One of the blessings in life is the ability to get into a hot shower. It’s something I take for granted quite often. Most of the country is just finishing summer, but the feel of fall is definitely in the air. As winter approaches, the part of the country I live, I was thinking about the simple joy of a cold morning and getting into a hot shower. How useful and beneficial hot water is for mankind.
What about cold water? If you’ve spent any time working outside on a hot day nothing is more satisfying than ice cold water. It refreshes and rejuvenates a thirsty body. Nothing tastes better when your mouth is dry and parched. I’ve often driven past the guys that are working on roads in the middle of the summer and have thought about how much water they must consume on a hot day. Yes, I’m sure they throw down some Gatorade as well, but water is really the best to quench the thirst. It never leaves an aftertaste.
God in His goodness has provided all we need, just how simple and how amazing water really is, yet there is one kind of water that the Lord declares “useless”.
“He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”’ “And to the angel of the church of the Laodicieans write, ‘These things says the Amen, the Faithful and True Witness, the Beginning of the creation of God: “I know your works, that you are neither cold or hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. – Revelation 3:14-16
Jesus tells us that two kinds of water are useful. Cold or hot!
The third type causes one to reject it in their body. To vomit it back out.
The Apostle Paul acknowledges his zeal for what he thought was the truth, but yet he had it wrong, and so is unbridled passion for God without knowledge of the truth. To be effectively “hot” it must be according to the truth of God’s word. (Acts 22:3)
For I bear witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. – Romans 10:2-3
When God sets Himself in a heart that once hated truth and knowledge, changes that heart to seek Him and bring Him glory, a believer will be consumed by God according to truth and knowledge.
God also uses those cold and hardened to the gospel for His purposes. This is certainly not a popular today in this cultural “gospel”. The god who loves everyone, judges nobody, and loves you just as you are would certainly not be this god?
For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion,” So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to the Pharoah, “For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.” Therefore He has mercy on whom He will, and whom He wills He hardens. – Romans 9:15-18
God hardened Pharoah’s heart to show His power. That is straight-forward and very clear. God finds cold water very useful for his purposes and yet many rebel against the truth of this. If you find yourself rebelling against this truth you would do well to consider if you are not cold and hardened yourself?
We have clear promises that anyone who humbles himself will be lifted up (James 4:6-10), and that God will not turn away any who desires to come to Him (John 6:37). Those promises are trust-worthy, but only for the humble.
The question stands today, it’s clear, concise and cutting. Are you hot, cold or useless?
Those that sit in church buildings for an hour on a Sunday, or read some sort of Christian literature, maybe even read a Bible, but show no advancement or fruits of repentance have only the future of being vomited out of His mouth. This is a fearful warning to professing believers. This is a fearful warning to all.
Whom do you desire to serve today? This question should not be dismissed or diminished it really is the only valid question to ask.
And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him, but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word. – 1 Kings 18:21
“What is your name for the record?”
“Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”
“Sir, today you are going to stand trial for your crimes against a Holy God, and this is going to determine your eternal fate, do you understand?”
“You’ve stated that you are a Christian and that My Son is your Lord, is this true?”
“What can you say that will convince Me of this?”
“I have nothing of myself that I can say, but that my only hope is in the righteousness of Your Son, I have nothing to offer You but my filthy works, and I am not worthy to enter Your kingdom. I fall upon the mercy of Your Holy court and place my hope in Christ.”
“I will open My Book and see if your name is here.”
Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. – Hebrews 4:11-13
The question has gripped me for the last twenty-four hours. Maybe it wasn’t even a question directed toward me, but it certainly had an effect on me. The discussion ensued and the statement was made, what evidence do you have that you are a Christian?
How many people identify that they are Christians, but don’t live like it? In the United States, it’s something close to 80% of the population identifies with some form of Christianity. Will they all be saved?
Then there’s a subset of that number that actually practice a form of Christianity by going to church and doing religious things. How about them?
If you were asked to prove yourself a believer where would you start? You will stand before God and give an account of your life and whether you believe that or not is irrelevant. Or it might even, for some people, be a true truth. In other words, you’ve heard, you even “believe” it, but you don’t live like it.
Please hear what I just said. If you don’t live like it, it’s a contradiction and there is no assurance of salvation.
I want to look at the greatest sermon ever preached as a starting point to what it means to be a Christian.
Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Step 1: Poor in spirit. What does this mean? To be poor in the days of Christ was a lot different than being poor today. People were ashamed of their poverty, and if we don’t recognize our sin and are broken, wretched and poor over our offenses against a Holy God, we cannot be saved.
