Grace and Guilt

Grace and Guilt
Vol: 164 Issue: 30 Saturday, May 30, 2015

Grace is one of those Divine topics that is so deep and wide and endless that there can never been enough said about it.  It is so complex in its simplicity that a full understanding of it probably cannot be had this side of heaven.

Grace is easier to define by what it is not than by what it is.  Grace is not mercy or love.  In Ephesians 2:4-6 three doctrines are outlined in their individual and specific understandings; grace, mercy and love. 

“But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)  And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:”

God is rich in mercy.  He loves us with great love.  But we are not saved by mercy or love.  One can extend mercy without extending grace. 

We are not saved by His love.  If we know anything from Scripture about man’s relationship with God, it is this: God loves all sinners.  Not all sinners are or will be saved.

Addressing mercy first, one could define Divine mercy as God’s compassion, which moved Him to provide a Savior in the first place.  If God could save a single soul on the basis of His mercy alone, then every soul could be saved on that basis.   In that case, Christ’s death was unnecessary.

As for God’s love, it is reflective of God’s infinite character. It is the motivating purpose behind all that God does on man’s behalf.  The Bible says that there is joy in heaven at the salvation of one sinner.

But God’s infinite character is that of holy and righteous love and since sin is an offense before Him, God cannot save a soul without first making a way to satisfy the claims that Divine righteousness makes against the sinner.

One of the dumber arguments often used by atheists to question the existence of God is the question of God’s omnipotence.  “If God can do anything, can He make a rock so big He can’t lift it?”  It is a stupid question but you’d be surprised how many people actually try to answer it. 

The atheist is trying to get the believer to admit that there are some things that even God can’t do. 

But the fact is, there are things that even God can’t do.  God cannot sin.  God cannot compromise justice.  God cannot abandon His holy nature.  And so, until Divine justice is satisfied, God’s infinite love cannot realize its desire.

Mercy and love are what grace are not.  Grace is what God is free to do on behalf of the lost after Christ satisfied the judicial requirements by paying the penalty for sin.

Although the holy demands of justice were satisfied by the sacrificial execution of Christ, the love of God can never be satisfied until He has done all that He can for the one that accepts Christ’s judgment on their behalf.

What is the greatest thing that God could do for you, a sinner?  How about elevating you to be conformed to the image of the Son of God?

Love and mercy represent the whys of salvation, but not the how.  

Since grace only represents what God can and will do for those who trust in His Savior, it must function independently of all human effort or cooperation.  Grace demands nothing beyond confidence in God’s ability to save.

Grace provides the only mechanism whereby men can be saved God’s mercy and love are not enough. God’s mercy and love were every bit as much in operation before I was saved as after.

“But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

This is the second most difficult part of the salvation process.   If I’ve been pardoned, why do I still feel guilty?   You can tell me I’m no longer guilty all day long, but I was with me. I know better.  And I’m not much at self-deception.

I was guilty of sin before I was saved.  Some of those sins haunt me still.  And if I remain on this earth, I will be guilty of sin again. 

The guilt is real.  I know it.  So does the enemy – it is one of his most effective weapons against believers.

“Maybe you’re saved by grace, but you’re guilty. You don’t deserve salvation.” 

What makes it so effective is that it is true. Sin is rebellion against God and His authority.  Jesus may have paid for my sins at Calvary, but He wasn’t guilty of them.  I was. 

The Divine disposition of guilt is one of the greatest triumphs of grace. Note that there are two aspects to the concept of ‘guilt’.

The first aspect is personal guilt.  Personal guilt is nothing more than the historical record of your sins.  You committed them alone.  That fact will never change.   Not here and now.  Not in the hereafter.

You are personally guilty.  God didn’t make you do it.  Satan didn’t make you do it. You alone are guilty.  Personal guilt is non-transferable.  That’s why you still feel guilty even though you know that you are saved.

The second aspect is that of judicial guilt.  This is guilt as an obligation to justice. Judicial guilt is transferable – one can be personally guilty but if someone else pays the penalty due, then the law has no further claim.

The Lord Jesus offered Himself as a substitute to bear the obligation demanded of the world by Divine justice.   We need only acknowledge and stand before God under the terms of His provision of grace.

It is by faith that I recognize my judicial guilt and by faith accept that my salvation is by grace, a gift of God and not of works, lest any should boast.

But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. (Romans 4:5)

That is what our faith is in – not our ability to stay saved, but His ability to keep us — by His grace.

Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!
The Father He spake, and His will it was done;
Great price of my pardon, His own precious Son;
Saved by the blood of the Crucified One!

Your sins ARE all pardoned.  Your guilt IS all gone.  It cannot work any other way.

Maranatha!

Absolutely God

Absolutely God
Vol: 164 Issue: 29 Friday, May 29, 2015

“The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God.” (Psalms 14:1).  It seems rather harsh to call someone ‘a fool’ for what at first glance appears to be ignorance.

A person who doesn’t know God is clearly ignorant, since the word “ignorance” means ‘not knowing’. Ignorance is not a pejorative, although it is often hurled as an insult.

Babies are ignorant.  People are ignorant of those things they haven’t either discovered for themselves or been taught by others.  But the Bible uses instead the word, ‘fool’ which means, “a person who acts unwisely or imprudently.”

