This is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes!

Unbreakable

A book review by Stuart Brogden

If there is one foundational problem within the professing body of believers it is too low a view of God, compounded with the attending view of man which is too high. The theme of almighty God, and the implications that biblical truth has for the salvation and preservation of sinful men is woven throughout this book by Bela C. Strickland. This brother has written about the golden chain of redemption found in Romans 8:28-30, a chain that was fashioned in the blood of Christ and gives comfort to those who have been purchased by the Lamb.

Unbreakable is divided into 7 chapters which are gathered into 2 parts; plus a conclusion that takes us through verse 39. Bela’s main concern is that those who profess Christ rightly understand Who saves who so God gets the glory and the saints gain confidence in Him.

Chapter 1 is titled, We Must Know. If there is truth about how a sinner is reconciled to holy God, we need to know it! For us to have sure footing as in Psalms 18:33, we must have the right view of Scripture. Bela tells us, “To find such solid footing in the truth of God’s Word, even while the ground is shifting under our feet, we need to avoid slipping into two unhealthy, unbiblical extremes: to obsess over what we can’t know about God, or to be apathetic about what we can know about God.” (page 10) To know the Word rightly takes work. The Spirit of God gives understanding to those who seek earnestly. We cannot live the Christian life on auto-pilot. What we must know is God Himself; such knowledge comes through the Word by the Spirit.

What We Do Know is the second chapter, with verse 28 as the focus. Our author points out a very important but often misunderstood aspect of this verse: “Paul doesn’t say that God causes all thing for good.” (page 19) The passage says, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God.” This is not a promise to all, but only those “who love God and are called, according to His purpose.” Bela wisely counsels that this truth must be present in the minds and lives of the saints, especially in bad times. God will cause the worst thing you face to work out for good, if you are His child – trusting the faithful One to do what He has promised is a safe place, even if your world is crumbling. In our current day of hysteria, this is truth we must cling to.

Chapter 3 begins with verse 29, which opens with a statement that can only be rightly interpreted one way. God foreknew a people; it doesn’t say He foreknew everyone or things about them. Note this: in every instance in the New Testament where God’s foreknowledge is mentioned, it is a people, not events, that He foreknew. This knowledge is a personal, intimate knowledge as between a husband and wife; not the mere awareness of the existence of anyone. Certainly God knows about everyone and all that we think, say, and do; but He foreknew only some.

And those He foreknew, He predestined (chapter 4). Bela notes that many think God predestines people according to what He sees them doing or choosing during their lives. But the word, predestine, does not allow God to be influenced by history or the future; neither does His nature permit it. If God’s choosing of sinners for salvation was based on any part of the creature’s doing or choosing, the creature would be the one in charge! Strickland cites Psalm 139:16 in support of his view – God wrote in His book all the days He had ordained before David was conceived! If God is sovereign, the creature does not determine if or when he gets reconciled to God.

On page 46, Bela twice declares that the righteousness of God which is imputed to the elect is also “infused into” them, saying “We stand before God and live for God, in Christ, positionally being declared righteous and practically being made righteous.” I do agree that the Spirit works in us to sanctify us as we walk with the Lord, but I struggle with the concept of righteousness being infused to us – our flesh will not be made righteous in any degree until Jesus returns and we are glorified – our new bodies will be righteous. For now, our souls (which includes our minds) are being renewed daily and this the work of the Spirit.

In chapter 5, Bela reviews the call of God on those being saved (verse 30). He points out (page 51) how so many wrongly herald John 3:16 as a universalist passage, but he misses the opportunity to show the correct language behind the Greek, as the KJV is misunderstood and many translations use the KJV phrasing because it’s familiar to the reader – not because it’s accurate. In a nut-shell, John 3:16 reads more accurately like this: “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His one and only Son, and all who are believing on Him will not perish but have life eternal.” The Greek work behind “so” is an adverb (as in John 3:14), not an adjective; it describes the manner in which something was done, not the degree or magnitude of the action. The English word “whosoever” has no Greek equivalent. The phrase in Greek is “the believing ones.” Lastly, as Bela points out, “whosoever” does not convey ability, it merely identifies a group. He later declares, rightly, “that Jesus died for people in spite of their hatred, not in response to their love.” (page 53), citing parts of Romans 5 as evidence.