“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
Step 2: Mourn. Over what? When you come to grips with the reality of your sin, and that you are under God’s wrath, you will mourn. You will beg for mercy, and plead with God to save you.
“Blessed are the meek. For they shall inherit the earth.”
Step 3: Meekness. Meek is not weak. A broken horse is still a very powerful animal, but he is useful for his master’s purposes. So must believers be useful for their master’s purposes.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”
Step 4: Mercy and forgiveness are signs of a new creation in Christ. Those that have been given mercy will be merciful.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Step 5: How can a man be pure in heart? Only by the redeeming work of Christ on the cross, if we think we have any purity in ourselves we are grossly deceived. When God changes a heart, sinful man sees his wretchedness for what it is and God imputes His purity and righteousness upon the believer.
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”
Step 6: Make peace with men. The only peace possible is that men understand they are at enmity with God and the believer calls them to repentance by preaching the gospel of peace. Christ did not come to bring peace, but a sword, and preaching the gospel of peace will bring conflict.
“Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:2-10
Step 7: Get ready! For those that are now saved and realize their purpose is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever, this will mean preaching the gospel of peace to those that hate God. This will bring persecution. If you are not being persecuted for righteousness sake, you would do well to examine your witness. Are you a witness? If you’ve been saved, this is now what you are being commanded to do. Those derelict of duty have no assurance of salvation.
He didn’t save you for your benefit. He saved you for His glory!
How will you respond on that day?
The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. – Revelation 20:13-15
Saved for His glory, by the grace of God
Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittal, saying, “Arise, go to Ninevah, that great city, and cry out against it; for their wickedness has come up before Me.” But Jonah arose to flee to Tarshish from the presence of the LORD. – Jonah 1:1-2a
Jonah is not a book of the Bible that I spend a lot of time thinking about. We have a really cool puzzle that my daughter Lydia just loves putting together. It’s an oversized puzzle, so even I can do it, and it shows a cartoon character Jonah being spit out of the great fish’s mouth onto the sand. It’s a really great image. But I must confess I’ve not given a lot of thought to Jonah until recently.
This past Lord’s Day, during our prayer time, I was asked to pray corporately, praying from Jonah. As I read chapter 2 in preparation I was struck by how much like Jonah I am. How often I run from the presence of the Lord, or at least I think I run from His presence. Of course, where can we really go that He is not there right?
But it appears Jonah really thought he could just go the opposite way and that was going to be alright with God. Jonah thought that God’s arm wasn’t long enough to reach him. Doesn’t it appear that way? Was this the same God that did all those miracles? Is this the same God that by His spoken word created everything? What a foolish thing for Jonah to do…
Because I know I would never do that…I’m pretty sure you would never do that either…Say I sarcastically…
How many times have you blown opportunities to tell someone the good news?
Matthew 10:32 “Therefore whoever confesses Me before men, him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven. But whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.
Homologéō – to say the same thing as another; to agree with, assent. Many will say they “confess” Christ, but in their actions deny Him. It’s quite different to actually agree with Him than to open our mouths and say Jesus is Lord. The bottom line is do we live like it?
We must consider the words of our Lord, when He said “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not done all these things in Your name…” And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you: depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ – Matthew 7:21-23
This past weekend for the first time I went into the open air and preached the gospel. Like Jonah I was attempting to run from God and avoid the inevitable disagreement with Him that desired my own earthly comforts, pride, selfishness and personal desires. I mean, honestly, who wants to go out and take the abuse that you are sure is coming your way? Isn’t that why there are “professionals” that teach in churches, pastors that get paid for this? Shouldn’t they be the ones going out and doing this sort of thing, if this sort of thing should even be done today, which many will say?
Then I once again remember the words of Jesus and my pathetic heart melts…
Matthew 16:25 For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.
I desire to save my life…
Last Saturday, by the grace of God I began a journey to lose my life and it was humbling and even humiliating beyond words. Yet it was exhilarating and thrilling to stand up in front of a God-hating crowd and proclaim His name. To tell them He IS Lord, and they must submit to Him, or perish in their sins.
Do I think, or expect that everyone reading this will go to a public arena and preach? No, I don’t think that is wise for everyone. You should go under the protection and blessing of your church, but we should all be proclaiming His name in whatever opportunities He presents to you. It might be the grocery store, or the coffee shop, maybe sitting next to someone on a plane. Whatever, wherever, whenever you are presented with an opportunity to proclaim His name, be obedient to the call and lose your life.
Who knows what will happen.
Jonah 3:10 Then God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it.
