Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Reflection Award

This award has been bestowed upon me twice recently. The reason for the title is because this award should make you reflect on five bloggers who have been an encouragement, a source of love, impacted you in some way, and have been a Godly example to you. Five Bloggers who when you reflect on them you get a sense of pride and joy... of knowing them and being blessed by them.

Well the truth is that there are many more than five who I could name, and yet when it comes to naming them it would still probably be the same five I elect for all the other awards, so I will just say that I do appreciate the notice by Annette and Gojira - I am happy to say that their blogs bless me as well. To God be the glory!

Monday, July 30, 2007

Are You Putting Me On?

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
(Colossians 3:12-14 – ESV)

Paul talks about putting on the new man, a new way of doing things within a new community, the local church. This does bring up some legitimate questions, however. With all of this emphasis by Paul and the New Testament on the local church and our involvement in it, with all the talk of our dependence on the church, and so many churches, why aren’t people putting on the new man very much? Why do we see more sin in the church and not less?

It is because the communities are not acting like the new man, they are focused on things that are too akin to the old man, and that relevance destroys their reverence.

The first problem is that the churches themselves are not ordered properly around Christ. The focus is something else: usually man and his felt needs. Christ is not all. Even the community itself is not to be the primary focus.

The second reason is that we have too many unregenerate in our ranks. Christ is not in all. There is no church discipline because there is no church worth in the minds of many.

Yes the church has social and societal responsibilities, but its first responsibility is spiritual. Too many churches are just civic centers or country clubs, a community of comfort rather than a community of Christ, where upward mobility represents the upward call. The goal is not to get everyone into the middle class. It is not a community of self-improvement it is supposed to be a community of sanctification.

We are supposed to be in the world not of the world. Although there are no class distinctions anymore we must realize that Jesus didn’t come to liberate you from your social situation but your sinful situation. Within the process of the community the lines will disappear, but we see so little sanctification that no wonder there is so little integration.

Don't pretend that you can join the church like joining a country club and once you have a membership card everything’s okay. We must be serious about whether the death of Christ means something more than entertainment and personal gratification. This isn’t a game it is a spiritual war we are in. It is time we either stopped playing church, or join the Kiwanis club.

Are you a 14%er? You know, those people who play church and put on a smiling face for the day? You never hear from them during the week, but you wouldn’t want to, because come Monday they are as mean as a rattlesnake. Then again, considering that church is only about 2 hours on Sunday, maybe some aren’t even 14%, maybe just during the service, you know, a 1.2% Christian. Is there even such a thing, really? Is it you I’m talking to? Instead of just putting on a show put on the new man. Go to church, get involved, become part of the new man, and when you go outside, live like it.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Saturday Special: Pastor Dave Arnold #6


Benjamin West was babysitting his little sister Sally, while their mother was out. Trying to entertain her, he found some bottles of colored ink and proceeded to paint Sally’s portrait. By the time Mrs. West returned, ink blots stained the table, chairs, and floor. Benjamin’s mother viewed the mess, not saying a word, until she saw the picture. Picking it up she exclaimed, “Why, it’s Sally!” And she bent down and kissed her son. Years later, in 1763, at the age of 25, Benjamin West was selected as history painter to England’s King George 111. He became one of the most celebrated artists of his generation. Referring as to how he got started as an artist, he said, “My mother’s kiss made me a painter.” Her encouragement did far more than a rebuke ever could have done.

The word “encourage” comes from a French word for heart, meaning, “to give courage, hope, support, help, or confidence to.” At the back of it is always the idea of enabling a person to meet some difficult situation with confidence. Someone said, “Seize every opportunity to give encouragement, for encouragement is oxygen to the soul.”

In 2 Timothy 1:16 – 18, Paul, imprisoned and about to die, forsaken by his friends, and left to bear his sorrows alone, speaks of the man Onesiphorus. He wrote, “The Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me, and was not ashamed of my chain; but when he arrived in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me. The Lord grant mercy to him that he may find mercy from the Lord in that Day – and you know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus.” His name means, “help-bringer.” He chose to be a man of encouragement. Note how Paul spoke of him:

1. HIS ENCOURAGEMENT: “He often refreshed me,” verse 16. Moffat translates it, “Many a time he braced me up.” Dr. John Watson, better known to many as Ian Maclaren, when beginning his ministry, attempted to preach without manuscript, taking only a few notes to the pulpit. Sometimes his memory failed, and he would say to his parishioners, “Friends, this is not very clear. It was clear in my study yesterday. Now I will begin again.” The people never showed any impatience. After a sermon one Sunday, an elder went to him and said, “When you are not remembering your sermon just give out a Psalm, and we will be singing while you are taking a rest, for we are all loving you and praying for you.” Years later, Dr. Watson said, “I am in the ministry today because of the tenderness and charity of those country folks; those perfect gentlemen and Christians.”

As Moses was stepping down, and Joshua was chosen as the leader, Moses addressed the people, stating, “Joshua, the son of Nun, who stands before you, he shall go in there. Encourage him, for he shall cause Israel to inherit it,” Deuteronomy 1:38. Will Rogers said, “Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.”

2. HIS EMPATHY: “He was not ashamed of my chains,” verse 16. The others, Paul said, “ have turned away from me,” verse 15, meaning, “When they should have showed friendship, they ignored him.” Onesiphorus did not allow the dangers connected with Paul’s imprisonment to frighten or embarrass him. Jackie Robinson was the first black to play major league baseball. While breaking baseball’s “color barrier,” he was jeered and ridiculed in every stadium. While playing one day in his home stadium in Brooklyn, he committed an error. His own fans began to taunt him. He stood at second base, humiliated, while the fans screamed cruel criticism. Then shortstop, “Pee Wee” Reese came over and stood next to him. He put his arm around Jackie Robinson and faced the crowd. The fans grew quiet. Robinson later said that arm around his shoulder saved his career.

3. HIS EFFORT: “But when he was in Rome, he sought me out very zealously and found me,” verse 17. “Very zealously” means “with extra-ordinary diligence.” Paul was a political prisoner, and Rome was a huge metropolis. When Onesiphorus searched for Paul and came to see him again and again, he took his life into his own hands. It was dangerous to keep asking where a certain political prisoner could be found. It was dangerous to visit him, and still more dangerous to keep on visiting him, but this is what he did. William Barclay reminds us, “One of the highest duties is the duty of encouragement.”

4. HIS EXAMPLE: “You know very well how many ways he ministered to me at Ephesus,” verse 18. He never swerved in his affections. He had been kind to him in former years, and he did not leave him now in the dark day of adversity. Proverbs 17:17, “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.”

In 2 Corinthians 7:6, after speaking of troubles, conflicts, and fears he faced in ministry, Paul states, “Nevertheless, God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus.” Titus was not a celebrity in the kingdom. He never wrote a book or built a church. He never worked any miracles, or preached any sermons that have been recorded. But when Paul was at one of his lowest times, Titus came and encouraged him, lifted his spirits, and strengthened him for the battle ahead. Imagine being remembered as the man who encouraged the Apostle Paul!

