Abusing Grace

Abusing Grace

Wednesday, June 17, 2015
by Jeremiah Johnson and Wayne de Villiers

You’ve likely heard the phrase too much of a good thing applied to junk food feasts, chocolate binges, and all-night movie marathons. But what about theology? Is it possible to put too much emphasis on an aspect of biblical truth? What is the cost of theological tunnel vision?

The Hypergrace movement offers us a compelling case that it’s possible (and detrimental) to overemphasize an aspect of God’s truth. They are sound enough on the doctrines of man’s sinfulness, God’s sufficient grace, and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness. But they tend to ignore (and sometimes overtly deny) other vital aspects of gospel truth—and thereby their teaching undermines the work of sanctification in the Christian life.

As we saw last time, they overstress the principle of remaining sin in believers, and they caricature God’s grace. They ignore or downplay God’s transforming work of regeneration and the believer’s new nature in Christ. In fact, it’s hard to spot any difference in their descriptions of sinners before and after salvation. Shying away from any exhortations to obedience, they prefer to speak only of the application of God’s grace. Such a view of grace effectively becomes little more than an unlimited “Get Out of Jail Free” card.

Distorted Good Works

But it’s not just their understanding of regeneration that is skewed—their overemphasis on grace also distorts practical matters like holiness and obedience.

Here’s Tullian Tchividjian, one of the leading voices in the movement,describing what prompts him to stop sinning:

If I’m being unkind to [my wife], and she reciprocates my unkindness with kindness, that doesn’t make me want to be more unkind! It convicts me for being unkind and makes me want to be kind. . . . What happens to your heart when you are on the receiving end of forgiveness and you don’t deserve it? . . . It does something inside of you that makes you love God and others more. It unleashes an other-worldly love that comes one way from God and spills out from our lives into the lives of other people[1]

True enough, but in the Hypergrace model, no motive other than unmerited grace is ever seen as a legitimate reason to call people to repentance or obedience. Tchividjian makes that same point in the foreword to Elyse Fitzpatricks book, Give Them Grace.

It’s the gospel (what Jesus has done) that alone can give God-honoring animation to our obedience. The power to obey, in other words, comes from being moved and motivated by the completed work of Jesus for us. [2]

Fitzpatrick has also emerged as a vocal proponent of the Hypergrace movement, and she echoes some of the same sentiments in her own teaching. “How can you think about all that Christ has done for you, about your Father’s steadfast, immeasurable, extravagantly generous love and still live [in sin]?” [3]

While it would be foolish to argue against the value of sincere responses to God’s grace, or that the Spirit is unable to work through such responses, it’s biblically invalid to say gratitude is the only possible response to the gospel, or that it is the only proper motive for obedience in the believer’s life. Obedience to Christ might be provoked by any number of legitimate motives—including fear of God’s displeasure or the sheer abhorrence of evil (Jude 23). Above all, we must not shy away from encouraging one another to love and good works (Hebrews 10:24). Christians are supposed “to do good, to be rich in good works” (1 Timothy 6:18). Indeed, we should be zealous for good works (Titus 2:14).

As we saw last time, good works are what we were regenerated for. The new birth equips and enables us for righteousness:

Even when we were dead in our transgressions, [God] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved). . . . For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Ephesians 2:5, 10)

Our obedience is the fruit of the work God accomplished in us. He has transformed us for the sake of godliness.

And I will give them one heart, and put a new spirit within them. And I will take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My ordinances and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God. (Ezekiel 11:19-20)

The good works believers do are not merely an optional response that has to be worked up within us. They are the inevitable proof of God’s ongoing work in us, sanctifying and refining us in the image of His Son for the testimony of His Word.

Skewed Sanctification

Of course, overemphasizing the role of grace also distorts your understanding of sanctification. Here’s one example from Tchividjian.

One of the insinuations whenever the doctrine of sanctification is discussed is that my effort, my works, my pursuit of holiness, my faith, my response, my obedience, and my practice of godliness keep me in God’s good graces. This, however, undermines the clear Biblical teaching that things between Christians and God are forever settled because of what Jesus has accomplished on the cross. . . . When we imply that our works are for God and not our neighbor, we perpetuate the idea that God’s love for us is dependent on what we do instead of on what Christ has done. [4]

That’s a false dichotomy. Jesus said good works that serve our neighbor also serve and honor Him (Matthew 25:40). Many critics have pointed out that Tchividjian’s teaching seems to lean decisively toward antinomianism—the belief that God’s law doesn’t apply to Christians. Tchividjian denies those claims, but as you can see above, his teaching on sanctification raises more questions than it answers. Is pursuing holiness always a legalistic attempt to win God’s favor? And is there any effort the believer puts into his spiritual growth that isn’t immediately dismissed as works righteousness?

The apostle Paul says there is: “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God” (2 Corinthians 7:1). In his epistle to the Philippians, Paul makes it clear that he has not arrived spiritually, but he’s always disciplining himself for greater godliness.

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)

Was he guilty of pursuing righteousness by works? It’s hard to imagine that such a statement would escape the Hypergrace teachers’ scorn if anyone other than an inspired apostle said it. And while they may not wish to argue with the apostle, no Hypergrace teacher is likely to give much emphasis to that text or others like it.

