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Friday, May 26, 2017

The Love of Christ Constrains U

The Love of Christ Constrains Us … Ultimate Freedom Awaits Us

 

For the love of Christ compels us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 2 Corinthians 5:14-15

 

The word ‘compels’ in 2 Corinthians 5:14, is sunechei. Some translations have ‘constrains’, and others ‘controls’. It means, “the pressure which confines and restricts as well as controls.” (C. K. Barrett and Alfred Plummer)

 

As Christians, there is always the choice to make – to obey or disobey – yet Christ’s love for us pushes the choice in favour of obeying. “I don’t really want to obey this teaching, but when I think about Christ’s love shown in his dying for me to free me from my sins, it changes my perspective. He died to save me and make me a better person. His commands are meant to prepare me for heaven. That touches my heart, and brings a heartfelt response.”

 

It’s the same with children and parents: it’s the parents’ love that makes the children want to obey. Why? Because love engenders the desire to please the one who is loving you. This is why faith and love go together. You trust and love because of their love towards you.

                 

Jesus said: “If you love me, keep my commands.” John 14:15. There’s an obligation there. Yet it’s not guilt but freedom from guilt that makes us feel obligated! Our obligation to keep Jesus’ commands should be driven by Christ’s love and forgiveness. Christ’s love for us prompts our love for him. Our love for him causes us to want to trust and obey him. He’s on our side. He’s for us! Romans 8:31-39. Duty and obligation are important, but it’s love and gratitude for Christ’s forgiveness that should drive the sense of obligation. The constraining power of love. We love to obey from our hearts, not “do we have to obey?” This is why God can say that in the New Covenant He will put His laws on our hearts: For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbour and each one his brother, saying,

‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful toward

their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” Hebrews 8:10-12

It’s because God forgives our sins that His laws are written on our hearts! Compare verses 10 and 12 above.

The New Covenant is a covenant driven by forgiveness.

 

this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. Matthew 26:28

 

Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13:20-21

 

We want to do His will because the blood Christ - shed to ratify the New Covenant of forgiveness – motivates us.

 

Under the Old Covenant, godly people, like David, loved God and His Law with their whole heart. Psalm 119:2-11,34,69. They knew that God would forgive those times they broke the Law! See Psalm 51; 32; Luke 18:9-14. God’s urging circumcision in heart would help with this. Jeremiah 4:4. God would forgive their confession of sin if they had faith in Him and because He had planned to send His Son to die as the sacrifice for the sins of all men. Isaiah 53; Romans 3:23-25; 5:12-21; Hebrews 9:15-22. All Jews were not like the legalistic Pharisees who didn’t understand their enslavement to sin through Law, John 8:30-36; 1 Corinthians 15:56, and who thought their salvation was based on their own righteous observance of Law. Matthew 5:20; Romans 9:30-10:5; Philippians 3:2-9. The Law would become a Law of sin and death (Romans 8:2-3) only because many who lived under it didn’t understand it could only make them righteous if they observed it perfectly all the time, Romans 5:10:1-5; Galatians 3:10-12; James 2:9-11, which of course no one but Jesus could ever do! Matthew 5:17-18; John 19:28-30.

 

Oh how grateful we should be for Jesus’ sinless perfection, and for God’s gracious plan that the righteousness of Christ could become our righteousness!! Romans 3:21-26; 1 Corinthians 1:18-31; Philippians 3:7-11.

 

It is this gratitude and love for our perfect Saviour – who did what he did for us – that should motivate us to live for Him in the freedom of the New Covenant. 2 Corinthians 3:1-18; Galatians 5:1-13. Jesus said:  Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30. We serve in the freedom of Christ because Christ sets us free from the huge burden of trying to be a perfect Law-keeper, plus the extra burden of the guilt that is borne when we realize we have failed to be a perfect law-keeper/do-gooder! When Jesus pleads with us, “Come unto me you poor heavy laden people and I will give you rest,” this is what he’s talking about. Trying to get to heaven merely by self-effort never works. We need to trust and follow Jesus in the power of the Holy Spirit. Romans 8.

 

Paul told the Philippians to work out their salvation because God was at work in them. Philippians 2:12-13. In our churches we work out our salvation by obeying Christ’s teachings because God has already worked His salvation in us through the death and resurrection of His Son. Philippians 2:5-11.