A young Christian boy from New Orleans was a naval wireless operator during World War II. Early one morning, after a night on duty, he took a few minutes for a devotional time when things were quiet at sea. He was reading the Twenty-third Psalm, when the thought came to him to send the Psalm out over the water, and see if any other ship would respond. He did, and as he sent the last word, sixteen ships answered a wireless “Amen.” May God bless every “Onesiphorus!”

Dave Arnold

Friday, July 27, 2007

Who Are You Putting On?

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
(Colossians 3:12-14 – ESV)

In Colossians 3:11, Paul says that we are to be a community where Christ is all, and in all. The seed is planted, but it is God’s will that God’s people be grown in God’s greenhouse, the church. We are born again, but just as a baby must grow, so too we must grow in the knowledge and grace of Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18). As we grow up we must put on new clothes.

When each individual is careful to put off the old ways and put on the new, then the group becomes more representative of this difference between the old man and the new. God has ordained not only a people but also a community for those people, manifested as the local church. This passage explains what it is like for that community, its ideal and purpose.

These people are now a community who stop boasting in their differences, which separated them, and boast only in Christ, which unites them (Galatians 6:14). At one time we got our identification and satisfaction based on our ethnicity, or other factors, but now our life and our love is to boast of Christ. Remember Paul in Philippians 3, and all he gave up as rubbish compared to Christ. Those that had much to boast about, and also those that had little to boast about are now all one.

Looking back at the list Paul gave earlier, we see that the old man that was put off was individualistic and self-centered in its conception. The new man thinks of others and is team oriented and God centered (cf. Philippians 1:8, 2:1-3 / Ephesians 4:2, 32).

We all have a part in helping others, like those who rolled away the stone and removed the grave clothes of Lazarus. We must help one another, after we have been born again, to come out of the dark and stop being hindered by the old dead life. We didn’t initiate this process, Jesus did, but we move ahead and live in it. The new man or your new self could have come into being without the need for preaching, teaching, fellowship and the church community, it could have come with a full set of new clothes, but it didn’t. Oh, there is a full set waiting, but it must be put on, and you have to go to the place where you find it, in the new man section, the local church.

It isn’t dressing up the old man for his best life now; it is putting on the new man who lives as Jesus would now. It isn’t trying to find your purpose in life; it is within Christ and the church is where you discover your purpose and you live as a light to the outside world.

When we find ourselves putting on these good qualities and putting off those bad ones, and we are doing this in the context of community, it is then that we can say that the Spirit is leading us. As our local community develops into a fully orbed and fully ordered unit, then we can be said to be full of the Spirit, in a sense. Of course all of this is predicated upon the fact that this unity is formed in and around Truth, specifically the truth of the Word of God. In Colossians 3:12-17 we see the expression of such corporate unity played out in individual lives.

This is one more important reason why we must be attending and active within a local church if we are Christians. Putting on the new man is done in concert with putting on the new community. You cannot say that you are continually putting on the new man unless you are within that community. You are putting on something each day, what are you putting on, the old man or the new, the shackles of the culture or the shelter of Christ?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Introducing: GRANDBABY!!!

Mandi and Chris had their second child on Tuesday, July 24 at 9:06 am. Erin Rachel Goforth has red hair, weighing in at 7 lbs, 2 oz and measuring 20" in length.
Thank you Holy God for your abundant blessings.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Will He Make It?

For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;
(James 1:7 – ESV)

Can a "saved" individual spend his life submitting to his old man, and have hope of spending eternity with the Father?

If that “saved” person was actually saved then obviously the answer is yes, but the question is if this so called “saved” person is really saved at all.

These are age-old questions in Christianity, regarding the matter of degree. Where is the line, if any, to be drawn regarding sanctification? Is someone who never even sets foot in a church once, who never gives up any of his old life of sin, a genuine, born again Christian? If the answer is no, where do we draw the line? Is it up to us anyway, and if not, do we just let anyone into our church fellowship, even the stubbornly and defiantly unrepentant person who says they are a believer? Perhaps it might be more suitable for us to ask what degree does the light of Christ need to shine from a person in order to reveal that the Light is actually within a person?

Now to get back to the originally worded question, I imagine he could, but he wouldn't have any earthly assurance. This might be akin to a drunk who makes it, but all his works in terms of rewards are as nothing. He makes it on God's grace alone like the rest of us, but since he didn't live a sanctified life, he forfeits blessings on earth and rewards in heaven, and his assurance was shaken while here in this life, perhaps. It is a good question, and one in which I fear too many rest on some "decision" earlier in life.

Perhaps there are some who never realize the release from the shackles of sin at all in this life and will still make it to heaven. I believe it certainly is possible. To do justice to the question however, we must look at the full picture. We don't know for sure how many might be like this, and there are going to be more that are the other way around. They lead bad lives that don’t reflect the light of Christ to any visible degree, and yet they think they will be in heaven based on some “decision” that “they” made earlier in life. They were only fooling themselves. They need to ask the real question, “If you didn’t like who God was and want to love Christ, and by extension want to live a life pleasing to God on earth, why in the world would you want to have to live that life in heaven?”

So the answer to the original question or any similarly worded question is this. In theory, yes, some will make it, but in practice, many won’t.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Nice Wheels

Bless the Lord O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name
(Psalm 103:1)

When we read “and all that is within me” that doesn't mean that when we don’t feel like worshipping God, praising God, or obeying God that we can say "well, I just don't have it in me to do that for God". If you are a Christian and you say that, what do you mean, that you don't have the Holy Spirit? If you are a Christian you do have it within you to bless God. If you don’t bless God at all you are not born again of God.

Now we won’t always bless God with everything that is within us, we are not going to be perfect this side of heaven. However, that doesn’t mean we have some built in excuse to be passive. Obedience is about as optional as tires on a car; without them, you may have a pretty vehicle, but it isn’t going anywhere. When we see someone with a new car, why do you think we say, "nice wheels?" It is the car that we are saying is nice, but the wheels are representative of that car. In the same way, obedience proves our faith is driving us somewhere, proving that there are tires on our Truth car, and Jesus is at the wheel.

You can bless Him with your heart, your mind, your soul, and your strength. Of course you won’t do it perfectly, but that doesn’t change the fact that there is Life within you, the Life of Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit that blesses God. The more you are filled with the Spirit the more you are blessing God. You can get to the place where you are doing so more each day. Of course sometimes our grieving the Holy Spirit has quenched the Life that is within us, and we have a spiritual flat tire. We need to get back to the filling station and get some air. Are you finding that more and more that is within you is blessing God? Is His Life filling you up, or do you have a flat tire?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Saturday Special: Pastor Dave Arnold #5


The worst procrastinator I have ever read about is the true story of a man who was born two weeks late, and seventy-five years later, he still hasn’t caught up. The clock in his kitchen has read 10:30 a.m. for two years now. He delays shoveling snow until after it has melted, and he considers raking leaves in the spring, but doesn’t. He actually stated, “If I wait long enough, sometimes they’ll blow onto a neighbor’s lawn.” His wife revealed that he was over fifteen minutes late to his own wedding.

