Archive for the ‘Salvation’ 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).



Posted: December 15, 2011 in Jesus Christ, Salvation, The Cross

The seemingly insignificant word “but” is found several times during Matthew’s account of Jesus’ last hours leading up to His crucifixion. I recently saw this word as like a window giving me glimpses into a fuller picture of reality during Christ’s last hours. This little word in Matthews gospel towards the end of Jesus’ life signals profound things. This is what I mean…  

Many of the times where we read “but”, it is as if the text is saying, “This is what we would expect, BUT this is what actually happened.” An example: Jesus, the Son of God, is just hours before his betrayal into the hands of sinners. What would we naturally expect? We would expect that God the Son would not be crucified! We would expect Him to call down legions of angels to protect Him. I mean, at the very least we would expect Him to simply flee the city. BUT we all know what He prayed and did. “…“My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, BUT as you will”” (Mt. 26:39 caps added). Jesus does what most thought wasn’t normal.

Matthew continues to add in almost refrain-like sayings introduced with “But…” I think they should sometimes leave the reader asking, “Why?” It is as if at times Matthew is pointing out that more is going on that we outwardly see. It is not normal. At times Jesus is acting so differently than most who make their way to the cross. Here is an example. When Jesus is betrayed into the hands of the priests and elders one of his disciples drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest. That would be normal if Jesus and his crew were planning to take over Rome, which no doubt many thought they might. BUT how does Jesus react? He says, “…“Put your sword back into its place…Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at one send me more than twelve legions of angels? BUT how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”” (vs. 52-54 caps added). Wait, I thought you were losing right here Jesus? But you are saying you are fulfilling the Scriptures.

Another instance. Jesus is being questioned and lied about in a mock court. The high priest asked him, “…“Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” BUT Jesus remained silent” (v. 62-63; see also 27:11-14). Nothing? Wouldn’t every other person on his way to the cross be pleading, begging, crying out for mercy? Wouldn’t every other person try to plead that he is innocent and undeserving? Probably. But not Jesus. The high priest goes on to demand from him, “…“I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. BUT I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”” (vs. 63-64)

The high priest hears Jesus positive response to his question and Jesus knows what that means. It means that now the high priest will declare Jesus a blasphemer, worthy of the cross. In the high priest’s mind, Jesus is on his way to death. But Jesus lets us in on a better picture of reality, starting with “But”. It is as if He says, “Right now you see me as good as dead, BUT I tell you I will sit at the right hand of Power and come on the clouds of heaven, alive!

If there is any question in the reader’s mind about why this road to the cross is so different, why Jesus doesn’t flee the city, why he doesn’t allow his followers to fight, why he says he is in the process of fulfilling Scripture, why he remains so silent, and why he talks about coming on the clouds of heaven right before he is about to die, it is all put to rest with Jesus’ last words. Some of Jesus’ last words fly in the face of what seems to be going on outwardly. He proclaims, “It is finished” (from John 19:30). Wait, what? You were just accomplishing something? Wouldn’t we expect most men being crucified under the rule of Rome as losing everything? Wouldn’t most men miserably cry, “I have lost it all”? While many around him thought they were winning, Jesus’ words are a shocking window to the reality that he just won.

The Son of God was given the name Jesus because it bears witness to his mission. He came to “…save his people from their sins.”” Jesus proclaims that the very thing he came to do he just accomplished in his death.  Why does Jesus’ road to Calvary seem so odd? Because Jesus said concerning his life, “No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord…” (John 10:18).


 “I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me;
   I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.
I said, “Here am I, here am I,”
   to a nation that was not called by my name.
I spread out my hands all the day
   to a rebellious people,
who walk in a way that is not good,
   following their own devices;” 
(Is. 65:1-2)

Isaiah 65 provides insight about salvation that is nothing less than astonishing. When we think about the gospel of our salvation, we rejoice in our Savior’s sacrifice for us. We rejoice that Jesus lived in perfect righteousness, died on behalf of sinners, and rose for our justification. We celebrate the grace of God, freely given through the bloody sacrifice of Jesus. We feel our pulse quicken as we ponder the wonder of such a sacrifice, so undeserved.

