Keeping It Simple… The Gospel isn’t complicated

The Gospel isn’t complicated. It’s easy to understand. Children can grasp it. Still, the good news that God shares with us in the Bible will be rejected by more people than those who will accept it.

People like to complicate

Left to their own devices, many people will complicate any topic. The Israelites took 10 commandments from God and created 613 rules and regulations. Every aspect of life came under the Law of Moses. The prophets came along and added to the mix. Religion was born.

Now there is nothing wrong with having religion. Certainly not. But religion and the Gospel are two different things. Religion dictates what man must do to be acceptable to God. The Gospel is what God did to make man acceptable to Him.

Those 613 laws were boiled down to one statement–

For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in him shall not parish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16)

Jesus offered a clarifying statement when he said,

I have not come to abolish the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)

He told the people that all of the law was still very much in force, but He was the one who would fulfill all of the righteous requirements of the law, so people who put their trust and faith in Him would be forever accepted into God’s family.

When I was a small child, I received a vaccination for polio. My parents didn’t know anything about the years that went into the development of the vaccine, or the science behind it, but they trusted that it would prevent the dreaded disease.

The law is impossible to follow. Every living human being has broken a commandment. The trouble is, Jesus said if you break one, you’ve broken them all. Breaking a commandment is sin, and the Apostle Paul wrote that

the wages of sin is death.” (Romans 3:23)

So what’s the point? The point is simple– the law, the 10 Commandments, points us to Christ. Jesus did not sin. He paid the full price. That is an amazing statement. He fulfilled all of the requirements so that anyone who believes in Him will be guaranteed heaven. We can’t, He can.

It’s simple, straight forward and easy, at least on the surface. Paul said “all have sinned,” which can be a sticking point for some, who do not believe in sin and do not believe they have committed any transgression worthy of an eternal punishment. But he adds,

the GIFT of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 6:23).

Those who acknowledge their sinfulness, big or small, and accept the gift of life through faith in Jesus, are welcomed with open arms, no strings attached. Jesus said,

I am the way the truth and the life. Nobody goes to the Father except by me.” ( John 14:6 )

In other words, there is no back door into heaven and no other way to satisfy God. It’s simple enough, yet so many choke on the idea that they have sinned. Call it pride, or maybe they just don’t understand, I have known some that seem incapable of understanding the simplest things of God. They scoff, they mock and completely dismiss the entire message of the Bible.

The Gospel offers salvation by grace and faith

There are many religions, but only one offers salvation by grace through faith. Christianity stands alone, completely alone. Judaism is the closest, and many Jewish people have accepted Jeshua (Jesus) as the Messiah, much to the chagrin of the Jewish leadership. It was the same during the time of Christ.

Sometimes it’s hard to believe in the simple things. If you make up a religion and make it complicated, you just may find some followers. But God and the Gospel offer you a simple, straight forward invitation. Believe in My Son. Jesus gave Himself so you could live. He paid your debt in full… Simple.

The Ten Commandments Are Not Outdated

Salvation by grace through faith has long been debated in Christian circles as either being a complete misinterpretation of the New Testament, or some kind of “get out of jail free” card.

God gave His Law to Moses, ten directives for men and women to follow for a happy and healthy life. Often regarded as a list of “do’s and don’ts” the real purpose of the Ten Commandments gets lost in the shuffle.

People try to avoid being held accountable

People will argue that because of the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ, we are not bound to the Law, but that is a narrow view. We are still accountable to God, but not able to live up to the absolute perfection required to gain access into God’s eternal Kingdom.

One of the purposes of the Ten Commandments is to communicate those requirements for salvation, even though God understands fully that we cannot do that. They are a way of proving our guilt, as it becomes apparent when we really look at each one and see that we have violated not just one small one, but all of them.

Rather than having the Law act as a standard for human behavior, or a mirror to give us a look at ourselves, their most important function is to point us to the Lord Jesus Christ.

We argue don’t need to worry about the law because I have Jesus

Here is where the misunderstanding and argument starts. We can argue that the Ten Commandments don’t count because of Christ. Christ, however, sheds light on that by one, simple statement.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. (Matthew 5:17)

Jesus fulfilled the law

If Jesus fulfilled the Law, does that mean the Law is no longer necessary or relevant? Certainly not.

