Is This You?

October 20, 2011

I lifted the follow paragraph from an article written by Edward Fudge.

“Someone writes: ‘I am advanced in years and always thought I was saved because I asked Jesus into my heart at age 12. I lived a life of disobedience but have recently been through many profound changes and have turned to God with all my might. I want to be saved but I am going through great torment because I can’t get in touch with Jesus or the Holy Spirit. I can’t even breath from fear I am not one of God’s elect. I don’t feel the presence of God in my life even when I plead with God for mercy. I feel totally abandoned. Can you please help me?’”

From the language used above, I would say the author is not a member of the church that I belong to. However, his fears are rooted deeply in the hearts of too many members in the Church of Christ.

In my youth, I was a preacher in another church. One Sunday I was asked to visit a member’s husband who was bedridden and dying of cancer. The member informed me that her husband was a member of the “Church of Christ.”

I visited with the man and upon leaving, asked if he would like for me to have prayer. He agreed and I held his hand and prayed. Once finished, he held tightly to my hand, looked into my eyes and said, “Preacher, I’m a member of the Church of Christ. The Church of Christ religion is a good one to live by, but a poor one to die by.” That statement has stuck with me for fifty-five years!

If a person makes the second covenant from God into a law keeping one like the first, his efforts to live up to the demands of such will meet with total failure. That failure will produce depression. The depression will rob him of hope. Without hope there will be no assurance. Without assurance one is left only with despair that is clothed in abandonment.

Have you ever felt that God can’t love you? Why do you feel that way? Is it because you realize you cannot live up to the demands of law keeping because you keep breaking them? Does the lack of perfection in your life frighten you? Do you find your efforts to be a “good Christian” are rewarded with failure? If so, aren’t you guilty of trying to win God’s approval in the wrong way?

God already loves you. You don’t have to win his love. You already have it! You don’t have to cross every “t” or dot every “i” in order to please our Father. He isn’t looking for individuals who have all their bases covered. He came to save sinners. Guess what, you and I fill that prescription? We are sinners! Jesus turns us into saved ones.

Jesus did not come to keep us under law, he came to save us by grace through faith (Galatians 3:6-14, 23; Ephesians 2:8-9). You can’t make yourself sinlessly perfect. But you can by faith receive the righteousness of God. It is not about your righteousness, it is receiving his (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Law keeping puts all the burden on you. Why not allow Jesus to bear it (Matthew 11:28-30)? He is the Savior, not you!

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Losing Our Freedom?

August 16, 2011

The following link is very interesting. It shows how our government is favoring Islam while abandoning Christianity.

I REMEMBER

July 22, 2011

Thus says the LORD: ‘Stand in the ways and see, And ask for the old paths, where the good way is, And walk in it; Then you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’” (Jeremiah 6:16).

I remember when,

  1. No one locked their doors.
  2. You could leave something in the front yard and no one would bother it.
  3. You could leave your keys in your car and no one would steal it.
  4. You could walk home from a movie and no one would bother you.
  5. You could sleep outside during the summer without fear.
  6. You didn’t have to worry if someone was hurt on your property they they would sue you.
  7. It was safe to hitchhike, for you as well as the person who picked you up.
  8. Men took off their hats in the presence of a woman as a sign of respect and they did not use course language around them.
  9. Youth respected the older generation.
  10. You knew your neighbors and you could depend upon one another.
  11. Neighbors corrected you and your parents appreciated it and you got into trouble twice, first with your neighbor and second with your parents.
  12. Neighbor helped neighbor.
  13. The teachers used wooden paddles to punish unruly students.
  14. Your parents paddled you at home if you got into trouble at school.
  15. Parents supported the teacher when their child was unruly.
  16. Teachers taught and students didn’t talk back to them.
  17. The pledge of allegiance was said every morning in school.
  18. It was okay to pray at school and God was not taboo.
  19. Morality was taught in the classroom.
  20. The Bible was taught on State college campuses and students received credit for taking a course or two.
  21. The Bible was respected, read, and received.
  22. The Bible was quoted in church, court, and classroom.
  23. A person’s word was his bond.
  24. Integrity was praised and lying was condemned.
  25. Couples got married first and then slept together.
  26. Boys were proud to be boys and girls were proud to be girls and opposites attracted one another and got married.
  27. “Gay” was a respectable word before it was highjacked.
  28. Marriage was between Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve.
  29. Children waited for the adults to be served first at the table.
  30. In the golden years of the parents, the children took care of them.
  31. Folks were glad to be Americans and proud of their country.
  32. We put our trust in God.

Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” (Psalm 20:7).

WE MAY KNOW

July 14, 2011

Kids at a church elementary school were asked questions about the Old and New Testaments. Here are some of their responses in answering those queries.

