Saturday, October 31, 2015

Today is Reformation Day - let's celebrate the light of Jesus Christ in the Gospel

Romans 4:1-3 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”

Note to Readers: You are invited to listen to a podcast on Reformation Day at the Growing Christian Resources Podcast site: and to read a post on three reasons to celebrate Reformation day, and what it is at the other blogsite at:


Yesterday I began a two part series on what Reformation Day is and the three reasons to celebrate it. As we think about October 31, all Bible believing groups, including Southern Baptists, are deeply indebted to what God did through the Protestant Reformation that began on October 31st, 1517. In a 2007 sermon, South Western Baptist Theological Seminary President Dr. Paige Patterson noted the following about Reformation Day for Southern Baptists link:

“If you want to be faithful to the Book, and if you want to be faithful to that part of the Reformation that died on every hand (for teaching believer’s baptism) … then stop being ashamed of being a New Testament Christian and a Baptist,” Patterson said. “You are not judging anybody else’s eternity. Many other folks who are not a part of our movement are born-again believers. Praise God for that. All we are saying is that the best way to be faithful to the Lord Jesus is to keep the whole of the Great Commission.”
Today's post is aimed at issuing forth two direct challenges to Southern Baptists and all other Bible believing groups about Reformation Day, October 31st: A rejoicing challenge and a take back challenge. 

The Rejoicing Challenge: 3 reasons to rejoice on Reformation Day, October 31st 
So why rejoice over Reformation day, October 31st? First of all, the root or formal cause of Luther's call for Reform had to do with ultimate authority in the Christian life and church.  The big question Luther needed to answer was: is the Pope and his statements concerning who went to heaven and who did not the ultimate authority for the church, or is it sacred scripture that God alone revealed to communicate matters pertaining to this life and the one to come? As Martin Luther wrestled over such questions, his conclusion was - Scripture alone! 

The second reason to rejoice over October 31st and Reformation Day is due to the fact that the Gospel of Justification by Faith Alone was recovered. In contrast to the man-made traditions of the Roman Catholic Church of the Middle Ages, Luther and those after him re-asserted the Biblical truth that faith alone is both the necessary and sufficient means of receiving the gift of salvation.  Thus Justification by Faith Alone became the central doctrine or material cause driving the vehicle of the Protestant Reformation.  The doctrine of scripture alone (sola scriptura) was Luther's fuel in the engine that drove His call for reform - Justification by faith alone (sola fide).  Luther himself noted that Justification by Faith is the one article upon which the church rises or falls.

Then the third reason to celebrate Reformation Day, October 31st, is because the Biblical concept of the church was recovered. As Martin Luther denounced the Catholic Church's system of indulgences, a second question emerged: how is a man or woman made right with God? A church that does not derive its authority from the scriptures nor teaches the Biblical concept of the Gospel - justification by faith alone, cannot be deemed a true church. Roman Catholicism of 16th century Europe, as well as today, communicates faith to be necessary for salvation - however it teaches that faith by itself is not sufficient.  According to Rome, one must participate in the Roman Catholic church system of baptism, confession, penance and Mass to be deemed right by God and to stay right.  The Gospel in the Reformation's recovery of the church shined forth not as a candle but as a brilliant sun, outshining all other would be contenders. If God had not raised up men like Martin Luther to spark the Reformation movement, then perhaps I nor you would be here celebrating the revival of Biblical authority, justification by faith in the Gospel and the necessary truth of the local church committed to both those truths.

So we need to answer the challenge to celebrate Reformation day due to what God did in calling us back to the Bible, the Gospel and the Church. But now let me issue a second challenge, a take back challenge if you will...

The Take Back Challenge: Let's take back October 31st and celebrate God's Word, the Gospel and Jesus' mission for His church
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. Truly the message of the Reformation is a message about "after darkness, light" (post tenebras lux).  Gospel Light, not darkness, should characterize our lives as Christians.  October 31st has been for years by Wiccans and people of the Pagan/Witchcraft worldview to observe one of the so-called "spirit nights" on their yearly calendar.  Rather than promoting a day of darkness and wickedness, witches, ghosts and goblins, Christians need to take a God-centered event like the Reformation and remind themselves of how God led His church back to the Bible and salvation through faith alone in Christ alone.  

The Reformation was about calling forth people from spiritual darkness into the light of Jesus Christ.  Someone once said: "It is more effective to light a candle than merely curse the darkness".  Lets light the Gospel light and shine the glory of the Gospel.  As Jesus said in Matthew 5:16 - “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." 

