Archive for the ‘Grace’ Category

I Want Them Back

Posted: March 12, 2012 in Grace, Salvation

The God of the Bible is so astounding that sometimes I do not have words to thank Him for what He has done in Christ. I experience at least a little taste of what Paul must have felt when he said, “Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!” (2 Cor. 9:15). From this astounding picture of God in the Bible, I grieve over the picture of God I see so many paint of him today. Honestly, the modern picture of Jesus can be so unimpressive. It stirs no worship; it sustains no passion; it calls for no radical commitment.   

This evening, looking for something to watch on TV, I came across the movie Taken. This post isn’t a review of the movie, but rather a brief comment about the effectual work of Jesus, as I was reminded of it through an epic ending scene. In case you haven’t seen it, here is some plot info. If you are familiar with the plot, feel free to skip to the next paragraph. The plot of Taken, starring Liam Neeson as Bryan Mills consists of a young beautiful girl (Kim Mills) who travels overseas with a friend. Kim is young and naïve, unlike her father who is a retired CIA agent. He is the type of guy who eats excellence for breakfast and day dreams about how to enforce justice. He is in love with his daughter, but he and his wife are divorced. However, he has significantly reoriented his life to remain closer to his daughter. When his daughter brings up the desire to vacation overseas, he is against it, wanting to protect her. Eventually, she gets her way. In short, her and her friend arrive and are targeted by sex traffickers, kidnapped, and enslaved. The young girl is on the phone with her father when the kidnappers take her. He hears it all. He promises the kidnapper he is coming after him. As the viewer, you are sure he will win.

Fast forward. He finds his daughter at an auction where she is being sold. She is sold and he is able to follow her to a yacht where she is brought. He boards the yacht without permission. As he is moving through every obstacle between him and his precious girl, one of his obstacles is asked something like, “Who is this?” He answers with something to the effect, “It’s the girl’s father and he wants her back!

That line. Wow. What a picture of the gospel. I see pointers to the biblical gospel all over that. Yet at the same time, I grieve over the fact that so many Christians do not see God as the one who says, “He is mine, and I want him back!” Or, “She is mine, and I want her back!”

When God wants to do something, He does it. Nothing can stop Him from accomplishing that which He wants to do. Ps. 115:3 says, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” Ps. 135:6 says, “Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps.” By definition, God does what He wants to do. There is no power in heaven or on earth or in hell that can even begin to think about nudging Him.

This is good news, because the Bible paints our fallen state in a horrific light. Contrary to popular opinion, we are not good people. Most everyone will admit that no one is perfect, but most unbelievers will always admit that deep down, they are good. They would claim to know what is good and have the desire to choose what is good. But the Bible says nothing of the sort. Listen to Ephesians 2:1-3 unpack the fallen, sinful state of everyone born:

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” (Italics added).

Paul says that we are born dead (that is the paradox of all time). We are born spiritually dead, totally bent on evil all the time (Gen. 6:5; 8:21). Now notice how Paul describes this “dead” condition. He says dead sinners live according to their own passions and desires. The passions and desires are directly in accordance with Satan (the “prince of the power of the air”). Everyone is only free to do what they ultimately, most supremely want to do. And dead sinners, one of which I used to be, can only live out their passions for evil continually. Deep down, no one is born good. Deep down, in the fallen state, everyone loves evil. They delight in the bad.

This state of spiritual deadness has massive implications for what we need in order to be made God’s sons and daughters. It means we do not merely need help, but rather complete, total resurrection. Today, so many people paint a picture of God as a kind, nice, gentleman in heaven who is sitting back, sweating bullets hoping that people will “Choose Jesus!” It is a picture of God that says Jesus died to merely offer salvation to all people, rather than actually save anyone. The cross is only effective if you make it effective they say. But is that what the Bible says? Are we saved by grace alone, or by grace plus some willful decision, or work, of ours? The last time I checked, I am saved completely by what God has done for me, not what I can do with God’s help.  