Never forget that Salvation is of the LORD, but as for us, we must proclaim the good news and trust that God will grow His church. Amen!
Almost anyone that claims any sort of knowledge of the Bible or Christianity knows the Great Commission. Jesus commissioned His followers to spread the good news of salvation to the world. It is the greatest responsibility of anyone that claims His name. In short it is why this blog exists and it is why you have been redeemed, assuming that is the case.
I would image that most professing Christians can even recite this verse from memory…almost!
Here is the problem, in my opinion. They stop short. (side note: if you are a Seinfeld fan you will get the reference, if not, never mind…)
Let’s look at what I mean by that.
Matthew 28:18-20 And Jesus came and spoke to them saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…”
They stop short right here. By simply stopping right here the seriousness of the message our Lord is giving us and giving them has been undermined. The message is REALLY good up to this point. Look at what Jesus has said.
“Go” – poreuomai (to go, to travel, to take a journey, to go one’s way) We shouldn’t be sitting in our houses hoping someone like a Jehovah’s Witness will knock on our door so we can share the gospel. We are “commissioned” by Jesus to be travelers for His name.
What are we to go do? Make disciples. This is not to be confused with the twelve Disciples, minus Judas. The word means a pupil, or a learner, one who desires to learn, such as a scholar. If someone desires to learn someone needs to be instructing them.
In this post we won’t discuss baptism, but simply there is an order to follow once someone believes and that includes a public profession of faith by being baptized, but where I think is most often a “wiff” in Christianity, and this is where we stop short, is failing to recite verse 20.
…teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.
Do we see the stark contrast between going, then teaching but not commanding them to observe Christ’s commands? Many a misguided mission trip forgets that there is a call to obedience. This often omitted part of the Great Commission is really the lynchpin on which it all hangs. If obedience is not mentioned then Jesus is only a “savior” and not Lord. The whole truth of salvation has been lost. If Jesus is not your Lord, then He’s NOT your savior, and a Lord demands obedience.
A social or cultural gospel that does not require obedience doesn’t save…
It’s why there are so many running around shouting their little Antinomian battle calls, and crying foul and legalist the moment you bring up sin. It’s the biggest mistake in most of modern day evangelicalism. It’s a gospel without any teeth, a “jesus” that requires nothing of anybody, is completely unoffensive and sits around drinking latte’s and telling jokes with the sinners. How many times have you heard that?
“Well Jesus condemned you Pharisee’s and hung out with the sinners!” Yes, correct but He called them to repentance and told the harlot to go and sin no more… He didn’t hate her enough to say, “why don’t you go finish your tryst and stop by later for coffee and we can chat.”
Not THE Jesus, not the Triune Jesus… He demands our obedience and says He will cast those into hell that practice lawlessness (Matthew 7:23).
So if you have an opportunity to Preach the Word today, don’t forget to tell them they must observe all He commanded. Jesus did not take on the wrath of God and drink it down to the dregs so we could “dabble” in sin, He hates sin and those that practice sin will not inherit God’s kingdom.
Luke 13:2-3 And Jesus answered and said to them, “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.
That’s the gospel Jesus preached, let’s see that we do likewise.
I recently was asked to respond to some questions about certain biblical terms that many people will hear that attend church or engage in Christian conversations. Sometimes these seem like such big and overwhelming words, but they are important to understand, not to sound important, but to understand how God works in the lives of His people.
Today I’m continuing to look at some terms you will hear in the church world. It may be very basic for some readers of this blog, but some may hear these terms and wonder if they are biblical or not.
Faith in Jesus – in the Greek language the word faith is pistis. It also means belief or to be persuaded. There are many key verses in understanding “saving” faith. Saving faith will produce fruits in the life of a believer (Matthew 3:8), as opposed to just a shallow or intellectual belief such as James describes in chapter 2 of his epistle.
James 2:19-21 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe and tremble! But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?
John 2:23-25 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name when they saw the signs which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself to them, because He knew all men, and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man.
Here are two very clear examples of intellectual belief, without a heart change, and the kind of faith that leads to a new life is explicitly defined in Scripture as a gift of God.
Ephesians 2:8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God.
Faith also comes through the hearing of the word, so God’s word is the mechanism by which one receives faith.
Romans 10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
It is obviously quite important to understand in the proclamation of the gospel, that the law of God convicts the sinner of his need for forgiveness (second use of the law) and that forgiveness can only come through repentance and faith in Christ, but yet the great mystery is that God gives us the faith to believe. The man of God must be properly equipped to give the correct message for someone to be truly converted.