 

We can freely choose to be freed from sin and live above sin through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Yet we still live in a world full of evil, corruption and decay. One day, Jesus promises, we will also be freed from that!! Rev 21:1-7.

 

So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Romans 8:12-21

 

Where the Good Way is: Eternal Rest for the Soul

 

Thus says the Lord: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ Jeremiah 6:16

 

Jesus calls us back to the ancient ways of God “where the good way is”, promising that “you shall find rest for your souls.” Matthew 11:25-30. But, Jeremiah noted, many said: “We will not walk in it.” Yet the elect do! Ephes 1:1-14

 

Jesus graciously offers us eternal life as one who, though being God and thus knowing and having experienced His Father God in eternity, with all the privileges of deity, yet humbled Himself by becoming one of us and dying on a cross, then conquering death in resurrection glory!! Isaiah 9:6; Micah 5:2; John 1:1-4; 5:17-30; 6:38,46,51,57; 8:58; 10:27-38; 20:25-31; Romans 1:3-4; 8:11; 9:1-5; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:9-23; 2:1-10; Titus 1:1-3; 2:11-14; Hebrews 1:1-12; 2:6-18; 7:23-28; 2 Peter 1:1-3. What a Saviour and God Jesus is, and a brother to believers! Hebrews 2:9-13. We fall to our knees in praise and worship. Matthew 28:16-17; Hebrews 1:6; Revelation 1:7-8; 19:10; 22:8-9

 

--David Hunter

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

A Dress Code for Worship?

NO!  God does NOT have a dress code for worship!  Of course He does not!  He assumes that a humble worshipping heart will dictate proper attire and behavior.  A true spirit of awe, reverence and worship dictates dignity and propriety in dress and demeanor.  When we dress appropriately we manifest a humbleness of heart that honors and respects the sovereign God whom we have come to praise and petition.

- selected

 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Lessons for Life

Lessons for Life

 

It’s graduation time!  What a milestone for young people – and older ones, too!  What lessons do we want our graduates to remember as they embark on a new phase of their lives?

 

Here are a few “Lessons for Life” that I’d like to pass along.

 

1. Put the Big Rocks in First.

 

In First Things First, Stephen Covey tells a story that one of his associates heard at a seminar. The seminar presenter pulled out a wide-mouth gallon jar and placed it next to a pile of fist-sized rocks. After filling the jar to the top with those rocks, he asked, "Is the jar full?"

 

The group replied, "Yes."

 

He continued to add different things to the jar: gravel, sand, and finally water.  After each addition, he’d ask the same question: "Is the jar full?"

 

Then he asked the group for the point of this illustration.

 

Someone replied that you could always fit more things into your life if "you really work at it."

 

"No," countered the speaker. The point is, if you don't put the big rocks in first, "…would you ever have gotten any of them in?"

 

We must put the “big rocks” in our lives first – the things that matter most.  The most important rock is GOD.  Jesus said, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).  The “Big Rocks” – the priorities of our lives – should be: God, our family, the church, our Christian service, and our jobs.

 

2. Remember, The World Does Not Revolve Around You.

 

It has been said, “A person wrapped up in himself makes a mighty small package.”  Our proper priorities should be: God first (Matthew 6:33), others second (Philippians 2:3-4), and ourselves last (Matthew 22:37-39).  Remember the letters of the word “joy” - Jesus first, Others second, Yourself last.  A person who is self-centered is off-center.

 

3. Consult Your Map Frequently.

 

Have you ever been hiking on a trail and got lost?  I have!  My fellow hikers and I were relieved when we finally found a map.  Then, we could locate our current position, our proper destination, and the way to get there.  These are the very things that God’s Word does for us.  It tells us:

 

Our current position: we’re lost without Christ!  See Ephesians 2:11-13.

 

The greatest destination: Heaven.  See Revelation 21:1-4.

 

The Way to get to heaven: Jesus.  See John 14:6.

 

Jesus died on the cross for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:1-3).  God will save and give eternal life to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from their sins in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  He will continue to cleanse from sin those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7).

 

We should always use God’s Word as the map for our lives.  “Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).  Consult the Map frequently and follow Jesus all the way to heaven.

 

Won't YOU?

 

-- David A. Sargent

"I will remove the heart of stone . and give you a heart of flesh"

 

“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:22-27

  

God gives his people a heart of flesh, and His Spirit within us, and this helps us to carefully obey His rules

which are given to us to make us the kind of people God wants in preparation for eternity with Him. For Jews,

circumcision was a law that only profited because it was set within other laws that were intended to penetrate hearts and make Israel a people who were like God. It’s not about rituals but rules that recreate.