  1. In the first book of the bible, Guinessis, God got tired of creating the world, so he took the Sabbath off.
  2. Lot’s wife was a pillar of salt by day, but a ball of fire by night.
  3. Samson slayed the Philistines with the axe of the Apostles.

Israel had a problem too, just more serious than those children in that elementary school.

“My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. ‘Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children.” (Hosea 4:6).

Someone has said, “Ignorance is bliss.” I don’t suppose he ever had an operation by a man who learned to operate by correspondence course?

God reveals himself through inspired men who wrote down his message. In the New Testament John states,

“But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” (John 20:31).

“How that by revelation was made known unto me the mystery, as I wrote before in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye can perceive my understanding in the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:3-5).

You and I can know what is on God’s mind by reading what he has revealed in scripture.

HIS SUCCESS!

June 30, 2011

I believe Satan uses our fleshly weakness to his benefit. He tried it on Jesus (Matt.4) but failed. He tries it on us and often succeeds. We want to be like Jesus, but realize how far we miss that noble goal. We always will. I look at my life and see the glaring imperfections, the missed goals, the times I should have but didn’t, the times I should not have but did, and it grates on my soul. I completely understand Paul’s anguish in Rom.7 when he cried out, “Who will rescue me from this body of death?” I want more faith, but seem to have less. I want to be a shining light for my Lord, yet see more darkness than light. My weaknesses haunt me. My weaknesses speak out loudly and testify against me. It is then that Satan steps in and whispers to me, encouraging me to look at myself and the futility of my efforts, goading me to see the impossibility of salvation due to my failures. He did that with Job, using his wife’s tongue, “Curse God and die.” He whispers sweetly in my ear, “Give up. Give in. Surrender. You are a failure. You will never make it.” Jesus speaks out, “Yes, you are a failure. You are not the answer to your salvation. I am. Put your trust in me, not in yourself. I am the way, the truth, and the life.” Satan wants me to look at myself as my answer to my salvation. He knows if I concentrate on my failures I will never see Jesus’ success. He knows how discouraging human effort can be and wants it to be a burden that will crush my soul. Jesus offers, “”Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 (NIV). Satan wants me to think of myself as my savior. He wants me to focus my sight on myself. When I give in and accept his counsel, I see my failure and it cries out, “Give up.” Jesus throws me a lifeline telling me that he did not fail. He is my rock. He is my strength. He is my Savior. Believe! Paul’s answer is, “Oh, what a terrible predicament I’m in! Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature? Thank God! It has been done by Jesus Christ our Lord. He has set me free. So there is now no condemnation awaiting those who belong to Christ Jesus.” Romans 7:24-25; 8:1 (TLB).

Oral or Silent Prayer?

June 21, 2011

My wife and I were celebrating Father’s Day at one of the local restaurants. She was paying! While waiting on our meal, Mary Nell said, “Those folks at the table behind us are having prayer.” She and I did not have a joint prayer, but we each did pray silently giving thanks.

Why didn’t we have an oral prayer together? It wasn’t because of what Jesus said in the sermon on the Mount,

“But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen.” (Matthew 6:6).

Jesus wasn’t condemning praying in public places, he was teaching against praying for the purpose of being seen by men (Matthew 6:5).

Neither was it because of what Jesus stated later,

“But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.” (Matthew 10:33).

We are not ashamed to openly pray in the name of Jesus. One is not denying his Lord by having private prayer in a public place.

When we see a couple, or several having prayer at their table in a restaurant, we do not look upon such as being an act of hypocrisy on their part. In fact, we think it is a wonderful action. On several occasions, we have practiced the same.

Praying openly or privately is a choice one may make without feeling guilty either way.

I’m thankful that we can still pray openly, that it is a choice we may make without fear of being ridiculed or arrested.

If your relationship with God is right, then whether you offer a prayer silently or openly, it is acceptable. The prayer is right whether people condemn your actions or not.

Got Assurance?

June 19, 2011

Assurance! Is it possible? If I must depend upon myself, there isn’t much hope. A friend was once told by his doctor, “Go home and get your house in order. You only have a short time to live.” Because he had been taught all his life that we were responsible for a large percentage of our salvation, he felt unprepared. He could have done this. He could have done that. His short comings testified against him. He was woefully on the short end. He didn’t have enough of the right things to guarantee passage into heaven. So many are like that. We have been taught that we must work, work, work to guarantee our salvation. Get as close as you can, then leave what little is left for God’s grace to supply. I do most of it. God only has to do a small part. But the threat of sudden death reveals our woeful inadequacies. So, those who depend upon their works to “buy” their passage into heaven suddenly find they are bankrupt. No amount of good works is sufficient to guarantee safe passage. With that knowledge there can be no assurance. We build a lifetime of imperfection and reap an emptiness that surrenders to fear.