Repentance – In Greek – metanoéō: to regret, repent, also to have a change of mind which produces a change of direction. When God grants repentance, the hearer is able to turn from his wicked ways and embrace a new life which results in a dramatic transformation. Matthew 3:8 Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance…
2 Corinthians 7:10 For godly sorrow produces repentance, leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.
Paul describes a big difference between worldly sorrow and godly sorrow. Many people will mourn over their sin, but they mourn because of how it affects them, not that it was sin against a Holy God. We must also understand that God grants repentance, which is consistent with the entire message of scripture that salvation is from God, 2 Timothy 2:24-26 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.
Accepting Jesus into my Heart – this is an invention of man and not a biblical concept. Although from our perspective it seems that we have a role in salvation (responsibility of man), we do not believe that bible supports decisional regeneration. The verse most people will cite is Revelation 3:20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock, if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” However, this is not a call to salvation; it is Jesus speaking to the church and calling them to repent over their lukewarmness and their sin. If we read all of Revelation 3 it becomes very clear.
The gospel message begins with a presentation of the law, showing a sinner their sin, their need for forgiveness, and Christ as the solution to their problem. Then given this information a call to repent and turn from their sin and receive Christ in faith. So the acceptance that is so often heard at large evangelistic campaigns and altar calls at church services, is not a biblical call. It most often involves appeal to emotion, through music and a slick presentation by a gifted speaker, but Paul tells us he did not come to them with persuasive words or excellent speech, but only Christ and Him crucified (1 Corinthians 2:1-5) and listen to this in verse 5 …that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
Acts 2:38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent and let everyone of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
It’s important to take this verse in context, as Peter had given a very convicting sermon and we can see in verse 37 that his message “cut them to the heart”. This verse also ties in with Baptism, we would not believe that baptism saves, but that Believer Baptism is an external sign that one has been saved, and as Peter calls them to be saved and then be baptized.
See also Acts 8:38, the account of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch.
Backsliding – is a modern concept of the church in the way it is now used. While true believer’s may have times of spiritual drought in their life, if they are truly converted it is impossible for them to lose their salvation as we looked at with perseverance. Most people use this term for a child that “received” or “accepted” Christ at a young age and then goes on to live a rebellious, sinful life. If my parents knew the life I was living as a young man, they would have undoubtedly thought I was backsliding. The truth is that I was never really converted. This is why the doctrine of salvation is so important; most people do not understand salvation as the bible describes it.
Just a couple days ago I was having a discussion with my sister-in-law and she told me her daughter “believes” in God. When I explained belief to her and asked her if her daughter has a new life, the light-bulb came on that her daughter is not really saved. When we understand we are dealing with only two types of people in the world, either believer’s or non-believer’s we can then discern how to minister to people. If people are believer’s and are sinning they need to understand the Third Use of the Law, if they are non-believer’s they need the Second Use of the Law, or in short they need the gospel to save their souls.
Soli Deo Gloria!
I recently was asked to respond to some questions about certain biblical terms that many people will hear that attend church or engage in Christian conversations. Sometimes these seem like such big and overwhelming words, but they are important to understand, not to sound important, but to understand how God works in the lives of His people.
I thought it would be good to share these, as others might have some of the same questions. To some it might be review, or basic knowledge, but please don’t just excuse them because you understand them.
Ordo salutis, which is the Latin term for order of salvation. When and how does salvation occur and what happens and in what order. Some of these steps may occur simultaneously while others are progressive, such as sanctification. Here is a link to a great infographic from Tim Challies that really shows a beautiful picture of how this looks; I often refer back to this in discussions that I have with people about salvation.
In short here is the order:
The definitions I’ve utilized are from “Behold Your God: Rethinking God Biblically” by Dr. John Snyder, unless marked by an * which come from the infographic and include my own personal comments.
*Election – Before creation, because of His sovereign good pleasure, God chooses some people to be saved. (Ephesians 1:4-6)
*Calling – God summons people to himself through the human proclamation of the gospel so they respond in saving faith. (Romans 8:30, 2 Timothy 1:9)
Note: there is a difference between an effectual call and a general call. The general call goes out to all who hear the gospel, but the effectual call has an effect on the elect (Matthew 22:14), also God has clearly revealed Himself to all of mankind, so man is without excuse for his lack of response, see Romans 1:19-20.