Jesus fulfilled the righteous requirements of the law. Compare His sacrifice on the cross to Moses displaying the bronze serpent in the desert. People were dying from snake bites. Moses was instructed to craft the serpent and place it on a pole.

All one needed to do was look to the serpent and they would not die. And so it is with Christ Jesus. We need to look to him for salvation, otherwise our sin (snake bite) will kill us. This simple act of faith is what God wants from us. Look to the cross.

Good works are a byproduct of faith

If faith is all that is required, should we not do good works? Good works are a byproduct of faith. Because we have been loved, because we have been saved, we desire to serve God. The Law has been fulfilled in Christ. But for those without Christ, it might appear to be like the Sword of Damocles hanging there above the head of the nonbeliever.

The law shows us how to have a perfect relationship with God

So, why the law in the first place? It is not limited to being a set of rules and regulations. It is a guideline for having a fulfilled and perfect relationship with God. But it was not intended necessarily for a test on our worthiness, because we are, by nature, sinful people.

The Law points to Christ, who fulfilled the Law. Because we cannot obey and do what the Law requires, we need to turn to the Lord Jesus, who did it for us. You see, nothing has changed since those days of Moses in the desert. The Law is very much in effect.

Navigating a New, Diverse World

We read and hear a lot about the polarization of America, as one extreme battles the other extreme. Navigating in a diverse world becomes challenging.

The middle seems to be lost entirely, as only the most outrageous statements get the headlines. It creates gridlock, from small town school boards to the United States Congress.

Everything is political and common sense sometimes is not only not considered, but savagely condemned. This is a recipe for a serious decline in a society, as traditional community values are questioned and even labeled as immoral.

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. 35 One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question:

36 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” 37 Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’

38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34-40)

We do not have to agree, but we do have to accept the other person’s right to an opinion. Any mention of LGBTQ will get some folks fired up and vocal. The Christian community sometimes likes to claim the moral high ground on this issue. But in all too many cases, it loses that high ground by ignoring the humanity of the people they rail against, which leads directly to condemnation. Christians sometimes use the Lord Jesus Christ as a weapon, not an olive branch.

Build relationships

A number of years ago a man in my Bible study group asked me for direction on a work matter. He told me that his boss was gay and wanted to know what he should do about it. I told him to go to work and do the very best job he knew how and not focus on his boss.

“But he’s gay!!,” he replied. I told him that by doing a good job he might gain trust and respect from his boss. Additionally, if he could establish a relationship, then he might be able to share his faith journey with the man and perhaps even present the Gospel and introduce him to the Master.

I told him again to leave the sexual preference matter out of the conversation. But he was distressed because it was his job to lead this man to Christ and turn him straight.

“No,” I replied. “It is the job of the Holy Spirit to work on this man’s heart and mind. Your job is to love your neighbor as yourself and help him see Christ.”

This fell on deaf ears and he was fired for bringing up his displeasure over the man being gay. He made it personal and quite frankly, I don’t blame his boss for firing him.

“‘Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against anyone among your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:18)

Navigating, we are called to love each other

We can get carried away by our own importance and lose sight of the fact that we are called to follow the Lord Jesus, not to do His job for him. We are not responsible for the results. My friend missed the point completely. Regardless, he had to show his boss the error of his ways, all the while forgetting entirely that Jesus went to the cross for his boss.

Love your neighbor is repeated throughout Scripture.

The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Romans 13:9)

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. (James 2:8)

Thankfully, we are not responsible for results

Knowing that we are not responsible for results and that we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves, we are set free to fulfill our calling to share the love of Christ. We can do this without judgment and without the burden of having to correct the other person.

We simply share. The Holy Spirit will soften hearts, lead people to Jesus and carry the bulk of the load, We are merely along for the ride.

By loving our neighbor as our self, we can learn the difference between acceptance and approval. Hence I may not share an opinion or a lifestyle, but I can love my neighbor as myself. I can listen. I can try to understand. Leave the rest to God.

Biblical Hope the promise of good things

According to the dictionary, hope is the desire for something to happen. It can also be the desire with an expectation for something to happen. Biblical Hope is so much more. The Bible is filled with prophesies of things that will happen and promises of good things to come.