In 2 Samuel chapter three, we read of a people who were guilty of procrastination. David had reigned as king over Judah for seven and a half years in Hebron, following the death of King Saul. However, there were some who had delayed in recognizing David’s kingship. Then Abner, who had served as captain of Saul’s army, realizing the futility of such procrastination, went through the length and breadth of the land of Israel, saying to the people, “In time past you were seeking for David to be king over you. Now then, do it!” (2 Samuel 3:17-18). His point was that it was time for action. Stop procrastinating. They had waited long enough. It was time to crown David as king.

There is a lot of speculation as to why people procrastinate. Some reasons, such as low self-esteem, and fear of failure or success, have been given. However, postponement is the most popular method of avoidance. We say, “Sometime I will take care of that.” An anonymous person most accurately reminds us, “If it wasn’t for the last minute, nothing would get done.”

An infidel died and left his farm to the devil. The courts, after deliberating on such an astonishing set of circumstances, decided the best way to fulfill the wishes of the infidel was to permit the farmland to grow up in weeds and thorns, to allow the house and barn to remain unpainted and to rot. Even the soil was allowed to corrode and wash away. The courts stated, “The best way to let Satan have it is to do nothing.” Sadly, herein lies a common story. Few of us claim to be infidels. We certainly have no plans to will land or life to the devil. But we may actually do the same things by procrastination. We look for a more convenient time. Think of lives that have been wasted, books and songs that were never written, goals never achieved, relationships allowed to corrode, and dreams left unfulfilled because of procrastination. Solomon warned of this very thing in Proverbs 24:30-34, “I went by the field of the lazy man, and by the vineyard of the man devoid of understanding; and there it was, all overgrown with thorns; its surface was covered with nettles; its stone wall was broken down. When I saw it, I considered it well; I looked on it and received instruction: a little sleep, a little slumber, a little folding of the hands to rest; so shall your poverty come like a prowler, and your need like an armed man.”

The last words found in Sir Walter Scott’s diary were, “Tomorrow we shall.” But there was no tomorrow for him. He died with good intentions to accomplish a certain goal – a goal he never listed in his diary nor accomplished. We all have goals and dreams we long for, planned for, even maybe started to reach for – yet have fallen short because of intentions to do it tomorrow. Henry Ford was right when he said, “You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do.”

Solomon again addressed this danger of procrastination when he challenged us with the self-discipline and energy of an insect. In Proverbs 6:6-9 he wrote, “Go to the ant, you sluggard! Consider her ways and be wise. Which, having no captain, overseer or ruler, provides her supplies in the summer, and gathers food in the harvest. How long will you slumber, O sluggard? When will you rise from your sleep?”

A pastor had a life-time slogan: “Do it now!” Even though his work schedule was heavy, and demands were great, he refused to be a procrastinator. He often told his staff and church, “Take the word NOW – spell it backwards and you have WON!” He would then explain, “If you do the things you should do now, you will be a winner.” So many are in the trap of meaning to do certain things, but they always say, “Not now.” In our short life, many opportunities come our way, and if we don’t take advantage of them, they will pass.

The most disappointing thing is when we procrastinate in our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 6:2 warns, “Behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Tragically, countless numbers of people have planned to someday settle things with God, but die without ever making good on their resolution. It is so true when stated, “Someday is a sure ticket to hell.”

A minister was waiting in line to have his car filled with gas just before a long holiday weekend. The attendant worked quickly, but there were many cars ahead of him at the service station. Finally, the attendant motioned him toward a vacant pump. “Reverend,” said the young man, “sorry about the delay. It seems as if everyone waits until the last minute to get ready for a long trip.” The minister chuckled, “I know what you mean. Same in my business.”

A Chinese proverb says, “The best times to plant a tree are twenty years ago and today.” Mary asked her husband, “Will you ever stop procrastinating?” Bob answered, “I don’t know. We’ll have to wait and see.” I challenge you to pursue your goals and dreams. Get that education, write that book, paint that picture, sing your song, re-establish that broken relationship, climb that mountain, reach for the stars, and get right with God. As Abner told his people, “NOW THEN, DO IT!’

2 Corinthians 13:14, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen.”

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Right and Wrong of Song

Sing to him; sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works!
(1 Chronicles 16:9 – ESV)

The priority in worship must be about God Himself, and then about Him including us into His plan, not us including God into our plan. Worship is about His love for us before it is about our love for Him. Most everyone, upon careful consideration, would agree to this. But does that mean we are not supposed to sing about how we love Jesus, or how we feel about what He has done for us? Does this mean if the song has a lot of “me” or “I” in it that it is no good? Does this mean the old songs are always better, or that we can never sing the new praise choruses?

It certainly isn’t that all the old songs are good and all the new ones are bad, or that using personal experience is never warranted. In one very old song, within 6 verses it uses I, me or my seventeen times. A quick reading shows an emphasis on what God can do for me.

It’s known as Psalm 23. Indeed, many of the Psalms initially seem to have their focus on the writer’s feelings and emotions and what they want God to do for them and to their enemies. However, they always return to God and who He is. The mind is grounded in God.

Thinking about one the most beloved of all hymns, "Amazing Grace", it does refer to "me", "I", and so on, but the focus is on what God has done, not on what I have done.

You see it’s not an either/or answer, but a question of where the overall focus is. Primary emphasis must be on God, His greatness, His holiness, and His attributes, because God’s promises are only as reliable as the God they come from. We must understand His faithfulness, and explore that, in order to more fully appreciate the reasons we can have faith. That is worship, discovering more about Him, and developing that theme in our songs.

In saying that we must first look at Him, and His perfections, we are saying that there is a proper order and levels of primacy, not that there is nothing else. Secondarily, therefore, we must also consider, ponder, mediate on, and sing about what God has done for us. Worship does include our response to His holiness. This is also a matter we should have as a higher focus or more emphasized fact than what we want or our devotional response.

Thirdly then, as far as preponderance of emphasis, is the matter of our devotional response to Him. It is because we can trust His works for us, and that being because of whom He is, that we can rightly declare our allegiance to and love for Him. If we should include songs about our devotion, and it is my contention that we should, then we must always include songs that inform us as to why we should be devoted and how we can be devoted also. We love Him because He first loves us, and the only reason we can love Him is because He first loved us, and so we must sing of Him loving us as primary and in that way more important than us loving Him. His faithfulness is not negated by our lack of it, and that is reason to worship.

Fourthly we come to God asking Him for mercy and grace to help in time of need, and we can do this in song. We thank Him for what we have before we ask Him for what we need. These needs are for corporate or individual outpouring of God’s Spirit into the worship situation, into the lives of others to bring salvation, or sanctification, into lives for mercy and healing, or requests of God to help in whatever situation we may find ourselves or others in.

Thinking about a song set rather than an individual song, perhaps a very simple hierarchy of emphasis and overall focus for our songs might look like this.