Regeneration – Regeneration is the work of God’s Spirit in which He changes the spiritual condition of a person, bringing him from death to life. Regeneration is the beginning of all of the moral changes in the believer. It results in a life of ongoing change (sanctification) and ends in the complete transformation of the believer into the image of Christ (glorification). Another term for regeneration is being born again. (John 3:3, Ezekiel 36:26-27, Titus 3:5-6)
*Conversion – We willingly respond to the gospel call, repenting of sin and placing faith in Christ for salvation. (This of course, can only happen to those that effectually hear the call. Examples: Acts 16:14, Acts 16:30-31, Matthew 18:3)
Justification – Justification is a legal action by which God declares the believer to be freed from his guilt and made right before God’s law. Unlike regeneration, it does not change the soul of the believer. Justification alters the believer’s legal position before God, changing it from guilty to innocent. Justification is the outcome of atonement and the imputation of Jesus’ righteousness to the believer. (Romans 3:19-26, Romans 8:30, Luke 18:14)
Adoption – Adoption describes the new relationship the believer has to God by using a family-related term. God, by the new birth and justification, makes the believer His adopted child. God becomes his father and Jesus his brother. The believer enters into all the responsibilities and joys of being in God’s family. (Romans 8:15, Ephesians 1:5)
I wanted to briefly highlight the word responsibilities, because this shows us the importance of the fact that we are not free to continue in sin that grace may abound. We are now called to be holy and set-apart – see Ephesians 2:10, Romans 6:1.
Sanctification – Sanctification has two parts. First, the believer is set apart to God by the purchasing work of Jesus and regeneration. Thus, the believer belongs solely to God and no longer to the world. Second, the believer is daily being set apart in heart and life by the work of the Spirit, making the believer holy in his practice. (Acts 20:32, John 17:17-19, 1 Corinthians 1:2, 6:11)
This might sometimes by two steps forward, one step back, but as Dr. Snyder says, it’s a daily process. This is a wonderful way to examine our lives, as to whether we are truly in the faith. Do we have victory over sins that used to beset us?
Perseverance – Perseverance refers to the fact that the true believer will not fall away from his relationship to God, but rather by trusting God (faith), he will endure until the end. (John 10:26-30, John 17:9-12, John 17:24-26, Ephesians 1:13-14)
The scripture speaks so boldly and plainly on this doctrine. We can also understand that believer’s can fall into sin, but they will not remain there for an extended period of time, and will respond when confronted with their sin (Psalm 51).
I will address backsliding in the second article, but this gives us the truth that God’s elect can never truly fall away. The modern church misunderstands backsliding as a state in which true converts just fall back into sin, but in reality they most likely have never been converted.
Glorification – Glorification refers to the completion of all aspects of the believer’s salvation. It is the final step to his rescue that comes when in heaven he sees Christ face to face and is ultimately transformed spiritually and physically into an everlasting perfect person. (Romans 8:17, 8:30)
Philippians 3:20-21 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body that it maybe conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.
Praise God that we will finally be relieved from this body of death and sin will no longer be in our lives, this will of course only occur after death or the return of the Lord Jesus.
Next time we will look at some other terms used in Christendom.
Soli Deo Gloria!
For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly. – Psalm 84:11
This is an incredible promise and one that those who trust in the Lord can place their hope. It’s also the kind of verse that is so often misunderstood and taken as a promise for the unbelieving, or even worse used in prosperity teaching. I have full confidence that this verse is completely true, yet I don’t always know what’s good for me.
Yesterday our two-year old daughter Lydia openly defied instruction and I was able to live out this verse in her life. She is my daughter, I love her, and I won’t withhold what is good for her. However, she didn’t see it that way. In fact she really didn’t care much for my love for her and I’m reminded that often what might not seem “good” is what we really need the most.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
This verse is also often misquoted as to provide comfort to people and used in evangelism without understanding the whole story. I know I’ve used this verse wrongly in the past and I’d like to really look at what’s “good” and what the LORD will not withhold from us.
Jeremiah was called by God to speak to a wicked and rebellious generation, to call them to repentance and return to the LORD. What an overwhelming task. What an overwhelming task before us today, to preach the gospel of peace to people. Those same people that don’t want to hear, just as those God sent Jeremiah to.
Jeremiah 38:6 So they took Jeremiah and cast him into the dungeon of Malchiah the king’s son, which was in the court of the prison, and they let Jeremiah down with ropes. And in the dungeon there was no water, but mire. So Jeremiah sank in the mire.
When Jeremiah preached the good news he was rewarded with a trip to the dungeon and for God’s eternal purposes this was good for him. It’s not our general idea of good, but this word means – (to be good, be pleasing, be joyful, be beneficial, be pleasant, be favourable, be happy, be right). I’m not sure the experience of the mire was pleasant for Jeremiah, but it was certainly beneficial.