 

For circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law, but if you break the law, your circumcision becomes uncircumcision. So, if a man who is uncircumcised keeps the precepts of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded[b] as circumcision? Then he who is physically uncircumcised but keeps the law will condemn you who have the written code and circumcision but break the law. For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. Romans 2:25-29

 

Flesh is soft as against stone which is hard. God gives us a heart of flesh, as a far better alternative to our former heart after the flesh in which we used to walk in our bone-headed, closed-minded ways. Our new heart of flesh is soft and open, instead of hard and closed. God does not want us to be bone-headed and hard-hearted - closing our hearts to His word and the needs of people. God does not want us to walk in the flesh – which means walking in our own sinful ways. No, for He has given us a heart of flesh so we will be open to His ways and thus walk in His ways … the ways of the Spirit. God can turn “stones” into His open-hearted children - like Abraham! Luke 3:8.

 

In the New covenant, God’s laws penetrate our hearts for several reasons:

1)  The New Covenant has forgiveness at its core, and forgiveness touches our hearts and promotes a desire to please the Forgiver.

2)  In the New Covenant, we have the Spirit, that Israel did not have, and the Spirit is such a huge help in making God’s rules not burdensome, but light. Romans 5:5; 1 John 3:24; 4:13; 5:1-8; Matthew 11:28-30.

3)  In the New Covenant, we have Jesus, and when you have Jesus you also have the Father and the Holy Spirit.

John 14:15-24. Notice in this John 14 Scripture the connection between keeping Jesus’ commandments and having Father, Son and Holy Spirit making themselves at home in our lives!!

 

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord:

I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts,

and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

And they shall not teach, each one his neighbour and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’

for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.

For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” Hebrews 8:10-12

 

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. Ephesians 2:1-4

 

And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. Colossians 2:13-15

 

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. Romans 8:1-9

 

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Galatians 5:16-26

 

Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God. Make room in your hearts for us. We have wronged no one, we have corrupted no one, we have taken advantage of no one. I do not say this to condemn you, for I said before that you are in our hearts, to die together and to live together. I am acting with great boldness toward you; I have great pride in you; I am filled with comfort. In all our affliction, I am overflowing with joy. 2 Corinthians 7:1-4.

 

To soft, open hearts of flesh, the Holy Spirit has revealed right knowledge about sin and Christ that leads to right faith which leads to salvation which leads to right knowledge about right behaviour which ultimately leads to eternal life. John 6:35-45,68; 16:12-14; Romans 1:1-6:23; 10:1-10; Philippians 1:27-2:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:7-17; Titus 1:1-3; 2 Peter 1:1-12; 1 John 2:15-29; 3:23-4:13. Thus God gives us a new heart and a new spirit to do His will.

 

The Holy Spirit and a heart of flesh cancel evil spirits and the ways of the flesh. 1 John 3:23-4:13.

 

All of this gives us hope for our eternal future: For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. Galatians 5:5

 

Back to the 1 John reference:

And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God, and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit. 1 John 3:23-4:13

 

Notice the two references to the Holy Spirit God has given His people in 1 John 3:24 and 1 John 4:13 in the passage just cited. They are like bookends. And like bookends, it is what is between the bookends that is most important.

The bookends, however, are also very important because they hold together and support what is between them.

Without the bookends, what is between them would collapse. Without the Holy Spirit supporting us, our lives would collapse.

 

Right knowledge about Spirit and flesh leads to right behaviour: Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. Galatians 6:6-10

 

Remember this from two earlier references? But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. Galatians 5:16-17

 

And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. Ezekiel 36:26-27

 

Keep your heart soft and open to God’s light and life. (As an example, my heart was touched this week by Romans 12:10 – especially the latter half: “Outdo one another in showing honour.”)

 

It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are Spirit and life. John 6:63

   God the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit work in unison with their word to give us real life, but only if the heart of flesh, God has given us, remains open, pliable, ready and willing.

 

Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. But when anything is exposed by the light, it becomes visible, for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:8-21

 

True-hearted, whole-hearted, Savior all-glorious!

Take Thy great power and reign Thou alone,

Over our wills and affections victorious, Freely surrendered and wholly Thine own. 