As we ponder the reality of Christ, we have joy because we are pondering also how we, undeserving sinners, came to actually know Him. We are aware that so many around us don’t know Him. They know about Him but they don’t know Him like we do. “Why me?” we ask. It is here in this question that texts like Isaiah 65 supply for us greater understanding of how Christ and his sacrifice was applied to our personal lives and we begin to feel our joy increase.

Listen to what God says. He says he was ready to be sought by those not asking for him. He was ready to be found by those not looking for him. He goes on to say that he holds out his hands to a people running the other direction. Like the prodigal father holding out his arms to his son as he runs off to wicked living. Wouldn’t this make more sense if it said God was ready to be sought by any who would come after him; any who would ask for him; any who would run into his arms, and not away from them? Is this not what we typically are taught about God concerning salvation? We are told clearly that Jesus’ sacrifice is like a wonderful gift. God makes it known to people and then steps back and watches to see who will embrace His Son by faith. He holds out his arms in Heaven waiting to see who will seek him, right?

This would make sense naturally. Do not wives doll themselves up, making themselves ready for their husbands to pursue them? Do not fathers hold their arms wide open, making themselves ready to embrace their children as they run to them? Do not whole armies make themselves ready knowing they will soon be sought by the enemy? The problem is this understanding of God waiting for people to embrace Him doesn’t square with Is. 65:1-2. No one is asking, no one is seeking, and no one is coming.

Paul is very clear, “…no one seeks for God.” (Rom. 3:11).  

So what is this about God readying himself for a people whom He knows are not coming?

God is communicating at least two amazing truths. The first one is what we have already seen. No one outside of the redeemed people of God, that was once you and I, has a heart to seek God. Everyone is totally depraved. If God merely sits in heaven, holds out his hands and asks people to come, everyone will choose hell. Remember, no one seeks for God. No one will believe in Christ. No one will repent of sin. That is the bad news, but God reveals this bad news to stun you with good news; exceedingly beautiful news about your salvation.

When you didn’t know Jesus, God did not sit idly by with fingers crossed, hoping you would come. No, the Bible teaches something radically different. It teaches that “…you were dead in the trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). You were like Lazarus, dead in the tomb. Jesus didn’t simply invite him out and hope that he chose to come. Jesus put life into a dead man.

The Bible teaches that God chose to save you specifically (Eph. 1:3-10), like Jesus chose to raise Lazarus. The exact moment that he wanted to break into your world and say, “Here am I, here am I”, He did just that! The Bible says he gave you a “heart of flesh” and this heart desires Him, turns from sin, and believes in Jesus for forgiveness of sins (Ez. 26:27). The Bible says the reason you have faith is because God has “…opened a door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27). Faith is said to be the “gift of God” (Eph. 2:8). He created faith in you. The reason you repent is because “…God has granted repentance that leads to life” (Acts 11:18).

Look at this straight forward verse: “Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God…” (1 Jn. 5:1). Do you see that? The reason you believe, is because you have been born of God. You were not born again because you believed. Quite the opposite. You believe in the beautiful Savior because God made you a new creature in Christ. “…According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again…” (1 Pt. 1:3).

This is the fulness of God’s grace! This is astounding! I encourage you to read and study further about God’s amazing grace. Ephesians 1-2 are mind-blowing chapters to start with. 


When you fling into eternity, what is your basis for your hope that you will forever live with God in heaven? Would you say it is Jesus? Good! But the question remains, how do you know that you truly believe in Him? If asked how you know that you believe in Christ, what would you say?  

The Word of God says in 2 Pt. 1:10 “Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure…” In the context of 1 Pt. 1 it seems that Peter is saying that having godly “qualities” is a way to assure yourself of your salvation (see 1 Pt. 1:1-15). The reality that you can and should know that you believe in Christ, rather than just believe that you believe (which is circular reasoning) is clear in the NT.

In 2 Cor. 13:5 we are commanded, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” God has graciously given us a clear way to test whether or not we have true faith. 

1 John was written so “that you may know that you have eternal life” if indeed you profess to know Christ (see 1 Jn. 5:13). Heaven is real. Hell is real. There is nothing more important to figure out than whether or not you are in right relationship with God and thus where you will spend eternity.

