Sunday, March 20, 2016

Gaining Salvation?

The other day I was thinking about salvation, and how hard some people make it. The thought came to me of how simple God made it for us to receive salvation.

I pictured myself on the day of judgement, standing before God.
God “Do you believe in my Son Jesus?”
Me “Yes.”
God “Do you believe He died for your sins?”
Me “ Yes!”

Luke 23:39-43
39Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”
40But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? 41And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” 42Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
43And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”
Quite simple when you think about it. Why do you think God made salvation so simple? I believe it is because He knew that we wouldn't be able to live our lives in complete obedience to the laws that He had sent down.

How many of you think you haven't gained salvation because of things you have done wrong? I know that was a trick question, because we can't gain salvation, it is a gift given to us. On another note, how many think they have lost their salvation because of something they have done? If it were up to us to gain, or lose salvation, we would all have to start working on our cool down plans. But seriously, how many of you feel lost because of mistakes you have made?

I know one of the things I was worried about, because of the denomination in which I was raised, was backsliding and failing after I had been saved. I accepted Christ as my Savor in March of ninety-one, but thought I had lost my salvation because of the things I had done after I was saved, in fact that was one of the reasons I had waited, as I thought you only get one chance and I didn't want to mess it up. I know many people that think they have to clean up their act before coming to God for forgiveness. It is like waiting until you are healed to go to the doctor. That isn't how God looks at it, He wants our brokenness. It is when we realize that we can't do it on our own, that we can truly be open to accepting what God has for us.

John 14:5-7
5Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”
6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.
7“If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”
I am not saying accepting Christ gives us a license to sin, far from it, but we will fail, and we will mess up, and continue to make some of the same mistakes. We will give in to the same temptations we had before accepting Christ into our lives.

I will explain it the way Brother Flora explained it to me in March of ninety-one, paraphrased slightly for modern context. Accepting Christ is like going to court with Perry Mason as your counsel, only instead of just representing you, like Perry Mason, Christ not only pleads your case, but takes your place on the stand, and accepts your judgement and penalty.

When God looks at us on the day of judgement, He doesn't see the us that we see, He sees the us that confessed Christ as our Savior. I am so glad that God isn't the god of just payment as our society demands, as none of us would be saved, no not one, as we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Romans 3:21-26
21But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
It is our faith in God's word, and what He has done for us that assures us of our salvation.

Stay tuned as we will go deeper on this subject next week.

Sunday, January 3, 2016

New Year, a New Focus!

As we start a new year, many people have put their focus on resolutions that they know they will never keep. I too have set a few goals for myself, and a few of them, I know I will probably squander, as I only have so much time, but lofty thoughts of grand accomplishments.
One of the goals I have set, that will be the first on my list, as to keep my focus on accomplishing it, is to be more focused on God's word. The first book that I have started studying is the book of Romans, and it is a bit ironic, as most of the book of Romans is about change, which is what most people are after with resolutions. I know when most people think of Romans and change, they think of the passage from Romans 12.
Romans 12:1,2
1I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. 2And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
But this passage is the very starting point of the book of Romans, as first we must have faith that a change can be made in us, before we go about making that change.
Romans 1:16,17
16For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”
How many weight loss programs did you hear advertised this past week? How many different gyms had discounts for memberships over the holidays? How many emails did you receive from self help gurus, promising to change your life if you would just sign up for their three month course?
Why because unless we are lifted up, and believe we can do something, we usually give up before accomplishing our task. Around the end of the year the airways are flooded with every motivator know to man. But where do we find true motivation, in the one who made us, God our creator. When we put our trust in what He has done in us, and have faith that the work He began in us will be carried out, we find it easy to find our focus.
So quit looking to outside motivators, while seeking to accomplish your goals for this new year, but be not ashamed of the Gospel, and look to the righteousness of God that is revealed in us, from faith to faith, as “The just shall live by faith.”

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Religion: Product of God, or tool of satan? Part 4

Over the past few weeks we have researched different scripture about religion, and the traditions, and rituals that man has put into place. While reading I found the following passage that, to me, sums it all up.

Zechariah 7:3-8
 They were to ask this question of the prophets and the priests at the Temple of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies: “Should we continue to mourn and fast each summer on the anniversary of the Temple’s destruction, as we have done for so many years?”
The Lord of Heaven’s Armies sent me this message in reply: “Say to all your people and your priests, ‘During these seventy years of exile, when you fasted and mourned in the summer and in early autumn, was it really for me that you were fasting? And even now in your holy festivals, aren’t you eating and drinking just to please yourselves? Isn’t this the same message the Lord proclaimed through the prophets in years past when Jerusalem and the towns of Judah were bustling with people, and the Negev and the foothills of Judah were well populated?’”
Then this message came to Zechariah from the Lord: “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies says: Judge fairly, and show mercy and kindness to one another. 10 Do not oppress widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor. And do not scheme against each other.