The word ‘fool’ is independent of educational background or innate mental acuity.  And by its application, it means ‘only the unwise and imprudent would say there is no God’.

“For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse,” Paul writes in Romans 1:20.

It is obvious to any unbiased observer that the earth is too intricately and perfectly designed not to have a Designer.  It is at the minimum, ‘imprudent’ to deny the obvious.

Paul anticipated the evolution vs creation argument (1850 years before Darwin first articulated it) and dismissed it out of hand as ‘foolishness’:

“Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.” (Romans 1:23)

Read it in reverse order.  From creeping things to four-footed beasts, to birds, to man — Darwin’s ‘Evolution of Species — the sacred text for secular humanism.

Which culminates precisely as Paul predicted, with the elevation of man to the role of supreme being.

There are five unassailable arguments that demand the existence of God, not the least of which is the ontological argument offered in Romans 1:20.

In brief, the ontological argument for God is that the existence of the idea of God can only be explained if God really exists.

In other words, it is beyond man’s intellectual ability to imagine the existence of something for which there is no frame of reference.

There are but three prime colors for example, red, yellow, and blue.  All the rest are shades and hues of these three obtained by mixing these three.

Since no fourth prime color exists, whatever color we might imagine it to be, it would actually be a mixture of the three prime colors.  There is no frame of reference upon which to imagine a fourth.

For example, we can imagine pink elephants only because elephants exist and pink exists.

Human beings have no frame of reference upon which to imagine the existence of a Personal Being Who exists outside of space and time, that is all powerful, all knowing, present in every atom of the universe, yet intimately concerned with the well-being of the inhabitants of one of the billions of created planets in the universe on a personal level.

We could not have imagined Him; yet the most widely-read Book of all time is all about Him.  Just look at the very word, ‘history’ – His Story.

The second unassailable argument is the one from cosmology.  Cosmology is the study of the processes of the cosmos, whose fundamental operating law requires that the cosmos be in motion.  And for the cosmos to be in motion, there had to be a Prime Mover.

Cosmology points to the Big Bang, but in so doing, ignores its own fundamental law.  Something (or Some One) had to light the fuse that set it off, first.

The third unassailable argument is that of teleology.  Teleology is the study of goals or ends and it presents the argument that the evidence of order and design in nature indicates purpose, which in turn demands a Designer.

The fourth unassailable argument is that offered by aesthetics.  Aesthetics is the study of beauty and truth.  It argues that there exist relative standards of beauty and truth.  That is to say, some things are more beautiful than others, some truths, more absolute than others.

The aesthetical argument demands some absolute standard against which all things must ultimately be compared, or the concepts of ”beautiful’ and ‘ugly’ could not exist.

The fifth unassailable argument for the necessity of the existence of God is that of morality.  Morality is also subjective, but still, some actions are considered more moral, or immoral, than are others.

For there to be a concept of morality demands an absolute standard of morality against which the relative standards can be measured.

For each of these systems to work, there is an absolute necessity for the existence of an absolute God of absolutes.

“Absolute” means, “not subject to any limitation.”  God IS the ultimate Absolute.  Without the existence of God, the word ‘absolute’ has no meaning.

It takes willful rejection of simple and unassailable evidence to say in one’s heart, “there is no God” because if such were true, there remains no explanation for the existence of beauty, truth, morality, science or logic.

Despite the evidence, however, if somebody’s mind is set against believing in God, all the evidence in the world won’t convince them. Faith still plays a critical role.

The Scriptures say,

“But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)

So, no matter how strong your argument, or how unassailable your evidence, no argument or combination of arguments will move the truly dedicated unbeliever to submit to God.

All we can do is offer the evidence and pray the Holy Spirit will impart the necessary faith to receive it.

To summarize the five unassailable arguments, they are:

1. Ontology: The evidence for the existence of God is that the existence of the idea of God can only be explained if God really exists.

2. Cosmology: For the cosmos to be in motion demands a Prime Mover to set it all in motion in the first place.

3. Teleology: The evidence of order and design in nature cannot be explained apart from a Designer.

4. Aesthetics: For both beauty and truth to exist, there must first exist absolute standards against which relative beauty and truth can be measured.

5. Morality: The argument from morality also demands absolute standards of morality against which relative standards can be measured and judged.  As in the case of beauty and truth, morality as a concept cannot exist apart from the assumption of the existence of absolutes.

A Creator God MUST exist to explain the existence of these abstract concepts.  To argue otherwise is obviously both imprudent and unwise.  It is imprudent because it is a irrevocable judgment call that defies the evidence and it is unwise because any argument against the existence of God is illogical.  It is illogical because one cannot KNOW there is no God.

Given all that we know, and all that we don’t know, the best an unbeliever can say is “don’t confuse me with facts.  My mind is made up.”

Romans 1:22 anticipated that, too.

“Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”

Originally Published: August 6, 2008

Featured Commentary: Proselytize Evangelize or Apostatize? ~ Alf Cengia

Heavenly Civics

Heavenly Civics
Vol: 164 Issue: 28 Thursday, May 28, 2015

For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith.” (Romans 12:3)

Paul’s admonition ‘not to think more highly of himself than he ought’ is one of those double-edged truths. A Christian need always be mindful his salvation was wrought by trusting in the completed Work accomplished at the Cross and not by one’s own merits.