Our experiences, the ones that we don’t necessarily deem enjoyable are beneficial. They are meant for good. We see this in the example of Joseph.
Genesis 50:20 But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.
Doesn’t this sound familiar to Jeremiah’s story and more importantly how it points us to Jesus?
Acts 13:27-33 For those who dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they did not know him, nor even the voices of the Prophets which are read every Sabbath, have fulfilled them in condemning Him. And though they found no cause for death in Him, they asked Pilate that He should be put to death. Now when they had fulfilled all that was written concerning Him, they took Him down from the tree and laid Him in a tomb. But God raised Him from the dead. He was seen for many days by those who came up with Him from Galilee to Jerusalem, who are His witnesses to the people. And we declare to you glad tidings—that promise which was made to the father. God has fulfilled this for us their children, in that He has raised up Jesus.
Jesus considered the joy that was set before Him, the cross that He would die upon, the physical torture and for the only time in eternity, He would have the wrath of God poured out upon Him, a benefit. A benefit that His called out ones could bring Him glory on this earth, because this is the ultimate reality of salvation; the glory of God.
It is, after all, the chief end of man.
Beloved, we must consider our momentary trials and tribulations pure joy (James 1:2-4). The scripture leaves no room for any other interpretation. It’s not always fun. It’s not always our desire, but it is providentially God’s plan for you, and for me. This is a bitter pill to swallow far more often than we desire. But if you are in Christ, you are a new creation, and we can take comfort that God has a plan that far outweighs our comfort.
One of the great tragedies of religion is the failure to identify and deal with the truth of biblical conversion. As I think back to my life before salvation and the different churches I had attended I was never once asked when and how I was saved. I guess it was assumed that being in a church meant I was saved.
Why would this presupposition be any different with children today?
I believe there is major deception among Bible believing churches and church attendees that don’t know how to deal with this subject. I can tell you that I didn’t know how to deal with it.
First of all, I didn’t even know that I wasn’t saved, until my salvation was challenged. If you’ve ever asked someone about their salvation and they become offended I’d really wonder why? Isn’t this a legitimate question for Believers to ask of one another? Isn’t God brought the glory He deserves when we discuss how He saved someone?
Salvation is a super-natural work of God where He takes a dead, God-hating soul and regenerates that heart into a heart that has all new desires. It’s really here that this topic begins. We must first understand it’s a work of God. In order to be saved we must recognize we need saving. We were, or still are, spiritually dead.
Ephesians 2:1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins…
If we don’t understand the significance of this verse, there is no understanding of the doctrine of salvation. Paul is writing to the saints (those set apart for service and worship of God) and he is telling them Christ made them alive. Why? Because they were DEAD!
Secondly, we must understand that God does it.
The prophet Ezekiel wrote about this super-natural work and we can see the purpose and reason behind salvation. Do we benefit from salvation? Most certainly, but is it primarily for our benefit, absolutely not.
Ezekiel 36:22-23 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the LORD God: “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but my My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the LORD,” says the LORD God, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes.
This is God exalting, pride crushing, man debasing theology at its finest. “IF” you are saved, if your children are saved, it’s by the grace of God to bring Him glory. If you think that your salvation is about you then you need to read this again and humble yourself under the mighty hand of God.
It’s important to quickly note that Israel is not the nation state of Israel. Israel is Believers; God’s chosen people, not just Israelites, although some are included in this group. See Romans 2:28-29, 9:6-13, 1 Kings 19:10-18.
Ezekiel 36:24-25 For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols.
Do you recognize your filthiness and your idols? When I think about mine before salvation and what God rescued me from, I’m overcome by the work that God has done in my life. Do you ever look back and think, “that was me, but for the grace of God?” When you go into a large public gathering do you look around and see the idols and the filthiness? Do you ever wonder who will be saved? Does it break your heart for the lost?
Ezekiel 36:26-27 I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them.
Did you have anything to do with your salvation? Did you lead your children in a prayer or manipulate them into asking Jesus into their hearts? This verse could not be any clearer. Jesus affirmed this in John 3 when He challenged Nicodemus with his salvation.
Ezekiel 36:31 Then you will remember your evil ways and your deeds that were not good; and you will loath yourselves in your own sight, for your iniquities and your abominations.
Jesus said it this way “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” – Matthew 5:3
If you have no recognition of your past, and your offenses against God, if you think that your children are relatively decent or well behaved children, you don’t understand the holiness of God. Without this recognition there is no chance for them to be saved.
