We Need A Personal Savior

For March 1, 2020
All of humanity is plagued by a sinful internal condition or Nature that influences how we think, speak, and act, such that even toddlers can defy their parents, teenagers can carry out brutal murders, and adults can perform unconscionable acts, leaving us to wonder how anyone could commit such atrocities.

Someone trying to live a “good life” might ask, “How can I be a sinner?” “I’m not like him or her or those other ‘bad’ people!” The answer to this question is simple: “When was the last time you lied?” “When was the last time you took something that did not belong to you?” “Have you gossiped about another person recently?” “Have your words or actions caused someone to lose a promotion or lose their job (so you could be hired instead)?

“Have you forgiven that person who wronged you?” “When have you expressed inappropriate, sexual feelings towards another person?” “How has your hate or ill-will ruined your relationship with another person? “How has envy or jealousy tarnished your relationships with others?”  “Does your altruism tend to be self-centered—what’s best for me?”

Your sin(s) may or may not be listed here, but that does not excuse the fact that we are sinners not because of the sins we commit. We commit sin because of the Nature we’ve inherited from Adam and Eve, our ancestors that is always at work inside us.

We’ve lost fellowship with our holy God because He never fell from perfection; we did, and our Nature is highly offensive to Him.

I have worked with people who’ve completed their prison sentences, and I have often noticed a strong public resistance toward them upon their return to society. Perhaps our resistance is based upon our fear they will vandalize our property, steal from us, assault a friend or family member, or commit some other heinous act.

We are very particular about the people with whom we choose to associate. However for the same reasons, can we not expect our holy God to be choosy about those whom He associates? It should not surprise us that God has a “no riffraff” policy that remains in force today.

God gave us the Old Testament Law through Moses to understand sin and righteousness from His perspective, along with His promise of peace and prosperity. It also defines our proper worship, service, and love, and it remains applicable today, even as the Lord insists in Matthew 5:18 (KJV): “Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the Law, till all be fulfilled.”

Achieving God’s righteousness should be simple, right? Just keep the Law. But our Nature makes this impossible because we worship other gods, create idols, irreverently use God’s name, break the Sabbath, disrespect our parents, commit murder, are sexually promiscuous, steal, lie, and covet. At best, the Law serves as a permanent reminder of how condemned we are—because we cannot keep it!

Yet to make matters worse, with all the technology, self-help, and other resources we have at our disposal, we can do nothing to correct our Nature. Daily we watch the tragic futility of those who seek remedies through wealth, sports notoriety, political power, corporate achievement, social status, academia, technology, and medicine. Our failures remind us that, although we are unfit for a glorious Heaven morally and spiritually, we are well suited for a tormenting Hell.

Our Nature is a repressive, internal, spiritual condition that we cannot fix with our own external, physical efforts. We cannot have fellowship with God until He gives us clean hands and pure hearts, as the Psalmist writes,

Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD? or who shall stand in his holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the LORD, and righteousness from the God of his salvation (Psalm 24:3–5).

Trying to compensate by doing good deeds is comparable to Adam and Eve using fig leaves to cover their shame and nakedness—it doesn’t work. When God confronted Adam and Eve about their sin, they resorted to hiding from God and blaming others and their circumstances. Much has not changed, since we tend to use these same tactics today to avoid accountability for our sinful behavior.

God could have solved our sin problem by programming us to obey Him like robots, but He wanted us to love him freely and surrender to Him willingly. God could have created loopholes and exemptions in His perfect Law to accommodate our sin problem, but then He would have made Himself less than holy by sacrificing His perfection for our imperfection.

God chose the most effective remedy instead. He became a human being in the person of Jesus Christ so that He could pay the price for our sin Himself and John writes in John 1:14 (KJV):

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Jesus Christ heralded a New Testament age for all people everywhere. Now we can have our sins forgiven, experience a complete, internal, spiritual transformation, and we can have our need for an intimate, eternal fellowship with God satisfied as well.

This new period in history also revoked all claims of neutrality toward God. In John 8:24, Jesus warns that those who refuse to believe in Him will die in their sins. Either we can choose to receive His gift of abundant life on earth and eternal life in Heaven, or we can reject it and face an empty, unfulfilled life on earth along with a tormented eternity in Hell as a result.