Underestimating Sin

The difference between Paul’s teaching on sanctification and Hypergrace doctrine is that while Paul recognized and confessed his sinfulness, he didn’t embrace it or use it as an excuse for his failures. He was in anguish over it (Romans 7:21-24). There is great value in that kind of grief. In fact, it is yet another valid motive for repentance (2 Corinthians 7:9).

The Hypergrace movement has a somewhat lower view of sin and repentance. Here’s an illustration of repentance from Elyse Fitzpatrick, “Lord forgive me for my sin today. Thank you that you love me in spite of all my failures.” [5]

That is not repentance. There’s not a hint of godly sorrow or true remorse—just another invocation of casual pardon.

Contrast that to the pleading of David in Psalm 51.

Be gracious to me, O God,
according to Your lovingkindness;
According to the greatness of Your compassion
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity
And cleanse me from my sin.
For I know my transgressions,
And my sin is ever before me.
Against You, You only, I have sinned
And done what is evil in Your sight,
So that You are justified when You speak
And blameless when You judge.  (Psalm 51:1-4)

That ought to be the response of every believer to his or her sin. We need to be broken and contrite over our sin.  After all, sin is contrary to our new nature, indicative of our old corruption, and a blight on the testimony of God’s Word and His church. We need to repent of it earnestly—not sweep it thoughtlessly under a rug, and call that “grace.”

In his commentary on Romans 7, John MacArthur writes this about the believer’s reaction to his sin:

Every well-taught and honest Christian is aware that his life falls far short of God’s perfect standard of righteousness and that he falls back into sin with disturbing frequency. He is no longer of his former father, the devil (John 8:44); he no longer loves the world (1 John 2:15); and he is no longer sin’s slave—but he is still subject to its deceit and is still attracted by many of its allurements. Yet the Christian cannot be happy with his sin, because it is contrary to his new nature and because he knows that it grieves his Lord as well as his own conscience. [6]

Yes, we need to have a proper understanding and appreciation for God’s grace, and the comfort and security it provides. But we also must have a biblical, balanced view of our sin—and particularly how to deal with it for the sake of greater spiritual growth and godliness. Failing to understand how the two correspond in God’s sanctifying work distorts your entire view of the Christian life.

For more information on the Hypergrace movement, and in-depth discussion on their teaching, we recommend the following resources:

“Elements of a Living Sacrifice” by John MacArthur

“The Misleading Refrains of the Hyper-Grace Movement” (Part 1 and Part 2) by Wayne de Villiers

The New Antinomianism” by Jerry Wragg

“Grace, Good Works, and the Gospel” by Jerry Wragg

http://www.gty.org/Blog/B150617/abusing-grace

The US has questioned its unwavering support of Israel in recent days

The US has questioned its unwavering support of Israel in recent days

June 25, 2015

With the different meetings being held at the White House between US President Obama and the Israeli PM Netanyahu there has emerged the question of the unwavering support for the Jewish state of Israel that has been the mainstay down through the years of America’s intimate alliance with Israel as being good for both the US and Israel.

The condemnation of the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, the insistence by Israel that they have a right to defend their borders including the area of the Gaza Strip, and the controversy surrounding the city of Jerusalem have been the sticking points that have caused these questions by US leaders as to whether their support is as strong as it has been for the Jewish state.

Jimmy’s Prophetic Prospective on the News

The US starting to waver on its support for the Jewish state of Israel is done at its own peril and does set the stage for Bible prophecy to be fulfilled.

For over 200 years, the US has been one of the major supporters and protectors of the Jewish people and since 1948 America has been the mainstay of support for the Jewish state. Over the last several years and moving towards a low mark in US support for Israel, which has been good for both countries, we are seeing this relationship drift apart more and more almost on a daily basis.

America’s disapproval of Jewish settlements has been a focus of US critics as well as the right for Jews to buy, build, and live in any section of the city of Jerusalem. I mentioned earlier that America breaks these ties with Israel at its own peril. God told Abraham, Genesis 12:3, I will bless those who bless thee and I will curse those who curse thee. I do not mean that Israel is right all of the time, but when Israel does what God’s Word says and God rewards the Jewish people, all peoples must support them

The ancient Jewish prophets wrote of God returning the Jews to their land, Ezekiel 34:35. He promised to give them a state, Ezekiel 37. These prophecies are in the process of being fulfilled.

If America or any other nation of the world decides to drop their support for the Jewish state, they do it at their own peril.

http://news.prophecytoday.com/2015/06/the-us-has-questioned-its-unwavering.html

Emerging Church Leader Tony Campolo Comes Out of Closet in Support of

Emerging Church Leader Tony Campolo Comes Out of Closet in Support of ‘Full Acceptance’ of Homosexuality in Church

June 8th, 2015

By Heather Clark

Christian News Network

PHILADELPHIA — False teacher Tony Campolo announced on Monday that he has decided to endorse and speak out for the inclusion of open homosexuals in the Body of Christ.

“It has taken countless hours of prayer, study, conversation and emotional turmoil to bring me to the place where I am finally ready to call for the full acceptance of Christian gay couples into the Church,” he wrote in a statement posted to his website.