We do not need Jesus to merely offer himself, what so many teach that he does. We need Jesus to actually rescue us. Jesus does not offer a rescue; He actually rescues. There is a massive difference between those two ideas. The first one says that Jesus swims over to drowning people and asks if they want to swim over to him for safety; it says he throws himself out there like a neutral, floating life preserver, asking people to swim over to him if they want. But this is not in line with Eph. 2, because that passage says that no one is “drowning” but rather everyone is dead, lying on the ocean floor; lifeless. The second statement is the one in accordance with the Scriptures. Jesus is the Rescuer who goes to the ocean floor, brings up the dead bodies, and breathes life into them.

But this means that when Jesus brings us to the faith, he overcomes our dead state. Our dead state is that we are very much alive in our evil wills. This means he must overcome our evil wills. This is exactly what came into my head with I was watching Neeson breaking through to his daughter. I literally thought of God, overcoming my will to rescue me from myself. In my dead state, I fought hard against God. But who wins? Do I sit in the heavens and do as I please, or does God? Did God listen to my will, the will that always chose evil and never chose Him? No He didn’t! He loved me too much to listen to me when I said, “Stay away!” He loved me too much to say, “He is mine, and I hope he comes back one day!” God loved me in such a way that he came to me and changed my will. He didn’t force me. He exerted more power than that. He opened my eyes to my sinful, guilty state. Then he showed me Christ, who sufficiently forgives me and satisfies me eternally (2 Cor. 4:4-6).

I am totally unimpressed by the modern, distorted view of God that says he merely offers salvation; that Jesus died, hoping someone would accept His cross. That means He died in vain for all those who do not accept the cross. The God of the Bible is far more captivating. He doesn’t merely offer, or invite, but rather he chooses and then accomplishes the salvation of the elect. He will stop at nothing to save those whom he chooses to have mercy upon. If you trust Christ, know that he stopped at nothing to get you! God is the good Father who said of me and all whom He has chosen, “They are mine, and I want them back!” And indeed, He has redeemed saved many and is still in the business! 

“But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—” (Eph. 2:4-5).

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Jesus Saves Sinners!

Posted: November 22, 2011 in Gospel, Grace

In this video we are seeing an extremely vital biblical truth. That Jesus came to save SINNERS. He came for the lowly, for the sick, for the broken, for the poor in spirit, for the wicked, and on and on and on. The pastor that Matt Chandler quotes in this video’s main point is that no person would want a spouse who has sinned sexually in their past because they will be forever marred. It is imperative to be aware of the severity of sin, but this pastor has made absolutely no mention of the way God made to forgive sinners. For as it says in Romans 3:23, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” In our hearts, without forgiveness from God, we are all the used up and dead rose…not just those who have had sex before marriage. The charge against humanity is sin and we are ALL guilty. In James 2:10 it says, “Whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.”

So the crime is sin, and we are guilty. But, as Matt Chandler expressed, in line with the Bible, Jesus came to forgive SINNERS. In Luke 5:31-32 we read, “Jesus answered them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.’“  And in Luke 19:10 Jesus says, “For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost.” The whole point of the Gospel is the redemption of God’s people to the glory of His name. The whole point of the Gospel is that God takes the broken, beaten, and used rose and redeems it through his Son to have a new identity in Him.

Jacob

Isaiah 55:1-3

 “Come, all you who are thirsty,
come to the waters;
and you who have no money,
    
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
    
without money and without cost.
Why spend money on what is not bread, 
     and your labor on what does not satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good,
    
and your soul will delight in the richest
         
of fare
Give ear and come to me;
    
hear me, that your soul may live.
I will make an everlasting covenant with you,
    
my faithful love promised to David.”

Here in Isaiah, we see an open invitation from the Lord- to “come all”. The invitation offered here is salvation: the forgiveness of sins. Our souls depend on this.  As it says above, “Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live.” In this passage, God relates the physical sustenance (food and water) to the need for Him in our lives. Just as a man would physically die without daily intakes of food and water, all men are spiritually dead unless we forsake our old ways and turn to Jesus to save and sustain us.