God saves those of a humble and broken spirit (Psalm 51, Matthew 5:4, James 4:9). Broken and humbled over their sin and their offenses against a holy God; recognizing their filthiness. This applies to you, it applies to me, and it certainly applies to our children. Jesus told us the path that leads to life is narrow. Salvation is not decisional, it’s recognition of your sin, repenting and living in a manner completely different to which you were.
If we, as parents, can understand the gravity of salvation there is a much better chance for our children to be saved as we accurately present the gospel. In the end there is nothing more important.
Isn’t it important to have goals in life? Should we set one, five and ten year plans and then evaluate ourselves by how we’ve done?
Last week I had lunch with my Pastor and as we sat talking he said to me “what’s the goal?” We had been discussing sports and the ends that parents will go to see their children involved and to achieve a level of “success”. I’m not going to bash participation in sports, because this isn’t just about sports.
You name the activity that we can apply this to; it could be sports, music, or how about education? The answer really does come back to what is the goal, because as I sat there and thought about the discussion shouldn’t this be the ultimate reality?
If I have a desired outcome for myself, or my children, I really should make an attempt at evaluating where this might end up. I’m the father of four girls and none of them have shown a tremendous interest in sports, so I really can’t relate to loading up the old van and carting them off to a practice each and every day but we do have them involved in other activities, that can easily give way to over extending ourselves.
If I ask myself the question above, I should have a goal for what these activities will produce in their lives.
Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended, but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. – Philippians 3:12-14
Is this the goal?
Don’t skim over this verse today. I think if you have any other goal than this for your children you’ve got a man-centered focus. If you want them to be happy, successful, wealthy, married, live in a certain neighborhood, be close to you, be far from you, no matter what you hold dear, if it doesn’t include this as the primary goal, you are missing the mark. Your priorities are out of order.
You will undoubtedly say to me, “well of course this is our goal for our children, what a ridiculous statement.” Okay, fair enough, but do you live like it? I don’t want to get off track looking into a pragmatic lifestyle that includes Saturday night church so you can attend that special Lord’s Day practice, or the “well it’s only this one Sunday…” that we’ll miss to attend that game, or be part of the prestigious, you name it event. But I don’t want this to be about following a set of rules. Don’t throw me under the legalism bus, because this is not about legalism.
What’s your heart?
Scripture is clear… “not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some…” Hebrews 10:25
Churches have had to react to the dismissal attendance of the Lord’s Day gathering just to keep people coming, rather than risk the loss of “business” it’s far more prudent to at least get them in on Saturday then not have them come at all right? I will rhetorically ask the question, but isn’t the first day of the week the Lord’s “Day”? Not just an hour and out, but a full day devoted to worship and rest?
Let me ask question. Would you trade your soul, or your children’s souls for all the riches in the world, or for the pinnacle of whatever activity they participate in?
You and I will of course say, “Absolutely not, and I’m offended you’d even ask that question!” But do you live like it? Do you tell your children that church is secondary to whatever activity you deem most important? Do you tell them by your actions?
When they walk away from any interest in religious activities after they are out of your house will you be surprised? I see too many parents that call themselves Christians that are more than willing to sacrifice their children on the altar of Baal and I’m saddened and burdened by this decision. If we sat down to talk, I’m sure they would have the best of intentions, and they’d probably have a good reason why they think they are doing the right thing. I’m sure of it.
I don’t stand here today as some sort of a self-righteous, hypocrite that wants to beat my chest and say look at how holy I am… because outside of the grace of God I’d be there. I’ve been challenged to consider what it looks like to “really” desire the salvation of my children. I need to consistently resist the “opportunities” that surface, where it just might make sense to avoid a gathering at our church to do something else.
The pressure is consistently there and always pressing in on us.
“Enter by the narrow gate, for wide is the gate that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it. Because narrow is the gate which leads to life, and there are few who find it.” – Matthew 7:13-14
Could the Lord’s word be any clearer? Don’t be fooled into thinking you are offering your children anything better than seeing you humbled and on your knees before the Almighty God each and every opportunity you have to darken the door of your church. Allow them to see you reading your bible and leading them in family worship. Don’t miss the short few years you have to preach the gospel to their hearts, even if they become the best at whatever the flesh might offer them.
I hope someone reading this today will think about what is really important. I sure I hope I will.
“But seek FIRST the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (emphasis mine) – Mathew 6:33
For those that are Christians and for those that profess Christianity this is a difficult topic but it’s a topic that affects us all. Let’s look to the Word of God as our source text to examine our lives and hold it up to the microscope of the Scriptures so we may honor God in His institution of marriage.