The Hebrew writer stated,

“And so, dear brothers, NOW we may walk right into the very Holy of Holies, where God is, BECAUSE OF THE BLOOD OF JESUS. This is the fresh, new, life-giving way that Christ has opened up for us by tearing the curtain—his human body—to let us into the holy presence of God. And since this great High Priest of ours rules over God’s household, let us go right in to God himself, with true hearts fully trusting him to receive us because we have been sprinkled with Christ’s blood to make us clean and because our bodies have been washed with pure water. NOW we can look forward to the salvation God has promised us. There is no longer any room for doubt, and we can tell others that salvation is ours, for there is no question that he will do what he says.” (Hebrews 10:19-23 (TLB)).

Do you know where you are right now? You are in the presence of God. How? Why? Because you put your trust in what Jesus did for you through his blood. Do you know what that blood does? It keeps us in God’s holy presence because we are washed clean. We stay clean! If we put our trust in Jesus’ sacrifice upon the cross rather than thinking we can gain perfection ourselves through our works, then we will have that blessed assurance that some seek but never find.

Assurance comes by trust in Jesus’ cleansing blood. When we put our trust fully in Jesus and God’s grace, we will come to understand Paul’s words in Romans 8:1,

“Therefore, there is NOW no condemnation for those who are IN Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1 (NIV)).

GUARANTEE?

June 11, 2011

Growing old does not guarantee that one will become faithful, holy, reach perfection, or have a closer relationship with God. In spite of King Saul’s earlier walk with God, his later years saw him turn in another direction.

Faith does not guarantee absence of sin in one’s life, challenges to it, heartache or disappointment because of it, or occasional doubts in spite of it. Even the apostles were chided by Jesus for having so little of it in spite of their close relationship with him.

Hope does not guarantee absence of troubling questions, seemingly impassible barriers, or others disappointing you. Remember John the Baptist sent his disciples to inquire if Jesus was the one he had looked for.

Love does not guarantee that when given, it will be returned. Although love is greater than faith or hope, there may be times when hate surrounds us. Keep in mind that Jesus, in spite of his love for mankind, was crucified.

Faith, hope and love are not limited to old people. Jesus said,

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14).

The Good News is for all. Embrace it. Rejoice in it. Share it.

It tells us of a Creator who wants to walk with us, if we will accept what he has done for us through his Word which became flesh (John 1:1ff).

Jesus died for us, that he might take all our sins upon him and pour out his righteousness upon us (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Trusting in him has its guarantees!

Am I Safe?

June 9, 2011

Are You Safe?

David asked concerning his son, “Is the young man Absalom safe?” (2 Samuel 18:32). The answer David received was not the one he wanted. Not only do we want our family to be safe, we also want to know whether or not we are.

Most people in one way or another search for an answer that will give them a foundational assurance for their eternal future. Am I safe?

To make sure they are safe, some follow different paths seeking that allusive assurance.

There are some who feel they must do a multitude of good works in order to guarantee that answer. They would never think of offering God money, through the collection plate, to buy their salvation, but think nothing of their attempt to do so with their good works. Some feel that if they do these things, God will be indebted to save them. Really?

Some believe that God is obligated to save them because they are righteous. After all, didn’t the prophet Ezekiel say,

“The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him” (Ezekiel 18:20 (NIV).

Is Ezekiel telling us that we are righteous because we are good? Because we do the right things? If so, who would need the Word to become flesh? Why would the gospel be good news if we could accumulate our own righteousness? How much righteousness would we be responsible for in order to guarantee our salvation and fortify us with the assurance that seems to allude us?

If our good works make us righteous and our accumulated righteousness is what saves us, why does Paul state,

“But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:4-7 (NKJV)?

Do our works of righteousness put God in our debt so he has no other choice but to submit and pay us for our worthy actions? Surprisingly some think so.

In Romans Paul tells us Abraham believed God and it was counted/reckoned/credited/or imputed to him as righteousness (Romans 4:3).

Although I am not a fan of The Message translation, there are times when it sheds some light on a passage that others may not. Here is how it translates the above,

“What we read in Scripture is, ‘Abraham entered into what God was doing for him, and that was the turning point. He trusted God to set him right instead of trying to be right on his own” (Romans 4:3 (MSG).

Anyone who puts his trust in his ability to save him and thinks his actions puts God in debt to him, will never find that peace that passes all understanding. The seedlings of doubt will plague him throughout his life. No matter what he does, he will come up short. In spite of how close he believes himself to be to perfection, it will never be close enough.

Abraham believed in God. He trusted in God, not in himself. Our salvation is trusting Jesus as our sin sacrifice and recognizing that he alone is our Savior. That trust must be complete, not broken down into percentages. There is no profit in believing our ability is fifty percent of our salvation. It is either believe/trust in Jesus as our Savior 100 percent or none. The choice is ours.