This stanza from True-Hearted, Whole-Hearted, words by Frances R. Havergal

 

--David Hunter

Thursday, May 18, 2017

what God looks like

Serving The Living God

I know I'm not old enough to say this, but when I was younger I used to lay in bed at night and try to imagine what God looked like. I would try to put a face to Him, I'd wonder what He was doing, and I would ask myself if God knew that I was thinking about Him. I still ask those same questions to this day. I'm sure that most if not all of you who are reading this believe that there is a God, and that He does see and hear all that we say. So the question I'd like to ask is, "since there is a God that has all power, why do we sometimes have difficulty following the commands that we find in the Bible?" I'd like to look at a verse that may help us realize the importance of following what God has told us to do as Christians.

Jeremiah 10:12 says, "It is He who made the earth by His power, who established the world by His wisdom; and by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens."

God has ALL power. There isn't an area that He is lacking power in. He controls the weather, He created us, and, as Jeremiah 10:12 said, He made this earth that we live on. I believe that we sometimes forget just how powerful God truly is. Since God has all power, shouldn't we be following what the Creator of everything has told us to do? In seven days He thought of everything we see around us. Think of it this way. We've never had an original thought. For example, I could say that I'm the only person to have ever thought about a pink Aardvark. But before I thought of pink Aardvarks, there was such thing as the color pink, and there were Aardvarks before I thought of them. So what I'm actually doing is taking two things that God created and putting them together. God has given us specific commands to do as Christians. Since God has given us rules on how to live, we shouldn't have a problem following them. They may be difficult, but God knows how to take care of His creation. The thought of the God of the universe watching out and guiding me through life is a great comfort to me!

But what if we aren't following what God has told us to do? There's a saying that we all have heard that says, "Actions speak louder than words." Our actions are a direct window to how we truly feel. If I don't do what God has commanded, then that's like us saying to God, "I don't truly believe that there are consequences to my actions." But that is a deadly place for us to be, because God IS real and there ARE consequences to our actions. God is real and the consequences of our actions are very real! In the end, it comes down to this: Not obeying what God has said is a reflection of how real we make God out to be. If we truly believe He is real, then we shouldn't have a problem doing what He tells us to do. As Christians, we serve the one true God, and He is very real. I pray that this fact will push us to obey the commands He has given us because our God is alive and we all have an eternity with Him if we do what He tells us to do.

Looking back at when I was younger, I've realized that I asked the right question, but the most important part of those questions is how I answer them. Will I show through my actions that I truly believe He is alive? Or do I doubt the reality of God by not taking His commands seriously? Let's try to always prove God is alive by following what He has told us to do!

Carl Pollard

Sunday, May 14, 2017

"GRANDPA, TELL ME ABOUT THE GOOD OLD DAYS"

 

By Tom Wacaster

  

Discouragement comes to the best of men; even great men of faith. Elijah had his moment (s) of discouragement, as I am sure did Abraham, Moses, and Noah.  Having studied and written now on all 150 chapters of the Psalms, I think I can safely say that David had his moments of discouragement and disappointments. How did he handle it? Where did he flee for refuge? Well, why not let him tell you. In Psalms 143:4 he acknowledges that his spirit was “overwhelmed within,” and that his “heart” was “desolate.” Now listen to the beginning of verse 5: “I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy doings.”

 

I once heard someone say that dwelling on the “good old days” is a waste of time and demonstrates a lack of faith rather than a confidence in the God Who has promised to care for us.  When I was a young preacher I would listen to the “elders” (i.e. those up in years; not those who necessarily held the office of elder) speak of “the good old days.” And now that I am only a few weeks away from turning 70, I occasionally find myself thinking about “the good old days” as well. Of course it has been observed that sometimes the “good old days” were not all that “good.”

 

If looking back on the “good old days” is always bad, then why did David tell us that he would “remember the days of old” as if it were something good; something that helped him make it through this particular moment of despair in his life? I think it was because David wanted us to note the focus point of our nostalgia when, in fact, we are tempted to “remember the good old days.” David did not look back on those days with melancholy sadness, but with a fond reflection upon the “doings” of God. He recalled those days when God blessed him, and delivered him from the enemies of old. He remembered the victories, the answered prayers, the forgiveness granted (oh, the forgiveness granted!), and the promised protection.