As previously reported, Campolo serves as one of the leaders at Mount Carmel Baptist Church in West Philadelphia, which is part of the National Baptist Convention USA and American Baptist Churches USA. In the 1990s, he served as a spiritual adviser to then-President Bill Clinton, including during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

Campolo’s wife, Peggy, is a homosexual activist and believes that the Church should be accepting of same-sex “marriage.” He explained on Monday that his wife is one of the reasons why he has decided to endorse acceptance of homosexuals in Christianity. Click here to continue reading:

http://christiannews.net/2015/06/08/tony-campolo-comes-out-of-closet-in-support-of-full-acceptance-of-homosexuality-in-church/

http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=17505

Contextualization?Christ the wisdom and power of God vs gospel context

Christ the wisdom and power of God vs gospel contextualization

Posted on June 7, 2015

by Mike Ratliff

18 Ὁ λόγος γὰρ ὁ τοῦ σταυροῦ τοῖς μὲν ἀπολλυμένοις μωρία ἐστίν, τοῖς δὲ σῳζομένοις ἡμῖν δύναμις θεοῦ ἐστιν. 19 γέγραπται γάρ·

ἀπολῶ τὴν σοφίαν τῶν σοφῶν

καὶ τὴν σύνεσιν τῶν συνετῶν ἀθετήσω. (1 Corinthians 1:18-19 NA28)

18 For the word of the cross to those perishing is senseless, but to us being saved, it is the power of God 19 for it has been written,

‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise ones

and the understanding of the intelligent I will set aside.’ (1 Corinthians 1:18-19 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Look around at those man-focused, pragmatic, seeker-sensitive “churches” in our time. They may vary in many ways, but there is a commonality that marks them all as products of the spirit of Laodicea (Revelation 3:14-22) rather than the spirit of Philadelphia (Revelation 3:7-13). That commonality is seen in the passage I placed at the top of this post. It is what makes them of the spirit of Laodicea. They are structured and operate according to the wisdom of men. Their very way of handling the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ depletes the cross of its power. What do I mean? When the “so-called gospel” that is “preached” is given in a way that intentionally removes its offense and an attempt is made to make it sensible to the lost and dying world by removing the blood and removing the necessity of our Lord’s death for those who owed a debt to God they could not pay, what is given is more of a sales pitch and self-help remedy. All this does is create a body of people who are neither cold nor hot. No, they believe they have everything and are right with God, but are in reality, wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked who are simply ready for the next deceiver to come along.

I was contacted by a friend earlier today about this article (http://davidsills.blogspot.com/2009/05/reclaiming-contextualization.html ) by David Sills from 2009. The reason she wanted me to look at it was that it was linked to by a very recent page here that reaffirms gospel contextualization for missionaries🙁 http://www.toeverytribe.org/category/contextualization/ )It was disturbing to her because she supports a ministry that supports that ministry… I have posted about Gospel Contextualization before, but it’s been awhile. To summarize, it depends on what you mean by it. If you are referring to how you share the gospel with children like I did with my daughter when she was a young where I used a pencil with several colors on it so that the gospel message was simplified and you call that Gospel Contextualization then okay that is okay. However, if you are all about changing the Gospel message to fit a culture group and actually change the message of the atonement and remove the Doctrinal necessities for such as the ‘original sin,’ in order to remove the offense of the cross then we have a problem. The Gospel message is not really very complicated. It is not hard to understand at all. People who demand that we contextualize it in order to open wide the doors of the Kingdom so that people can come in without having to change much are making a huge error. Why?

The preaching of the gospel is never done correctly according to the wisdom of men. No, God created one way to salvation through the Son and that one way makes no sense to the unregenerate, that is, those who are of this world. Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post. Don’t you believe God meant it when He said this? What Paul said in v18 totally defeats all attempts to modify or edit the gospel message by those who desire to conform it to man-made parameters like Political Correctness, or Pop-Culture, or Post-Modernist thinking, et cetera. The reason the proponents of those things desire to edit the gospel is they see that the word of the cross is foolish or senseless. What does that say about them my brethren? Doesn’t that mark them as among those who are perishing?

20 ποῦ σοφός; ποῦ γραμματεύς; ποῦ συζητητὴς τοῦ αἰῶνος τούτου; οὐχὶ ἐμώρανεν ὁ θεὸς τὴν σοφίαν τοῦ κόσμου; 21 ἐπειδὴ γὰρ ἐν τῇ σοφίᾳ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐκ ἔγνω ὁ κόσμος διὰ τῆς σοφίας τὸν θεόν, εὐδόκησεν ὁ θεὸς διὰ τῆς μωρίας τοῦ κηρύγματος σῶσαι τοὺς πιστεύοντας· 22 ἐπειδὴ καὶ Ἰουδαῖοι σημεῖα αἰτοῦσιν καὶ Ἕλληνες σοφίαν ζητοῦσιν, 23 ἡμεῖς δὲ κηρύσσομεν Χριστὸν ἐσταυρωμένον, Ἰουδαίοις μὲν σκάνδαλον, ἔθνεσιν δὲ μωρίαν, 24 αὐτοῖς δὲ τοῖς κλητοῖς, Ἰουδαίοις τε καὶ Ἕλλησιν, Χριστὸν θεοῦ δύναμιν καὶ θεοῦ σοφίαν· 25 ὅτι τὸ μωρὸν τοῦ θεοῦ σοφώτερον τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἐστὶν καὶ τὸ ἀσθενὲς τοῦ θεοῦ ἰσχυρότερον τῶν ἀνθρώπων. (1 Corinthians 1:20-25 NA28)