But Paul’s admonition also means that we ought not to think LESS of ourselves than we ought. While we are utterly undeserving of the honor accorded us, we are still members of the Body of Christ, loved, cherished, and above all, forgiven our sins.

To continue to punish ourselves and wallow in our guilt is to deny the finished Work of Christ. Our obligation as soldiers in the Lord is, when wounded, to trust Him to bandage those wounds, pick up our weapon (which is the Word of God) and soldier on to victory.

Illegal immigration is fast becoming a global threat; consequently, citizenship is something we attach great value to. Citizenship is usually attained in one of several ways; it can be ‘inherited’ through one’s parents. It can be granted (or excluded) by membership in a particular group.

In the United States, citizenship is automatically conveyed at birth and is irrevocable, although certain rights and liberties can be revoked by conviction of certain crimes.

Citizenship, particularly in the United States, is a ‘pearl of great price’, something that people the world over would willingly exchange everything they own to obtain.

We see the value attached to citizenship in the case of John Walker Lindh, nicknamed, “Taliban Johnny.” Taliban Johnny was taken on the battlefield in combat against US forces as a member of the Taliban in the Afghan war, in a gunbattle that cost the life of a US CIA agent.

‘Taliban Johnny’ was singled out from the rest of the al-Qaeda captives, given immediate medical attention, afforded all the legal rights of a US citizen under the legal system, afforded the best lawyers money can buy, and is currently serving time in a relatively plus US prison.

Compare his plight to that of the average ‘Taliban Johnny’ now languishing for an indeterminate period, not to exceed his natural life, in a cage at Guantanamo Bay and the value of citizenship becomes even more valuable.

A Saudi terrorist who was born while his parents were visiting the US was also afforded all the rights given Taliban Johnny, although he returned to Saudi Arabia as an infant and subsequently took up arms against the United States.

They were treated differently, not because they behaved any differently than any of the detainees sent to foreign prisons where local jurisdictions could ‘interrogate’ them according to their somewhat less humane standards.

Under the American legal system, they had sinned the ‘unpardonable sin’ of taking up arms against the United States. Foreign nationals who commit the same sin are targeted with either death or capture.

‘Capture’ — however humanely it is seen from America’s perspective, is often a fate worse than death. It can mean a lifetime of dehumanizing captivity. But not for John Walker Lindh. He’ll be out in twenty years, less time off for good behavior.

Why? Because John Walker Lindh, traitor and killer of his own countrymen, is a citizen of the United States.

Assessment:

“For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ:” (Philippians 3:20)

The word translated as ‘conversations’ in the KJV is translated from the word “politeuma” which is the root word for the English word ‘politic’. It means, ‘community’ or ‘citizenship’.

At the moment when we are saved, that is, at that moment when we trust our lives and our eternity to Jesus Christ and allow Him to lead us, we become citizens of heaven. But the Bible notes that we are dual citizens; we are no longer ‘of’ the world, but we are ‘in’ it, and it is that dual citizenship that is our spiritual undoing.

Paul discussed the dual nature of the flesh and the spirit at great length in Romans 7, lamenting that they good that he wanted to do, he found he could not, but that which he hated, (that is, sin) was what he found himself doing instead. He cried out, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”

Paul both answers his own question and summarizes the situation as it exists for all men, from the Apostle Paul to you and me.

“I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” (Romans 7:24-25)

When Paul was discussing how we ought to see ourselves, he appended a thought that eludes many Christians; saying “to think soberly, according as God HATH DEALT to every man the measure of faith.”

Each of us is different. We came to the Cross individually, each with his own measures of sin and guilt to leave there. Some had more to leave behind that others; many murderers laid the blood of their victims at the foot of the Cross and had their guilt washed away.

Others had lesser crimes, less guilt, but whatever they laid at His feet was washed clean and they were granted heavenly citizenship. Paul tells us that each of us ought not to think more highly — or, by extrapolation, less highly, of ourselves than we ought. That is why the Bible’s story is so compelling; it is the story of man, warts and all.

The great heroes of the Bible; Abraham, David, Solomon, Noah, Lot, Sampson; these were all men of faith who were also sinners. They saw themselves for what they were. David admitted his sin was against God, that God was justified in condemning him, but reminded God of his condition:

“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” But he trusts God: “Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.” (Psalms 51:5-6)

None of us really measure up to what we think we should be as Christians, although we think we know lots of other people who do. Each of us is sustained, “ACCORDING AS GOD HATH DEALT TO EVERY MAN THE MEASURE OF FAITH.”

“Shall the clay say to him that fashioneth it, What makest thou? or thy work, He hath no hands?” (Isaiah 45:9)

We are what God made us. Get over it. The truth is, we are each a work in progress, as each old sin falls away. Some sins fall away easier than others, some others we may well take to our graves rather than give them up.

But whatever we may think of ourselves, our citizenship is in heaven, and it is our heavenly patriotic duty to continue to do battle for the Lord and trust to Him for the healing.

As David reminds us, God desires truth in the ‘inward parts’ and, consequently, in that hidden part, He will make us to know wisdom. Heavenly civics says we are already citizens of heaven, but because of our dual citizenship, from our limited earthly perspective, it is an ongoing process; one begun, sustained and completed entirely according to the work of Christ.

“Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6)

Trust Jesus! Pick up your sword and shield and get back into the battle. Maranatha!

Originally Published: September 30, 2005

Featured Commentary: Is God Mad at Us? ~ J.L. Robb

Hagiasmos

Hagiasmos
Vol: 164 Issue: 27 Wednesday, May 27, 2015

One of the most controversial (and least understood) points of doctrine apart from eternal security or a pre-trib Rapture is the doctrine of predestination.

“For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.” (Romans 8:29)

‘Predestination’ suffers from the same malady as do many other controversial doctrinal issues — political correctness. 

(WHAT?  No, really.  It’s true.  Hear me out.)

There are two main objections to predestination.  One is doctrinal, the other, political.  Let’s look at the political objection first.

If the doctrine of predestination is true, then it follows that those who were not predestinated to be conformed to the Image of His Son were predestinated for hell.   That is politically incorrect;  it is hateful and exclusionary.    

The second objection to predestination is that it negates free will.  Of the two objections, this seems to be the one with the least ground to stand on.   Because God knows what your decision is going to be doesn’t mean that you don’t have any choice.

I could offer you a million dollars, tax free, without any strings or a good swift kick in your behind.   I could also predict in advance what your choice would be.   

You may surprise me and choose the kick in the rear.  But my prediction would not affect your choice. 

The difference is that in my case, I could be wrong on my prediction, whereas God isn’t guessing.  He already knows.  But YOU don’t know what your choice is until you make it.

Your free will is unencumbered.  

Assessment:

Many of the same people that just can’t seem to get their head around the concept of predestination have absolutely no problem in believing in Bible prophecy.   How is it that YOU view Bible prophecy?  

Consider the following Scriptures:

“I  am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death.”

“For dogs have compassed Me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed Me: they pierced My hands and My feet. I may tell all My bones: they look and stare upon Me. They part My garments among them, and cast lots upon My vesture.” (Psalms 22:14-18)

Did Psalms 22 predestinate the Crucifixion?  Or does it simply predict it?  Is there a difference?  In what way?

Did God foreknow Judas?  Did God foreknow Caiaphas?  Did God foreknow the Roman soldiers who scourged Him, spat upon Him, drove the nails into His hands and feet?   Did God foreknow which of them would gamble for His robe?

Is this really even a question?  Of course God foreknew each of them — or He couldn’t have foreknown me.  Which then means the Bible cannot be true, since it says that He foreknows us all.

Foreknowledge is the same thing as predestination in the sense that God’s knowledge is perfect.  But since you don’t know your own future, how can your free will decisions be encumbered by the fact that God does?

The politically correct response to predestination being advanced as a doctrine is to shout “Calvinist!” at the top of one’s lungs, cover one’s ears with one’s hands and to run screaming from the room.

One needn’t be a Calvinist to believe that God is omniscient.  One needn’t be a Calvinist to believe that the Old Testament prophets predicted Christ’s First Advent.  Isaiah wasn’t a Calvinist when he wrote of the suffering Messiah of Isaiah 53.

“Calvinist” is a label applied to the five major points of doctrine outlined by French theologian John Calvin in the mid-14th century.   Calvin’s five points are identified by the acronym TULIP.

  1. Total Depravity of Man
  2. Unconditional Election
  3. Limited Atonement
  4. Irresistible Grace
  5. Perseverance of the Saints

Calvinism teaches that salvation is entirely the work of God; God chose His elect, the Son died to pay their sin debt, and the Holy Spirit makes Christ’s death effective by bringing the elect to faith and repentance, thereby causing them to willingly obey the Gospel.

I am not a Calvinist, primarily because the general understanding of Calvinism is that Calvinists need not witness to the lost because God’s irresistible grace nullifies our obligation under the Great Commission.  

So according to that understanding, I am not a Calvinist.  But that understanding is so totally flawed that it astonishes me that anyone can actually believe it.

If prophecy is foreknowledge, why is it not predestination? And if it is predestination, then what is the argument against predestination?  If prophecy were to fail, what would that mean?  That man’s free will trumps God’s foreknowledge? 

“And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the CALLED according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28)

The goodness of God in converting and saving sinners encourages others to hope in His grace and mercy. Our faith, our conversion, and our eternal salvation, are not of works, lest any man should boast. These things are not brought to pass by anything done by us, therefore all boasting is shut out.

“Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” (Titus 3:5)

It is the free gift of God, and the effect of being quickened by His power. It was His purpose, to which he prepared us, by blessing us with the knowledge of His will, and His Holy Spirit producing such a change in us, that we should glorify God by our perseverance to holiness.

‘Holiness’ (Gk hagiasmos) means ‘purification’ which is a PROCESS, also accomplished by God through Jesus.

“Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath BEGUN a good work in you will PERFORM it UNTIL the day of Jesus Christ:” (Philippians 1:6)

There are no Christians more deserving than others. Because you have not yet achieved the state of holiness others have does not mean you are less favored. We all come to the Cross equally lost, and we all came away equally saved.

Salvation is an eternal state for which each of us were called before the world began, or else the Bible is not telling the truth.

“Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.”  (2 Timothy 1:9)

“In hope of eternal life, which God, that CANNOT LIE, PROMISED before the world began. . .” (Titus 1:2)

Let’s bring it together. Nobody can come to Christ unless they are drawn by the Father, who provides us with both the extension of the offer of salvation and the faith necessary to receive it, a calling that was sealed in heaven before the world began, according to His purpose and grace.

Our salvation is immediate and eternal, but our purification is a process, which, having been begun in us at the moment of salvation, will be performed in us — BY CHRIST — until the day we stand before Him. Lest anyone should boast.

That’s not my opinion of what the Bible says — look up the verses in context and see if you can make them mean something else.

“As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” (Romans 3:10-12)

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:” (Romans 3:23-24)

Legalism runs counter to the clear teaching of Scripture. This is a very difficult doctrine to both teach and understand. It sounds like a license to sin.  It is not.  

“I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.” (Galatians 2:21)

We don’t think like God does, which is why He inspired the Scriptures.   To provide us with the tiniest bit of insight into the way God sees things.

Our relationship to Christ is unique — that God knows our hearts, and has already judged us accordingly. So that sin cannot reign supreme in our mortal body and thereby render us useless to our calling.

If the enemy can convince us of our own personal unrighteousness (of which each of us is acutely aware) or cause us to doubt the truth of Scripture or of our faith (which is a gift from God, lest anyone should boast) or cause us to doubt our own salvation, then we will not be able to effectively wield the Sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God.

God has a plan for each of us, and His plan is to send us to seek out and introduce others to their Savior. That is our assignment on this earth. THAT is our ‘calling.’

To spread the Gospel.

As Christians, we have an awesome responsibility before God. We have been assigned to seek out the lost and offer them the Gospel. To accomplish our mission, we need to be fully equipped for the task.

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (1st Peter 3:15)

The most effective weapon we have in our war with the enemy is the knowledge that he cannot take away our salvation.  We walk in the light of the Gospel, but we remain human beings and sinners, washed in the Blood of the Lamb, but still trapped in the “body of this death“.

Consequently, there is never a time when we are unworthy to tell others of Jesus Christ.  

 “But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  (1st John 1:7-8)

Bible prophecy isn’t Calvinism.  Is Bible prophecy predestinated?  Well, it is written down in advance.  The choices necessary for its fulfillment have not yet been made by the participants. 

And God says that Bible prophecy will all be fulfilled to the letter.  What else could it be?

Predestination plays no role in your free will, or in the free will choices of anyone else.    

“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:Not of works, lest any man should boast.”  (Ephesians 2:8-9

Trust Him.  The more hopeless you think you are, the more you have to rely on Him.

Don’t let the enemy convince you that you aren’t worthy to carry the message.  After all, your prospect is just as liable to say, “Heck, if he can be saved, then there must be hope for me.”

God knew what He was doing when He gave you this job.  Trust Him.

And get ‘er done!  Maranatha!

Originally Published: June 11, 2012

Unto Whom Much Is Given

Unto Whom Much Is Given
Vol: 164 Issue: 26 Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Christianity, in the sense of a philosophy, is fraught with seemingly contradictory notions, as seen from the perspective of this world. For example, one attains victory over sin by surrender to Jesus.

Christian philosophy teaches that human weakness demonstrates Christ’s strength. Victory by surrender and strength through weakness are not commonly practiced strategies.

It is our nature to attain victory by overcoming the opposition and develop strength by force. The carnal existence is driven, at its most base level, by the two prime motivators; the acquisition of pleasure and the avoidance of pain.

In most human pursuit, the objective is to win and the prize is to live.

Paul writes to the Philippians;

“For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (1:21)

Of all the seemingly contradictory thoughts within Christian philosophy, it is this one that most of us have the hardest time with. And it completely baffles the world.

“And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: Yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labours; and their works do follow them.” (Revelation 14:13)

The New Testament begins with Jesus pronouncing God’s blessing on the living in the Beatitudes. It concludes with this beatitude for “those who die in the Lord.”

God says that death is an enemy, the product of sin, but that for those who know Christ, it is not the end, but rather it is the beginning. Here is another seemingly contradictory analogy. When a baby is born, it is both the end of a pregnancy and the start of a new life. For a Christian, death is like that.

The Bible says that when we die, we are immediately received into the Presence of God. It doesn’t happen at some time in the future, or at a faraway place or a faraway time. Your soul, (your mind, will and emotions, the ‘ghost in the machine’ that makes you You) does not cease when the body does.

The Three Fold Nature of ManYour soul is primarily shaped by the events of your lifetime. You are, to a large degree, the product of your experiences. That is how we are designed – the Bible equates age with wisdom because there is no teacher like one’s own experiences.

But it isn’t your soul that has experiences, it is the body. Think of a person born deaf, blind and dumb and stuck in an iron lung, devoid of human contact. It’s a horrible thought – unimaginably horrible, really. To be stuck like that, a mind without a body, without sight, sound, touch . . . brrrrr!

The experiences of the body provide the majority of the input that makes you You, but the body is not You. It is your possession, not your essence. Your body is the gateway to the soul through which we receive input via the five senses of touch, taste, sight, smell and hearing.

The seeming contradictions between the carnal understandings of Christian philosophy like victory and death are the consequence of the Christian’s ‘sixth sense’ as expressed by the Apostle Paul.