 

I think perhaps the church needs to “remember the good old days” with the same focus of purpose. Some of you can remember the days when cottage classes were the norm, and knocking doors and visitation was not considered “outmoded” or “outdated.” Can you remember when two week gospel meetings were considered “short,” and a two hour sermon was a blessing?  “Ah, do you remember these?” Maybe we need to remind ourselves of what the world was like when the church was actively seeking and saving the lost, when men and women had a respect for the Bible, and families were still families and marriage was for a life time rather than “till we get tired of one another.” It is unfortunate that the “baby boomer” generation will give way to generation “X” and the “millennial” generation, and another half century from now there will be no such memories to look back upon.

 

Dwelling on the past can also serve as a reminder of how much God has blessed us as we review where we once were spiritually and where we should be today and hopefully will be in the future. We can learn from our mistakes, as well as our successes. Since the things in the Old Testament were written for our admonition, they can, and often do, serve as wonderful examples of how God’s people have successfully trod the road of faith. Those Old Testament stories also serve as a reminder of how quickly, and  how easily it is to fall off the path and bring one’s live to ruin by giving in to temptation. You see, even God wants us to remember the ‘good old days’ and to learn therefrom.

 

Some years ago The Judds had a country song that quickly became a number one hit. The title was, “Grandpa, Tell Me About the Good Old Days.” It reflects upon a time not all that long ago when the influence of God’s word was still having an impact upon our society. I am not a country and western fan, but occasionally one of those category of songs comes along that captures my interest. I think the lyrics of that song are noteworthy:

 

Grandpa, Tell Me ‘Bout The Good Old Days

(by The Judds)

 

Grandpa, tell me ‘bout the good old days.

Sometimes it feels like this world’s gone crazy.

And Grandpa, take me back to yesterday,

When the line between right and wrong

Didn’t seem so hazy.

 

Did lovers really fall in love to stay,

And stand beside each other, come what may?

Was a promise really something people kept,

Not just something they would say?

Did families really bow their heads to pray?

Did daddies really never go away?

Oh, Grandpa, tell me ‘bout the good old days.

 

Grandpa, everything is changing fast.

We call it progress, but I just don’t know.

And Grandpa, let’s wander back into the past,

And paint me the picture of long ago.

 

Did lovers really fall in love to stay?

And stand beside each other, come what may?

Was a promise really something people kept,

Not just something they would say?

Did families really bow their heads to pray?

Did daddies really never go away?

Oh, Grandpa, tell me ‘bout the good old days.

Oh, Grandpa, tell me ‘bout the good old days.

 

Maybe we should reflect upon the values that “grandpa” practiced, and then remind ourselves that such values of “the good old days” were the fruit of God’s word planted in the hearts of men. If we would ever hope to return to that kind of Godly living in our society, then perhaps we need to be actively preaching and teaching that same gospel that was preached and taught “in the good old days.”  Think about it.