20 Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Did not God make foolish the wisdom of the world? 21 For since, by the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through its wisdom, God was pleased through the foolishness of what we preach to save those who believe. 22 For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, 23 but we preach Christ crucified, to Jews an offense, to Gentiles foolishness, 24 but to those who are called, both to Jews and to Greeks, Christ, God’s power and God’s wisdom. 25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser then men and the weakness of God is stronger than men. (Corinthians 1:20-25 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

This is very clear my brethren. As I said above, those who are not called by God, see the cross as foolishness or an offense. It makes no sense to them. When we deal with atheists, pagans, Jews, or Muslims in our apologetics, this is their complaint. Notice, however, that Paul makes it very clear, “but to those who are called, both to Jews and to Greeks” Christ is God’s power and God’s wisdom. The reference to “Greeks” is referring to all Gentiles. Therefore, where does the responsibility lay to draw people to believe? Is it with programs and preaching and big churches and fellowship? No! It is God who calls (John 6:44) and it is God who gives the gift of faith (Ephesians 2:1-10).

26 Βλέπετε γὰρ τὴν κλῆσιν ὑμῶν, ἀδελφοί, ὅτι οὐ πολλοὶ σοφοὶ κατὰ σάρκα, οὐ πολλοὶ δυνατοί, οὐ πολλοὶ εὐγενεῖς· 27 ἀλλὰ τὰ μωρὰ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, ἵνα καταισχύνῃ τοὺς σοφούς, καὶ τὰ ἀσθενῆ τοῦ κόσμου ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, ἵνα καταισχύνῃ τὰ ἰσχυρά, 28 καὶ τὰ ἀγενῆ τοῦ κόσμου καὶ τὰ ἐξουθενημένα ἐξελέξατο ὁ θεός, τὰ μὴ ὄντα, ἵνα τὰ ὄντα καταργήσῃ, 29 ὅπως μὴ καυχήσηται πᾶσα σὰρξ ἐνώπιον τοῦ θεοῦ. 30 ἐξ αὐτοῦ δὲ ὑμεῖς ἐστε ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, ὃς ἐγενήθη σοφία ἡμῖν ἀπὸ θεοῦ, δικαιοσύνη τε καὶ ἁγιασμὸς καὶ ἀπολύτρωσις, 31 ἵνα καθὼς γέγραπται· ὁ καυχώμενος ἐν κυρίῳ καυχάσθω. (1 Corinthians 1:26-31 NA28)

26 For you see, your calling brothers, that not many wise men according to the flesh, not many powerful men, not many well-born, 27 but the foolish ones of the world God chose that he might shame the wise men. 28 And the weak ones of the world God chose that he might shame the strong ones. And the low-born of the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no flesh may boast before God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became wisdom to us from God, both righteousness and sanctification and redemption 31 that according as it has been written, “The one boasting, let him boast in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 1:26-31 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Who chose whom? By what criteria did He make His choice of His elect? Do you see that those of us in Christ have no place to boast except in the Lord? We should not marvel that so few seem to be among the elect, but that anyone is at all. Are any of us deserving?

Now, compare what we just studied in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 with what is going on in most of the visible church in our time. You will find a great variance. Gone is the foolishness and offense of the cross replaced with Christless Christianity that is the religion of the “churches” of the spirit of Laodicea. Flee to the cross my brethren!

Soli Deo Gloria!

https://mikeratliff.wordpress.com/2015/06/07/christ-the-wisdom-and-power-of-god-vs-gospel-contextualization/#comment-74107

Ironside: A Wonderful Expectation!—He is Coming Again!

Ironside: A Wonderful Expectation!—He is Coming Again!

June 7th, 2015

By Harry A. Ironside

In the eighth chapter of the Epistle of the Romans, reading from verse 18, we have the words:

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. For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, Because the creature itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now. And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body. (18-23)

Then if you will also turn to Philippians, chapter 1, verses 20 and 21:

According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

The Christian has a wonderful expectation. Our Lord Jesus Christ while He was here on earth had a great deal to say about His second coming. I have never been able to understand why some persons who profess to be Christians (and I would not dare doubt in some instances but they are really such) seem to have no interest whatsoever in the truth of the return of our blessed Savior. I have often heard people say, “I am not interested in the second coming of Christ. The only thing that concerns me is to be ready when He comes.”

Of course it is very important that we should be ready when He comes, but to say, “The only thing that concerns me is to be ready for that event,” seems to me to be the quintessence of selfishness. Am I only concerned about my personal readiness? Do I not have a deep, warm expectation in my soul, looking forward to that glorious day when the Savior shall return? Am I not longing to see Him?

He has said that He is coming back, and He told us to watch and to wait for His coming, to be like men that wait for their Lord when He will return from the wedding. And surely if we have learned to love Him, if we know Him as the One who died for us and washed away our sins in His precious blood, we certainly ought to be looking eagerly for His return.

EXPECTATION IS NOT FEAR

Some people think of the second coming of the Lord as though it were a dreadful event, an event from which we might well shrink, because they confound the second coming of Christ for His people with the day of judgment for a godless world; but these are two very distinct events.

When He said, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also,” He was not referring to the final day of judgment. He was speaking of the time when He will come back and raise the dead and change the living, those of His own redeemed people, and take them up to be with Him in the Father’s house. Surely there is nothing to dread about that. It is no fearful portent, the thought of the Lord’s coming.