We hope for things in life, like food, a place to live and some happiness to go along with those essentials. We hope for a better life and parents hope their children grow up to be healthy and prosperous.

Hope is universal

It’s universal. People are people, no matter where they come from. But Biblical hope is entirely different.

For starters, we cannot prove that God exists. Those to believe in God and believe in the Bible do so out of faith and hope. There is, of course, fact to back that up, but since the beginning of recorded time, people look at the evidence and draw their own conclusions.

One man’s facts is the other man’s folly. That is a major sticking point for many people, because they want to see proof of God. Likewise, we cannot prove that there is no God. The Bible addresses that issue in Psalm 14:

The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God.’ They are corrupt, their deeds are vile; there is no one who does good.” Psalm 14:1

God wants man to come to Him, like children come to their parents. A child approaches mom and dad with trust and love. God wants us to approach Him with hope and faith.

We are all hard-wired to believe in God

The human condition is hard-wired for belief in God. That is, somewhere in all of us is the desire to know where we came from and why we are here. That desire gets confused at times.

We worship celebrities, like movie stars and athletes. Often we also worship money and power. We can follow God, or try to lead ourselves.

Were we some kind of cosmic accident, or was there “intelligent design,” by a creator? If there was a creator, why are we still asking these questions? Shouldn’t all of us have the same understanding of God or no God?

The need for hope is based on free will

Why don’t we all believe the same thing about God if He created us? The simple explanation of this is our free will. We all have our own opinions and we determine our own direction in life in so many instances. We cannot chose when we are born, where we are born, to whom we are born, or whether we are male or female. Nor can we chose the color of our eyes.

We may get cancer and die at an early age, or live to be over 100 years old. We can, however, make choices along the way, limited choices.

What we can imagine

Man can hope. We have the ability to think “outside the box” or imagine things that have not happened. Man is the only creature that knows he/she is going to die. We make plans.

Hope is that yearning for something more. For the wealthy, hope can be all about money and power. But the Biblical version of hope is the desire for God. Jesus said:

Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness and all these things will be given to us as well.” (Matthew 7:33)

Man was created as an object of love. God said “Let us create man in our own image.”

The Apostle Paul understood hope

The Apostle Peter wrote:

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give a reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…” (1 Peter 3:15)

He was referring to the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. It is the anticipation, based on trust and faith. Throughout the Bible narrative, God makes promises and comes through on those promises.

God lays down a perfect track record, at all times and in all places. Abram left his home hoping that God would lead him to a better life.

Moses trusted God to deliver the Israelite from bondage in Egypt. While they wandered the desert, Moses had hope that God would lead them to a land of milk and honey.

David had hope that he would defeat Goliath, despite overwhelming odds that he would surely die in the fight.

Isaiah wrote of the coming of the Messiah, with hope that God would come through.

Jesus, the Messiah, offered His own life willingly, with hope that He would be raised on the third day.

The Apostles spread out to the entire known world to share the Gospel, with hope that God would honor their efforts and people would respond.

Our hope is in the truth of God in the Bible

Hope in the truth and promises of God in the Bible is a matter of faith, founded on fact. Other than the Apostle John, all of the Apostles of Christ were martyred. They all died with hope. Were they fools, or did they see something that gave them confidence and hope?

Biblical hope is founded on evidence, based on consistency and logic. The Bible issues challenges to seek the deeper things of God. We are encouraged to ask questions and seek the truth. Accepting the Bible is not blind faith, but a kind of hope that everything is going to be fine as long as that hope is in God.

The Value Of One

prevenient grace

What is the value of one person? We ponder the end of our lives as we age, or when someone is sick in the hospital, people will often say “God isn’t finished with you yet…”

Now this phrase, which is often just muttered for lack of something else to say, has profound truth. It presupposes that God IS working in the world today.

Well, when did He start and why? It might surprise you that God had His plans finalized and in motion long before He created the heavens and the earth.

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. (Ephesians 1:3-6)

God cherishes us!

God cherishes us, made in His image, with ability to love Him, come to Him and serve Him. The value of one in God is powerful! He gave us the ability to love Him, trust Him and obey Him. He knew there would be disobedience…He created us to come to Him through Christ…before the beginning.