 

~~~~~

 

 

 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Moments for Mothers by Robert Strand

Come Home!

 

In his book, Moments for Mothers, Robert Strand wrote about the conflicts of a family in Glasgow, Scotland.  After years of rebellion, a daughter finally rejected her parents, their values, and their faith.  She set out on her own to enjoy a life without restraints, but soon became enslaved to her liberated choices.

 

Years of misery followed as she lived on the streets, sold herself for pennies, and depended on rescue missions for survival.  Because of her self-imposed detachment from family, she didn’t know her father died, or that her mother never quit looking for her.  One day she saw a picture that her mom had posted in each of the city’s homeless shelters.  Scrawled across the photo of her mother were the words, “I love you still… come home!”

 

In wonder and disbelief she set out for her home in hopes that she was indeed still loved.  By the time she arrived it was the middle of the night.  Her heart raced as she stood on the porch and prepared to knock, but her countenance suddenly changed when she tapped on the door and it crept open.  She ran to her mother’s bedroom in fear that someone had broken in and harmed her.  She desperately reached for her mom and the woman awoke quickly to embrace her wayward daughter.  When the young woman explained her fears about the open door, her mother replied, “No dear. From the day you left, that door has never been locked.” *

 

The love and hopes of this mother reflect the love and hopes of the Father in Jesus’ story about the Prodigal Son (read Luke 15:11-24).

 

You and I can see ourselves in the prodigal son, for we have also chosen to go our own way into sin.  “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

 

Yet, just like the Father in Jesus’ story, who represents our Heavenly Father, God still loves us and wants us to “come home” to Him.

 

And, He’s left the door unlocked so that we may enter.

 

God loves us so much that He gave His Son Jesus to die on the cross for our sins (John 3:16).  Jesus paid the price for our sins and “opened up the door” for us to receive salvation, union with the Father, and the gift of eternal life (Romans 6:23).  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).

 

God will forgive, welcome home, and give eternal life to those who place their faith and trust in Jesus (Acts 16:30-31), turn from sin in repentance (Acts 17:30-31), confess Jesus before men (Romans 10:9-10), and are baptized (immersed) into Christ for the forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38).  He will continue to cleanse from sin those who continue to walk in the light of His Word (1 John 1:7).

 

No matter how far you’ve wondered into the depths of sin, God says, “I love you still... come home.”

 

Won’t YOU?

 

-- David A. Sargent

 

* Source: Chicken Soup For The Mother’s Soul, Canfield and Hansen as quoted in www.ministry127.com

 

David A. Sargent, Minister

 

Friday, May 12, 2017

Saved by Grace through Faith includes Baptism: Here's Proof

 

Ephesians 2:1-10

Titus 3:1-8

Colossians 2:6-15

Acts 18:8,24-27

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, 2 to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. 3 For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. 4 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Saviour appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, 7 so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. 8 The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7 rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.

8 See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10 and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. 11 In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. 15 He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.

Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized … 24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed,

Summarising:

Summarising:

Summarising:

Summarising:

What we were as sinners.

God came in his mercy. When we were dead in our trespasses God in his mercy made us alive in Christ.

Salvation is by grace through faith.

God’s prepared works to follow.

What we were as sinners.

God came in lovingkindness.

He saved us by his mercy by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.

Thus justified by His grace.

Heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Good works to follow.

Received Christ as Lord.

What we were as sinners.

Circumcised spiritually by Christ when buried with Christ in baptism, and raised with Him through faith in the working of God.

God thus forgiving all sins,

nailing them to the cross.

Believed and were baptized.

Those who through grace had believed.

Not for the faint-hearted, this is a thorough examination of the subject – especially for the faith-only believers and those who have them as friends and neighbours. Nothing shallow here. Read it carefully, and learn. It’s long, but the time you put into studying it will profit you. Use it to benefit your own understanding, and share it with those who need it. I pray it finds seeking hearts, and that God and His truth are glorified.

 

Ephesians 2:1-9, Titus 3:1-8 and Colossians 2:2-15 are all talking about the same thing: the transition of the sinner from dead in sin to alive in Christ. Each of these three accounts uses language different to the others, and yet speaking of the same salvation.

 

In Ephesians, salvation is by grace through faith.

In Titus, salvation is by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.

In Colossians, forgiveness comes through the circumcision of Christ, in baptism, by faith.

Adding Acts 18:8 and 27, we see that those who by grace had believed, had in fact believed and been baptized. The only conclusion one can make from this comparison, since God does not contradict Himself in His own word,  is that salvation by grace through faith is equivalent to  salvation by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, which is equivalent to the forgiveness of sins in the circumcision of Christ in baptism.

 