On one occasion, I was asked in a certain Canadian city to give an address to the ministerial union on the second coming of the Lord Jesus, and so I went down with a heart and mind full of the subject, and found nearly seventy of the city’s preachers gathered together. It was my privilege to talk to them for about forty minutes on what I believe the Word of God teaches concerning this great expectation of the Church. When I had finished, the moderator of the meeting, who was a Presbyterian minister, rose and said, “My friends, I want to give my personal testimony concerning this subject. I was a minister for a great many years before I ever took the time to study what the Bible has to say about the second coming of the Lord, but some years back I became deeply interested and I searched the Scriptures for all references to the subject. You know, as that truth opened up to me, I got a new Bible. It just seemed as though my Bible was entirely different. So many things were plain that had been dark before.” Then he said, “Now I would like to have you tell us how this subject appeals to you.”

There happened to be present a very venerable old gentleman, an Anglican clergyman, who had received a great many honors because of his scholarship and ability. He had written a great many books and I had read all of them, so I was quite interested when he was pointed out to me. The moderator knew he was in the audience that day and because he seemed in a certain sense to be a dean of them all, he turned to him and said, “Doctor, wouldn’t you like to speak to us on the subject?” The dear old gentleman stood up and in that fine, cultured way that is so characteristic of Anglican clergyman, said something like this: “Well, my dear brother, I am really sorry that you referred to me at all, because I never like to take issue was a visiting speaker. I would far rather have just said to our brother at the close, ‘Thank you,’ and left it at that; but since you put me on the spot, it is necessary for me to express myself, and I regret to have to say that I do not find myself at all in agreement with the speaker who has addressed us today. Of course, I think there is something in the Bible about the second coming of the Lord, but just what it is I do not know and I do not think anyone else does. I have listened carefully to what he has presented and I have been thinking that if his presentation of the subject is the correct one, it must be an awful thing to believe, as he says he believes, that Christ may come back at any moment. Why, if one believed that, it would unnerve him completely. Suppose I were out making pastoral calls and the awful thought came to me that Christ might come today! I would not be able to continue my work, but would want to get back to my study and read the prayer book and try to get ready for that awful event.”

Well, you know it was a little difficult for me. I was much younger than he and I did not want to be discourteous, but I said to him, “Doctor, I hope that you do not mean us to infer that one could have been a member of the great church to which you belong and have taken all the ecclesiastical and academical honors that you have and yet never have been washed from his sins in the precious blood of Christ! For Doctor, if you have been saved through what the Lord Jesus did when He was here the first time, whether you realize it or not, you will be ready when He comes the second time.” Because it is not our understanding of the doctrines of the Lord’s return that makes us ready to meet Him, or our growth in holiness, but the fact that Another has, in the blessed will of God, shed His blood and died for us, cleansing us from all sin.

THE FOCUS OF OUR EXPECTATION

To me the expectation of the Lord’s return is one of the most precious hopes that I have, “According to my earnest expectation and my hope.” He was looking for the coming of the Savior, and he said, “I do not want to be ashamed. I want to be found, while I am watching for him, laboring always for His glory, endeavoring to bring others to Him, and seeking to manifest Christ in my daily life so that I can always say, ‘For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.’”

This poor world needs the coming Savior. Suppose our Lord had come ten years ago. Then the world would never have known the dire conflict that is prevailing at the present time. Why do we see the nations engaged in bloody conflict one with the other? It is because when the Prince of Peace came here to dwell amongst men in lowly grace He was not recognized. He was rejected. He came to bring peace but men said, “We will not have this man to reign over us”; and so, according to Hosea He said, “I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face: in their affliction they will seek me early.” He has gone back to the Father’s right hand and is there preparing a place for His redeemed. Some day He is coming again and His coming is going to mean the rapture of His Church and our presentation before the Father in fullness of joy.

THE EXPECTATION OF ALL CREATION

That is what the apostle is referring to, especially in the eighth chapter of the Book of Romans, when he says that “the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.” And we know by the context of this passage that this expectation is shared by the entire creation, for creation’s blessing will come with that manifestation. And when will the sons of God be manifested? The sons of God are already in the world at this time, but their manifestation has not come yet. They are in the world but the world knows them not, even as it knew Him not; but we read that when He is manifested, then shall we be manifested. When He reigns, then we will appear with Him in glory! That will be the time when earth’s blessing will come, when creation will be liberated from the bondage of the curse.

Look at John’s Gospel, chapter 14, the passage we all love and the portion which I think fits in so well at every Christian funeral. I do not know that I have ever been called upon to say a few words at the burial of a saint of God but that I have felt I must read these words: “Ye believe in God, believe also in me .” That is, Christ is saying in effect, “I am going away from you, so you won’t be able to see Me; but you believe in God the Father, though you cannot see Him. Now I want you to believe in Me, God the Son, when you cannot see Me.” And so He has gone back to the Father. We cannot see Him, but we love Him and we love to serve Him, and we wait for His return.

“In my Father’s house are many mansions,” many resting places, many abodes. It is the same word as the one translated ” abode” a little farther down in the chapter: “We will come unto him, and make our abode with him” (verse 23). So He says, “In my Father’s house are many abodes, many places of rest.” Many of God’s dear children know very little of rest here, but they will rest there in the presence of God and His Son when they put on their resurrection bodies.

