Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Is This Biblical?

Ask, and it will be given to you. Andre asked, I responded.

(Disclaimer: although I appreciate the quote from George Muller, I disagree with his conclusions found in Wikipedia. Not that its the best resource, but I didn't know who this guy was.)

A social media post...

There many wise theologians and students of the Bible. A) is this Biblical? If so, what would it look like? B) What does the Bible mean that we should die to ourselves?


To answer your questions, Andre, A) absolutely this is Biblical, as phrases in his quote are almost exact verses from Scripture, and B) to "die to self" means is very much what George said, which is to quit living for yourself.

But, this is only half the teaching in Scripture. The other half, the better half, is to "live to God." It's equally important to understand what that means, otherwise we'll be in danger of trying to become righteous by modifying our behavior.

Salvation is not about behavior modification, nor is it merely an emotional response. It's not about sacrifice, it's about humility. It's not about becoming righteous, it's about taking on His righteousness and growing in grace.

"It is by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not of works, so that no one can boast." (Eph 2:8-9) Now that you're saved, grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth. It's not about your plans for success, or about worldly roles. It is about His will for your eternal life (John 17:3) and confirming to the image of His Son.

Jesus died for a miraculous reason, only part of it was for your salvation. The other part is the second half of 1 Tim 2:4 which says, "[God] who desires all people to be saved (first desire) and to come to the full knowledge of the truth (second desire)."

Here are a few Scripture references for George's quote: John 14:20; Col 3:1-3; 2 Cor 5:14-15, 17; Romans 6:7-8, 11; 2 Tim 2:15). However, I do not agree with His conclusions. Once he discovered that God had a plan for church-age believers, he failed to elaborate on that plan; what is the mystery, the secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before for the ages for our glory.

Dwight, a serious student of the Bible

Dwight, I am very grateful for your helpful explanation. But where does enjoying what God created and is lawful come in? Like giving us a huge variety of delicious food to eat, having a great beer, sexual intimacy with your wife?

What I mean is, dying to self means not caring about yourself?

I will embark on a study based on your post. Thank you for taking the time!

Excellent questions, Andre. That's why you can't do one without the other. You must have the living part to even be motivated for the dying part. Dying is not fun. But, as the saying goes, some things are worth dying for, yet not literally!

Since you brought it up, let's use the marriage and intimacy analogy. I love it! Would you agree there are phases of you getting to know your wife and being closer to her, and she to you? Of course! But, it didn't start out that way, did it?

There was probably a time you didn't know her well at all, or at least not as well as you thought. You may have dated other girls beforehand. But they became less interesting to you as you got to know your future wife better. Eventually, you knew her, and cared for her, well enough to decide to commit to an exclusive relationship with her.

The wedding ceremony is kind of like baptism; it's an outward sign and celebration of this inward commitment you already felt in your heart. You were a little nervous, perhaps, and knew you didn't know all that the future held you two.

What you felt in your heart can be likened to salvation. That's the part where you believed in God's solution to condemnation and trusted in the righteous work of His Son. Likewise, you believed in your wife before the wedding, more likely the engagement. The wedding, the baptism, was what made the belief, the engagement, magical event, and a sheer delight.

Around this time, you may have acknowledged other women as beautiful and attractive. But you knew this one was special. You had wonderful hope for your future together. You trusted she was worth exploring. To trust, you had to be a bit humble. Through humility, intimacy could grow between the two of you. You may have had second or third doubts about your decision and commitment, but you stuck with it. You may have been tempted with an emotional affair, but you come back to your wife, recommitted, having faith, humble, trusting.

Sanctification with God is like that. Salvation, like the wedding, is behind you. You didn't have to know everything to be saved, just like you didn't have to know everything about your wife to get married. Your wedding is in the past, just as your salvation is in the past. God is now 100% responsible for your soul. You can rest and be assured in that. You don't continue to become saved, you are already saved.

In the same way, you don't live with your wife trying to relive the wedding over and over. Sure, you want to keep the relationship magical. But, over the years, magic is produced in different ways, more meaningful ways, ways others probably wouldn't understand.