1. His perfections / who He is / His holiness, His attributes and character
2. His purpose / His mighty works / what He has done for us
3. His praise / our devotional response to Him
4. His provision / our requests of Him

Let us endeavor to do it all, but let us be diligent to make it primarily God entranced, centered on Christ, and speaking of the glory of the Godhead, with our singing the praise of His awe and wonder, our heartfelt devotion and neediness of the now following in proper response.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Higher Way of Worship

to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
(Ephesians 1:6 – ESV)

Biblical Christianity says that before the foundation of the world, God, who is perfectly just, perfectly merciful, and perfectly holy and wise, planned for the salvation of sinners, while displaying His own righteousness. He would justify the ungodly, the condemned, and He would remain perfectly just. How? It is just as we have been studying in Romans 3:25-26. God’s justice was not twisted or watered down, it was satisfied. God had been an enemy, but now His wrath is spent. Christ bore it. Theology drives doxology, knowledge of God drives worship of God, and to dive into the atonement is to submerege oneself within the uttermost depths of Christian thought. The deeper our thoughts of God become, the higher our worship of God becomes.

Some people find the atonement offensive, knowing that someone else would have to die for them. But it couldn’t have been just anyone, it had to be God the Son Himself, and that shows us how offensive and bad and serious sin actually is, and how much value God places on His own holiness. Bulls and goats aren’t worth our offense to other men, they are never as valuable as a creature made in the image of God. Our own lives aren’t worth the offense to God; our temporal lives aren’t dealing in the currency of the eternal, and they aren’t pure enough. Considering that, what other way to pay for sins could there be? If God is absolutely holy and absolutely just, what other fate than hell could we hope for, unless God Himself paid the debt for our sins?

This may sound like the same old thing, but it is much more, much fuller and richer than perhaps you have ever heard or considered. This understanding is what exalts God and places ultimate value in Him. This is what will bring you to a new level, the highest levels of worship, worshipping God with an understanding, a more full understanding of His worth. The more fully understood, the higher the level of worship, much higher than a few songs and a good feeling.

Those things are okay, and strong waves of emotion are wonderful, but if you think that is the height of spirituality, my friend, you are still in the kiddie pool of Christianity. Unless you understand just how bad your sin is, up against just how holy God is, how powerful His judgment is, and how great that means God’s mercy must be, well then you don’t have it yet. Of course, none of us are all the way there yet, but think of Christ on that Cross versus anything else you might want in life.

Let me give you a clue. The better you actually understand and truly believe this the less you sin, period. That is no guilt trip; that is the gospel truth. You don’t do it out of fear, you don’t do it out of gratitude, you don’t do it out of trying harder; you do it out of worship, because nothing else looks good at all compared to Him.

It is time to go into the depths of God, true worship, not emotional worship, and to swim there, not in an emotional rush, but in a fullness of understanding and a grasp of His true majesty, our true depravity, and His awesome mercy. I’m not trying to give you a downer about your feelings; I am trying to get you to see God without them leading the way. They aren’t to play the lead part, only the accompaniment. Then you will have feelings of depth you have not known before. And if you have been part way before, and had these feelings of depth, have you continued on in the journey to see God as holy as He is, or have you stopped with how good it feels? Is God getting bigger and more beautiful in your eyes?

A.W. Tozer – We need to improve the quality of our Christianity, and we never will until we raise our concept of God back to that held by apostle, sage, prophet, saint and reformer. When we put God back where He belongs, we will instinctively and automatically move up again; the whole spiral of our religious direction will be upward.

You must get a hold of this passage (Romans 3:25-26) until it gets a hold of you. Read it, pray over it, study it, and meditate on it until God unleashes its power and His presence in this text upon you. If you have not seen this, no matter how much you have felt before, you have not known the depths that you are being called to, and you haven’t experienced anything like this before. It is not simply joy, it is not merely sorrow; it is more than thankfulness; it is awe and wonder. Awe and wonder at His majesty and His mercy. The renewed mind that dwells on God’s greatness will result in great lives.

That is true worship. You can find it in Romans 3:25-26 and in other passages; you will find it nowhere else but in Christianity. Only Christianity has an infinitely valuable God who is infinitely holy and takes out infinite justice against infinitely bad sin and gives us infinite mercy, which can lead us to heights of infinite worship. That is the highest worship, and it doesn’t start with a feeling, it starts with an understanding. You are now informed; will you be transformed by this truth? Do you understand the value of God? Do you realize why Christianity must be true?

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Important Videos

Back on June 22 we posted a book review for PUTTING JESUS IN HIS PLACE: THE CASE FOR THE DEITY OF CHRIST by Robert Bowman and J. Ed Komoszewski. I wanted to give you a little more insight into this upcoming release (September ’07) by linking to two short (5 minute) videos delivered by Mr. Komoszewski which will give you a sense of the material and will stand alone as equipment for you RIGHT NOW. Don’t waste any time, you really should view these, it will make a difference, and perhaps God in His providence will allow you to share some of these truths in the near future, to His glory…

This clip

and this clip

are great tools in themselves…

Monday, July 16, 2007

Switching Gears?

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…
(Psalm 23:4 – ESV)

Our idea of blessing, favor and grace is warped by sin. The 23rd Psalm gives us an interesting insight that perhaps you haven’t considered before, and even if you have, it is worth visiting often, and seeing it reflected in other passages of scripture. Here in this Psalm, David begins to speak of God as his shepherd, his leader. He states that God leads him to green pastures, and still waters. The Lord restores his soul as he leads David to paths of righteousness for the sake of His name. It is the hand of God moving David into his place of blessing.

The place of blessing takes many different forms however. David isn’t finished describing what the Good Shepherd leads us into and makes us see and experience His hand in. Notice how David seems to switch gears here, from calm to chaotic. What stared out as still waters and green pastures and a restored soul, suddenly turns into the valley, and the shadow of death, with enemies all around. It would seem as if God is leading him to a place of cursing not blessing.

However, upon careful consideration, he is in the same stream. God is still there, He leads us everywhere and is with us all the time, and we will eventually make it all the way home, no matter which route it takes. Twists and turns only heighten our sense of His faithfulness, if we will but understand what David is saying here.

God is not switching gears; He is switching scenery, showing you that He is in full Shepherd mode no matter where your life finds you. His rod and His staff are there; do you see them in that shadowy, dry and dusty place as easily as you do beside the green pasture and still waters? Whether you do or not, He is just as much there as anywhere.

It is walking by faith not sight. When the sight is a green pasture, or still waters, or your cup runs over, praise the Lord. When you enemies are all around you, when you are in a dry and dusty place where death seems to be casting its long shadow over your soul, praise the Lord. If you are a Christian, mercy and goodness will follow you, and if you have this mindset, your testimony to God’s grace in the dark place will shine a light on others who need encouragement as well. That seemingly strange place of blessing will be a blessing to others in need.

He has anointed your head with the oil of His presence; you are to fear no evil. God’s blessing is upon you as a Christian no matter how dark life seems. His grace will lead you in goodness and mercy all the way home, where you will dwell in His house, forever. When God seems to be switching gears, remember to switch the channels of you perception.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Which One?

And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
(1 John 5:20 – ESV)

Is the religion with the greatest god the ones who have a god patterned after every human emotion, like Hinduism? Considering the human heart, as we have seen in Romans and we see all around us and in us, how ridiculous and vile.