This is…Prevenient Grace – In anticipation of our birth…of our coming to faith in Christ…of our serving HIM. This was all mapped out long before we came along.

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, (Ep. 1:11)

The value of one: God calls us to Him

When He makes this call, God does the equipping…the preparing…and the doing…it all starts with God’s grace. He doesn’t just call us– God draws us to Himself. He never calls us to do anything without enabling us to do it.

God enables us to exercise faith. Christ has chosen us…locked in His purposes. God commenced a good a work in you. His prevenient grace called you to Him. He beckons us to carry it on. He does not quit. It is progressive, active and dynamic. That day…the day of Christ…when Jesus returns is when this world will cease to be and be recreated.

His grace allows us to serve Him

What God calls us to do He will do for us. Day-by-day, hour-by-hour. Moment-by-moment. That is sufficient grace for doing what God calls us to do always been the same…no changes. We are a work in progress…and God is not through with us.

3 I thank my God every time I remember you. 4 In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy 5 because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, 6 being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:3-6)

God has begun a good work in you!

Be confident that He who has begun a good work in you will carry it out… God will complete the work… a new heaven and earth…and that is SAVING grace… He calls us to Himself…He equips us…He does the work… He will complete is when we see Jesus…and we will be like Him.

GODISNOWHERE

God with us

What a joy it must have been for the disciples to live with and learn from the Lord Jesus Christ during His earthy ministry. God came down and lived with us in human form. How terrible it must have been for them to lose their Master. But how amazing it was for them to realize He rose from the grave and joined with them again. But the Lord had to prepare them to carry on the ministry without Him being there physically.

Go and make disciples

In that last meeting, the Lord gave them the “Great Commission.” Go and share the Good News and make disciples of all nations, not just the Jews. This glorious task was for these 12 men to send the message through Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. The ascension of Jesus wasn’t the end of the story, just the end of the beginning of a new, personal and eternal relationship with God. Matthew tells us:

16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:16-20)

He is with us always and forever

We recently commemorated “Ascension Day,” when the Lord Jesus Christ bid farewell to His disciples and went home to His Father. He told them “I am with you always.” He did not mean physically. But with the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, the disciples had the complete picture of just how God was going to be with them.

It’s easy to get distracted, or to lose sight of what has been given to us. Jesus, through the Holy Spirit, is present with us, unlimited by time and space. That’s 24/7, 365.

God is with us NOW!

A priest once stood before the congregation and held up a sign that read, “GODISNOWHERE.” It was in big block letters and bold. He asked his flock what the sign said. Most of them agreed that the sign said, “God is no where.” Then the priest held up another sign with the same, exact letters, but a completely different meaning. “GOD IS NOW HERE.”

We must expect Him to keep His word!

If we do not expect the Lord Jesus to be here with us, present and not in any way distant, we close the door and He is not with us. However, if we expect Him to keep His word and have that hopeful expectation that He will always be with us.

Then, Jesus will surely be with us, in every aspect of our lives. He is with through the common events, to church to all of the many major situations. The difference between “God is no where” and “God is now here,” is having trust and faith in the Word of God.

We worship the God who was and is and is to come. We ‘re invited to have a forever relationship with Him. He encourages us to receive His gift, salvation through Christ Jesus. And we are given the privilege of being His children, knowing that He is always with us.

Is Grace Enough?

In America we like to say “I’m a self-made man/woman,” or “I pulled myself up by my own bootstraps.” We like to bask in accomplishment, or as Frank Sinatra sang, “I did it my way.” It makes us wonder if is grace enough. Don’t we need to do good works for God to love us?

We like to receive credit for accomplishments, and many will pridefully refuse to admit that they got any help doing it. With that mindset at the forefront, many believe that eternal life is accomplished through what we DO, not what we believe. Arguments to the contrary only serve to marginalize our efforts.

We can all be saved by GRACE!

Is grace enough? Yes it is. The Apostle Paul tells it like this:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Perhaps we are stuck in in the proverbial “which came first the chicken or the egg” question. From the very beginning, God has not instructed us, commanded us or otherwise done anything to limit us, but in all things has treated us with compassion, kindness and most of all patience. He strives to establish a forever relationship we us in a perfect and Holy utopia. It is all about Him.