Friday, October 30, 2015

The Significance of Reformation Day - October 31

<b>Protestant</b> <b>Reformation</b> / Causes - Mr Ott&#39;s Classroom Wiki

Romans 4:1-3 What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, has found? 2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”


I want to share with you today and tomorrow why I find so much joy over October 31st. One of the Greatest Revivals of all time - the Protestant Reformation, began almost 500 years ago on October 31, 1517.  October 31st is celebrated by many Christians the world over as "Reformation Day". As I think about what this day means and the message it conveys, three reasons can be proposed as to why I find great cause to rejoice over what God did in the Reformation of nearly five hundred years ago. 

The Reformation was a movement back to the Bible
At the heart of the Reformation movement was the cry to get back to the scriptures. Dr. R.C Sproul tells the story of a monument dedicated to the Reformation in one of the key cities wherein the movement gained ground, Geneva Switzerland: "In modern Geneva, Switzerland, a memorial wall has been built and dedicated to the sixteenth century Reformation. This Reformation Monument is adorned with statues of the great leaders, Calvin, Beza, Farel, and Knox. Surrounding these figures is the phrase, post tenebras lux - "After darkness, light."
Below is a picture of the wall mention by Dr. Sproul, with credit to the link:

Thus we can praise God for the Reformation due to the fact that it was used of God to realign Christianity back to the Bible. But now notice the second and closely related reason...

The Reformation was a movement back to the Gospel.
Spiritual darkness had increased in the period of history called the Middle Ages (variously defined, but for simplicity we'll assign 800-1517 A.D). The light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, though dimmed by the human traditions of the Roman Catholic Church in Europe, was not quenched. True to Jesus' promise, the scriptures remained intact and throughout the centuries a handful of Bible teachers like John Wycliffe, John Huss and others preached the Gospel's central message of Justification by faith alone. Justification by faith alone states that God declares the sinner righteous based upon the necessity and sufficiency of saving faith. Sadly Justification by Faith Alone was not the North Star doctrine of the church, but rather was on the outer edges of the firmament of the church's teaching.  The majority report teaching of the church of the Middle ages in 16th century Europe was the Papal system, the Roman Catholic church's system of sacraments and centuries of tradition mixed with Christianity.  

Justification by Faith alone, taught by the Prophets, Christ and the Apostles needed to be front and center once again.  The Biblical Gospel needed to be in not just a few mouths of travelling preachers and groups journeying throughout the regions of spiritually darkened Europe, but central to the preaching of pulpits everywhere. God used men like Martin Luther in Europe, John Calvin in Switzerland and Ulrich Zwingli to rekindle the Biblical Gospel that had become but a burning ember in the hands of a church loaded down by traditions of men. The Reformation is to be celebrated because of how God used it to get us back to the Bible, to the Gospel and then thirdly....

The Reformation was a movement back to the Biblical church
As men like Martin Luther began the reform process in the 1500's, a system of centuries old tradition needed confronted. Nearly 500 years ago the Roman Catholic Church had a repressive system of religion that had people buying what was in their minds 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 secure their place with God both in this life and the one to come. 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. In such a system, saving faith would had been included in the defintion of salvation, but it would had not been sufficient for one to be justified. 

One man, a monk, a "holy man" in the Roman Catholic system of religion, was very troubled in his soul. This man, Martin Luther, had dedicated his life to achieving the salvation promised by the Roman Catholic church. In a freak thunder and lightening storm, history tells us that a thunderclap knocked Martin Luther from his horse and in a moment of desparation he pledged himself in service to the Roman Catholic Saint Anne and chose to become a Monk in the Augustinian order of the Catholic church. Despite Luther's 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. Luther earned Master's and Doctorate degrees in prestigious European Roman Catholic Schools and was even teaching Roman Catholic Theology prior to the great Reformation break through. Despite being at the top of the religious heap in the eyes of men, Luther could not find peace with the very God he professed to know but knew deep down that he had never known.

Martin 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.

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. Luther's main objective was to oppose the system of Indulgences wherein the church promised to those who paid money access to the overflow of grace contained in the Roman Catholic Church's treasury of merits. Martin Luther's reformation movement in German sparked the beginning call for Reform across Europe and thus the recovery of the true church of Jesus Christ committed to the Word of God and the Gospel of Justification by Faith Alone. 

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Explaining why justification by faith alone is the heart of the Gospel

Romans 1:17 "For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

Credited righteousness
Romans 4:3 gives us a profound statement on how one man, Abraham, was deemed acceptable, pure and innocent in the sight of God: “For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” The Apostle Paul of course is getting into the heart of the Gospel by unfolding to us the doctrine of justification by faith. Contrary to what some may teach, the Old Testament does not teach one way of salvation and the New Testament another. Paul’s whole point in explaining how the righteousness of God is brought down to the sinner at saving faith is to show how such truth was communicated in the Old Testament, beginning with the Book of Genesis. 