When Jesus was on the earth, he conversed with a Samaritan woman who was drawing water from a well.  To her, he speaks of “living water” in John 4:10. In verse 13-14 Jesus says, “Everyone who drinks from this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” What a promise from our Savior!

In the verses above from Isaiah we read, “Why spend your money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?” So if you are extremely hungry and only have enough money for one meal, you are not going to go out and buy something that won’t satisfy that hunger. And just as Jesus says in John 4, if we drink the water that the world offers we are promised that we will thirst again. And as stated in Isaiah 55, it is just foolish to labor and spend money on something that does not satisfy compared to the free gift offered by Christ which is promised by Jesus to satisfy forever. In Isaiah 55:7 it says,“Let him turn to the Lord, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.”
Jacob

“If someone sins against a man, God will mediate for him, but if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?” (1 Sam. 2:25).

Eli tells this to his sons,  who “were worthless men. They did not know the Lord.” (1 Sam. 2:12). This Hebrew phrase “worthless” refers to those who incite idolatry, insurrection, the sexually immoral, and liars. Eli’s sons corrupted their priestly duty, taking the best part of the offering, the fat, for themselves instead of giving it to God. “Thus the sin of the young men was very great in the sight of the Lord, for the men treated the offering of the Lord with contempt.” (1 Sam. 2:17).

So when Eli rebukes his worthless sons in v. 25, he is telling them that their sins against other men can be mediated, but their greatest sin is against God. Their offense against God cannot be mediated by anyone, and “it was the will of the Lord to put them to death.” (1 Sam. 2:25). Transgressions of God’s laws are deserving of the punishment that Eli’s worthless sons receive. Similar to what Eli tells his sons is what Jesus tells His disciples, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Matt. 10:28).

Eli’s question in v. 25, “who can intercede for him?” immediately foreshadows Samuel, who “grew in the presence of the Lord,” (1 Sam. 2:21) as he ministered under Eli. Samuel would be raised up as the last of the judges over Israel, and usher in the first two kings, Saul and David, who we see in the rest of 1 & 2 Samuel. These men would all intercede for Israel before God, but were all imperfect mediators. The people demanded a king, removing Samuel as their judge and rejecting God. (1 Sam. 8:6-7). In 1 Sam. 15, the Lord rejected Saul as king for his unlawful sacrifice, and David was unable to build the temple of the Lord. We see throughout the Old Testament mediators for the people of God, from Moses, through all the judges, and on through the kings, but they all fall short because of their sins. The perfect intercessor foreshadowed in v. 25 had not yet come.

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” (1 Tim. 2:5-6).

Christ’s death on the cross satisfied the wrath of God towards the sins of His people. Peter tells us “…you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” (1 Peter 1:18-19)

So “if someone sins against the Lord, who can intercede for him?” The “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

Trust in the perfect mediator, and “though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.” (Isa. 1:18)

Austin

This Could Change You Forever

Posted: October 25, 2011 in Gospel, Grace, Salvation

This sermon is foreign in the “evangelical” community today. It causes uproar in many places. Yet it is simple, basic gospel preaching. Schedule out a mere hour and 7 minutes today, grab some coffee, and watch this sermon. Whether you are a Christian or not. Learn and then live what you learn. I don’t say this nonchalantly but I suppose right now there are fewer more important things you could listen to today.

God’s Glorious Grace

Posted: October 18, 2011 in Glory of God, Grace

If Israel understood rightly themselves and the nations they were driving out, they would see the glory of God.

In Deuteronomy 9 God displays purpose behind His actions towards Israel and what He is doing to many nations through Israel. Concerning the basic plan to bring Israel into the promised land the Lord says they are “…to go in to dispossess nations greater and mightier than yourselves, cities great and fortified up to heaven, a people great and tall…” (Dt. 9:1-2). This raises the question of why? Why did the Lord choose the people he did, call them Israel, and then bless them with promised land? The Lord is clear about the wrong answer to that question. The wrong answer would be for Israel to say “…‘It is because of my righteousness that the LORD has brought me in to possess this land,’…” (Dt. 9:4).