It's only gotten better. You've experienced profound things together, laughter, adventure, boredom, arguments, making up. You've discovered each other's vulnerability, grew in deeper appreciation, and that brought greater maturity and understanding.

Now, after years and years of marriage, ups and downs and up again, you're at a point where the thought of being with another woman doesn't enter your mind beyond a fleeting moment before it's brushed away as silly and irrelevant. You know where your heart belongs. In fact, your heart would feel ripped to shreds if anything took that away.

Self was what you wanted long ago when you first dated.Dying to self would be impossible by itself. But when presented with the chance to live, love and cherish your wife, the self melted away. It died a quiet death. You didn't have to shove it in the coffin. For the desires of your heart were before your eyes, and the will to live for her consumed you, willingly, delightfully.

Therefore, delight in the wife of your heart. Enjoy each other. Enjoy all creation, for He has created these things for good. But also know Him. "Delight in Him and he will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4) Dying to self is not a burden when we experience the profound joy of the fullness of Him who died for us.

He wants the desires of your heart to be for Him, above everything else. Seek Him, both of you, and He will become the desire of your heart (singular because the two have become one flesh). His love goes beyond all that we could think, ask or imagine (Eph 3:14-21).

May the joy and peace of the Lord be with you always!

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Amazing and Sad

He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:2 ESV)

It's amazing, and sad, how the teachings of the traditions of people as doctrine has kept people away from Jesus Christ. Many are offended at the mere mention of His name because loud, religious, arrogant hypocrites claim to have equal authority (implicitly or explicitly) as God and impose all sorts of rules and requirements for behavior modification and blind submission to that false authority.

Yet, Christ went all out to completely remove the barrier of personal sins from reconciliation with the Father, and the Father was completely satisfied with that work.

If people would humbly give Christ a chance apart from rituals and sacrifices, maybe they would see the beauty, patience, loving care, mercy, and grace of a Person who wants nothing more than to have intimate fellowship with them.

Maybe then they would believe, trust, and learn from Him in the Scriptures, and know real love and truth for the first time.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Freedom in Christ

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Galatians 5:1, 13, 16 ESV)

Gorgeous view of the bay near sunset from Route 64 bridge heading west toward home from Nags Head, NC, where I spent the day with my friend Steve and his family. Wonderful time. Lovely family. Good man.

Beautiful scenery, too. Reminds me of freedom. In this case, freedom from a huge, deceptive lie.

The yoke of slavery was not slapped around my neck and bolted while I was distracted or unconscious. Rather, I walked in to a popular outlet that sold them for a tithe, eyes wide open, and admired their sturdy, aromatic, and decorative qualities. I thought it would be good to wear one and it would look good on me, or I in it.

So I slipped it on. At first, I took it off and put it on as the mood fit. Eventually, I wore it all the time, even sleeping with it on.

After a while, however, something didn't seem right. Its qualities I once admired, I noticed, were merely external. I wasn't becoming sturdier. I was starting to look like a hypocrite to those who knew me, including myself.

In addition, it was feeling tighter, even if only in my mind. When I went to adjust it, I noticed it was stuck. It had fused with the skin of my neck.

I had to make a choice. Would I scrub it off by the washing of water with the Word? Or would I try to ignore the discomfort, think of something else, busy myself with rituals, and get used to it?

I knew the former choice would be a path of pain and suffering before it got better. It might even leave scars. Likely so, but still I clung to the hope of it getting better.

I knew the latter choice would be torture. I couldn't pretend my heart matched the appearance or ever would. I was no longer motivated to fit in. Besides, I couldn't ignore the slow tightening of the yoke like a noose; it would eventually strangle me.

Freedom came with a fight.

For some battles, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you in the separation process. I was wielding weapons of warfare I hadn't yet been trained to use. I was cocky as a toddler with a red cape and a pencil-sword. And just as annoying.

Eventually, I acknowledged the fight was inward, not external. I wasn't going to be able to release the yoke by yanking and criticizing it. Nor was I wrestling with the flesh and blood of those who sold it.

I became more focused on fighting the good fight, contending for the faith in my own mind and heart. The Word of God would provide the armor I needed for the real battle.

