an example to follow?

At times you will find the saints of God mentioned in the Bible being those whose example are worthy of following.  John writes these words in 1John 2:12-14  I am writing to you, little children, because your sins have been forgiven you for His name’s sake. 13I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. 14I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

6. Is there a teaching to learn?

Doctrine is essential to the Christian life, since by it we come to understand how to think biblically.  John's little book is full of wonderful teaching that we can both learn and apply to our Christian growth.  For instance his statement on prayer is one of the clearest - 1 John 5:14-15 This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. 15And if we know that He hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests which we have asked from Him. In just those short two verses, I learn some vauable truths on the teaching on prayer:

-Pray according to God's will
-Pray with the expectation that God will hear you
-Don't stop praying

Now with that teaching I have something by which I can use to grow in my prayer life.  Asking valuable questions such as these will aid you in your Bible study. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A Bible Study Tool Box - Repeated Words

1 John 1:1-2 What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life2 and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us.

Don't adjust your computer or i-Phone, for the different colored highlights are for a purpose in today's blog.  We have been spending the past couple of blogs giving you some practical how-to's for picking out a Bible and understanding the features to look for in a good Study Bible.  Today I want to begin giving you some particular tools that will aid you in knowing how to Study your Bible.  Today's first tool that we will look at is what I call "Repeated Words".

What is the point of the passage? Note the repeated words
         I have chosen the book of first John, since the book itself exists to bring assurance and sure knowledge of one's spiritual identity and assurance of salvation in Jesus Christ (Please compare 1 John 5:13).  In the above passage, I have highlighted 3 different sets of ideas or words that are repeated by John in this text.  Repeated words or ideas are quick ways in helping you identify the main point of the passage. I have found when looking for repeated words, having a set of highlighters, or underlining those words will help you easily locate where the repeated words are.  Lets take the above sample and see how this tool works.

1. The Importance of Eye-Witnesses - The Authority of the Bible
         In the light blue high-light, you will notice seven statements that pertain to John and the apostles being eye-witnesses.  An eye-witness in a court of law is valuable, since that is how the truth of a testimony is confirmed.  In the Bible times, an apostle was identified has having been an eye-witness of Jesus Christ and His ministry, as well as proof of his identity by performing of miracles  (Please compare 2 Corinthians 12:12).  Note the repeated words that give us this first main thought:  "we have heard";  "what we have seen";  "with our eyes"; "what we have looked at";  "touched with our hands"; "we have seen"; "to us". 

         John labors to demonstrate his credentials as an eye-witness so that his readers can have assurance that what they are reading is indeed the word of God.  This means that the words He is writing are trust-worthy and binding upon the conscience.  So in noting those repeated ideas, I would write "The importance of eye-witnesses".  Then I would ask: "so what?"  Clearly the importance of an eye-witness is to establish the authority of the one writing the text - hence the first theme - "The Authority of the Bible".

2. The value of Eye-witnesses - Actual Testimony
          As you read the passage again, you will notice two other repeated words in verse two: "testify" and "proclaim" (the green highlighted words).    By identifying the authority of the Bible as written eye-witnesses guided by Divine Inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we ask again: "So what?"  Now we see that they have something to say, to proclaim.  This second thought of an "Actual testimony" flows from the identity of the author as an eye-witness.

3. What the Eye-witness has to tell - The Awesome Christ
          So "who" or "what" is this eye-witness, the Apostle John, telling you and I about?  Again the tool of repeated words aids in identifying the point of His testimony.  Notice the phrases in orange above: "The Word of Life"; "The Life"; "The Eternal Life"; "which was with the Father"; and "which was manifested".  These five statements have in common the Person to whom they refer - Jesus Christ.  So why do we say these words give us this third idea of "The Awesome Christ"?  Because the five statements tell us in brief the highpoints of Christ's identity:

-He is the word of life - The Clear Revelation of God
-He is the Life - The Creator, the Source of all life
-He is the Eternal Life - The Champion of salvation
-He was with the Father - Co-Equal with God the Father
-He was Manifested - He Came as God and lived as a true man

So in this Bible Study tool repeated words, we can now summarize the main idea of 1 John 1:1-5: That the Authority of the Bible alone can give us an actual testimony of the Awesome Christ.  My prayer is that you have found this tool helpful.  Tomorrow we will consider more tools in the Bible Study Tool Box.