In Genesis 15:6, we read the same identical words: “Then he believed in the Lord; and He reckoned it to him as righteousness.” Whenever we survey the Old and New Testaments, we find this central theme of the Gospel of “credited righteousness” or what is also called “Justification by faith”. (Psalm 32:1-2; Habakkuk 2:4)

When we talk about "righteousness", what is meant by that term? righteousness is a life and conduct that is pure, innocent and perfectly pleasing with and before God. Since God’s righteousness is the righteousness of Jesus Christ and vice-versa, it stands from scripture that His righteousness is the only acceptable righteousness before God. 

So then, how does that righteousness become my own? For we know from scripture that self-righteousness or any attempt to gain salvation by our own efforts falls far short of the purity, innocence and perfection that God and Christ have. Romans 3:20 states – “because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” Galatians 3:11 echoes similarly – “Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “The righteous man shall live by faith.”

Notice how often we see the terms “justified” or “credited” or “reckoned”. These terms explain how the righteousness achieved by Jesus Christ in both His life, death and resurrection are transferred to the sinner’s account. Whenever a person writes a check and gives it to another as a gift, what happens is that the monetary amount written on that check is coming out of someone’s account. It was earned by labor or some other way. Whenever they give that check as a gift, the recipient must receive it in order to place it in their account. Once the person brings the check to the bank, the bank teller looks at the check and looks at the person who signed the check on the back and applies it to the recipient’s account. What has happened? The bank has regarded that money as the recipient’s own, even though the check clearly came from another person from the outside.

This illustration serves to aid in understanding how the righteousness of God and Christ is applied to sinner’s at salvation. Faith alone is both necessary and sufficient. Faith is the means by which the righteous merit of Christ’s life, death and resurrection is applied and received. The cross of Christ is the grounds and the choice and calling of God to that sinner is the beginning point of such salvation. The righteousness demanded by the law and yet unattainable is the same righteousness promised by the Gospel that is received by faith and credited to the sinner.

Such “credited” righteousness is sometimes described by term “imputed righteousness”, meaning that the work of another outside of myself is credited to me as if I had accomplished it. David in the Old Testament states in Psalm 32:1-2 “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven,
Whose sin is covered!2 How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no deceit!” Though Christ had not yet come into the world, nonetheless what He would achieve was of such great value that it not only reaches forward into time today but was also the same righteousness credited to Old Testament believers who looked to the promises of God by faith. 2 Corinthians 5:21 summarizes this “credited righteousness” or “imputed righteousness” (both meaning the same thing) – “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

What to do when doubts arise in the Christian life

Sunset at <b>the Cross</b>
Matthew 11:1-3 "When Jesus had finished giving instructions to His twelve disciples, He departed from there to teach and preach in their cities. 2 Now when John, while imprisoned, heard of the works of Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to Him, “Are You the Expected One, or shall we look for someone else?”

Matthew's Gospel aims to present Jesus Christ as the True Saving King. As the first Gospel of our New Testaments, Matthew's purpose is to feed faith and verify the identity of Jesus Christ as King of Kings. Interestingly there are several times recorded in Matthew's Gospel where the theme of doubt or the temptation to doubt is presented. Why? To show the reader that faith in Jesus Christ is sustained by God's grace moreso than just mere human will-power. The disciples are depicted on a few occassions evidencing doubt at key points where Jesus clearly demonstrated His identity as the Saving King (Matthew 8:18-27; Matthew 14:22-36; Mathew 28:17). 

One major figure that has his own moment of doubt is John the Baptist. It would seem that out of everyone we meet in Matthew's Gospel, John the Baptist would had been the last person to have any doubt. Yet he does. So the question is: when the Christian doubts, What is Jesus trying to affect in the believer's life when doubt arises? Is doubt normal for Christians? What provisions are supplied by the Lord when the dark season arises? Asking such questions and find the answers can aid greatly in navigating through the doubts that arise in the Christian life.

1. What is the Lord trying to affect in the believer's life when doubt arises? 
John the Baptist had been in a dungeon for 10 months. All four Gospels record his sudden appearance on the scene of history - proclaiming the pending public appearance of the Lord Jesus. In all four Gospels - as soon as Jesus appears and is baptized, John the Baptist recedes into the background. John had been faithful, obedient and unwavering in his message. He had prepared a nation for the arrival of Messiah. What were the results of his labors? By confronting Herod and his sin, John was cast into prison (see Matthew 14:1-2). It was a dark dungeon with hardly any light. 10 months of solitary confinement had led John to ask whether Jesus was the Promised Messiah. 

What was Jesus doing in the meantime?
Jesus was preaching and training his disciples. Undoubtedly a couple of those disciples (who had originally followed John), were passing messages back and forth between Jesus. Part of God's training of us in faith is in the exercise of our faith. The disciples of Jesus, some of whom who had been with John - heard John request as to whether or not Jesus was the Messiah of expectation. This was a testing time for both John and the early disciples. The question hung out in the air - needing a response: "are you the one, or should we expect another?"  