When we sin, we are shown the error and gently beckoned to repent. That, however, is not always received well.

But when grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and do not regard the majesty of the Lord. (Isaiah 26:10)

Grace is simple, but also very complicated.

Grace is so very simple, yet extraordinarily complicated. On the on hand, like children, we are corrected by our Father and asked to do nothing other than have that conversation with Him.

But our own sense of pride and importance demands that we play a major role in determining our fate. You don’t just give something away for nothing. Somebody has to get paid.

Grace doesn’t make sense. Those who deserve God’s love and acceptance are the ones who should benefit from His provision. But long before God’s final sacrifice we were told that The Lord Jesus Christ would be the answer to the problem.

And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son. (Zechariah 12:10)

We want to follow the rules but avoid submission.

We still would rather believe in the Law than in grace. That is, by following the Law we are vindicated.

We think we can follow the Law and we may even want to follow the Law because we know it’s good, but the attempt always ends up in failure.

We believe that we are good enough

Still, if we believe we can be good enough, then everything is fine. But the Law given to Moses for our benefit, was not complete by any means. Jesus completed it.

Out of his fullness we have all received grace in place of grace already given. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:16-17)

Paul, the former Pharisee, had a full understanding of grace and his relationship with God. His expression of gratitude is not self-deprecating, but an understanding that God’s grace is not only sufficient, but is everything man needs for salvation.

However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me—the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace. (Acts 20:24)

We are to do God’s work out of love not to earn points

Paul did his ministry work out of love and appreciation, not to earn points. God desires that we love the law and want to follow it. We’re not forced, we’re invited. God does not watch and wait for us to turn away so that he can punish us. No, He is there for us, to guide and instruct.

Grace is truly amazing, because when we realize the enormity of God’s grace, even at a cursory level, we can begin to understand how much we are loved. Paul said his works were as filthy rags. He was right.

Jesus: Authoritative or authoritarian?

Authoritarianism

1 : of, relating to, or favoring blind submission to authority

2 : of, relating to, or favoring a concentration of power in a leader or an elite not constitutionally responsible to the people

One of the push-backs to embracing the Christian faith is the idea that a person has to give up things they like and blindly follow the rules and regulations. All of the “should and shouldn’t” associated with the misinformation just serves to confuse people and prevent them from accepting Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

Jesus is authoritative, but He is not an authoritarian. As the writer of Hebrews noted, Jesus is the “author and perfecter” of our faith. All things were created for Him, including us. But his relationship to us is by choice, a free will decision, not corrupted by threat.

Jesus is always about choice not power

Authoritarianism is a human construct. Most often associated with government, it is the practice of minority rule, seldom, if ever, with the best interests of the people as an objective.

Authoritarian states have no real political options, other than the ones in power. Often brutal, authoritarian leaders shut down personal liberties, suppress a free media, corrupt the justice system, and stoke doubts and fears in the people to not trust their institutions.

Jesus, on the other hand, hid nothing, took nothing and gave away everything He had, even His own life. He is the King of King and Lord of Lords, sitting at the right hand of God the Father. But He is also gentle and loving, interceding on our behalf to bring us into an eternal family. He is the opposite of an authoritarian. But the misinformation persists.

Satan HATES truth!

If Jesus is the opposite of an authoritarian, then who is stoking the fire of opposition? An authoritarian… Satan. Authoritarians hate truth. Throughout human history, authoritarian regimes have followed the same script. Free speech is out. The courts are rigged. Political opposition is crushed.

Jesus was and is, loving and generous

Jesus, having full authority to do as He pleased, was always obedient to His Father and generous with His disciples. He was always within the will of His Father. He gave His authority to His followers

When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit… (Matthew 28:17-19)

Jesus was both God and man

Pharisees were questioning His authority, mockingly asking, “By what authority do you…” Jesus did not take the bait. Rather, over time and through His actions, He revealed Himself to His followers.

Just as Jesus yielded to the authority of His Father, and just as He performed miracles not of His own power but by the Holy Spirit, He spoke and acted out of the authority of His father.