Are you safe?

His or Our Righteousness?

April 12, 2011

About ninety or so years ago a young preacher1 began warning us of a possible extreme that we might fall into. Although we would be preaching the scriptures, we would emphasize some to the exclusion of others. He was ignored.

He wasn’t referring to the extremes which led to division over Bible classes. Nor was he touching on what we could or could not do on church property. He was talking about something more important. So important, that if we had understood it, those issues would not have divided us along with many others that arose.

We began teaching a view of grace that made Jesus our “partial savior” with us as the major contributor to our salvation. We allowed passages like Acts 2:40, Philippians 2:12 and others to be twisted into a view that led us into that doctrine.

This led to preachers teaching and members believing that we were to be as close to perfection as possible when death came. What “gap” that was left, between being perfect and where we actually were, would leave us depending upon what little grace was necessary from God to complete OUR accomplishments. However, when reality set in, some realized that their gap was so great that they were uncertain of their salvation. In fact, some came to the conclusion that the only one who could have confidence in his salvation was the apostle Paul (2 Timothy 4:6-8). As one member once told me, “It is presumptuous for anyone to say he would go to heaven if he suddenly dropped dead.”

We did not believe in “death bed confession” salvation, but we accepted the view of an “immediate prayer before dying” one. Fortunate was the one who could be praying for forgiveness at the point of death. Only then could there be any assurance of heaven. But, even that was questionable by some.

If we could be perfect, then we would not need grace. Some even believed that sinless perfection was demanded. If we were fortunate enough to get very close to that goal, we would certainly “merit” what little grace was needed from God to finish our course. Without realizing it, we had returned to a law system like the Old Testament (Galatians 2:16). We placed ourselves in the position that Christ came to fill, and demoted Him to a “standby” position, just in case we needed him.

As that young preacher1 had warned, many concentrated on what we were to do and left out what Jesus had done. The gospel emphasis was upon hearing, believing, repenting, confessing, being baptized and living a godly life. Since others already knew about grace, that did not need to be emphasized. Again, the young preacher’s warnings1 were ignored and some even accused him of preaching another gospel!

A few years ago I was reading 2 Corinthians 5:21.

“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; THAT WE MIGHT BE MADE THE RIGHTEOUSNESS OF GOD IN HIM.” (2 Corinthians 5:21 KJV).

The Living Bible brings this passage out more by saying,

“For God took the sinless Christ and poured into him our sins. THEN, IN EXCHANGE, HE POURED GOD’S GOODNESS [RIGHTEOUSNESS] INTO US!”

We are made the “righteousness of God in him.” However, as one well known preacher stated, “We are righteous through what WE do and that is to hear, believe, repent, confess, be baptized ‘into’ Jesus and live a godly life.” In his mind, we do not have righteousness imputed to us by God through faith in what Jesus did for us. It is “our” works of righteousness that saves us.

Are we saved because we have “checked off” our list of things that faith calls on us to do, or are we saved by grace through faith in what Jesus did for us on the cross? Are we made “right” by OUR works of righteousness, or through Jesus living in perfect obedience and being our sin sacrifice? Are we saved because we have crossed every “t” and dotted every “i,” or because Jesus did? Are we saved completely by God’s grace, or only a small percentage of it to make up the difference between our “perfection” and God’s? Do we EARN or PAY for our salvation through “our perfection” or is it a free gift when we accept by faith Jesus’ sinlessness and his payment for us upon the cross? Who is our Savior, you and I, or Jesus? Either salvation is completely by God’s grace accepted by faith, or it isn’t. Is hearing, believing, repenting, confessing, baptism, and a godlike life essential? Yes, faith must act. However, the six steps outlined are not THE gospel in a nutshell. We cannot emphasize them by de-emphasizing the meaning of the cross or what Jesus did for us.

If we could be wrong all these years in our emphasis, and yet God’s grace could be larger than our misguided faith and still cover us, then it can cover those who are wrong on other issues. Does God’s grace only cover our misguided beliefs but not others? Those who wish to live under a law system like the Old Testament, might wrongly believe that God covers only their misguided views. But, wouldn’t that mean that no one went to heaven if they are misguided? If we realize our error and come to appreciate the patience and grace of God toward us, then we will understand that he also grants it to others. Such an understanding could erase the divisions that have occurred within our ranks.

1 http://johnmarkhicks.wordpress.com/2008/05/15/k-c-moser-and-churches-of-christ/ an article about K.C. Moser on grace.

1 http://johnmarkhicks.wordpress.com/2009/02/25/g-c-brewer-on-grace/ an article on G.C. Brewer and grace.