Is it the ones say that god is in everything, again how awful, or that god is everything, how unholy is that? God to them is just a part of everything good or bad, and their god is just like everything else. How does that exalt God?

Two other monotheistic religions are closer to Christianity: Judaism and Islam. All three speak of God as Creator and Sustainer, but two of them don’t go all the way in valuing God. Judaism, Christianity, and Islam all claim to speak for the same God, that is, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob. But they say very different things about Him.

How about Islam, whose god isn’t all that holy, and to whom sin isn’t all that bad? In Islam, you don’t need to be perfect, but you need to merit the mercy. Mercy in Islam looks a lot like justice. And their god has a level of holiness that lets you pay for your own sins. If your good outweighs your bad, say 51% to 49%, you get into paradise. So you only have to be 51% holy. Think about that clearly. Islam has the 51% holy god. They may get all angry about that and claim their god is holy, but how can he be if he just lets sin slide, if he isn’t all that offended, and humans can pay for their own sin, doesn’t that bring him down to their level of holiness? That doesn’t seem all that exalted to me.

Judaism seems better but it isn’t developed into the place Christianity is. The Temple sacrifices were a picture of future payment, not the payment itself. Going back to them would be going back on God. Of course, there is no longer even a typological atonement; with no Temple, Judaism replaces it with human prayer, repentance, and affliction of soul. Their notion is that God pardons based on our own repentance, a notion of sincerity, which is in a sense matching the rest of the world while still calling on God.

The bloody mercy seat showed the truth that sins must be paid for because of the holiness of God. His love requires justice to be done, but animal blood cannot pay for human sin, and human blood alone cannot pay for offense against God. Only Jesus was worthy enough to pay. Judaism doesn’t have Jesus.

No, none of these is Biblical Christianity, who exalts God to where He is, and sees sin for what it is, and God's holiness for what it is, or at least in concept, even though we cannot fathom it. Christianity sees our sin as having to be paid for by the ultimate worth of God Himself, and God pouring out His wrath on His Son. How great is His love seen to be then? He meets His own holiness, the bar of His justice and delivers us in His mercy because of it.

All of the world’s religions tell me how to improve myself and offer me salvation at a reduced rate, with a reduced god. Only Christianity maintains a God who is perfectly holy, just and merciful. He requires perfection and He gives it in the person of Christ. Only Christianity exalts God’s holiness and His infinite worth to this level, where it takes a God to pay for even one sin. Only Christianity steps forward with a historic person whose whole purpose in life is to die, whose worth is so great He can pay for all sin. No other god does this, no other god is lifted so high, has descended so low, and brings us up to Him. Which religion has the True God? Hmmm.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Kissing Leads To Missing

Keep steady my steps according to your promise, and let no iniquity get dominion over me.
(Psalm 119:33 – ESV)

Kissing starts the ball rolling, and like a snowball downhill, it can get bigger and bigger, and move faster and faster until it is an avalanche of emotional and physical urges that cannot be stopped very easily. It is better to wait to start the process (kissing at all) until you and the relationship itself are more mature. This goes for any age. I will explain what I mean by “more mature” in a moment.

I am not saying that you are too young to have these feelings, of course you are not, you are indeed having them that is why I am writing this. What we are saying is that you are too young to deal with this effectively, you have much too much to deal with now anyway. If you don’t deal with other young adult priorities, you will be stunted in your emotional, spiritual, psychological, and even intellectual and career growth. You are too young to worry about this now, you have other priorities that will be left out and not developed if you place too much emphasis in this area.

Now, perhaps the fire has already been lit, but that doesn’t mean that we have to let it burn out of control; there is forgiveness and a second chance to regain purity and sanity. Yes I said sanity, because once we have gone ahead of God and let our emotions and urges have their way with us, we will insanely keep searching for fulfillment in all the wrong ways. We got this need that we have to feed. The problem is, we don’t understand how to truly get what we want because what we want isn’t what we need. Then we keep going back to the same old ways and getting the same old hurts.

Perhaps you know the cycle. We get a good-looking boyfriend or girlfriend, and then it doesn’t last, or they just use us, or all they want is . . . or they have different expectations than us, or we find out they’re not so cool after all, or we see someone else who is even hotter looking then them. You can’t stay happy. Whatever the reason, we get trapped and just when we feel like we have crawled out of the pit, we fall right back into another one. Some people get married before they even recognize that they are a slave to the cycle, and they never break free from it.

Unfortunately, I know this can be extremely hard to deal with once Pandora’s box has been opened. This sudden adventure into the exciting world of passion and romance leads many without a desire to do anything other than what will prepare them for more and better relationships of the romantic variety. By saying romantic love I include sexual gratification as well as emotional pleasure, with boys often desiring more of the former, and girls the latter, but these vary depending on the person. Most people want some from each category, so I include them both under “romantic love”. All our goals are directed toward that end, even career and leisure activities are weighed in terms of how they will affect our relational status and prospects for romantic love. We ignore important parts of our total development that need working on, and our whole person suffers. Ironically this hinders our chances at a lasting, successful, and fulfilling relationship later in life.

Yes, sexuality is as good and wonderful as you dream it is. It is powerful, and to be desired. In the physical realm, it is God’s great gift to us. That is why it needs to be put in the proper order. Those that cheapen sex by not waiting are actually saying it is less important, not more. They lessen its power, saying it’s no big deal. But it can be a big deal if you will let it have its proper place. Truthfully, we are placing more significance on sex, not less, because we know that it can be the best part of a lasting relationship.

Hear me clearly here, it is not about denying you one of life’s ultimate pleasures, it is about enhancing it. Sex is good, and so we want to increase the quality of it, not hasten the onset of it. Kissing and sex is supposed to be at the end, the culmination of a bond that has been built on trust and a mutual admiration and respect for the other person.

When we place it at the beginning, we don’t develop our interests based on other important factors that will lead to a satisfying relationship. We never give the relationship time to develop before we rush into too much passion. It should be like a crescendo, growing in intensity, not flaming out because the start was better than the finish. The passion ought to build as we get to know one another, we learn about each other, and grow to appreciate the other person as a whole person, not just for what they do that makes me feel good. Otherwise, when the good times go bad, the party’s over. This is why so many couples get divorced; they never understood that for better or worse meant that the worse would happen to them, and they aren’t prepared to deal.

When we start the pattern off wrong, then we don’t understand all that a relationship is supposed to be about, and we only seek partial fulfillment. We become satisfied with what is less then a mature intimacy. It’s like the person whose always picking the fruit off the tree before it’s ripe; it may taste good, but it isn’t all it was meant to be, and he keeps picking the fruit early because he doesn’t know any better. He is satisfied with less than the best.

But normal humans cannot resist the temptation to go back once they’ve had their initial fix of the “love drug”, even if it is only half the potency of the real thing. Oh, sure, they might try and fight off the passion by saying, “I’m swearing off guys for now”, or “I’m not into dating right now”. How many times have you heard that one before? If you haven’t you will. Your feelings and urges are nothing new, people have been feeling them since God took the rib out of Adam, made Eve, and left the two as needing each other to feel complete.