“If it were not so, I would have told you.” There are so many things that the saint of God longs for that perhaps are not based upon positive Scripture, but He says, “If this were not a fact, if this hope, this expectation were not based on truth, I would have told you. I would not want you to be deluded; I would not want you to be deceived.” When we look forward to resting in His presence, when we think of Heaven as the Father’s house, it is not just a lovely dream, it is not mere imagination. It is a blessed, precious truth vouched for by our Lord Jesus Himself. He came from the Father and went to the cross for our redemption. He has gone back to the Father to prepare a place for us.

THE EXPECTATION OF GOING HOME

I love to think of Heaven as a home. Some of us have not known very much of a home here on earth. It is said of the one who wrote that most beautiful of all songs about home, that he was a wanderer all his life. I refer, of course, to John Howard Payne who wrote, “Home, Sweet Home.” Some of us have not enjoyed much of the comforts of home down here on earth, but oh, what a home He is preparing for us up yonder!

At death, the believer goes home, but that is not the final thing, that is not the fulness of our expectation, for the Lord Jesus says, “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” Dear young Christian, do get hold of this truth in the early days of your Christian life. The Lord Jesus says, “I will come again.” How can anybody say he doesn’t believe in the second coming of Christ in view of a promise like that? It is amazing how people twist those words to try to make them say anything but what they really say.

FALSE VIEWS OF OUR EXPECTATION

Some people tell us that He simply meant that He was coming to individual souls when they were converted, to dwell in their hearts. That is not what He is talking about. He says, ‘I am going “to receive [them] unto myself, that where I am there [they] may be also.” There are other folk who think that when the Lord said those words He was referring to the descent of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, that the Holy Spirit, being Jesus’ other self, came down to make good this promise. But I think that when people talk like that, they forget that the great bulk of the promises of the second coming in the New Testament were given after theHoly Spirit came at Pentecost. It was after the Holy Spirit fulfilled the Lord’s words and came as the Comforter that He moved the hearts of saints to cry, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus,” and to look on with eager, glad expectation to His personal return.

Then some people say, “Well, it just means that He is coming in the hour of death. When the believer comes down to death, the Lord will be there to take him home to Heaven.” And yet, if it is just as true now as it was before the cross that angels transport ransomed souls to Heaven, it is a very different thing from the personal coming of Christ. The beggar Lazarus died and was carried by angels to Abraham’s bosom, and I suppose that angels take the saints now into the presence of the Lord. “Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14). But Jesus speaks of a personal coming. That is not death; it is the destruction of death for the believer.

There are some people who confound the Lord’s return with the judgment day of all of the unsaved. There is nothing about that judgment here. “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” There is no hint of a judgment of the lost there. It is the returning bridegroom coming for His bride and taking her with Him into the Father’s house to share the rest and the glory of the blessed place. The manner of it is described for us in the fourth chapter of the First Epistle to the Thessalonians, a passage with which we are all familiar, unless it be those to whom these things are new and strange. Beginning with verse 13, we read:

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent (or precede them) them which are asleep. For the Lord himself (Notice how distinctly personal that is!) shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first. (vss. 13-16)

See the contrast between the Lord’s coming and death. Death is not the Savior’s return, but when the Savior returns, death is destroyed for the believer.

The dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air. (v. 16-17)

THE TWO GROUPS OF BELIEVERS

You see, there will be the two classes of believers who will have part in the glorious event of the Lord’s return. There will be those who are asleep, that is the saints who have died. The bodies of many of them have gone back to the dust from which they came, but they will be raised and those bodies tenanted again by the glorified soul and spirit of the believers. But then there is another group — the believers actually living in this world when Christ returns.

Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (v. 17)

Would it not be a wonderful thing if we Christians who are living today should be among that number! If, before death claims our bodies, the Savior should return and we would be caught up together with the resurrected saints in clouds to meet the Lord in the air! Of course, these bodies of ours will have to undergo a great change in order that that may be, but in Philippians 3 we read of that change: “For our conversation (or citizenship) is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: who shall change our vile body” (3:20-21). or literally, “transform the body of our humiliation.” This body, you see, is called the body of our humiliation. You know how often you are humiliated in your body, don’t you? It is such a drag on the spirit at times. Well, when the Savior comes, He will change the body of our humiliation.

. . . that it my be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. (vv. 20-21)

We read of this more particularly in the First Epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 15, beginning with verse 51. There the apostle says:

Behold, I shew you a mystery (I tell you a secret, something nobody knew anything of until is was revealed); We shall not all sleep (that is, we shall not all die), but we shall all be changed (whether living or dead, we shall all be changed), In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump (the trump that ends this dispensation of grace): for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption (that is, the dead, the corrupted bodies of the dead will be raised in incorruption), and this mortal (that is, the living) must put on immortality. (vss. 51-53)

Those who are now living in mortal bodies will suddenly be given immortal bodies when Jesus comes back again, and in those bodies will live forever.

So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. (vs. 54)

No wonder the apostle can exult in triumph:

O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?. (vs. 55).

He says:

The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (vss. 56-57)

THIS IS OUR HOPE!