“For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6)

The carnal mind has but the five senses of input. The sixth sense is spiritual; to be spiritual minded is to be able to ‘see’ via your spirit, which was ‘quickened’ or made alive, by the indwelling Presence of the Holy Spirit.

“The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:” (Romans 8:16)

“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” (1st Corinthians 2:14)

Do you see? It is more than simply the fact that salvation and the things of God seem foolish to the unsaved. It is that the spirit is stillborn, like the horrifying example of the active mind trapped in a useless body devoid of sensory input.

Assessment:

Saved or lost, that part of you that makes you You is immortal. When the gateway through the body closes at physical death, your soul now gets its input via the spirit. We receive spiritual insights now; our souls hunger for spiritual input now; but we also have the five carnal senses now.

“For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” (1st Corinthians 13:12)

When the body’s sensory gates are closed at death, that glass is no longer clouded. If one’s spirit is alive, that is. If one’s spirit has not been quickened, the carnal sensory input stops.

That is the first death. One’s soul is in hell, trapped in a dead spirit, much as one might imagine being trapped in a dead body. Like being buried alive.

At the Great White Throne, the souls of the dead without Christ are assembled for final judgment and the resurrection of the dead.

“And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death and hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works.” (Revelation 20:13)

Those souls are now equipped once more with bodily, carnal sensory input capabilities. Now that they are reunited, body and soul . . .

“And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death.” (Revelation 20:14)

In truth, death is all about appearances. We see the grave and we sorrow, we mourn, we grieve – but God sees it from the perspective of eternity to come. God grieves for us in our ignorance, telling us that;

“. . .Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love Him.” (1st Corinthians 2:9)

“For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.” (Romans 8:18-19)

When we die, we don’t ‘wake up’ on the ‘other side’ so much as we merely switch glasses. Both science and the Bible agree that there is both a visible and invisible existence. Quantum physics demands the existence of additional dimensions beyond the three dimensions we now occupy.

“For the invisible things of Him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:” (Romans 1:20)

The invisible things of Him are as real as the three-dimensional creation that we currently occupy. What is the evidence for the invisible? Oftentimes I’ll hear somebody use ‘air’ as an example of something that is invisible but yet exists.

That’s not entirely satisfactory. I can spray a colored substance and ‘see’ air. I can ‘see’ air through refracted light. Air has substance. Air is real.

But even more real than air is Me. “I think therefore I am.” There is nothing more real to me than Me, and everything about me that makes me Me is more invisible than air.

My soul has no mass. It cannot be detected by weight. It has no substance or shape or dimensions. But it is as real as . . well, it is as real as I am. And everybody has a soul. The invisible is very, very real.

Death is real. But it is real only in the sense that a pregnancy is real. The goal of the pregnancy is for it to end with the beginning a newer, richer existence.

Knowing all this information is empowering. But there is nothing in this world that comes without cost, and the price of this empowering and comforting knowledge is high, indeed.

I know what will happen when I die – at least, in know in part. Right now, I see through a glass, darkly. I know I will see my loved ones again. And like Job, I know it will be in my flesh, and not another’s. I will see my Savior in my flesh, with mine own eyes, and not another’s. (Job 19:25-27)

That’s the comforting and empowering part of this knowledge. But I also know what awaits those who enter eternity with their spiritual eyes closed. That’s the price tag that comes with it.

That’s why there is joy in heaven over one sinner who turns to Christ. (Luke 15:10) It is why God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance. (2nd Peter 3:9)

It is why we should “sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” (1st Peter 3:15)

“For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: (Luke 12:48)

Originally Published: September 18, 2009

Featured Commentary: Final Fortress ~ Wendy Wippel

Godly King David?

Godly King David?
Vol: 164 Issue: 25 Monday, May 25, 2015

Israel’s King David is the only man in the history of man to wear the title, “a man after God’s own heart.”  The title isn’t one bestowed on him by the rabbis or the sages as a result of his being Israel’s greatest King.

“Israel’s greatest king” is a secular, political title given him by Jewish historians.  He didn’t get that title until after Israel’s Kingdom Period came to an end and there were no more kings to evaluate. 

Of all the kings of Israel from its first king, Saul, to its last king, Hoshea, David was the greatest political leader. 

Under David, Jerusalem was established as Israel’s capital.  David purchased the threshing-floor from Araunah the Jebusite, even though Araunah offered it to David for free as tribute.  Note that the Bible refers to Araunah as “a king.”  

 “All these things did Araunah, as a king, give unto the king. And Araunah said unto the king, The LORD thy God accept thee.” (2 Samuel 24:23)

 Instead, the Bible says that David paid for it in cash. 

“And the king said unto Araunah, Nay; but I will surely buy it of thee at a price: neither will I offer burnt offerings unto the LORD my God of that which doth cost me nothing. So David bought the threshingfloor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver” (2 Samuel 24:24)

Araunah was a Jebusite, meaning he spoke the language of the Hittites.  In the language of the Hittites, Araunah means “the lord” or “the king” in the sense of a personal title.   

King David conquered Jebusite Jerusalem.  While David took the city after the manner of conquerors, he bought the threshing-floor.   He paid cash for it, to the owner, who just so happened to also be the king of the newly conquered city.