When you fling into eternity, what is your assurance that you will forever be with the Lord? What is your assurance that you won’t spend eternity facing His wrath in Hell? Do you look back to a time when you walked down an isle, repeated a prayer, shook the pastor’s hand, and signed a card? Many might say, “I know I am saved because I believe.” But the question remains, “How do you know that you actually believe?”  

Heaven is real. Hell is real. There is nothing more important to figure out than whether or not you are in right relationship with God and thus where you will spend eternity. Thankfully, God has given us a clear way of knowing if we are saved.

If you claim to be a Christian, find the comfort that comes when you find assurance with God’s Word that you know Jesus and that He knows you. 2 Cor. 13:5 says, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” If you find that you are not a Christian, though you have always thought you were, repent and believe on the crucified and risen Savior for the free forgiveness of all your sins!

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.”

2 Cor. 4:4-6

Posted: November 6, 2011 in Glory of God, Salvation

If you are a born again, new creation child of God, then there was a time in your life when you were acted upon by God in a saving way. You may have a story where you vividly recall the very moment God called you to Himself. Maybe you don’t remember the moment, but you probably could point back to a time period when you know at some point God “caused [you] to be born again” (1 Pt. 1:3). Either way, you know that right now you are born again and trust Jesus Christ alone and obey Him.

What is shocking about salvation is realizing what happened in that moment that God acted upon you. The reason I use the phrasing, “God acted upon you” is because the Bible teaches that is what happened at salvation. It was God acting upon you first, before you did anything. Therefore, let’s take a minute to dwell upon the beautiful act of God in our salvation.

First, let’s remind ourselves of the sinful condition we were in. When we were in sin, the Bible says we were not “able” to accept the gospel (1 Cor. 2:14). The Bible says all in rebellion “cannot” embrace Christ and so be justified (Rom. 8:17) because they are “dead in…trespasses and sins” (Eph. 2:1). Dead people don’t make decisions. Every time we were to hear the “gospel of the glory of Christ” (2 Cor. 4:4), we would see it as foolish, unattractive, and it would smell like a “fragrance from death to death” (2 Cor. 2:16). Therefore, when God gives saving mercy to someone, He does something to help them see and love His glory, His glory displayed in the gospel. He has to open eyes in order to save.

2 Cor. 4:4 says, “In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” In other words, the perishing hear the gospel and it has no appeal to them because they do not see the beauty of God in it. They see Christ as worthless, not as the “image of God”.

Verse 5 says, “For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake.” So, Paul, knowing that many would hear the gospel and not be able to see the glory of Christ, still presses on in preaching. Why?

Verse 6 is his only hope: “For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” Paul trusts that God has people He will be pleased to have mercy upon. Paul does not try to make his preaching easier to swallow or to make himself sound more eloquent. He looks to his Sovereign Lord, who has the power to shine the “light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” into dark hearts.

What God does at salvation is shine in darkened hearts the knowledge of His glory displayed in Jesus Christ and in His death and resurrection. God has a people who He has chosen to save and He saves by shining in their hearts the radiant light of His glory in the gospel.

What God did with you, if you are born again, is absolutely inexpressible. It is overwhelmingly powerful and gracious. God opened your eyes to see His blazing glory. He chose to let you see His beauty, majesty, and radiance and He gave you a new heart to treasure His beauty (Ez. 11:19). He desires that you would enjoy Him above all else. He wants you to be full of inexpressible joy in seeing His beauty.

The cross of Jesus is not just a means, but it is also an end. The cross is not only a means for you to be able to see God without being killed by Him, but it is also the very place in which you see God’s glory displayed most brilliantly. God delights in opening the eyes of His elect to see His grace. He saves people to marvel at His justice and His justifying power (Rom. 3:26).

Have your eyes been opened to the glory of God? Has your heart been changed to delight in His glory and not hate it? If He has opened your eyes, seek today to be satisfied in contemplating and dwelling upon His glory in Christ, all by faith. If you are not sure if you have seen or know Jesus, plead with God for mercy found at the cross. Repent of your sin and trust Jesus Christ and Him alone for salvation. He bore the wrath of God and rose from the dead for all who would come to Him and call out for His mercy. Cry out for Jesus today, for you can be sure that “…it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” (Acts 2:21). His grace will be poured out on you if you call out for Christ!

Jesus, let us see your beauty and delight in it supremely. Amen.

“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)