When we have given in to the temptation, then we realize that void that God put in us, one that was meant to be fulfilled in marriage, but we have already tasted of it, and now we feel that void and keep searching and searching to have the need met. It is a real need, and a good one, but not one that we are ready for, yes ready to feel, but not ready to deal. I will not deny the hunger for the need to be met, you just were not meant to feel or fill the need until marriage.

Older folk may think that they have been there before and are mature enough to “handle it”. Perhaps you are, but is your relationship? Not if you believe that you shouldn’t wait for sex until your relationship has matured to the point of marriage. And you are not ready for marriage until you and your relationship are mature. But you can’t wait, you say. Or perhaps you say, “Well then I’ll just get married.” True, better to marry than burn with passion. But if you haven’t waited for the relationship to mature, are you prepared for the consequences when you find out the other person wasn’t all that you thought they would be?

You went ahead and began kissing. Now you burn with passion and longing because you’re lonely. If you’re young, you put other hopes and dreams on hold, and disrespect those who would try and help you. You need to stop the fire from spreading, and get back to working on your character. The chemistry and commitment come later. You need to be set free of the cycle of kissing and missing.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Most High

…so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
(Romans 3:26b – ESV)

In answering the question of “Why Christianity?” over other religions, we need to answer an important question. Which religion exalts God the highest, which places the most value in God? That God, the One who is the most powerful, the highest, the most worthy, that is the One I want to worship, that is the only One worthy of worship. Any God who is less than fully God is no God at all, only someone or something more powerful than us, but still not all powerful, and so that dismisses with many religions right from the start.

A true God isn’t just the most powerful being in the Universe, but the One who created it all and the One who sustains it all, only such a God could actually be God; the others are only greater than us, but not greater than everything. They may be godlike, but not God. Which God is the greatest, the most powerful, the highest and most different from us? This God is the Highest; this God is the Holiest; this God would be the most worthy of worship.

Think about it, the best religion would be the one which places the most value in its god, and the one who derives the value of everything else based on the worth of its god, it would base all its morals and standards on that. It isn’t just about which supposed god is the most powerful, but which is the most pure, the most perfect. Not just in claim but in demonstration.

People never rise above their conception of God; if your God is just like you, or if your God is small, then your life will be small, your morals will be small, and your people will live far below the standard of a people whose God is lifted up to the heights. If your god is a lying, malevolent, and reckless being, no wonder its people are the same way; that is what they worship. So, again, which religion exalts God the highest, which places the most value in God?

My belief is that Christianity is the true religion because its God has the highest majesty and holiest mercy. This passage, Romans 3:25-26, proves that. Only Christianity has an infinitely valuable God who is infinitely holy and takes out infinite justice against infinitely bad sin and gives us infinite mercy, which can lead us to heights of infinite worship. Christianity has the highest conception of God. In this light, let us consider the other major religions of the world.

Monday, July 09, 2007

God is Great

It was to show his righteousness at the present time…
(Romans 3:26a – ESV)

Romans 3:25-26 shows the righteousness of God, His ultimate worth and holiness, and the incredible justice and mercy of the Almighty. It gives us reason to see the value of God. This passage proves that Christianity is the true religion, and that our God is God.

No other religion requires perfection and payment for sin at such a high level (the physical death of its own god), which proves in turn that no other religion places such a high value on the holiness of God, which is to say no other religion has a higher conception of God. Holiness, or god-likeness, is what makes God actually God.

No other religion deals with sin in this way, sin isn’t as bad or as big a deal. In every other religion their god is not quite so holy, sin is not quite so bad, therefore mercy is not quite so great, and their god is not quite so beautiful. Of course, atheism doesn’t deal with sin at all but all you have to do is look at the world around you, or in your mirror to see that is no true alternative.

Understanding this will also reform, revitalize and revolutionize the way you worship, and what you are thinking about as you worship. You have probably heard it said that you become like what you worship, and that is true as far as it goes. However, even if you worship the true God, the Christian God, if your conception of God isn’t high enough, no wonder your condition isn’t as high as it ought to be. Not just “I think He’s great”, but fully informed as to why, and able to ponder that mediate on that. Therefore, we want to lift up the name of God as high as we can, today and everyday, not simply with our voices, but in our minds and hearts. We need to raise our conception of God, to see Him as majestic and merciful as He is, in our thoughts. I want you to think great thoughts today. That isn’t an intellectual pursuit it is a spiritual one. I’m talking about a higher way of worship.

When we think of how beautiful He is we tend to think on how thankful we are, and we need to do that, but to do that while focusing on how great He actually is. It is not in what His plan accomplished for us, but what this plan means about God Himself, that is what raises our worship to a new level. Concentrating on the perfections of God is what begins to perfect us.

A renewed mind will lead to a renewed life. Not simply changing our minds about what is right and wrong, and trying to find some key to make us act better, but thinking God’s thoughts after Him, entering into the realm of His majesty as He has shown us in the scriptures, seeing just how valuable God is. My aim is to show forth our God as beautiful as He is, and to get you to think of God with a fuller understanding. If we see Him with an understanding, not a feeling but an understanding of how glorious He is, we will be lifted up towards that glory in our worship. Then we can have more fully deep and developed feelings. Let us endeavor to lift our thoughts upward. Let us discover the highest worship today, let’s talk about why God is great.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Saturday Special: Pastor Dave Arnold #4


I read recently of a painting which portrays man’s desire for gold and its consequences. It pictures a narrow highway along which is rolling a golden coin. The road is crowded with men and women who are rushing madly for the coin. Their eyes and their faces express eagerness and intense desire. On a galloping horse rides a man whose eyes are fixed on the gold, with his body bent over the neck of his stead, as his mind is completely focused on the wealth ahead. Clinging to him are his wife and children, who with love, devotion, anxiety and fear written on their faces, are endeavoring to remain close to him. But he, in his spirit of covetousness, is unconsciously, unwittingly, and roughly pushing them from him, as he feels that they are a hindrance in his race for wealth. He is oblivious of the people in his path, and is urging his horse onward toward the prize, trampling all who are in his way. Sadly, he leaves behind him a host of broken, bleeding, and crushed men and women.

Statisticians have calculated that the Americans of 100 years ago had 72 “wants,” 16 of which were considered needs. Today, we have nearly 500 “wants,” of which less than 100 are really necessary. Abraham Lincoln’s two boys were arguing. A friend asked, “What’s the matter with those boys?” Lincoln replied, “Just what is the matter with the whole world. I have three walnuts and each boy wants two!”

In Luke 12:15, Christ warned, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.” Actually, this can be read, “Beware of all covetousness.” In his book, “God’s Cure For Worry,” author Mark Guy Pearse states, “Covetousness is the sin of which Jesus Christ spoke more earnestly, more solemnly, and more constantly than of any other.”