I would suggest that fundamentally, Jesus' activities in relationship to John the Baptist had to do with exercise of faith. We read elsewhere in James 1:3-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7 that the exercise of our faith under pressure produces more fruitfulness for God. Wrestling with doubt is way-different than giving up and embracing it. Hence what God may be doing in our lives through seasons of doubt is strengthening our faith - even if we don't immediately realize it (see 2 Corinthians 4:16-18).  

2. Is doubt normal for Christians?
Author John Piper writes in his book: "When the Darkness Will Not Life", pages 38-39 - "All the great doctors of the soul have distinguished between faith and its full assurance. The reason for that is that we are saved by the work of God causing us to be born again and bringing us to faith. "The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit" (John 3:8). Piper later writes: "...which means that God is at the bottom of my faith; and when it disappears for a season from my own view, God may yet be there sustaining its root in the new birth and protecting the seed from destruction." 

The great truth of the perseverance of the saints teaches that all true-Christians will persevere to the end because of God's pledge to preserve them to the end (John 10:27-28; Ephesians 1:13-14; Jude 1:24-25). Yet it is also clear that even the greatest of Christians can experience times of doubt. The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 notes the following: "All true believers endure to the end. Those whom God has accepted in Christ, and sanctified by His Spirit, will never fall away from the state of grace, but shall persevere to the end. Believers may fall into sin through neglect and temptation, whereby they grieve the Spirit, impair their graces and comforts, and bring reproach on the cause of Christ and temporal judgments on themselves; yet they shall be kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation."

John the Baptist's moment of doubt was his way of punching through what was truly a dark time. John's actions are certainly explainable. However, the fact that John is held by Jesus to be the greatest of men born among women reveals that John did not lose his faith - only that his faith momentarily got out of focus. So yes - it is normal to experience doubts in the Christian life and by God's grace they can be overcome.

3. What provisions are supplied by the Lord when the dark season arises? 
So as we've seen - God is at work even in those seasons where it seems like the lights are out in the house of faith so-to-speak. The chief purpose is to exercise our faith against the resistance of doubt. We also noted that doubt is normal in the Christian life. But now what provisions are supplied to the believer who may very well be facing doubt. Notice in short order how Jesus gives strength to John...

a. Scripture. Matthew 11:4-10.
Jesus sends a message back to John that his identity (utilizing the words drawn from Isaiah 61:1-2a) is the same Biblical identity proclaimed by John. John had not missed it. He was on target.

b. Advocacy. Matthew 11:11-19
Jesus proclaims to other people about how faithful and true John has been to his calling. He has not been forgotten (see Hebrews 6:10). Jesus does this for the child of Good in heaven before the Heavenly Father (1 Timothy 2:5; Hebrews 4:14-16; 1 John 2:1). To know that we have a Great intercessor in heaven - the Lord Jesus, Who has also sent us His Spirit - gives great hope and power to overcome doubt. Notice a third provision...

c. Sovereignty. Matthew 11:25-27
Jesus denounces the cities that had not repented as a result of his ministry (and presumably John's). Jesus is recorded as saying that all things have been handed over to Him. Though Jesus operated as very man, He never ceased being God at the same time. His Sovereignty is way more powerful than the arguments presented by doubt. 

d. Mercy. Matthew 11:28-30
We've seen that Jesus made available - both directly and indirectly to John but most certainly directly to us, three provisions to combat our doubt - scripture, advocacy and Sovereignty. Now lets consider one final provision - Mercy. I love what Jesus states in Matthew 11:28-30“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

John the Baptist is held up as a supreme example of faithfulness in God's Word. He would not only get through this season of doubt, but persevere to the end. Matthew 14 records his death as a result of standing up for righteousness. The fact that Jesus had advocated for Him reminds us of God's advocacy of Job in the Old Testament. When you and I experience times of doubt in the Christian life - we have four provisions ever available to us from the Lord: scripture, Jesus' advocacy, Sovereignty and Mercy. 

I close out today with this quote from the great scholar of years past, Alfred Edersheim who writes about how doubt was functioning in John's life, and his conquering of it: "When he sent his disciples with this question straight to Christ, he had already conquered; for such a question addressed to a possibly false Messiah has no meaning. And so it must ever be with us. Doubt is the offspring of our disease, diseased as it is in its paternity. And yet it cannot be cast aside. It may be the outcome of the worst, or the problems of the best souls. The twilight may fade into outer night, or it may usher in the day. The answer lies in this: whether doubt will lead us to Christ, or from Christ."1

1. Alfred Eedersheim. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Volume 1. Page 668.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The importance and blessings of waiting on God

Luke 24:49 And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you; but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

I thought I would begin today's post with a quote from one of my favorite writers - Oswald Chambers. In the quote Oswald Chambers is explaining how and why God has us to wait: "Whenever God gives a vision to a Christian, it is as if He puts him in "the shadow of His hand" (Isaiah 49:2). The saint's duty is to be still and listen. There is a "darkness" that comes from too much light. (When that happens), is the time to listen. The story of Abram and Hagar in Genesis 16 is an excellent example of listening to so-called good advice during a time of darkness, rather than waiting on God to send the light. When God gives you a vision and darkness follows, wait. God will bring the vision He has given you to reality in your life if you will wait on His timing. Never try to help God fulfill His word."