We must make Jesus Christ our Personal Savior, because He is standing at the door of our hearts—knocking. He will not force His way upon us. He wants us to invite Him into our hearts and lives as Revelation 3:20 (NLT) teaches:

“Look! I stand at the door and knock. If you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in, and we will share a meal together as friends.”

What a Wonderful Personal Savior!

 

No Need For Anyone Else

For February 23, 2020
In an attempt to refute the notion that Jesus Christ was both God and man, naysayers argue that it is futile to rely on Jesus Christ alone to redeem us and that somehow we need someone or something more. My reply to this notion is in 2 Timothy 1:12 (KJV): “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him against that day.”

I have determined to follow the Lord Jesus’ leadership because He never suggested that His was one of many ways to God. Instead, He insists that He was the only way to God in John 14:6 (NLT): “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”

As both the Son of God (God), and the Son of Man (human), Jesus Christ could make the bold assertion: “Before Abraham was, I AM.”1 Only He can establish such an unprecedented association with Israel’s Old Testament Covenant God (YHWH), which in John 8:56-59, prompted many of His hearers to interpret His words as blasphemy—punishable by death, and to kill Him as Leviticus 24:16 authorized them.

Adam and Eve, our ancestors disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden by eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. As a result, the entire earth is plagued with sin and death, and we are sinners by nature.2 Thus, the Bible teaches that the wages of sin is death, and all have sinned an fall short of God’s glory.3

In other words, according to God’s standards for righteousness, death is the payment for our sins while blood provides for our purification.

For the life of the body is in its blood. I have given you the blood on the altar to purify you, making you right with the LORD. It is the blood, given in exchange for a life, that makes purification possible. Leviticus 17:11 (NLV)

To reconcile us to God, someone with great power and authority—who could identify with both God and Humanity—had to die and their blood had to be shed. Thus, Jesus Christ became the “Suffering Servant” to redeem a lost humanity, as Isaiah describes in Isaiah 53:4-6 (NIV):

Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

Jesus Christ insists that Abraham rejoiced to see His day (John 8:56), and as the “Seed of the Woman,” He would be the one foretold through whom the entire world would be blessed.4 And as “The Good Shepherd,” His vicarious death imparted new life to His precious sheep just as He promised, “The Thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” John 10:10 (KJV)

Our Lord’s mission and message about the Kingdom of God is distinct from anything the world has ever seen or heard, and His theme is very simple:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.  John 3:16-18 (NIV)

The Apostle Peter summarized this radical idea when He states in Acts 4:12 (NIV): “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.”

We must accept Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior. Nothing else is required, and no one else is needed in order for us to benefit from the vicarious merits of His perfect life and sacrificial death. In the final analysis, absolute safekeeping is ours through Jesus Christ who died for our sins and rose for our Justification as Romans 4:25 tells us.

What a Wonderful Savior!

 

Is Love Is The Answer?

For February 16, 2020
Isn’t it amazing how easy it is to express our love towards others when they are reciprocated? We want to feel safe, and not vulnerable when expressing one of our strongest emotions—without feeling victimized. How often do we avoid the people whom we feel will reject us, or not reciprocate our kindness, or somehow will show through their words and actions that they do not have our best interests at heart.

So many personal, family, and social relationships fail when we choose not to consider how the other person’s concerns are just as important and/or valid as our own. As relationships break down, conflicts arise because we have not learned to listen and respond (instead of reacting out of hostility).

Death is the ultimate price anyone can pay to demonstrate his or her love. Nevertheless, the Lord Jesus Christ did this for us when He forever payed our sin debt as John 3:16-17 (NLT) teaches:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

Jesus Christ, the Son of God was beaten, spat upon, insulted, and crowned with thorns. Yet He still was yet willing to be stripped of his clothing, affixed to a wooden cross with metal spikes driven through His hands and feet. Then He was crucified on a hill between two thieves in front of thousands of mocking people.