The Bible does not condemn riches, but it does sharply rebuke the trusting in them and the unlawful pursuit of materialism. The word “covet” comes from a Greek word which means “grasping for more.” No matter how much one gets, he is always discontented. Eventually, after covetousness drives him unmercifully through life, it kills him and leaves with him nothing. This is confirmed with just a few examples of covetousness in the Scriptures. Eve coveted the forbidden fruit, Lot was greedy for real estate, Balaam for rewards, Achan sought money, David another man’s wife, Ahab a vineyard, Gehazi gifts, the Pharisees pursued riches, Judas silver, and Demas coveted pleasures, and all suffered terribly.

Covetousness breeds many sins.

1. DEATH, according to Proverbs 1:18 and 19, Isaiah 56:11 and Jeremiah 22:17. A man in Boca Raton, Florida, tried to drown his aged mother in a bathtub and used a buzzing electric device to injure her because he wanted to collect his inheritance.

2. DENIAL (OF GOD). This is what Agur, the son of Jakeh, was concerned about in Proverbs 30:8 and 9. The story is told of a man who received instantly everything he wished for. He desired a palatial house, and it was there. He wished for the latest and most expensive car, and he had it. He longed for immeasurable riches, and it was granted. No matter what he wished for, it was immediately there. However, he grew more miserable and weary. He told a friend, “I’d rather be in hell than this.” His friend countered, “Where do you think you are?” Make money your god and it will plague you like the devil.

3. DECEIT. In Matthew 13:22, Christ made this clear when He spoke of “the deceitfulness of riches.” Jean-Baptiste de la Salle, French priest of the Middle Ages, has left on record that of the tens of thousands that confessed to him their sins, not one ever confessed the love of money. Yet, the prevalence of this sin in taught throughout the Bible. One of the major reasons Israel was chastised by God, was covetousness. Both Isaiah 57:17 and Jeremiah 6:13 and 8:10 confirm this.

4. DEFILEMENT. In Mark 7:20 – 23, Christ listed covetousness with adultery, fornication, murder, pride, blasphemy, wickedness, thefts, etc, then added, “All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” Paul even went so far as to put it in the same list with idolaters, homosexuals, sodomites, and drunkards, adding that those who practice such sins will not “inherit the kingdom of God. “ ( I Corinthians 6:9 and 10). I heard the late C. M. Ward say, “You can go to hell just as easy for being greedy as cussin’.”

5. DESTRUCTION. In 1 Timothy 6:9 – 11, Paul speaks of those “who desire to be rich, and “the love of money,” adding that those who fall into such a trap “ pierce themselves through with many sorrows.”

Without a doubt, God desires to bless and prosper His people. John wrote of this, “Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers” ( 3 John 2). While confirming God’s will to prosper us, he also gives the priority. Christ promised, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you,” (Matthew 6:33).

Matthew 6:21 reveals, “For where your treasure is, there your heart is also.” A story tells of Satan’s attack on a Christian. First, he shot a poisonous dart at his heel, but the Christian was unharmed because he had his feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace. Satan’s next attempt was at his loins, but the Christian repelled this because he had his loins girt about with truth. Unsuccessfully the devil tried a shot at his breast, the breastplate of righteousness. The Christian knocked away the arrow. But the devil, not to be discouraged, slipped around behind the Christian, and shot him in his wallet, and killed him dead as a hammer! BEWARE OF COVETOUSNESS!

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all, Amen.” ( 2 Corinthians 13:14 ).

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Deity Demonstrated

This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
(Romans 3:25b – ESV)

With the text of Romans 3:25-26, when we start with a man centered, “what’s it mean to us” then we cannot appreciate the “what this means about God” aspect. God put Jesus on the cross to demonstrate His own righteousness, which is what the text declares as primary.

In this passage Paul’s emphasis is not so much on the righteousness that God has provided in Christ as the righteousness that God has demonstrated through Christ. This distinction may seem subtle, but it is one of great significance. Our minds like to avoid this truth, and we much rather focus on what He has done "for" us. It is too easy to fall into the trap of sentimental thinking about the Gospel, and we need to be reminded that the love of God makes absolutely no sense apart from the wrath of God. Take away the latter, and all you have is the image of a kindly old man who wouldn't hurt a fly, much less punish sinners, and then we start thinking that maybe our own sins really aren't that bad. We cheapen His love by downplaying His wrath.

When we choose to look at salvation from a merely human perspective, we see salvation from the standpoint of what it does for us. God becomes the One who “meets our needs.” While salvation does do something for us, and God does meet our needs, the focus is wrong. Paul portrays this passage from the divine point of view, fixing our attention on God’s purpose for saving men: the demonstration of His righteousness. If you can see this, you will see the value of a God entranced worldview, not one where we say it but we actually have it, and we can see with God’s eyes, and we will begin to learn the value of God, not simply as someone who gives us the treasure of forgiveness, but as the very treasure itself.

The death of Christ proved God’s righteousness. Hebrews 9:15,26 – in His forbearance He passed over the former sins, made during and before the old covenant, knowing justice would be served by a new covenant. People just want God to pardon but that doesn’t demonstrate His righteousness. That would be saying that sins are really no big deal to God, and it would also mean that offending God and despising Him isn’t all that important. The sins are real and they must be paid for, and yet God seemingly overlooked them before. The problem in God's passing over sin (which the natural mind does not grasp) is that God's worth and glory and righteousness have been despised, and passing over it makes him look cheap. God would be unrighteous if He passed over sins as though the value of His glory were nothing.

God’s worth and His name are dishonored by our sins, but He vindicated His glory by slaying His Son. That is how valuable His glory is and how awful sin really is and what it requires. It is not that we were worth it, that we were worth saving, but that God’s glory was worth vindicating, and that Christ was the only payment that could satisfy the justice of God for us offending and despising His glory. That is what sin is, falling short of and devaluing God’s glory. We have done violence to the throne of God. That is why hell must last forever because you can never pay it back, your worth is nothing compared to His, no amount of penance can offset the terrible injustice you have done against the infinite worth of God.

This is all about the value of God not the value of man, how much He is worth not how much we are worth. Now we square this with John 3:16 by saying that His love for us is so great that He paid the only way it could be done. God, out of His love and justice, renders Himself favorable to us by His own action. He suffers the ultimate offense and yet He takes on the punishment for that Himself. He passed over sins before Christ because He knew the plan, it was the plan all along, and that is why He could wait until it was the right time (Galatians 4:4).

Did Jesus really have to die to pay for our sins? We say, “Certainly we’ve done bad things, but what we’ve done isn’t so bad that a merciful God can’t overlook our failings.” We are wrong on two counts. First, what we have done IS so bad, that we cannot even begin to fathom how horrible it is. Second, God cannot overlook, He cannot wave His hand and let bygones be bygones. He may freely forgive us, but He Himself must bear the cost.

The wrath of God had to be satisfied. God could not simply overlook sin; it had to be judged. And so God provided men with salvation in such a way that He demonstrated His righteousness and satisfied His wrath, all at the same time. God’s forgiveness costs something, He freely forgives but it cost Him something. It is the heart of the good news...a bloody yet beautiful thing that proves God's worth, not ours...