Chambers then tells the account of Abram and Hagar heeding Sarai's advice and producing Ishamael by natural means.  Rather than waiting on God for an Isaac, and Ishamael was the result.  As the piece draws to an end Chambers writes: "There is never any need to pretend that your life is filled with joy and confidence; just wait upon God and be grounded in Him (see Isaiah 50:10-11). Do I trust at all in the flesh? Or have I learned to go beyond all confidence in myself and other people of God? Do I trust in books and prayers or other joys in my life? Or have I placed my confidence in God Himself, not in His blessings? 'I Am Almighty God-El Shaddai, the All-Powerful God (Genesis 17:1). The reason we are all being disciplined is so that we will know that God is real. As soon as God becomes real to us, people pale by comparison."1

On a bright day it is sometimes good to come inside and rest the eyes and get readjusted. I can recall living in Pennsylvania and in the wintertime coming in and not able to see for a few seconds due to "snow-blindness".  My eyes would need time to "readjust" to the interior of the house before I could go and do other things. The need to wait was necessary.

Whenever we turn to Jesus' words in Luke 24:49, the instruction carries with it the command to stay in the city until the Lord clothes them with power from on high.  The disciples had experienced "much light" so to speak in regards to insight and instruction from Jesus. Acts 1:3 states Jesus had appeared for a period of 40 days to these men, instructing them about the Kingdom of God and showing them convincing proofs that He was alive.  In addition, upon His first appearance to them He had breathed upon them the Holy Spirit to prepare them for such a "download" of profound insight.  

They had experienced the Son in the glory of unglorified, pre-cross, pre-resurrection incarnated humanity (they of course got a sneak peak of His Divine majesty on the Mount of Transfiguration). For over 3 years they walked with the Son as God in human flesh.  But now Jesus was coming to them, but now He was God not just in human flesh, but God in post-resurrected humanity. What they thought they knew about Jesus was not only going to be added to, but enhanced.  This was their encounter with the post-resurrected, pre-pentecost Jesus.

The time had come for Jesus to ascend back into heaven. Undoubtedly reeling from what had been five weeks of intense experience (the crucifixion, the burial, the resurrection and subsequent appearances), the disciples needed time to process - and to wait on God. 

Oftentimes when we focus on Jesus' final words to His disciples, many will refer to the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20 - and certainly that is a very important command. But very few focus on this instruction - the need to wait on the Lord before proceeding any further. Why did Jesus have these disciples to wait in Jerusalem? Today's post aims to begin unpacking this significant instruction from Jesus to His apostles, and why waiting on the Lord is so important for you and I today.

Waiting on God is very important in the scriptures
As one begins to survey the Bible, it is very clear that God often had seasons of waiting in His people's lives as evidenced by the emphasis He placed on waiting. Psalm 27:14 
"Wait for the Lord;Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord." Or consider Hosea 12:6 "
Therefore, return to your God,Observe kindness and justice, And wait for your God continually." As the saints of God grew in their faith, over time they learned the benefits of waiting upon the Lord. Isaiah 40:31 is perhaps among the most familiar passages on waiting: "Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary."  Certainly by the time we arrive at the New Testament, we find Simeon in a posture of waiting in Luke 2:25 "And there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; and this man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel; and the Holy Spirit was upon him." Undoubtedly the concept of waiting upon the Lord is vitally important in God's Word. So then what of Jesus' instructions to His disciples to wait until the Holy Spirit should come upon them?

Jesus instruction to wait in Luke and Acts
The sequence of events that took place from the time of Jesus' resurrection until His ascension entailed much activity. We read in John 20:22 that upon Jesus second post-resurrection appearance to His disciples on the Easter Sunday evening (the first being to Mary Magdalene), He breathed upon them the Holy Spirit.  Jesus did that to prepare them for what would be an intense 40 day period of illumination, proclamation and final instruction. According to the NIV Harmony of the Gospels, Jesus made no less than ten post-resurrection appearances to his disciples and followers. The grace and power that came with Jesus' outbreathing of the Holy Spirit upon His disciples was for that 40 day period.  

In the chronology of Luke's Gospel and the Book of Acts, it appears that Jesus' instructions in Luke 24:49 for the disciples to wait could be followed by the words we see written in Acts 1:1-8.  Being that Acts is the sequel to Luke's Gospel, Luke is doing a quick review for Theophilus from whence he ended. Thus after the events of Acts 1:1-8, both the events of Luke 24:50-53 and Acts 1:9-11 parallel quite nicely with one another. 