Strickland (page 58) makes an assertion that “only the New American Standard Bible and the New King James Version bring through in translation” a nuance Paul intended us to grasp. Bela says only those two translations specify “those whom [God] foreknew, He also predestined,” rightly observing that only those specific people among the masses were called. A review of translations shows the vast majority of them bring out what Bela wants us to see. It makes no sense to me to call out two translations as unique when a) the NASB specifies “those whom” while the NKJV does not include “those,” and b) the NIV, ESV, CSB, Berean Literal, NET, and others agree with the specific emphasis our author wants us to see.

Bela properly brings lots of Scripture to bear in this chapter, to make sure his readers get the message: God calls men to salvation; man can do nothing to influence this.

Justification is covered in chapter 6 and while Bela and I are in agreement here (and throughout this book), I think he brings some confusion into the topic. Again, our brother emphasizes man’s inability at do anything that can reconcile him to God. When he gets into describing the sin that afflicts mankind, Bela says, “Sin is the rebellious breaking of God’s Law” – but he give no citation for this. To break a law of God is sin, even if it’s done in ignorance. But the definition of sin is not given in Scripture as the breaking of God’s Law, rebellious or not. Many run to 1 John 3:4, which does not state, “Whoever commits sin transgresses the law; for sin is the transgression of the law.” It says, “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.” There is no reference to ‘Law’ or “transgressions’ in that verse – it was added by the Geneva Bible translators, and other translations (KJV, Jubilee 2000, American KJV) simply followed suit. The NIV, New KJV, ESV, Berean Literal, NASB, CSB, NET, NAS1977, ASV, ERV, Young’s Literal all agree: sin is lawlessness. That’s the biblical definition.

Bela’s case is further complicated in that in none of his references to “God’s Law” does he tell us what law he means. One more ambiguous mention of Law (capitalized in the book), page 82. “Having been justified, we can now live out His Law, rather than living without His Law.” Again, which law? There are many laws in Scripture that God gave to man at various times, to people in different covenants. Knowing which laws are for the saints in the New Covenant is critical, as people are just as willing today as they were in the first century to put the heavy yoke of Moses’ law on the backs of the saints.

The main point of this chapter is found on page 79; speaking of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:20: “His point was to stress the hopelessness of external self-righteousness for entry into God’s kingdom, as well as the hope of exceeding, surpassing, righteousness for entry God’s kingdom, which they could have.” If they were given ears to hear, faith to believe, that righteousness would be theirs. This is the message of the Kingdom: God predestines, calls, justifies, and glorifies.

The last chapter, 7, focuses on glorification. In this part of the book, our dear brother shines the light on Christ, contrasting the Christian’s hope with the hopelessness of other, false religions. “If you are jealous for the glory of God, that statement (“and these whom He justified, He also glorified”) should give you pause, especially in the awareness of so much man-exalting, God-diminishing doctrine.” AMEN! Contrary to those who lift up man with emotionally stimulating talks, Christians ought to see things differently: “So, with the statement that the effect of Christ’s resurrection and the end of all Christ’s redemptive work is the glorification of fallen man (and, primarily, I would add, the glorification of God Himself), you should expect a very careful, biblical, Christ-centered, Christ-exalting explanation.” AMEN!

“The hope of being raise by God comes only with the hope of being right with God. This hope of glory is only for those from whom He has removed the guilt of sin – these whom He has made perfectly righteous with the perfect righteousness of His Son – these whom He has made perfectly right with Himself, as His Son is perfectly right with Him.” This is the truth! Our union with Christ means EVERYTHING! There is no hope apart from Him; there is only sure hope if joined with Him.

Bela’s closing encourages the reader to stay focused on Christ and the truth recorded in Scripture. “There is no guarantee that you will always feel firm.” (page 117) We cannot trust our emotions or feelings – Jesus is trustworthy, He is worthy of our devotion, worship, and service. “When discouragement is threatening to crush your spirit, you must take courage in the truth of what Jesus has done for you and given to you.” (page 118) On that note, we close – thankful for the work our brother has done in this book to encourage and equip us to do just that.