Why is this important?  Jerusalem is a political entity whose conquest was typical of the times.  Once conquered, it became the capital city of the Kingdom of David, which also expanded as the result of conquest.

There is nothing particularly unusual about that – that is the way that all existing political divisions became political divisions – through conquest.

America was born out of a failed British attempt at conquest and expanded to the West Coast through the political doctrine of ‘Manifest Destiny’ – which justified the conquest of the people who owned it.

But Araunah’s threshing floor was the site selected by God as the home of the Ark of the Covenant and the site of the eventual construction of the Temple.  It wasn’t conquered or taken as a prize of conquest, although it was freely offered.

There was to be no question as to legal ownership of God’s Holy Hill.  Jerusalem has been conquered and lost and reconquered hundreds of times over the course of its three thousand year history. 

But the Temple Mount was legally purchased only once.

Araunah was the king that legally owned the threshing-floor.  David was the king that legally bought it – for cash, before witnesses, and the sale was recorded for posterity in the pages of Scripture.  

David’s actions ensured that, even after three thousand years, the only possessor of clear title to the Temple Mount is the heirs to David’s kingdom.  That action, more than any other, is what made David Israel’s greatest king.

But what made David “a man after God’s own heart?”

Assessment:

David was no shrinking violet but was instead a bloody man of war.  King Saul made David a commander over his armies after David handed Saul more than 200 Philistine, er, ahem . . . foreskins.  I mean, this guy was brutal.

His last request of his son and heir, Solomon, was that Solomon kill David’s oldest enemies on his behalf.

King David’s record is nothing one would think of as ‘godly’ – he was at various times deceitful and corrupt, a traitor to King Saul, a tyrant who lacked for justice and a murderer.  David slaughtered Saul’s seven sons, seduced a married woman, Bathsheba, and had her husband, Uriah killed.

I could go on listing David’s offenses, which are many, all of which are carefully noted in Scripture. David was such a bloody man that God would not permit him to build the Temple. (1 Chronicles 22:8)

God punished David for his bloodthirstiness by delivering his kingdom to Absalom (2 Samuel 16:8).  God cursed David for ordering the murder of Uriah the Hittite (2 Samuel 12:9-10)

By any standard interpretation of what would make a guy a good person, David was a very bad man indeed.  His conduct was deplorable in almost every single aspect of his reign.  So what made David a man after God’s own heart?

The Bible also tells us that David loved God’s Law. (Psalms 119:97)  He loved to pray (Psalms 116:1-2). He loved to praise God (Psalms 119:164).  David hated falsehood (Psalms 119:104).  When confronted with his sin, David didn’t attempt to justify it.   Nor did he pretend to be more than he was.

After Nathan convicted David of his sin against Uriah with Bathsheba, David took it directly to the Lord.

In his prayer of contrition in Psalm 51, David reveals much of what it was that caused God to pronounce him a ‘man after His own heart.’

“Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Thy lovingkindness: according unto the multitude of Thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.” (Psalms 51:1)

David understood that his relationship with God was ‘according to His lovingkindness’ and not according to David’s definition of what God should do.  He also understood that his sin, as horrendous as it was, could be blotted out, not by some act of David’s, but solely due to the ‘multitude of God’s tender mercies’.

“Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.  For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.” (v.2.3)

David knew that God knew what his sins were, but the important point was that DAVID knew what his sins were, and the importance of honest confession before God.

David understood also that his sin was against God, that it was deliberate, and that the reason his sin haunted him was because of its offense before God.  David understood that, since it was a sin against God, only an act of God could blot it out.  Nothing David could do to make restitution would ever be sufficient.

“Against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Thy sight: that Thou mightest be justified when Thou speakest, and be clear when Thou judgest.” (v.4)

David understood that there was no ‘wiggle room’ before the Lord and that God’s justice is as absolute as His mercy.  But David was also a realist;

“Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” (Psalms 51:5)

David understood the dual nature of fallen humanity, that which caused the Apostle Paul to cry out;

 “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (Romans 7:24)

“For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I.” (Romans 7:14-15)

Having expressed his frustration with his own struggle with his dual nature, Paul summarized that which David understood, saying,

“So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.” (Romans 7:25)

David prayed,

“Behold, thou desirest truth in the inward parts: and in the hidden part thou shalt make me to know wisdom.” (Psalms 51:6)

God’s truth is that nothing we can do by our own effort will ever make restitution for our past sins.  Each of us shares the same conflict between the carnal nature and the spirit.

David trusted God to lead him, even when he was out of fellowship, having faith that ‘in the hidden part’ — in his spirit, God would ‘make him to know wisdom’.

David’s understanding of the grace of God as expressed in his prayer in large part, fits with God’s description of him as being a man after His own Heart.

It was this understanding of unmerited grace that formed the centerpiece of the ministry of Jesus.  One of the Lord’s earthly titles is the “Son of David.”

David expresses his understanding of how the process of forgiveness operates in God’s economy.

“Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness; that the bones which thou hast broken may rejoice. Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me.” (v. 7-10)

Note the role David plays in his redemption.  Admit, confess, repent and trust.  To ‘repent’ means to change one’s mind about sin.  David saw himself as King of Israel, and therefore, whatever he did was above reproach.