The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching—and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” (Mark 1:27)

But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” So he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” (Matthew 9:6)

We are called to try to be like Jesus

This is important because He told His followers to do the same, just as he invites followers today to do the same. Fully God, Jesus was capable of doing anything by His own power. Fully man, Jesus prayed and asked for help. The Apostle Paul explained this dynamic.

In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.

8 and being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,

10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:5-11)

Jesus was obedient and submissive to His Father

Obedient and submissive, Jesus carried out the work of His Father, all the while bringing us into His family and sharing everything He had. The profession of ministry is the only one in which the object is to give everything away and keep nothing. It is not authoritarian; it is the antithesis or that.

Man will find a way to corrupt the ministry and the church, turning the ultimate act of love into a business. Churches sometimes become corporate entities, not houses of worship. Man favors authoritarianism, and out of arrogance and ignorance, will try to improve on the way that Jesus showed us.

God Must Be Wrong!

Paul’s conversion

I recently had lunch with a dear friend, who has been in ministry for many years and has been a steadfast and dedicated disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ. He has served in churches and community organizations; always with one prevailing objective—to further the Kingdom and bring people to Christ.

But, like many committed, Bible-believing Christians, he found himself at odds with the leadership of his church, because his church made the decision to embrace extreme, anti-Biblical beliefs. It wasn’t just his home church, it was the whole denomination. They took up their own beliefs, leaving the Bible teaching behind. God must be wrong.

A Theologian that doesn’t believe in God

His story reminded me of a man I spoke two many years back. He had a PhD from Harvard Divinity School, and was a self-described theologian. Interesting guy. As we spoke I came to the conclusion that we viewed God from very different perspectives, which is fine, except that one of us believed the Bible and the other didn’t.

One of us believed in the divinity of Christ. The other didn’t. We both had gone to seminary, although he went longer. The more I listened to him the more I came to think that he actually studied God to the point of not believing. God must be wrong.

I share this because the conversation gave me insight into how the truth gets lost in the pursuit of knowledge, or worse yet, social agendas. His experience with Scripture was purely academic, as his words bore no evidence of any kind of spiritual connection to God.

He was a pastor, yet he did not believe, and he admitted it. He was tolerant of my Christian stance, but we shared nothing in common outside of a few facts and such. But why was he a pastor? Simple. He told me that he liked the profession. He also was a part of a denomination that was comfortable with non-belief. We’ll leave that alone. God must be wrong.

Faith is our connection with God

I have always believed that religion is man’s attempt to be acceptable to God. The Bible teaches faith – faith in what God has already done to make man acceptable to Himself. Sure, there’s doctrine, because there needs to be a level of formality and standards of the faith. But true Christian faith has that all-important spiritual element to it.

It’s the indwelling of the Holy Spirit that transforms us into the likeness of Christ. This is possible because we were created as spiritual beings, in God’s image.

26 Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” 27 So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Genesis 1: 26-27)

We forget who created us

Very early in human history, we forgot who created us and we decided to create Him in our image. Follow the Bible. I am not nearly smart enough to conjure up my own religion, so it is necessary for me to read the Bible and pray that God lead me down the right path.

It is also important for me to associate with other believers, to constantly check my opinions at the door and remain open to God’s truth. The Apostle Paul was keenly aware of this necessity.

6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! 10 Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1: 6-10)

Saul was a Jewish leader who hated Christian until he encountered Jesus

Paul, who described himself as a pharisee’s pharisee, was the former Saul, a very learned man, who took it upon himself to persecute Christian believers. He was filled with knowledge of the Scripture, but he was spiritually dead. He was convinced he was right and that the Scriptures were his to uphold, but God wasn’t a part of his religious mission. In his mind, God must have been wrong.

Man wants to create God in his own image. God must be wrong. Or could it be that man is mistaken?

Repentance Is an Admission, Not A Plea Bargain

It’s not always easy to come clean with God. Saying “I’m sorry” isn’t enough, unless your sorrow is accompanied by true repentance. Repent means to “turn away,” to go the other direction. An act of repentance means one has confessed their sins to God, seen the error of their ways and has determined to correct them.

Repentance as restoration

Some view repentance in terms of sack cloth and ashes, while others view it as a “get out of jail free” card. Some view repentance as an act of fear, to avoid the consequences of sin and separation from God. Still others view repentance as an act of love, like a child wanting to be held after being naughty.