Between the time Jesus ascended in Luke 24:50-53 and Acts 1:9-11 until the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 is 10 days.  That timeframe was to be the specific time of waiting to which Jesus was referring.  Both sets of verses in Luke and Acts give us a couple of reasons as to why Jesus had these disciples to wait.

1). Wait for reception of the Father's promise. 
Luke 24:49a states - "And behold, I am sending forth the promise of My Father upon you....".  Acts 1:4 notes - "Gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised,“Which,” He said, “you heard of from Me."  Jesus of course is referring back to what He had spoken to his disciples in the upper room on the eve of His crucifixion about the Holy Spirit in John 14:16; 15:26-27 and 16:7.

2). Wait for empowerment from the Holy Spirit.
Luke 24:49b "but you are to stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
Acts 1:8a defines this Power "but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you."

3). Wait so as to minister the message about the Son to all people. 
Acts 1:8b "and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

Unpacking Jesus' instruction to wait on God
Now notice the three main purposes of waiting as gleaned from our observations in Luke 24:49 and Acts 1:1-11: reception, empowerment and then ministry. 

These men needed to wait in order to receive from God before they could give to men what God had told them.  Unless I have something in my hand to give and something in my heart to tell you, I won't have anything to give or tell. John the Baptist said in John 3:27  "John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given him from heaven." For 40 days they had been receiving instruction, shown further evidences of Jesus' post-resurrection power and were encountered by Jesus Himself on ten different occasions.  Imagine trying to process all of those events! Furthermore, the task these men had ahead of them far outweighed all the previous 40 days and 3 years of their time with Jesus combined.  They needed to be yielded to the Father in a posture of waiting to demonstrate they could remain yielded to the Father's will in their process of going.  Their prior time with Jesus was like a sprint.  The upcoming 30 years that would follow in the Book of Acts was going to be a marathon. 

Perhaps you reading this have been sprinting for the Lord in your church, your job, your family and in your life. God has something up ahead He would have you to do.  You know so much about Him, but do you know Him?  You know how to do for Him, but have you cultivated the much needed discipline of waiting upon Him? To realize that He is the Promising God who deals with us in covenant relationship prevents us from developing an aloofness to His Presence in our lives.  We are often so busy being Marthas that we fail to be Marys. (John 11) There will be those times of course where we have to be a Martha, and of course it was to Martha that Jesus gave the insight about He being the resurrection and the Life in John 11:25. Nonetheless we need to be sure not to neglect waiting upon God, otherwise we won't be in the position to receive what He has and Who He is.

1. Oswald Chambers. My Utmost for His Highest. January 19th reading. 

Monday, October 26, 2015

A brief discussion on the definition and significance of Biblical inerrancy

2 Peter 1:20-21 "But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God."

When we speak of the Bible as inerrant, what is meant by this term and why is it important to the Christian?

Inerrancy literally means “without error”. Stated positively, inerrancy means that the Bible is true in all it says touching all matters.  An understanding of this truth arises from four considerations: God’s character, logical proof, Jesus’ view of scripture and scripture’s preservation down to present times.

1. First, at the heart of the Christian faith is the idea that God is a talking God that has revealed His power in creation, His Presence in the incarnation of Jesus Christ and His purposes in a book - the Bible. God by nature is Holy, Perfect and without flaw. (Isaiah 6; Habakkuk 1:13) Moreover, God cannot lie (Hebrews 6:18-19) but always tells the truth and reigns over His world by the basis of truth (Psalm 89:14). The character of God is the basis for any belief in the doctrine of the Bible's character as a 100% truthful document without error (hence inerrancy). 

2. Secondly, it logically follows from God’s character that the Bible He would reveal is without error. If we were to track this out logically, we could note the following:

Premise #1 God is a God that cannot lie and thus is without error

Premise #2 Anything spoken or recorded in written form from the One, true, Perfect God is without error, being that God cannot lie

Premise #3 The Bible is the only book, that contains fulfilled prophecy, unparalleled unity, correct explanations of history and the power to convert sinners, which are marks of Divine revelation

Premise #4 Divine revelation can only come from One source, God

Therefore: The Bible is without error and cannot lie, thus always truthful (i.e inerrant)

3. Thirdly, Jesus Himself taught that the Bibles that He and the Apostles had in their day (Old Testament Greek Septuagint and Aramaic Targums of the Synagogues) were the authoritative, inerrant Word of God (Matthew 5:18; Luke 24:44). Through His numerous assertions of “it is written” and citations of the scriptures themselves, Jesus’ view of the inerrancy of scripture is uncontestable.