As I focused, new skin on my neck provided healing from the inside out, becoming transformed by the renewal of my mind and heart. The yoke lost its grip as I shed the old layers of lifeless cells.

One day, it just slipped off and fell. My yanking it was only counter-productive; a lesson I had to learn. I stared at the crumpled yoke, with its claw marks and stains of dried blood lying in a heap at my feet, wondering why I ever admired it.

Then I looked up to the heavens and smiled, recognizing the Word coming alive within me. Healing and transformation had come as I humbly abided in Him. Not to impress, for that was the lie. Not to judge others or be judged by others, for that was the deception. But to know the truth.

The Son had set me free and I was free indeed.

Can a person's lifestyle condemn them?

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man's obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:18-19 ESV)

For a good friend (thanks for the chat)...
Can a person's lifestyle condemn them?

Answer: No! 
In God's eyes, it is not behavior that condemns a person.

Condemnation is the judgment declared by God for the trespass of one man, Adam. The rest of us were born condemned; God established that as well. Condemnation is not the result of personal sin, whether bad choices, disagreeable lifestyles, or immoral behavior. We cannot become condemned any more than we can decide to be born. Truth is, we didn't decide to be born. In the same way, we didn't become condemn by our decisions or actions. Everyone born of Adam is condemned. One trespass led to condemnation for all. One man's disobedience made us all sinners.

Justification, on the other hand, is the righteousness that comes only from God. It is made available to us as a gift because of the righteous deeds of another man, Jesus Christ. Jesus was not "born of Adam," and, therefore, was not born condemned. Justification is not, and cannot be, the result of moral behavior, good choices (except one*), decent living, loving others, judging others, or hating sin. We are not justified based on what we do. All the work required to live a righteous life acceptable to God was lived by that one man, Jesus Christ. Through His righteousness we have justification and life. By His obedience, we are made righteous.

* What is the one "good choice?" God declared a simple solution to go from condemnation to justification; believe in His only Son, Jesus Christ, and you will be saved. That's it; choose to believe in Him and the sacrifice He made on your behalf, which means to trust Him for your soul's salvation. Humbly turn the responsibility over to Him and rest in Him. There is nothing at all any person can do to earn salvation. Salvation is by grace through faith, a gift of God, not of works.

Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness. (Romans 4:4-5)

Adam disobeyed God by his own free will. Yet, we all are paying the price as God declared: in Adam, we were all born condemned. From God's perspective, no one is better than anyone else or has any advantage. So why do we think a behavior or lifestyle is going to make a difference?

Christ obeyed God, His Father, on His own free will. In Him, we can be born again to justification. No one is disqualified because of what they did or did not do; anyone can be saved. This is life, the new life, which is reconciliation to God, and God set the standard for that life.

He made this offer because He "so loved the world." He "desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth." (John 3:16; 1 Timothy 2:4)

Don't reject Him because of what arrogant people say and do. Accept His pure love, motivation, mercy and grace because of what He has said and done for you.

Trust Him for the salvation of your soul. It's your choice to accept His offer. You'll be glad you did.

"For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)

“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.” Romans‬ ‭5:18‬ ‭ESV

Think about it...

If you are already condemned at birth, how could you possibly do something to earn condemnation afterwards? Can you become more condemned? Of course not. If you have a sin nature because you were born in sin (through Adam), you cannot get a sin nature from sins you personally commit. Everybody is already a sinner at birth. There is no earning the title.

It would be like earning a belly button after you are born. Your belly button is there because you were born with it. There is nothing anyone could do to earn or deserve a belly button.

Likewise, you cannot do anything righteous because that is not who you are at birth. It's not in your nature to be or do anything that would cause God to take notice. And He knows this. He doesn't expect you to do anything to earn righteousness. It cannot be done. What He can do, and does in salvation, is give you His. The righteousness that God requires is the one He gives you by grace through faith. It is a gift of God, not of works, so that no one may boast.