When is Civil Disobedience Allowed For a Christian?

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The emperor of Rome from AD 54 to 68 was Nero Claudius Caesar Augustus Germanicus, also known simply as Nero. The emperor was not known for being a moral and ethical person, to say the least. In AD 64 the great Roman fire occurred, with Nero himself being suspected of arson. In his writings, the Roman senator and historian Tacitus recorded, “To get rid of the report [that he had started the fire], Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace” (Annals, XV).

It was during the reign of Nero that the apostle Paul wrote his epistle to the Romans. While one might expect him to encourage the Christians in Rome to rise up against their oppressive ruler, in chapter 13, we find this instead:

“Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor” (Romans 13:1–7).

Even under the reign of a ruthless and godless emperor, Paul, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, tells his readers to be in subjection to the government. Moreover, he states that no authority exists other than that established by God, and that rulers are serving God in their political office.

Peter writes nearly the same thing in one of his two New Testament letters:
“Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king” (1 Peter 2:13–17).

Both Paul’s and Peter’s teachings have led to quite a few questions from Christians where civil disobedience is concerned. Do Paul and Peter mean that Christians are always to submit to whatever the government commands, no matter what is asked of them?

A Brief Look at the Various Views of Civil Disobedience
There are at least three general positions on the matter of civil disobedience. The anarchist view says that a person can choose to disobey the government whenever he likes and whenever he feels he is personally justified in doing so. Such a stance has no biblical support whatsoever, as evidenced in the writings of Paul in Romans 13.

The extremist patriot says that a person should always follow and obey his country, no matter what the command. As will be shown in a moment, this view also does not have biblical support. Moreover, it is not supported in the history of nations. For example, during the Nuremberg trials, the attorneys for the war criminals attempted to use the defense that their clients were only following the direct orders of the government and therefore could not be held responsible for their actions. However, one of the judges dismissed their argument with the simple question: “But gentlemen, is there not a law above our laws?”

The position the Scriptures uphold is one of biblical submission, with a Christian being allowed to act in civil disobedience to the government if it commands evil, such that it requires a Christian to act in a manner that is contrary to the clear teachings and requirements of God’s Word.

Civil Disobedience—Examples in Scripture
In Exodus 1, the Egyptian Pharaoh gave the clear command to two Hebrew midwives that they were to kill all male Jewish babies. An extreme patriot would have carried out the government’s order, yet the Bible says the midwives disobeyed Pharaoh and “feared God, and did not do as the king of Egypt had commanded them, but let the boys live” (Exodus 1:17). The Bible goes on to say the midwives lied to Pharaoh about why they were letting the children live; yet even though they lied and disobeyed their government, “God was good to the midwives, and the people multiplied, and became very mighty. Because the midwives feared God, He established households for them” (Exodus 1:20–21).

In Joshua 2, Rahab directly disobeyed a command from the king of Jericho to produce the Israelite spies who had entered the city to gain intelligence for battle. Instead, she let them down via a rope so they could escape. Even though Rahab had received a clear order from the top government official, she resisted the command and was redeemed from the city’s destruction when Joshua and the Israeli army destroyed it.

The book of 1 Samuel records a command given by King Saul during a military campaign that no one could eat until Saul had won his battle with the Philistines. However, Saul’s son Jonathan, who had not heard the order, ate honey to refresh himself from the hard battle the army had waged. When Saul found out about it, he ordered his son to die. However, the people resisted Saul and his command and saved Jonathan from being put to death (1 Samuel 14:45).

Another example of civil disobedience in keeping with biblical submission is found in 1 Kings 18. That chapter briefly introduces a man named Obadiah who “feared the Lord greatly.” When the queen Jezebel was killing God’s prophets, Obadiah took a hundred of them and hid them from her so they could live. Such an act was in clear defiance of the ruling authority’s wishes.

In 2 Kings, the only apparently approved revolt against a reigning government official is recorded. Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah, began to destroy the royal offspring of the house of Judah. However, Joash the son of Ahaziah was taken by the king’s daughter and hidden from Athaliah so that the bloodline would be preserved. Six years later, Jehoiada gathered men around him, declared Joash to be king, and put Athaliah to death.