David sat on his throne, and passed judgment on the wicked rich man of whom Nathan spoke.  Until he realized Nathan was speaking about HIM, at which point he changed his mind about his sin and laid himself bare before the Lord.

All the rest of the redemptive process David placed in the Hands of God.  ‘Purge me, wash me, forgive me, bless me and renew me.’

Even his sense of conviction came through a direct message from God through Nathan, just as we are directly convicted by God through His indwelling Holy Spirit.  David’s only role in his redemption was to trust in God to make the changes that David knew he could not effect himself.

David accepted the earthly consequences of his sin, such as the death of his infant son, but with the clear understanding that the spiritual consequences of his sin were forgiven.

“While the child was yet alive, I fasted and wept: for I said, Who can tell whether GOD will be gracious to me, that the child may live? But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I SHALL GO TO HIM, but he shall not return to me.” (2nd Samuel 12:22-23)

What made David a man after God’s own heart was his understanding of the consequences of being out of fellowship with God, and how to get back into right fellowship with God. 

David simply asked Him.

“Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation; and uphold me with Thy free spirit.”

Note that David didn’t ask for his salvation to be restored, but rather, the joy of it.  It is the joy of knowing one is saved and in fellowship with the Lord that shines through and attracts the lost. 

“THEN will I teach transgressors Thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto Thee.”(v. 12-13)

Note also the progression: GOD restores our joy, GOD then subsequently upholds us with His Spirit.  THEN we find ourselves effective witnesses, teaching people His ways, and leading the lost to Christ.

David makes it clear that the redemptive process is in God’s Hands, understanding grace so well that he could see past the Temple rituals of the Mosaic Law and peer into God’s Heart, saying,

“For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.” (v. 51:16-17)

One of the most debilitating emotions to one’s Christian witness is the weight of the guilt we heap on ourselves because of what we KNOW that we are in our own ‘inward parts’.

David understood, in his spirit, that God’s forgiveness is total and absolute, and leaves no spiritual residue of guilt.  At the Cross, the Son of David cried out in a loud voice, ‘Tetelestai!’ which means, ‘paid in full’.

David trusted God instead of relying on his own righteousness.  God called David “a man after My own heart.”  It is deceptively simple.  Trust God.  Be joyful.

Allow Him to lead you and not the other way around.

“And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:7)

Maranatha!

Originally Published: July 27, 2011

Featured Commentary: Sleeping With Fishes ~ Pete Garcia

In Memorial

In Memorial
Vol: 164 Issue: 23 Saturday, May 23, 2015

Memorial Day is a celebration of freedom and those that defend it.  We celebrate with heavy overdoses of all things American, fireworks, hot dogs, BBQs, picnics, baseball games and so on.

The fireworks are to remind us that freedom doesn’t come without a fight and the overindulgence in Americana is to honor those that missed the party because they had to pay for it.

Memorial Day isn’t a just the official kick-off of the summer season or an excuse for a long weekend.  It is a day set aside by an Act of Congress in 1971 to honor the veterans of American wars.

Before that, it was called ‘Decoration Day’ since it was first proclaimed by the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic.

In 1868, General John Logan ordered that the graves of the Civil War dead interred at Arlington national cemetery be decorated with flowers to commemorate their sacrifice.

His order included both Union and Confederate war dead.  No matter which side they fought on, they were all American.

In recent years, the purposes of Memorial Day have taken second place to the party aspect — it is more a celebration of summer and less a celebration of freedom and hardly at all about honoring our war dead.

Many of the graves of the fallen are ignored.   In those places in America where flying Old Glory isn’t either illegal or forbidden,  proper flag etiquette protocols call for flying the flag at half-mast until noon to symbolize a nation in mourning.

In one of the last acts and few shining moments of his presidency, Bill Clinton issued Official White House Memorandum asking all Americans to pause for one minute at 3 PM on Memorial Day to reflect on the price paid by our fellow citizens for our continued freedom.

In part, the Memorandum states:

“Memorial Day represents one day of national awareness and reverence, honoring those Americans who died while defending our Nation and its values. While we should honor these heroes every day for the profound contribution they have made to securing our Nation’s freedom, we should honor them especially on Memorial Day.”

Evidently, one day of national reverence is too much for the current White House. On Memorial Day, Vice President Joe Biden will lay the wreath at Arlington National Cemetery on the President’s behalf.

The president has a scheduling confict — he’s on vacation in Chicago. (2010)

Assessment:

The dictionary defines ‘honor’ as: “the reputation, self-perception or moral identity of an individual or of a group.”

This weekend is not just the beginning of summer. It is set aside to honor those who make the supreme sacrifice on your behalf. It is a time set aside to pray for those who protect us from harm. It is a time for us to love those who loved us with a love beyond human comprehension.

This weekend, as in past Memorial Day weekends, the networks will be re-running all those great old WWII propaganda movies.

The ones where the Nazis and Imperial Japanese were evil personified and the American GI is depicted as a salt-of-the-earth guy forced to put down his plowshare to reluctantly pick up a gun and defend his country.

They were called ‘propaganda’ movies and they might have been, but the propaganda message was that America was worth dying for.

They are stories from a bygone era about a nation united, strong and free.  We don’t see those kinds of stories anymore.

Duty. Honor. Country.  These are things worth memorializing.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)