The washing of regeneration, sometimes translated as the bath of regeneration, is water baptism. What Titus says here is what Jesus meant by born again of water and the Spirit in John 3:5. “Washing” is “bath” and clearly a reference to water baptism. Compare “washing of water” in Ephesians 5:26, “body washed in pure water” in Hebrews 10:22, and “you were washed … in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

 

Ephesians 2 does not mention either the Spirit or baptism, but it is clear from the Titus, Colossians and Acts passages that both the Spirit and baptism are as much a part of salvation as the grace and faith.

 

Ephesians 2’s omission of the Holy Spirit in salvation does not mean that the Holy Spirit is not an essential part of salvation, just as Ephesians 2’s omission of baptism in salvation does not mean that baptism is not an essential part of salvation.

 

Why do we read in Ephesians 4:5 of one Lord, one faith, one baptism? Because when the disciple confesses Jesus as Lord, their faith has prepared them for baptism. This is the significance of Romans 10:9-10 as well as 1 Peter 3:15-22. In both passages, acknowledging the Lordship of Christ is essential to salvation. Romans 10 does not mention baptism, but Romans 6 does, and 1 Peter 3 does! No one is ready for baptism and salvation who does not confess Jesus as Lord. When we are ready to submit to the Lordship of Christ, then we are ready to be baptized into the death and resurrection of Christ. Romans 10:9-10; Romans 6:3-7; Galatians 2:20; 6:14; 1 Peter 3:15-22.

 

Not one of those four passages of Scripture, in the opening table, mentions repentance, but who will deny that repentance is essential to salvation? See Luke 13:3 and 24:46-47

 

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38.

 

Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus. And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank …  So Ananias departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came has sent me so that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” And immediately something like scales fell from his eyes, and he regained his sight. “And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins, calling on his name.” Then he rose and was baptized. Acts 9:8-9,17-18a; 22:16; 9:18b.

 

Notice here the importance of Colossians 2:8:

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.” How much deception and human tradition has replaced the clear teaching of Scripture on the role of baptism in the conversion of the sinner? The only tradition that carries authority is the apostolic tradition found in the New Testament. 2 Thessalonians 2:13-15; Matthew 15:1-14.

 

Mark 16:16 says: He who believes and is baptized will be saved.

 

John 20:22-23 says: Receive the Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins are forgiven.

 

The Spirit works through Jesus, the word, the water and the heart in bringing forgiveness to the baptized believer, and thus access to God, and then the Spirit is given to the forgiven, baptized believer as a gift and down-payment of His inheritance. Acts 2:1-41;10:1-48; 11:11-18; John 3:5; 6:63; 16:13;20:21-23; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; 12:13; Galatians 3:26-4:7; Ephesians 1:13-14; 2:16-22; 3:11-12; 4:4-6; 5:25-27; Titus 3:5; Hebrews 10:12-23; 1 Peter1:1-3,18-25; 3:18-22. But to understand this, you have to read and reflect upon the huge depth of God’s wisdom and grace in all those Scriptures. Acts 20:32. Remember God speaking in foreign languages to His people, because they would not listen?

 

You gave your good Spirit to instruct them and did not withhold your manna from their mouth and gave them

water for their thirst … For many years you bore with them and warned them by your Spirit through your prophets. Yet they would not give ear. Nehemiah 9:20,30

 

“To whom will he teach knowledge, and to whom will he explain the message? Those who are weaned from the milk, those taken from the breast? For it is precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line,  here a little, there a little. For by people of strange lips and with a foreign tongue the Lord will speak to this people, to whom he has said, “This is rest; give rest to the weary; and this is repose”; yet they would not hear. And the word of the Lord will be to them precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little, that they may go, and fall backwards, and be broken, and snared, and taken.

Isaiah 28:9-13

 

Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature. In the Law it is written, “By people of strange tongues and by the lips of foreigners will I speak to this people, and even then they will not listen to me, says the Lord.” Thus tongues are a sign not for believers but for unbelievers, while prophecy is a sign not for unbelievers but for believers. 1 Corinthians 14:20-22

 

God has not revealed all things in one or two brief Scriptures, with always very simple thoughts. Much searching and thinking are often required. Acts 10:19; 2 Timothy 2:7,15. The word for ‘reflected’ or ‘considered’ in Acts 10:19 means ‘to think through and through’, ‘to ponder over.’ How often do we not give Scripture a second thought!

The Ephesians 2, Titus 3, Colossians 2 and Acts 18:8,27 parallel didn’t just pop out of some writer’s book; it came

to me after a lot of searching Scripture. The proof of the truth is all there if we’ll just search.

 

Another example is in the conversion of Cornelius, and understanding the place of the Spirit and the place of the word. Many fail to see that Cornelius was saved because he had come to hear everything commanded by God!! “Now we are all here in the presence of God to listen to everything the Lord has commanded you to tell us.” Acts 10:33. Then read verses 44-48. Peter was not saved by the Spirit touching his heart, but when he obeyed Peters’ command to be baptized in water, just as Jesus had commanded in Mark 16:15-16!! Just read the text and see for yourself. The Spirit had enabled Cornelius to speak in tongues, so that Jewish believers would finally realize God’s desire to save Gentiles without them first being circumcised!!! (Remember my comment earlier and the use of Nehemiah and Isaiah Scriptures??)

 

While Peter was still speaking these words, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. 10:44-46

 

Peter had earlier seen this light: But God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean. 10:28. This is a reference back to what God had earlier revealed to him in a trance. 10:9-17

 