Daniel records a number of civil disobedience examples. The first is found in chapter 3 where Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego refused to bow down to the golden idol in disobedience to King Nebuchadnezzar’s command. The second is in chapter 6 where Daniel defies King Darius’ decree to not pray to anyone other than the king. In both cases, God rescued His people from the death penalty that was imposed, signaling His approval of their actions.

In the New Testament, the book of Acts records the civil disobedience of Peter and John towards the authorities that were in power at the time. After Peter healed a man born lame, Peter and John were arrested for preaching about Jesus and put in jail. The religious authorities were determined to stop them from teaching about Jesus; however, Peter said, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19–20). Later, the rulers confronted the apostles again and reminded them of their command to not teach about Jesus, but Peter responded, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

One last example of civil disobedience is found in the book of Revelation where the Antichrist commands all those who are alive during the end times to worship an image of himself. But the apostle John, who wrote Revelation, states that those who become Christians at the time will disobey the Antichrist and his government and refuse to worship the image (Revelation 13:15) just as Daniel’s companions violated Nebuchadnezzar’s decree to worship his idol.

Civil Disobedience—Conclusion
What conclusions can be drawn from the above biblical examples? The guidelines for a Christian’s civil disobedience can be summed as follows:

• Christians should resist a government that commands or compels evil and should work nonviolently within the laws of the land to change a government that permits evil.
• Civil disobedience is permitted when the government’s laws or commands are in direct violation of God’s laws and commands.
• If a Christian disobeys an evil government, unless he can flee from the government, he should accept that government’s punishment for his actions.
• Christians are certainly permitted to work to install new government leaders within the laws that have been established.

Lastly, Christians are commanded to pray for their leaders and for God to intervene in His time to change any ungodly path that they are pursuing: “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity” (1 Timothy 2:1–2).

https://www.gotquestions.org/QOTW.htm

A Scriptural View of Sin

2014-11-12-exchange1 (1)ALLEINE: O miserable man, what a deformed monster has sin made you! God made you “little lower than the angels”–but sin has made you little better than the devils!

BEART: There is a certain infiniteness in sin, because it is against an infinite God, which therefore brings a punishment of infinite duration, because it cannot be atoned for by finite creatures.

BROOKS: Did God leave us to act according to our sinful natures–we would all be incarnate devils, and this world would be an absolute Hell!
There is no little sin–because there is no little God to sin against.

EDWARDS: You contribute nothing to your salvation–but the sin which made it necessary!
Never did God so manifest His hatred of sin, as in the death and suffering of His only begotten Son.

FLAVEL: Christ is not sweet–until sin is made bitter to us!
If God should damn you to all eternity–your eternal sufferings could not satisfy for the evil that is in one vain thought! O the depth of the evil of sin!

HODGE: Original sin is the only rational solution of the undeniable fact of the deep, universal and early manifested sinfulness of men in all ages, of every class, and in every part of the world.

JAMES: The torments of the bottomless pit are not so dreadful a demonstration of God’s hatred of sin, as the agonies of the cross!

LOVE: Sin is worse than Hell, because sin made Hell to be Hell.

MANTON: Sin is sweet in commission, but bitter in its wages!
The more affected we are with our sinful misery–the fitter we are for Christ’s marvelous mercy.

MASON: Sin digs graves for bodies, and kindles Hell for souls!
A man can never leave sin thoroughly, until he loathes it heartily.
Go to Golgotha and see what sin did there!
Christ did not die for sin, that we might live in sin.
The sins of the wicked anger Christ, the sins of His people grieve Him.

NEWTON: The more vile we are in our own eyes–the more precious Christ will be to us!
Sin cannot be hated for itself–until we have seen the malignity of it in Christ’s sufferings!

OWEN: The seed of every sin–is in every heart!
Christ’s blood is the great sovereign remedy for sin-sick souls!
I do not understand how a man can be a true believer–in whom sin is not the greatest burden, sorrow and trouble!

PRICE: We drown our sins in the Red Sea of Christ’s blood!

RYLE: Christ is never fully valued, until sin is clearly seen.

SIBBES: The depths of our misery–can never fall below the depths of God’s mercy!
Sin is not so sweet in the committing of it–as it is bitter in the reckoning of it.
It is evident that our conversion is sound–when we loathe and hate sin from the heart.