4. Finally, inerrancy as expressed in the above statement (i.e “as originally given”) applies to the 66 books in regards to their wording. Though the original autographs are no longer with us, their words have been preserved among the multiplied thousands of manuscripts and translations of the Hebrew/Aramaic Old Testament and Greek New Testament. Despite variations and differences among the manuscripts (which only account for 3-4% of the Old Testament’s 419,687 words and 2% of the New Testament’s 138,162 words), we still have the original words with us – which means that those copies are just as authoritative as their originals. To put it another way, there is not one example of variations among the manuscripts that affects any major doctrine of Christianity. 

This was Jesus’ position, and thus should be our own. The logical reasons for inerrancy flow from considerations of God’s perfect character – which makes inerrancy (or total truthfulness) a cardinal point in defining Biblical authority for our lives.  

Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Holy Spirit's work in the lives of non-Christians and Christians

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John 16:8-13 And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning
righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.

12 “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 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.

Today's post features the Holy Spirit's work among non-Christians and Christians. Whether people realize it or not, God in the Person of the Holy Spirit is ever working to bring the glory of God to people. Unbelievers need His works of conviction and soulish illumination to enable them to either perceive the message of general revelation that leaves them without excuse or to quicken them to the special revelation of the Gospel that leads to true saving faith. Christians need the Spirit's working from the inception of regeneration all the way through to the end before their leaving this world. Below is an unfolding of these general observations regarding the Holy Spirit's workings among non-Christians and Christians.

The Holy Spirit's work among non-Christians
First, sinful man must have the Spirit’s work of convincing Him that Jesus is worthy of worship. The problem is that sinful man has no desire to worship this great God. However Jesus tells us what the Spirit does in overcoming this obstacle in John 16:13-15  “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. 14“He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. 15“All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.” The Holy Spirit’s task in regenerating lost sinners in saving faith is to remove the heart of rebellion against God and replace it with a heart that desires God. Romans 8:5-6 tells us – “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” 

The preacher may come to you with polished words and the song leader may be angelic in their voice and musical ability. Yet, lest the preacher’s message be accompanied by the Holy Spirit’s conviction and lest the song service be charged with Holy Spirit anointing, all will fall on deaf ears. The Holy Spirit acting as the Ambassador of the Trinity brings the desire to worship God to unbelieving man, convicting him of sin, righteousness and judgment and making known to Him the things of God (John 16:8-12).

The Holy Spirit's work among Christians 
Then in terms of the Holy Spirit's working in the Christian life, the New Testament details the work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian life from its inception as seen in the following ministries He performs:

i. New Birth/regeneration.
James 1:18 "In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures."

ii. Filling of the Holy Spirit.
Ephesians 5:18 "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit."

iii. Leading/prompting of the Spirit
1 Corinthians 10:13 "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it." Philippians 3:15 "Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude; and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you."

iv. Union with Christ by the Spirit
1 Corinthians 12:13 "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit."

This particular point is not water baptism, which follows and signifies the reality of this work of the Spirit already having occurred in conversion. Water baptism is a God ordained picture that re-enacts and illuminates the new believer to the truth of what happened to them at salvation.  People don't get water baptized to get saved and spirit baptized, rather they are water baptized following their salvation. Water baptism logically connects the new Christian back to the reality of their prior spirit baptism, however it does not impart the salvation which it pictures or points.  In the death, burial, resurrection sequence of believer's baptism by immersion, the Christian acts out in sign form the Spirit's uniting of them to Jesus Christ which occurred in His spiritual baptism or uniting of them to Christ at prior saving faith.  

v. Anointing/power/illuminating ministry of the Holy Spirit
1 John 2:20 "But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know."

1 John 2:27 "As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him."

Closing thoughts:
As we close out today's post, we have toured the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of unbelievers and Christians. May all of us be ever receptive to His work in our lives. 

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Importance of the Personhood of The Holy Spirit

Deuteronomy 6:4-5 4 “Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

Matthew 28:19-20 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,

As we consider the God of the Bible, biblical testimony reveals that God is One in existence and three in identity. That is to say - the One Eternal, unchanging, timeless, spaceless, Personal God exists in Three co-equal, Co-Eternal Persons that scripture reveals to be Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To attempt further clarity, we can see how each of the Persons of the God-head express the very essence of the One True and Living God. For example, The Holy Spirit, who will be the focus of today's blog, is for the Christian "God in us".  God in the Person of the Holy Spirit is in scripture the Third Person of the Trinity who comes to indwell the Christian at salvation (John 16:17).The Person of the Father expresses "God above us", unseen and immortal (Jude 24-25). God is revealed by the Person of the Son as "God with us", visibly revealing the Father. 