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Not Who But Whose

Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all.
(Colossians 3:11 – ESV)

In the world it is all about who you are. How that is defined depends on whom you ask, but it comes down to age, money, looks, status, health, race, or any number of temporal factors, in that all these things will pass away. In the Christian world, it is not all about who you are but whose you are, and that is Christ’s. The “who you are” for believers is defined by Christ. There is no special status other than being redeemed and a part of the body, which we also belong to. The body is also whose you are. He is the head, and we are His body, the new man, typified by the local church.

The “new man” in Colossians 3 is corporate in nature and refers to the new community in which all racial distinctions are dissolved and social status doesn’t place one above another. It is a social structure where Christ is all and in all. Colossians 3 uses second person plurals (“you” as a group rather than “you” as an individual).

New Testament scholar Darrell Bock: “So the new man is related to Christ and consists of peoples. In other words, it is Christ conceived of as a corporate entity, that is, Christ’s body. Another way to say it is that the new man refers to the new community in Christ that he forms by joining people to himself as they are saved (i.e., “buried and raised with him,” as Paul already declared in Colossians). An even simpler way to say it is that the new man is the church, the new community in Christ.”

This vital connection of a Christian to other believers is part of his or her identity. Some believers avoid contact with a local church community, but when believers fail to be or are restricted from being involved with that corporate experience, a part of their identity is distorted.

John 17:20-26 shows us that a Christian’s identity is to be linked with and developed in concert with a community of other believers.

Ephesians 2:15 – Here the new man is synonymous with the church – a sphere of existence in Christ, in which there are no racial boundaries and no spiritual divisions. It is not our new regenerate nature spoken of in Titus 3:5.

Ephesians 4:20-24 – you can easily see the plural in verse 20, but almost all of the pronouns in the great identity chapters of Ephesians are in the plural. Even the second person “you” in those sections is plural in the original Greek, which again, unlike English, has a different word for “you” singular than “you” plural.

Clearly, intimate involvement in community with other believers is nonnegotiable for Christians. How can you be His, part of His body, part of His family when you aren’t where He is working? A concept of individual Christian identity lived in isolation is warped. As members of the body of Christ, we have the privilege of sharing a heavenly identity that will bind us together for eternity. Our earthly relationships, then, serve as a significant context for our growth and God’s glory. We don’t just belong to God we belong to each other.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Body Building

…ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man…
(Colossians 3:9-10)

Thinking about this chapter as a whole, it is primarily corporate rather than individual in focus. The “new man” is corporate in nature – the original Greek, unlike English, has a different word for “you” singular than “you” plural. Colossians 3 uses second person plurals (“you” as a group rather than “you” as an individual). It is easy to see that in the verses following verse 11, but indeed, it is all about a community effort, a building up of the new man; the corporate body of believers in Christ. The ideal for individual growth in grace is centered in the reality of a well functioning community of believers growing together.

Thinking about the overall context of Paul’s letter to the Colossians, the gnostic way he was preaching against was an individual focus on secret knowledge; the Christian way is a corporate identity with Christ and knowledge of Him within the community of believers.

To put on the new man is to have been brought into a new community in a totally new realm of existence and to have put on new clothing. This new clothing is the new way of conducting oneself in relationships that are fit for the new community. The new man relates to God in a new and better way, and in so doing, relates to others in a new and better way. The old man is the community still under its old ways, where the image of God is marred, and everyone still enjoys wearing the old clothing of selfish attitudes and sinful deeds. We need to keep putting on the new man by keeping ourselves grounded in a fellowship with others of like precious faith.

The new community is designed to express the image of God in human relationships and structures. The big picture is that for the “new man” Christ is in all. Thus the “new man” in Colossians 3:10 is not something inside an individual, but rather the new community in Christ, the church, and together we reflect the image of God. It is for this reason, since we are the new man corporately, that we are not to live like we once did. The believer, having been removed by God from that old community is not to live as if he still belonged there. Thus the “old man” must be continually put off as well.

We need to see Colossians 3 primarily within the context of the "new man", and I believe that this is speaking in the first instance of a corporate identity, rather than an individual focus. Of course, there is much application to individuals based on that, as we are all "new men" in Christ, but as we are exercising our "new man", it is best done, and truthfully, only done within the context of the "new man" that Paul is representing here, which is corporate in nature.

Focusing on individual spirituality without paying proper attention to the corporate community is like a man weight training only one body part. You may have a terrific set of legs, but your forearms look like buggy whips, your shoulders slump, and your chest looks like buried treasure. You may look good in a waist down picture, but you won’t be very functional in real life. Spiritually, we are called into one Body, and Body-building is a necessary function.

If you are to be part of the new man you must begin to do that within the context of community. In Christ we learn to relate to God rightly and this in turn helps us to relate to others rightly. You are either becoming one with the new man or with no man.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Payment Made

whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.
(Romans 3:25a – ESV)

1 John 2:2, 4:10 – Propitiation – a sacrifice that satisfies the wrath of God against sinners. Jesus on the cross not only reveals God’s justice and His righteousness but it actually saves sinners. By expiating (removing the problem of) sin, God was made propitious (favorable) to us. Instead of leaving all consigned to hell, He showed His love to those whom He calls to Himself.

There is a major difference between pardon and justification. Pardon says that you are guilty but suspends the penalty of that guilt. Justification declares you to be righteous and without guilt. How can God do that? By Christ paying the price of redemption. If God were to simply pardon or forgive based on our bits of penance then that would say that the sins weren’t really all that bad and that God was not really all that holy. Think about Islam and Allah in light of this. Because for them, Allah just forgives: not only there is no payment for our sins, there is none needed. However, if God can forgive without payment for sins, then he's no god. If God is not holy and just, then He does not deserve any worship. But the angels cry holy, holy, holy.

Propitiation is set against the flawed notion of penance. Penance is used to pay for the bad we have done, or to offset the bad we do. In other words, since we are going to do bad, it is justified by the good we do, kind of like how many people who do bad things think they can get off the hook because they start a foundation or give to charity or whatever. It is kind of like the carbon offsets of today, it is the old medieval idea of penance brought forward to today, and so many religions do this same thing. These things may appease our conscience but they do not appease God’s wrath. Your payment isn’t enough. Penance never excuses your own excess.

In the New Testament, the act of propitiation always refers to the work of God and not the sacrifices or gifts offered by man. The reason for this is that man is totally incapable of satisfying God’s justice except by spending eternity in hell. Even there he cannot make a full payment and that is why it must continue on. This is also why the notion of Purgatory is false. Purgatory lessens the value of God; it diminishes the level of His holiness, His wrath, and the severity of sin. It makes His judgment arbitrary, and His mercy just kindness.

There is no service, sacrifice or gift that man can offer that will appease the holy wrath of God or satisfy His perfect justice. Psalm 51:17 – the sacrifices God wants are a broken spirit and a contrite heart, but these are repentance not propitiation. The only satisfaction, or propitiation, that could be acceptable to God and that could reconcile man to Him, had to be made by God. For this reason God the Son, Jesus Christ, came into the world in human flesh to be the perfect sacrifice for sin and make atonement or “propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:14-17). The old song has it right: He paid a debt, He did not owe, I owed a debt, I could not pay