This, then, is our expectation; this is our hope! And the Lord would have us living day by day in view of the possible fulfillment of the promise of His coming again. When you get up in the morning, cultivate the attitude of soul that leads you to say, “Christ may come today; and if He were to come today, I want Him to find me walking in obedience to His holy Word.” And when you go to sleep at night say, “Christ Jesus may come tonight, and I can rest in perfect peace, knowing that when He comes I shall be caught up to meet Him.”

(This has been an excerpt from Harry Ironside’s book Great Words of the Gospel; in the public domain.)

http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=17498

Avoiding Spiritual Delusion

Avoiding Spiritual Delusion

[COLOR=red]”Prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves” (James 1:22).

It’s a delusion to think you can hear God’s Word, then disobey it without cost.

Matthew 7:21-23 records the tragic results of spiritual delusion. Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'”

Jesus made a clear distinction between those who merely claim to be Christians and those who truly are. The difference is, true believers do the will of the Father. In the words of James, they are doers of the Word, not merely hearers who delude themselves.

“Hearers” in James 1:22 translates a Greek word that speaks of auditing a class. Auditing students attend class and listen to the instructor but don’t do any work. Consequently, they don’t receive credit for the course. The phrase “delude themselves” speaks of being victimized by one’s own faulty reasoning.

People who listen to God’s Word but never obey it are spiritual auditors who delude themselves by thinking that hearing the Word is all God requires of them. Unfortunately, many churches are full of such people. They attend services and hear the sermons but their lives never seem to change. They’re content to hear the Word but never apply it. Like those whom Jesus condemned in Matthew 7, they’ve chosen religious activities over true faith in Christ.

How tragic to think you’re saved, only to hear, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matt. 7:23). That will never happen if you’re a doer of the Word.

Suggestions for Prayer

Take advantage of every opportunity to respond to the Word in specific ways. Ask God for His grace to keep you faithful to that goal.

For Further Study

Read Matthew 7:13-29.

How did Jesus describe false prophets?

How can you discern a false from a true prophet?

To what did Jesus liken those who hear His words and act on them? Why?

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.[/COLOR]

http://www.gty.org/resources/devotionals#.TqYCaZxU3cR

June 9, 2015 Bible Reading

June 9

Reading for Today:

2 Kings 5:1–6:33

Psalm 72:1-7

Proverbs 18:10-11

John 18:1-18

Notes:

2 Kings 5:17- two mule-loads of earth. In the ancient Near East, it was thought that a god could be worshiped only on the soil of the nation to which he was bound. Therefore, Naaman wanted a load of Israelite soil on which to make burnt offerings and sacrifices to the Lord when he returned to Damascus. This request confirmed how Naaman had changed—whereas he had previously disparaged Israel’s river, now he wanted to take a pile of Israel’s soil to Damascus.

2 Kings 5:27- leprosy…shall cling to you. Gehazi’s greed had cast a shadow over the integrity of Elisha’s prophetic office. This made him no better in the people’s thinking than Israel’s false prophets, who prophesied for material gain, the very thing he wanted to avoid (vv. 15, 16). Gehazi’s act betrayed a lack of faith in the Lord’s ability to provide. As a result, Elisha condemned Gehazi and his descendants to suffer Naaman’s skin disease forever. The punishment was a twist for Gehazi, who had gone to take something from Naaman (v. 20), but what he received was Naaman’s disease.

2 Kings 6:5- iron…borrowed. Iron was expensive and relatively rare in Israel at that time, and the student-prophet was very poor. The ax head was loaned to the prophet since he could not have afforded it on his own and would have had no means to reimburse the owner for it.

John 18:4–8- Whom are you seeking? By twice asking that question (vv. 4,7), to which they replied, “Jesus of Nazareth” (vv. 5,7), Jesus was forcing them to acknowledge that they had no authority to take His disciples. In fact, He demanded that they let the disciples go (v. 8). The force of His demand was established by the power of His words. When He spoke, “I am He” (v. 6), a designation He had used before to declare Himself God (8:28, 58; 6:35; 8:12; 10:7, 9, 11, 14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1, 5), they were jolted backward and to the ground (v. 6). This power display and the authoritative demand not to take the disciples was of immense significance, as the next verse indicates.

John 18:13- Annas first. Annas held the high priesthood office from A.D. 6–15 when Valerius Gratus, Pilate’s predecessor, removed him from office. In spite of this, Annas continued to wield influence over the office, most likely because he was still regarded as the true high priest and also because no fewer than 5 of his sons, and his son-in-law Caiaphas, held the office at one time or another. Two trials occurred: one Jewish and one Roman. The Jewish phase began with the informal examination by Annas (vv. 12–14, 19–23), probably giving time for the members of the Sanhedrin to hurriedly gather together. A session before the Sanhedrin was next (Matt. 26:57–68) at which consensus was reached to send Jesus to Pilate (Matt. 27:1, 2). The Roman phase began with a first examination before Pilate (vv. 28–38a; Matt. 27:11–14) and then Herod Antipas (“that fox”—Luke 13:32) interrogated Him (Luke 23:6–12). Lastly, Jesus appeared again before Pilate (vv. 38b–19:16; Matt. 27:15–31).

DAY 9: Who was Naaman, and what does he teach us about obedience to God?