The “wages of sin” being what they are, let us focus on repentance as it pertains to restoration. The Bible is filled with accounts of people falling away from God, suffering, then coming back to God.

Gaining right standing with God is not about human action, it is about repentance. We are powerless to correct the wrongs, completely unable to pay the price and sadly doomed to separation from God for eternity.

God invites us to come clean and in doing so, He has provided the necessary payment to restore us to Him. The Bible has countless references to repentance or repent.

Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. (2 Corinthians 7:10)

Peter replied, “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)

Then Hezekiah repented of the pride of his heart, as did the people of Jerusalem; therefore the Lord’s wrath did not come on them during the days of Hezekiah. (2 Chronicles 32:26)

Should God then reward you on your terms, when you refuse to repent? You must decide, not I; so tell me what you know. (Job 34:33)

Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.” (Job 42:6)

Repent at my rebuke! Then I will pour out my thoughts to you, I will make known to you my teachings. (Proverbs 1:23)

The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,” declares the Lord. (Isaiah 59:20)

Lord, do not your eyes look for truth? You struck them, but they felt no pain; you crushed them, but they refused correction. They made their faces harder than stone and refused to repent. (Jeremiah 5:3)

I have listened attentively, but they do not say what is right. None of them repent of their wickedness, saying, “What have I done?” Each pursues their own course like a horse charging into battle. (Jeremiah 8:6)

Therefore this is what the Lord says: “If you repent, I will restore you that you may serve me; if you utter worthy, not worthless, words, you will be my spokesman. Let this people turn to you, but you must not turn to them. (Jeremiah 15:19)

Therefore say to the people of Israel, ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Repent! Turn from your idols and renounce all your detestable practices! (Ezekiel 14:6)… “Therefore, you Israelites, I will judge each of you according to your own ways, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent! Turn away from all your offenses; then sin will not be your downfall. (Ezekiel 18:30) … For I take no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Sovereign Lord. Repent and live! (Ezekiel 18:32)

God forgives us when we repent… it is that simple!

What is interesting is that nowhere does God require payment, restitution or any other kind of righteous works. Breaking the Law of God is serious business, one that comes with an automatic penalty of death, regardless of the sin, big or small.

God is Holy and Just, requiring complete adherence to His Law at all times. But He is a loving and forgiving God, whose grace is enough to rescue us from the fire. His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, paid the price we could not pay and through Him, we are redeemed. But it starts with repentance.

Life’s “Catch 22” Is Really Quite Simple

We often think of a “Catch 22,” named after the book, as a situation in which we are wrong no matter what we do. Sometimes there seemingly is no answer for the problems we face, but do not despair, because in Christ there is always an answer.

In reading the Bible we learn that God has established his covenant with man and that there are laws that govern that relationship. The trouble is, as humans, we can’t follow that Law. That seems rather unjust because perfect obedience to the Law is the absolute requirement for being with God eternally. So what’s the “Catch 22?” Actually there isn’t one at all. The Apostle Paul explains in Romans 7 how it all works.

Slave to Sin

14 We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.

15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.

16 And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.

17 As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.

18 For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.

19 For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing.

20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

21 So I find this law at work: Although I want to do good, evil is right there with me.

22 For in my inner being I delight in God’s law;

23 but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.

24 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?

25 Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7: 14-25)

Sinful state of man

In verse 5, the Greek word for flesh is “sarx,” which refers to the sinful state of man. Paul is describing this “tug-o-war” between sarx and living in the spirit.

Absent the grace of God, there is no hope, but as he concludes by the end of the passage, it is Christ who is our hope and our redeemer.

Paul explains the problem in verses 15-20, but he quickly goes on to encourage us by saying that God has implanted the love of His Law in our hearts, even though our sinful nature is warring against that Law.

At the end of the chapter he thanks Jesus for what He has done for us, but the real conclusion is actually the beginning of Chapter 8 when Paul writes:

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, 2 because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 3 For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.” (Romans 8:1-3)

God is awesome!

Our God is an awesome God. We are given the opportunity to rely solely on Him for our salvation, our well being and our every need. We cannot do it ourselves, but in our absolute helplessness, we are given great power in Christ. No “Catch 22” at all.