The LORD “set his love on” Israel, not because of Israel, but because He was pleased to have mercy upon them (from Dt. 7:7).

So, the answer of why is because God is showing mercy to them, sinful Israel. Another question is raised though. Why is God driving out other nations by the hand of Israel? The answer is clear in Dt. 9:4 for “…it is because of the wickedness of these nations that the LORD is driving them out…” God is giving justice to them for their own sin. It was the Lord’s will that they “…come against Israel in battle, in order that they should be devoted to destruction and should receive no mercy but be destroyed, just as the LORD commanded Moses.” (Josh. 11:20 emphasis added).

Israel receives God’s mercy. Other nations receive God’s justice.

I said that if Israel understood this rightly, they would see God’s glory. I say that because of what Romans 9:19-23 says. Paul says in Rom. 9 that some “vessels” (people) are destined for mercy and some for wrath. All vessels are sinful and thus we all deserve God’s justice; His punishment and wrath. But not everyone receives this justice. Some receive mercy. Israel was, in a sense, a vessel of mercy. They saw the mercy given to them and the judgment given to other wicked nations. It is in this way too that the Church today sees God’s mercy and justice.

God’s Church is a vessel of mercy. We deserve judgment but do not receive it. With grief we know that unbelievers receive God’s wrath. They are responsible for their actions and all die if they do not repent and trust Christ (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). Even in this, we see God’s glory. He shows his wrath and makes known his power in vessels of wrath “in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—” (Rom. 9:22-23). God’s mercy, found in Christ alone, shines like a diamond placed against the backdrop of His wrath. Soak it up Christian! You will forever praise the slain Lamb because He bore God’s wrath against you upon the tree, giving you only grace!

To the praise of Your inexpressibly sweet, sweet grace, forever!

Collin

“For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.”
2 Corinthians 4:15

I remember years ago while flying to Africa, God began to teach me something wonderful and inexpressibly important. I found myself going through the Scriptures looking at the topic of ‘thankfulness’. What was blazing on the pages was the call for me to live in thankfulness. As one who fights legalism more than liberalism, this was wonderful to see. My flesh tries to get me to attempt to impress God; to make Him thankful for me. This command to “give thanks in all circumstances…” is wonderful because it stops me in my prideful legalism to receive from God (1 Thess. 5:18).

We have been given something to which thankfulness should result in us. Thankfulness is a response of gladness in receiving something good. The question is, what do the NT writers constantly call us to remember we have received?

The answer is the grace of Christ. For “as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving”. The Bible calls us to wonder at the beauty of the gospel of grace; the beauty of Christ crucified and risen for the forgiveness of sins. We may think, “I am already thankful.” But let’s ask ourselves one question: Today, when we woke up, shortly after did we find ourselves at some point speechless or maybe in tears, or maybe smiling or singing because we began to think about our salvation? Yes, simply the grace of salvation. Happy are you, O Israel! Who is like you, a people saved by the Lord…” (Dt. 33:29 emphasis added).

This is simple, yet breathtaking. God, who once opposed you in your sin because you opposed Him in His holiness, has given you Christian, a clean record. He counts Christ’s righteousness as yours. You are blessed to enjoy Him forever. This Gospel can never be something you grasp without gratitude. We must fight our way into the position of remembering and receiving grace in order to increase thanksgiving.

But it doesn’t stop there. I said this is incredibly important because God’s glory is at stake. God’s grace leads to thanksgiving, all “to the glory of God.” When we lose sight of the wonder of God’s grace, we lose sight of the good we have received from God and we begin to think we contributed to God saving us; we detract from God’s glory. What we are saying is, “God, you are not enough to satisfy right now. I need more than You and what you are giving me.” Or we are saying, “I worked for this. No need to thank anyone.” Thanking God for His grace glorifies God by saying He is the supremely satisfying gift of the Gospel. It also says that we didn’t merit our way to the gift, but that God gave himself freely. Therefore, God is glorified as the gracious Giver and Gift of the gospel. For His glory and your joy!
Collin