In 2 Kings 5:1, four phrases describe the importance of Naaman: 1) he was the supreme commander of the army of Syria as indicated by the term “commander,” used of an army’s highest ranking officer (Gen. 21:22; 1 Sam. 12:9; 1 Chr. 27:34); 2) he was a great man, a man of high social standing and prominence; 3) he was an honorable man in the eyes of his master, a man highly regarded by the king of Syria because of the military victories he had won; and 4) he was a mighty man of valor, a term used in the Old Testament for both a man of great wealth (Ruth 2:1) and a courageous warrior (Judg. 6:12; 11:1). Severely mitigating against all of this was the fact that he suffered from leprosy, a serious skin disease (v. 27). Naaman’s military success was attributable to the God of Israel, who is sovereign over all the nations (Is. 10:13; Amos 9:7).

Because of his personal greatness (v. 1), his huge gift of ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold (about 750 pounds of silver and 150 pounds of gold in v. 5), and diplomatic letter (v. 6), Naaman expected that Elisha would “surely come out to me” (v.11). He expected personal attention to his need. However, Elisha did not even go out to meet him. Instead, he sent his instructions for healing through a messenger (v. 10). Naaman was angry because he anticipated a personal cleansing ceremony from the prophet himself. Besides, if Naaman needed to wash in a river, two Syrian rivers were superior to the muddy Jordan. However, it was obedience to God’s word that was the issue, not the quality of the water.

Fortunately, Naaman had a servant who pointed out to him that he had been willing to do anything, no matter how hard, to be cured. He should be even more willing, therefore, to do something as easy as washing in a muddy river. Naaman’s healing restored his flesh to that “of a little child” (v. 14). Upon his healing, Naaman returned from the Jordan River to Elisha’s house in Samaria to give confession of his new belief: “there is no God…except in Israel” (v. 15).

From The MacArthur Daily Bible Copyright © 2003. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson Bibles, a division of Thomas Nelson, Inc, Nashville, TN 37214, www.thomasnelson.com.

http://www.gty.org/resources/devotionals/daily-bible

Divine Intervention

Monday, June 08, 2015

by Jeremiah Johnson

What is it that separates Christianity from every other religion? What sets the truth apart from all the lies?

While most religions differ greatly in the minutia, there is a consistent theme that runs through all of them: human achievement. Whether you’re a Catholic, Muslim, Mormon, or Hindu, there is a code of conduct that is tied to eternal life. Even in religions where salvation isn’t guaranteed, the only possible way to achieve it is through diligent effort.

The truth of Scripture stands in sharp contrast. As we’ve already discussed, our inherited sin nature has left us helplessly sinful and totally depraved. And while man-made religions deny our inherent wretchedness, the testimony of God’s Word is clear—man, left to himself, is utterly without hope.

In his book Slave, John MacArthur describes the spiritual futility of unredeemed man.

One of the dominant features of universal human fallenness is the sinner’s deception about his true condition. Motivated by pride, the depraved mind thinks itself much better than it really is. But God’s Word cuts through that deception like a sharp sword, diagnosing sinful men as incurably sick, rebellious by nature, and incapable of any spiritual good.

As slaves to sin, all unbelievers are hostile toward God and unable to please Him in any respect. Their total inability is underscored by the fact that they are not just bound to sin; they are also blinded by sin and dead in it. They are [COLOR=Red]“darkened in their understanding” (Ephesians 4:18) and cannot comprehend spiritual truth because “the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel or the glory of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4). Furthermore, unbelievers are “dead in [their] trespasses and sins” Ephesians 2:1), “dead in [their] transgressions” (Colossians 2:13), “dead even while [they live]” (1 Timothy 5:6). In the same way that a blind man cannot give himself sight or a dead man raise himself to life, so the sinner is totally unable to impart to himself either spiritual understanding or eternal life. Like Lazarus lying motionless in the tomb, the unredeemed soul remains lifeless until the voice of God commands it, “Come forth!”[/COLOR]

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The good news of the gospel is that we’re not left to rot and decay in the ruin of our sin. God, through the gracious sacrifice of His Son, intervenes on our behalf, rescuing and reviving us from our spiritual death. Ephesians 2:1-10 vividly depicts God’s intervention on our behalf:

And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, [He] made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and [He] raised us up with Him, and [He] seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (emphasis added)

Whole sermons have been devoted to unpacking the rich spiritual truth bound up in the phrase “But God” (v. 4). On the truth of those two words hangs the eternity of every man and woman redeemed through the sacrifice of Christ. In spite of man’s unrepentant wickedness, God created a path to salvation and blessing.

And in God’s design, the means of salvation are not a credit to us. As John explains, our salvation is entirely a work of the Lord.

In salvation, the triune God sovereignly acts upon those whom He wills to rescue, imparting life to dead hearts and sight to darkened minds.

Salvation, then, [COLOR=red]“does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy” (Romans 9:16). Just as we did not choose to be born in the physical sense, so we did not choose to be born from above (John 3:3-8). You and I believed the gospel, not because we were wiser or more righteous than anyone else but because God graciously intervened, opening our hearts to heed His Word and believe. There is no room for subtle pride on our part, only gratitude; God’s sole work in the redemption of sinners means that He received all of the praise.[2]

In the gracious sacrifice of His Son, God looks down on a race of Lazaruses sprinting to hell, and not only bids us to “come forth,” but mercifully provides the means of our revival and redemption.

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http://www.gty.org/blog/B150608/divine-intervention