SPURGEON: If Christ has died for me–then I cannot trifle with the sin which killed my best Friend!
What sin is worth being damned for?
If you have lived like the wicked–then you will die like the wicked, and be damned like the wicked!
Look to the cross, and hate your sin–for sin nailed your Well-Beloved to the cruel tree!
Sin is self-damnation!
As salt tinges every drop in the ocean–so does sin affect every atom of man’s nature!
There is no cure for the love of sin–like the blood of Christ!

WATSON: Sin has the devil for its father, shame for its companion, and death and damnation for its wages!

Choose God for Your Portion

the-end“Death blows away all vain deceits.  Then carnal men begin to perceive their error.  When their portion comes to be taken away from them, then what indignation they have upon themselves for the folly of their choice, how the world has deceived them!  A godly man hath the beginning here; then he comes to have a consummate and most perfect enjoyment of it.  Death cannot separate us from our portion.  Indeed, it separates us from all things that withhold us from it; but it is a means to perfect our union with God, and make way for our full fruition of him. …we should choose God for our portion.”  –Thomas Manton “Psalm 119 Vol. 1, p. 561 (Banner of Truth)

A Cross of Their Own Choosing

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(Thomas Watson, “The Art of Divine Contentment“)

“I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know both how to have a little, and I know how to have  a lot. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being content–whether well-fed or hungry, whether in abundance or in need.” Philippians 4:11-12

Paul knew how to manage in every state–he learned to be content whatever his circumstances.
If he was in prosperity, he knew how to be thankful.
If he was in adversity, he knew how to be patient.
He was neither lifted up with prosperity–nor cast down with adversity.

A Christian should be content in any and every situation. Many are contented in some conditions–but not in every condition. They can be content in a wealthy state. When they have the streams of milk and honey–now they are content. But if the wind turns and is against them–now they are discontented. While they have a silver crutch to lean upon–they are contented; but if God breaks this crutch–now they are discontented.

Many would be content with their affliction–if God would allow them to pick and choose. They could better endure sickness–than poverty; or bear loss of estate–than loss of children. If they might have a cross of their own choosing, they would be content.

But a contented Christian does not desire to choose his cross–but leaves God to choose for him. He is content both for the kind of the afflictions, and the duration of the afflictions, which God gives him. A contented man says, “Let God apply whatever medicine He pleases, and let it lie on as long as He desires. I know when it has done its cure, and eaten the venom of sin out of my heart–that God will take it away.”

A contented Christian, being sweetly captivated under the authority of the Word, desires to be wholly at God’s disposal, and cheerfully lives in whatever circumstances that God has placed him in. “I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.” (2 Corinthians 12:10) He does not only submit to God’s dealings, but rejoices in them!

Book Review – A Praying Church

The weekly prayer meeting is the gauge of the spiritual health of a church. – Dennis Gundersen

Available Online

The sovereign purposes of God can be difficult to understand. However, there are times when we are going through a difficult time and the right prompt or post brings a word of encouragement to the heart.

With all that has recently transpired in the world with Covid-19, I have done a great deal of reading. This has also been a time where the Lord has burdened my heart more than ever for the need of prayer in the local church.

Being an avid reader, I have read many books on the matter of prayer through the years. Dennis Gundersen though points out in the first chapter that books actually dealing with the prayer meeting itself are rare. Personally, I cannot ever remember seeing or reading a book about prayer meetings until I purchased this book.

Our family had the privilege of meeting Dennis Gundersen many years ago when he pastored a Bible church near Tulsa, Oklahoma. He owns Grace & Truth Books.

The book was brought to my attention by one of our contributors, Sony Elise, when she read a chapter of the book online. The first chapter alone is worth buying the book.

Sadly, many churches are doing good to have one service a week and rarely do churches include a time of corporate prayer. Our country is in a mess and we need to implement the recommendations of this timely book and get back to prayer — personal prayer as well as corporate prayer.

The book is only 170 pages and could easily be read in a couple of settings. It contains six chapters taking the reader through the first 70+ pages of the book. The remainder of the book is 30 short devotionals on prayer. These devotionals can be used by church leaders and teachers as an aid to helping restore corporate prayer in local assemblies.