He could have resisted sacrificing Himself for our benefit by commanding tens of thousands of angels to come to His rescue. Instead, He gave His life as the supreme payment for our sins. Three days later, He rose from the dead, declaring that all power is given Him in Heaven and earth. His love for us raised Him from the dead and caused Him to ascend into Heaven where He intercedes for us today.

His love prompted Him to give us His Holy Spirit to comfort us and abide in us until He returns for us. Then we will forever know His vast love and glory in full measure.

We show Christ’s perfect love as we forgive others when our anger tells us to retaliate with violence. As we show mercy instead of seeking justice for bring wronged, and we extend goodwill towards the unlovable, we are practical demonstrations of Jesus’ love in our world. Here, His Spirit is active within us to supply us with the ability to express our benevolence towards others—just as He did—without being driven by selfish recognition or repayment.

God’s redeeming love as demonstrated through Christ emphatically proves that He wants what is best for us despite our acceptance of it, for Christ redeems all humans everywhere—even those who refuse to accept His love or believe in Him. No longer is there anyone without the hope for redemption. The Lord Jesus Christ left His deity and glory just to show us what true love looks like, and not because of what we sinful humans could ever do for Him.

Is love the answer? 1 John 4:10 tells us that true love is not based on our loving expressions towards God. Instead, it is by how much He loved us and sent His Son to pay for our sins. Only through His unselfish love can we honor the Lord as active demonstrations of His amazing grace. God’s love lifted us from despair into His glorious presence forever.

What a Wonderful Savior!

Forever Established in Heaven!

For February 9, 2020
How long is forever? As temporal and finite human beings, it is difficult to fathom the vastness of eternity. This is especially true for this fast-paced, modern society where obsolescence is measured by months, weeks, and even days.

Isn’t it amazing how the newest smartwatch, or the newest smartphone…the newest technology often arrives before we are accustomed to the old technology it is replacing.

But not so with God. He is eternal, and/or “from everlasting to everlasting,”1 His plans, His faithfulness, His loving kindness, His tender mercies, along with His purpose in grace, which preserve His people of faith even today remain solid and secure. Amen!

For God is not human, that He would lie to us, as Numbers 23:19 teaches. Instead, He is true and faithful in all His ways. This is also true for His Word, as the Psalmist attests in Psalm 119:89 (KJV):

For ever, O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven.

Isn’t it comforting to know the promises found in the Bible are true and dependable, having been settled forever in Heaven?

There is no place in the world where we can one find such certainty in every situation, under every circumstance. We serve a faithful, loving God who will not rescind any of His promises. Instead He will more than adequately provide all our needs according to His riches in glory through Christ Jesus our Lord just as Philippians 4:19 tells us.

Our Bible provides a firm foundation for us. As we diligently read, study, and apply it to our lives each day, we grow more familiar with its truths and promises. Then, His Holy Spirit can call to our minds those things that will help us navigate life’s uncertainties. King David observes, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.”2 Our diligent study and preparation allow us to share biblical truths that benefit others and us.

While in seminary, and even since, I have met people who contend what God said during the time of Abraham, Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, Daniel, and what He did through Joshua, Deborah, Esther, Ruth, David, Job, Nehemiah, Malachi and all the Old Testament Saints, who lived before Christ are no longer valid nor are they binding to us as Christians.

Some of these critics of the Word have proposed—to their own peril—that because of Christ’s redemptive work performed on the cross by His death, and completed at the tomb by His resurrection we can disregard all the principles and teachings contained in the Law, Prophets, and Writings of our Old Testament Bible.

However in Matthew 5:17-19 (NLT), our Lord Jesus Christ affirmed the essential correlation between His redeeming life and ministry and the Old Testament Scripture as we understand it today. He especially stresses the critical role the Old Testament plays in the formation and development of Christian character and conduct (emphasis mine):

Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven.

In short, God’s Word—whether Old or New Testament—is applicable and relevant for our understanding of God’s standards for righteous for both the First Century and the Twenty-First Century New Testament Church as 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NLT) attests:

All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.

Since Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God, affirmed His role as the fulfillment of God’s eternal Word, we have the assurance that every Word of God is eternal, faithful, and binding. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever.3

Truly, God’s Word is established (on earth and) in Heaven forever. What a Wonderful Savior!