It is not all about observing rituals, festivals, and traditions, but it is all about loving one another. When we truly love one another, foods, drinks, appearances, clothing, rituals, and observances won't get in the way. 

I don't believe we should become chameleons and cater to the cultures and traditions where we reside, but I do however believe we shouldn't let them get in the way of having fellowship with our fellow man. It is our job as Christians to share the good news, not the traditions, rituals, and rules, that push so many away from asking God into their lives.

There is only way to God, through His Son Jesus Christ, and He made it so simple even man, with our dense ways of thinking, can get it right.

So to wrap up this lengthy lesson, and to answer the question, "Religion: Product of God, or tool of satan?" I believe the answer is Religion: Product of man, used by satan, to lead people away from God.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

It's not about who or what we know, but about the One who knows us!

Over the last few weeks my wife and I have entered talent contests, and applied for positions that, when taken at face value, we are not qualified to hold, which is what brought up this topic.

You see if you look at any of us under the world's value system, most positions people hold today would be out of their reach, but when we look at the same positions under God's system, we are all qualified to do His will, through Christ.

You see God doesn't call us according to our worldly abilities, but He works through our spiritual gifts, that He has given us. If we continue to live our lives according to our plans, and the things that we feel we are, or aren't qualified to do, we will miss out on the wonderful plans God has for our lives.

This week while filling out that resume, or preparing for that audition, don't compare yourself to others but look at who God has called you to be.

Exodus 3:10-12
10 Now go, for I am sending you to Pharaoh. You must lead my people Israel out of Egypt.”
11 But Moses protested to God, “Who am I to appear before Pharaoh? Who am I to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt?”
12 God answered, “I will be with you. And this is your sign that I am the one who has sent you: When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God at this very mountain.”

1 Corinthians 1:26-29
26 For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called. 27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.

Monday, July 28, 2014

The Parable of the Sower

Luke 8: 4-15
And when a great multitude had gathered, and they had come to Him from every city, He spoke by a parable: “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell by the wayside; and it was trampled down, and the birds of the air devoured it. Some fell on rock; and as soon as it sprang up, it withered away because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it and choked it. But others fell on good ground, sprang up, and yielded a crop a hundredfold.”When He had said these things He cried, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!”
Then His disciples asked Him, saying, “What does this parable mean?”
10 And He said, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the restit is given in parables, that
‘Seeing they may not see,
And hearing they may not understand.’
11 “Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. 13 But the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, who believe for a while and in time of temptation fall away. 14 Now the ones thatfell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. 15 But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.

I have always read this parable and understood it as four different kinds of people. While reading through it recently, I understood it as four very distinct, and different phases, of the same persons life, mainly mine.

In the beginning I was the soil on the wayside, not really caring to hear God's Word, as I couldn't see what was in it for me, besides I was only interested in having a good time.

I was also the stony ground when I did finally take the time to listen, but not having conviction in my faith allowed it to fall away.

I then was the seed among the thorns. I didn't stand up to the weeds, and the cares of the world silenced the Word. The sad part of this phase of life is, it is the final phase of the soil being matured, and is the most difficult phase to be in as the world tries to overpower the born again believer. 

Thankfully God never left me through all those times in my life and worked the soil of my heart to make me the man of God I am today. I am still working on full production to reach the hundredfold, but at least now I am producing.

When you think of the parable this way, it lets you know, that even though you might be in any of the first phases, God is still there working on your heart.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Shake off the dust

Reading through the book of Acts today, I was reminded what Jesus told His disciples to do when they came in to a town or household that didn't receive them.
It got me thinking of how we spread the gospel today. Do we continue to try to reach people that won't or are unwilling to receive what we are teaching, or do we shake the dust from our feet and move on as Jesus disciples, and Paul, Barnabas, and the early church did?
This  is a tough subject to understand, as we are told to go make disciples of all nations, and to spread the gospel, but at what point do we stop preaching the word to someone? 
At what point do we shake the dust from our feet? I wish I had the answer as none of us want to give up on anyone, as God didn't give up on us, but we can only bring the message and be teachers, at some point we have to shake the dust from our feet and put our energy into spreading the word to those that will receive it.
Acts 13: 46-52 NLT
46 Then Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly and declared, “It was necessary that we first preach the word of God to you Jews. But since you have rejected it and judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we will offer it to the Gentiles. 47 For the Lord gave us this command when he said,
‘I have made you a light to the Gentiles,
    to bring salvation to the farthest corners of the earth.’
48 When the Gentiles heard this, they were very glad and thanked the Lord for his message; and all who were chosen for eternal life became believers. 49 So the Lord’s message spread throughout that region.
50 Then the Jews stirred up the influential religious women and the leaders of the city, and they incited a mob against Paul and Barnabas and ran them out of town. 51 So they shook the dust from their feet as a sign of rejection and went to the town of Iconium. 52 And the believers were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 10:13-15 NLT
13 If it turns out to be a worthy home, let your blessing stand; if it is not, take back the blessing. 14 If any household or town refuses to welcome you or listen to your message, shake its dust from your feet as you leave. 15 I tell you the truth, the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah will be better off than such a town on the judgment day.
Mark 6:10,11 NLT
10 “Wherever you go,” he said, “stay in the same house until you leave town. 11 But if any place refuses to welcome you or listen to you, shake its dust from your feet as you leave to show that you have abandoned those people to their fate.”
Luke 10:10-12 NLT
10 But if a town refuses to welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘We wipe even the dust of your town from our feet to show that we have abandoned you to your fate. And know this—the Kingdom of God is near!’ 12 I assure you, even wicked Sodom will be better off than such a town on judgment day.