Genesis 2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.
This discussion begins with God’s design for marriage and married life. It’s really pretty simple. God designed marriage with three primary practical functions and a fourth function which is to mirror the relationship between Christ and the Church; I will not explore the relationship between Christ and the Church in this article, but we will briefly examine the other three purposes.
The first function of marriage is procreation. Genesis 1:28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”
Being fruitful and multiplying beyond two is not very popular today, especially if you get a boy and a girl. In an extreme case if you have two of the same variety, then it’s acceptable to try for the other, but it’s not generally accepted beyond three in our modern society. Has God changed His mind on this subject? To the contrary, just because pragmatism and worldly thinking has invaded the church does not mean God has not clearly spoken. Be fruitful and multiply… I once heard someone say “if God is going to give you a blessing, why would you refuse it?”
The second function of marriage is companionship. Genesis 1:18 And the LORD God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”
Wives, God designed you to be a helper to your husband. He should be setting the vision for the family and your role is to help him achieve his vision and carry it out, another unpopular view for marriage in today’s world but no less truthful than it was in the beginning. Wives this should be a joyful opportunity to live out your God given role as a wife and helper.
The third function is sexual union for enjoyment and prevention of immorality. Hebrews 13:4 Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adulterers God will judge.
God made them male and female, they fit together, this is obvious, and this is obviously why and how God designed it. God also designed men and women to think differently. It was perfect in the beginning and then sin entered the picture and the whole perfect design was distorted, polluted and infected with sin.
This is what we have today, and that sin has causes struggles and issues inside of God’s design. We clearly see it all around us that sexuality is distorted. We have distortions in all kinds of sexual perversions and deviations. But this was not God’s plan for any of the three reasons above and if you call yourself a Believer you are to live a life that brings glory to God and look different than the rest of the world. Your marriage should reflect Christ and the Church, it should procreate, help, and enjoy.
1 Corinthians 7 gives us a much more microscopic view of the topic of sexual intimacy that is to occur within a marriage. Within this are some sub-categories of the purpose of marriage. It draws husband and wife closer to one another. It’s designed to be a preventative against sexual immorality. And most importantly it teaches us to deny ourselves. When we don’t always “feel” like it, what an opportunity to seek the good of your spouse.
1 Corinthians 7:2 Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife and let each woman have her own husband.
Wives this is a big reason God has ordained intimacy in a marriage. Men are just plain wired differently than you and when you, as a helper, can complete him in this area you have assisted him greatly. Not only are you fulfilling God’s commands but you are also helping to keep him from sin. Have you ever considered it that way? You can be the gate-keeper or the one holding the gate open. This does not relieve your husband of his responsibility to control himself, but you play a big role.
1 Corinthians 7:3 Let the husband render to his wife the affection due to her, and likewise also the wife to her husband.
At this point things begin to be challenging, so let’s look at this verse carefully. The word render means to give away, to perform, to give (again), to deliver (again), it means it’s not a one-time deal, but to be consistently giving away. Husbands it’s your responsibility to give your wife affection consistently. Affection can mean to grab her hand during the day, or touch her shoulder, communicate with her, but at its root is conjugal.
yoo’-noy-ah – kindness; euphemistically conjugal duty: – benevolence, good will. Husbands you are to render to your wife sexual intimacy.
1 Corinthians 7:4 The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.
Try selling this one in today’s society. You will be laughed out of town if you stood on a street corner preaching this verse. Can this really be what Paul meant? No wonder his teaching is so hated and avoided by most “churches”. This means what it says. It’s so plain and obvious, and so rejected by most, even those that call themselves Christians. I understand the unbelieving world will scoff at this verse, I understand it will be rejected by them, but if you are redeemed by the Blood of the Lamb are you going to reject clear biblical teachings? This is a big question and one we must answer. God will hold husbands and wives accountable to this standard.
1 Corinthians 7:5 Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self control.
Quoting from the MacArthur study bible on this verse: the word deprive, Lit. “stop depriving each other!” This command may indicate that this kind of deprivation was going on among believers, perhaps reacting to the gross sexual sins of their past and wanting to leave all that behind.”
In order to bring glory to God, His word tells us the marriage bed is undefiled, yet it’s often treated and understood as something dirty and defiled. We all have past sins that either Christ has forgiven you of or He hasn’t; if He hasn’t then repent and be forgiven.
If He has forgiven you then live like it. Live in His grace and live in His design for marriage. Enjoy what the Lord has offered as a blessing and be grateful for His gifts.
Song of Songs 1:2 Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—For your love is better than wine.
Soli Deo Gloria!