When Your Future Becomes Now!

For January 26, 2020
I’ve often wondered what the thoughts of Joshua were as he watched Moses walk away from the Israelite camp on his way to Mt. Nebo where he was to die. For 40 years, he served the Man of God faithfully as a first-hand witness to the majesty, power, and faithfulness of God demonstrated towards His Chosen People: Israel.

Now, he hears from God—personally:

After the death of Moses the LORD’s servant, the LORD spoke to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ assistant. He said, “Moses my servant is dead. Therefore, the time has come for you to lead these people, the Israelites, across the Jordan River into the land I am giving them. I promise you what I promised Moses: ‘Wherever you set foot, you will be on land I have given you—from the Negev wilderness in the south to the Lebanon Mountains in the north, from the Euphrates River in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west, including all the land of the Hittites.’ No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you. Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you. Do not deviate from them, turning either to the right or to the left. Then you will be successful in everything you do. Study this Book of Instruction continually. Meditate on it day and night so you will be sure to obey everything written in it. Only then will you prosper and succeed in all you do. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:1-9 (NLT)

Joshua was in Egypt with Moses when Egypt was devastated by the 10 Plagues, which facilitated the release of God’s Chosen People from 400 years of Egyptian bondage.1 Most notably, it was the final Plague: the Death of the Firstborn, which saw the institution of two important observations that are yet observed by devout worshippers today: the Feast of Unleavened Bread and the Feast of the Passover.2

Joshua saw how the Lord protected the Children of Israel at the Red Sea. There God parted the waters so that His Chosen People could walk across “on dry ground” directly in front of the pursuing Egyptian army, which was destroyed by the receding waters as they tried to capture them.3

He also watched Lord lead His People by a Pillar of Cloud during the day, and by a Pillar of Fire at night. In addition, he saw the Lord meet Moses at Sinai where The Law was instituted; a Law which yet governs and informs the moral and spiritual standards of God’s people around the globe today.4

Moreover, Joshua benefited from God’s miraculous provision of manna, quail, and water that sustained a nation through their time in the wilderness.

Incidentally, Joshua and Caleb were spies who gave a favorable report—confident of God’s victory—when they returned to the Wilderness of Paran after exploring the land of Canaan for 40 days.

Although all 12 spies agreed Canaan was a “land flowing with milk and honey,” just as God promised. Yet 10 spies gave an evil, disheartening report that incited the people to stone Joshua and Caleb, establish a new leader, and return to Egypt.5 However, God appeared miraculously to vindicate Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb and condemned the ungodly, unbelieving rabble to wander in the wilderness for 40 years.

All Joshua’s contemporaries (including Moses) were gone; having died in the wilderness, with the exception of Caleb. Now as his future hopes, dreams (and fears), opportunities, expectations, service, and victories became “today’s reality,” he held on to the promises and commands of God. And as a result, he discovered ultimate victory just as the Lord promised (in verses 5 and 9):

No one will be able to stand against you as long as you live. For I will be with you as I was with Moses. I will not fail you or abandon you. This is my command—be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.

I believe Joshua needed to look no further than his own name, which means: “Jehovah is salvation,”6 to find the faith and encouragement required to preserve him through the arduous task set before him.

For the odyssey would begin in just 3 days. Then he would lead God’s Chosen People: the Nation of Israel across the Jordan River—miraculously again—on dry ground into the land of promise.

Ultimately, Joshua was a first-hand witness to the faithfulness of God, and as he advocates Jehovah worship at the completion of his mission, he articulates the following resolve to trust and serve the Lord forever (emphasis mine):

But if you refuse to serve the LORD, then choose today whom you will serve. Would you prefer the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates? Or will it be the gods of the Amorites in whose land you now live? But as for me and my family, we will serve the LORD. Joshua 24:15 (NLT)

Just as Joshua trusted God and experienced His faithfulness, we Christians today can trust in Jesus’ Matthew 28:20 (NIV) promise for our assured victory as He accompanies us forever: “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age!”

Therefore, when your future becomes now, trust in the Lord. For He is ever-faithful and will fulfill His divine plan through you.  What a Wonderful Savior!