Monday, June 30, 2014

What is the meaning of life?

Rather odd question to pose don't you think, but out of the hundred or so people that this email goes out to, and the several hundred that will read it on the blog or Facebook, most will have a different answer.

This is probably one of the most difficult writings I have written to date. I am sure I know the answer for myself, but am unsure how to help others find theirs, if one can be shown by a fellow man. Hopefully this will peak some interest and get you searching on your own.

You see some will find meaning in their possessions. Others will find it in their accomplishments. Sadly enough many will not have an answer at all. Even more sad are those that don't care to seek the meaning, but are content to live whatever life they are told they should live.

The more I read and re-read scripture, the more I find that the little things of the world, such as pleasing everyone, and making sure I am accepted by man, have little or no meaning to me. I am strengthened by the inner peace of knowing God is pleased with me, and nothing man can do will change that.

Reading the following passage, you see even Solomon, in all his wisdom, found himself questioning the meaning of life. His only true peace came when he realized it was in God, that he could find true meaning.

Ecclesiastes 2:1-25 NLT
I said to myself, “Come on, let’s try pleasure. Let’s look for the ‘good things’ in life.” But I found that this, too, was meaningless. So I said, “Laughter is silly. What good does it do to seek pleasure?”After much thought, I decided to cheer myself with wine. And while still seeking wisdom, I clutched at foolishness. In this way, I tried to experience the only happiness most people find during their brief life in this world.
I also tried to find meaning by building huge homes for myself and by planting beautiful vineyards. I made gardens and parks, filling them with all kinds of fruit trees. I built reservoirs to collect the water to irrigate my many flourishing groves. I bought slaves, both men and women, and others were born into my household. I also owned large herds and flocks, more than any of the kings who had lived in Jerusalem before me. I collected great sums of silver and gold, the treasure of many kings and provinces. I hired wonderful singers, both men and women, and had many beautiful concubines. I had everything a man could desire!
So I became greater than all who had lived in Jerusalem before me, and my wisdom never failed me.10 Anything I wanted, I would take. I denied myself no pleasure. I even found great pleasure in hard work, a reward for all my labors. 11 But as I looked at everything I had worked so hard to accomplish, it was all so meaningless—like chasing the wind. There was nothing really worthwhile anywhere.
12 So I decided to compare wisdom with foolishness and madness (for who can do this better than I, the king?). 13 I thought, “Wisdom is better than foolishness, just as light is better than darkness. 14 For the wise can see where they are going, but fools walk in the dark.” Yet I saw that the wise and the foolish share the same fate. 15 Both will die. So I said to myself, “Since I will end up the same as the fool, what’s the value of all my wisdom? This is all so meaningless!” 16 For the wise and the foolish both die. The wise will not be remembered any longer than the fool. In the days to come, both will be forgotten.
17 So I came to hate life because everything done here under the sun is so troubling. Everything is meaningless—like chasing the wind.
18 I came to hate all my hard work here on earth, for I must leave to others everything I have earned.19 And who can tell whether my successors will be wise or foolish? Yet they will control everything I have gained by my skill and hard work under the sun. How meaningless! 20 So I gave up in despair, questioning the value of all my hard work in this world.
21 Some people work wisely with knowledge and skill, then must leave the fruit of their efforts to someone who hasn’t worked for it. This, too, is meaningless, a great tragedy. 22 So what do people get in this life for all their hard work and anxiety? 23 Their days of labor are filled with pain and grief; even at night their minds cannot rest. It is all meaningless.
24 So I decided there is nothing better than to enjoy food and drink and to find satisfaction in work. Then I realized that these pleasures are from the hand of God. 25 For who can eat or enjoy anything apart from him?