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favouritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.” 10:34-35.

 

That was the Spirit’s role in the conversion of Cornelius and his household: the tongue-speaking. The only other thing the Holy Spirit does in this conversion is this: While Peter was still thinking about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Simon, three men are looking for you. So get up and go downstairs. Do not hesitate to go with them, for I have sent them.” 10:19-20. It is also possible the Spirit was responsible for what Peter saw while in the trance, but the text simply has Peter speaking to the Lord in the trance. Of course, we know that the Lord is the Spirit!! 2 Corinthians 3:17-18.

 

Brethren and friends, you learn how to refute false teaching by searching the Scriptures to find the truth. Most false teaching is a failure to look at all the relevant Scriptures, or a misuse or distortion of the Scriptures. Many are deceived because they listen to shallow teaching based on a few prooftexts taken out of context. Two in particular: John 3:3 and John 3:16. Born again of the Spirit and believe in Jesus for eternal life. But these two Scriptures merely reveal the overriding agent in salvation – the Holy Spirit, and the overriding principal in salvation – being born again through faith, without giving all the details of how the Spirit and faith bring the new birth and salvation. John 1:11-13 is another. How one “receives” Jesus by believing is revealed in Colossians 2:6-14. Colossians 2:6 refers to receiving Christ as Lord; 2:11-14 shows how that happened.

 

Being born again involves obedience to the word taught – in baptism. Proof? See James 1:18; 1 Corinthians 4:15; 1 Peter 1:3,18-25; 3:18-22; Romans 6:3-4,16-18. You are “raised to walk in newness of life” because you have been born again into a new life when you obeyed in baptism!! In baptism, you die to your past life and are raised to a new life. Born again! When God causes us to be born again, He uses the Spirit, the word, teachers and preachers, faith, repentance, obedience and baptism! You find a simple, summary statement in one verse, but the details are almost always found in other verses, as these examples and this whole essay have shown. But when these false teachers deal with some of these “other verses”, they distort them instead of harmonizing. See 2 Peter 3:15-18. But we know better, don’t we??

 

Why do you think my essays are often filled with huge contexts of Scripture???

Why do you think I’ve started this essay with that table showing the comparison of those parallel Scriptures??

 

I never apologise for depth and context!! I conclude with a telling example:

 

Jesus said to them, “Very truly I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have

no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your ancestors ate manna and died, but whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” He said this while teaching in the synagogue in Capernaum. On hearing it, many of his disciples said, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?”

Aware that his disciples were grumbling about this, Jesus said to them, “Does this offend you?  Then what if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he was before! The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life. Yet there are some of you who do not believe.” For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray him. He went on to say, “This is why I told you that no one can come to me unless the Father has enabled them.”

From this time many of his disciples turned back and no longer followed him.

“You do not want to leave too, do you?” Jesus asked the Twelve.

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. 69 We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:53-69

 

Following Jesus and listening to “hard teaching” go together! John 8:30-47; Hebrews 5:11-14.

 

Dr. Robert Stein is Senior Professor of New Testament Interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological

Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. Stein has written papers in which he states that faith, repentance, confession, baptism and receiving the Spirit all go together as a salvation package in the New Testament. He didn’t learn this from the Baptist statement of beliefs (which denies this), but by a serious study of the New Testament! He knows what it takes. Anything Stein writes displays deep scholarship. The following is taken from his: Baptism and Becoming a Christian in the New Testament. This article was first presented at a session on Baptism for the Baptist General Conference.

Galatians 3:26-27 says, “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.” It should be noted that Paul uses “faith” and “baptism” interchangeably in this passage. The Gentile Christians are children of God by faith, a statement supported by the fact that they were baptized. This poses no problem if these two aspects of conversion occurred at the same time in the experience of the Galatian Christians, but if they were separated in time a problem immediately arises. Did the Galatians become Christians when they believed or when they were baptized? Paul envisioned no such problem arising in the thinking of the Galatians because faith and baptism generally occurred at the same time. No temporal gap was assumed between these two components of the conversion experience. The possibility that one could have faith but not be baptized was not even perceived as an option by Paul. In this passage Paul neither exalts faith at the expense of baptism nor baptism at the expense of faith. They are integrally related, and each assumes the other. This same pairing of faith and baptism appears in Colossians 2:11-12: “In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.” Once again faith and baptism are integrally related. Faith is involved in the rite of baptism, for in the experience of baptism one is raised from the water “through faith.” Additional examples can be found in Acts 8:12, 16:31-33, and 18:8, as well as in Ephesians 5:26 and Acts 8:35-36, where the washing of baptism is associated with hearing the “word.”

 

--David Hunter

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