In fact, if you are working or trying to earn your salvation or a righteous standing before God, that is the same as refusing the gift. It's as if He is trying to freely give you something and you're insisting you need to do something for it. When you truly understand this gift giving, then your soul can truly be at rest, as in the title of this blog: "you will find rest for your soul." (Matthew 11:29)

Think about it some more...

Absolutely, you are responsible for your own sin. But in Romans 5:12, "All sinned" is not separate or new information than Romans 5:18 (quoted above). The point Paul is making is that sin came into the world and was spread to all people through one man, Adam. Another way to say the same thing is condemnation came into the world and was imputed to all people through one man, Adam.

What then would be the difference between personal sinning before one is saved and after one is saved? Does either condemn a person? No, absolutely not. One who is not saved is already born condemned before they even commit a personal sin. One who is saved through justification in Christ cannot become condemned.

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

More thoughts...

No one earns salvation. Can anyone reduce their personal sin enough so that God would say, "Okay, that's good enough, you're saved." Likewise, can one increase their personal sin enough to become condemned after they are saved? No, since salvation and justification are based on the works of God, one's behavior cannot undo what God has done. Hypothetically, if a person born in Adam never committed a personal sin, they would still be just as condemned at birth and in need of a Savior..

Besides, people both lost and saved alike commit personal sins. Those actions don't change their status of being lost or saved. Both condemnation and justification are on God's terms, not ours. If God declares in His word people are condemned at birth, and that salvation is a gift, then it must be so.

Christ already paid the full price for everyone's sins because "He is the propitiation for our sins, but not for ours only but for the sins of the whole world" (1 John 2:2). And He, in Christ, is "reconciling the world to Himself, not counting man's trespassing against them" (2 Cor 5:19).

Now THAT'S Good News!‬‬

Sunday, September 4, 2016

A Place Prepared for Me

"In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?" John 14:2

To me, there's much comfort in knowing I'll be welcomed home. All I have to do is die. No, I don't wish to hasten the journey; I've got work to do until then, good works.

But, the thought of a room being prepared with love and anticipation for my arrival makes any current suffering seem like a light and momentary affliction. Moments of joy and excitement help confirm this.

Fresh sheets, hospital corners turned in, spacious and decorated, natural lighting, desk, books, recliner. Those are elements of an ideal worldly home. I can't imagine what my real home will look like.

Yes, obviously I believe in Christ, the Father, the Spirit, and all that. In fact, I know in my mind and heart His reality is so. His word is precious to me. It's my hope we can discuss these things one day.

In the meantime, it's interesting to witness such diverse reactions to spiritual matters. Some say it's a waste of time, a joke even. Others celebrate Him, and in so many ways. Some are spiritual but not religious. Most accept what others believe, just don't push it on others or even talk about it.

Personally, being a Christian means everything to me. But, I hesitate to use that label. Not that I'm ashamed to believe, but I know the term is so misunderstood, even among Christians. "You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means." (Princess Bride) I wish I could explain what it means to me.

There were times in my life when I'd ask about life, to myself, books, or others. "What does this all mean? Why am I here? Is this life totally random, completely orchestrated down to the most minute detail, or somewhere in between?"

I discovered more sound answers in Scripture, God's word, the Holy Bible, than anywhere else. But to do so, I had to learn to tune out "religious" people.

Many hunger for authority and self-righteousness, and will gladly jump to false conclusions to get it. They turn me off. Jesus hated them. I love Jesus. His words are precious to me. And if He says He went to prepare a place for me, I believe it. Totally. No, He would not have said it otherwise.

And if you are one of the few who believe, rest. To be absent from the body is to be present with Christ. Be assured no rooms will go unoccupied. We have a home and this temporary residence, this tent, ain't it. We are sojourners in a foreign land, citizens of heaven.

Here, on this battlefield, we fight the good fight, contending for the faith, but not against flesh and blood. The enemy is full of lies, distractions and deception, in which so many are ensnared.

We should let ourselves be transformed by the renewal of our minds from His word. His word is truth. This is how we know, in our hearts, our destiny is true.

And we do it out of love, such is pure motivation. We love because He first loved us. We love His thoughts. We love what He has revealed to us, made of us, freely given us. Let us, therefore, love one another. Peace!