Personhood is that quality of a living being that includes the conscious expression of intellect, emotion and will.  The Holy Spirit has emotions - meaning for example that He can be grieved by our sin (Ephesians 4:30). We also see that as the Spirit of revelation, He has a mind by which to communicate and articulate Himself to Christians (Ephesians 1:18, 2 Peter 1:21). Finally, the Holy Spirit has a will by which He calls and gifts Christians in the church (Ephesians 4, 1 Corinthians 12,14).  Perhaps the greatest evidence of the Holy Spirit's personhood comes from the lips of Jesus Himself.  Time and time again Christ refers to the Holy Spirit as "He", not "it" (see John 16:13).  

John 14:16 has Jesus stating - "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever".  The word "another" in this passage refers to "another of the same kind".  When Christ is speaking to his disciples, He is clearly explaining His Deity, being that to see Him is to see the Father (John 14:7).  In saying to the disciples He is going to "send another comforter", He is stating that the Father and He are going to send forth the third person of the Trinity who shares in their nature. The logic of Jesus' statements can be summarized below:

1. The Father is God(John 14:1)

2. To see and believe Jesus is to see and believe in God (John 14:1, 7)

3. The Holy Spirit is "another of the same kind" as Jesus Christ (John 14:16)

4. Thus the Holy Spirit is God, sharing in the same Deity as The Father and The Son (John 14:23)

Friday, October 23, 2015

Have you received the Eternal Christ by faith?

John 1:12-13 "But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God."

The past couple of posts have focused attention on the Eternal Christ that is revealed in John 1:1-18. So far we have considered the revelation of the eternal Christ and personal testimonies about Him. Today's post will once more appeal to John 1:1-18 and ask you the reader this question: have you received Him into your life by faith? 

The Apostle John writes what we writes not as a philosopher – though the truths of John 1:1-18 are indeed profound – but rather He appeals as an evangelist to the mind to get to the heart of the matter in regards to salvation. The Eternal Christ became man so that all by grace through faith could know Him and thus be connected to God. The Apostle John states in John 1:10-11 “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him. 11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.” The Eternal Christ had come into the world of the Gentiles and was by and large rejected.

Likewise the Eternal Christ had come to His fellow Jews according to His humanity as their Messiah – and was rejected. I would suggest that John’s comments include the cameo appearances the Eternal Son made throughout the Old Testament in episodes and disguised personages – all of which witnessed Israel of old walking away from Him. The sad truth is that the response to Jesus Christ outside of saving grace is 100% rejection. Lest the Spirit is at work – no one will embrace Him – being that men love darkness more so than Him (John 3:17-19; Romans 3:10-13).

However it is John’s point to make the appeal to receive this Eternal Christ (John 1:12-13). The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 notes the following about God’s work of regeneration in salvation: “Regeneration, or the new birth, is a work of God's grace whereby believers become new creatures in Christ Jesus. It is a change of heart wrought by the Holy Spirit through conviction of sin, to which the sinner responds in repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Repentance and faith are inseparable experiences of grace.” 

Wherever there is a willing reception of faith, the scriptures and the regenerating work of God – there will be 100% chance of salvation. Notice how we see those three elements at work in John 1:12-13:

A. The Scriptures work in salvation – John 1:12a “But as many as received Him….”
How else can a person receive or see the need to make room for the Eternal Christ? Only one instrument is used by the Spirit in the conversion of the soul – the scriptures. A person cannot receive something lest it is first given. How else and where else is the Living Christ given? The scriptures (Romans 10:9-16). Romans 10:17 especially notes – “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” So to receive the Lord Jesus Christ – the scripture must be present, but now notice secondly…

B. Reception by faith – John 1:12b “to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name…”
Unless there is a willing heart ready to respond to God’s call through the scripture, there will be no salvation. Faith is a gift given by God (Ephesians 2:8-9). The divine gifting of faith is what transforms into a decision of the will. The mystery of human responsibility and God’s Sovereignty are never in conflict in the scriptures. The responsibility demanded in the Gospel in John 1:12 is set alongside the Sovereignty of God that makes such a response possible in John 1:13.  

C. Regenerating work of God  – John 1:13 “who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
The new birth derives from God (James 1:18). The means of reception granted in salvation is faith (Romans 10:9-10). Such faith is given and leads to trust in Jesus Christ (Romans 10:8-10; Ephesians 2:8-9). Amazingly in this passage, we discover that the miracle birth of salvation in the believer’s life is set alongside the incarnation of Jesus Christ – which of course entailed the unique virgin birth/conception. In short – The Eternal Christ came to experience the miracle birth so that at the moment of saving faith, I too could experience a miracle birth (John 3:1-5). 

Closing thoughts:
Today’s message has been all about considering, heeding and receiving the Eternal Christ. My prayer has been that this message had been used by the Lord to show Jesus Christ in such a way as to either embrace Him by faith for the first time or to embrace Him all the more tightly as a Christian. Consider His revelation, heed the testimonies about Him and receive Him by faith – this is what it means to consider, heed and receive the eternal Christ.