The Chapters cover —

1. The Priority of Meetings for Corporate Prayer
2. Everyone Together: Pray for Me, and Me, and Me
3. How Should We Pray in Prayer Meetings
4. Proposals for Focusing a Prayer Meeting
5. A Biblical Case for Regular Prayer Meetings
6. Prayer Meetings and Those Who Lead Them

Personal Recommendation: Purchase this book. You will be glad you did. It will challenge you, but it will also encourage you in your walk with the Lord.

Pastors and church leaders, I will end with a recommendation from the back cover of this book written by Derek Melton, a pastor in Oklahoma.

“The prayer meeting is the most necessary but neglected facet of Divine worship. Dennis Gundersen has written a practical and biblical guide to assist pastors in implementing or improving their corporate prayer meetings. I highly recommend it.”

A Praying Church, subtitled “The Neglected Blessing of Corporate Prayer”, can be purchased at SONY ELISE CHRISTIAN BOOKS.

Will He Feed His Birds and Starve His Children?

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(Letters of John Berridge, 1716-1793)

Alas! how little do we possess of that love which bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things. We grow more like Jesus, only as we grow up into Him in love; and this grace purifies, and sweetens the affections, banishing selfishness, so far as it prevails. It is the temper of Heaven, and the nature of God; for God is love.

And can a God of love allow His children to lack anything needful? Does He feed His birds, and will He starve His babes? Has He given us bodies to be fed and clothed; and will He withhold food and clothing? If you happen to feel anxiety about these matters, remember the sweet, quieting word, which Jesus has dropped to hush your heart, “Your heavenly Father knows that you have need of these things!”

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” Matthew 6:25-26

Replacing Easter

I believe this post that I originally wrote three years ago is even more applicable today. I have edited a few parts. This Resurrection Sunday, I pray that all true believers will be encouraged.

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What is society afraid of?

What is Christianity afraid of?

What are you afraid of?

Society is afraid of the truth. Christianity is afraid of being offensive. As for what you are afraid of, that is something only you can answer. My goal is that this post will have you thinking about why you do what you do.

Easter is a great time to bring this subject matter to light. Let me explain. For almost 40 days, many have been practicing the idea of “Lent.” They have no clue why they do it except that it is part of their religion. Many have not a single thought about God, but want to make sure that they cover all the bases just in case. They will live like the world every single day, except for a special day or two in the entire calendar so their “God” box will be checked. This leaves them feeling good about themselves so they can have a sense of being a “Christian.” Yet, the heart condemns those who think they can please God by pleasing themselves.

For years, I have worked with many people who can live, talk, and act like a minion of the evil one every single day. Yet, in one swift moment, as soon as they find out that you are a believer, they can and will proclaim, “Oh, I am a Christian.” The follow-up questions are quickly followed by silence until it grows awkward and the person soon finds something else with which to occupy their time. Or, in the better scenarios, you hear the response of, “Well, that is private and is just between me and the Man upstairs. Besides, who are you to judge me? The Bible says, “Don’t judge!”

What types of questions might we ask of any individual with whom we may meet? This could be another family member, a friend, a neighbor, or a work colleague.

“Where do you attend church? Where are you in fellowship each week with other believers seeking to remind the world that we are not of this world, but that we are just passing through?”

“What about your relationships? Are you married or just living in a way that goes contrary to the Word of God? Why would you want to be living with somebody who does not share your views, if you are a true believer?”

“Do your words and actions reflect that you are different, or do you strive to be just like those around you? Would your Sunday appearance give forth the reflection of a hypocrite, or a genuine believer longing to be more like Jesus Christ despite the difficulties of living a life of holiness?”

Despite the awkward silence or vocal calls about not judging, Easter and Christmas find more people claiming the name of Christ than any other time of the year. They are willing to give up things for Lent, but not for Christ. Far too many think that they are meriting favor or grace with God by giving up chocolate, meat, intimacy, or whatever.

When the forty days of Lent arrives, people flock to services like Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, or Easter Morning service never to be seen again til Christmas. Yet, for all the fasting or giving up of things, nothing has changed in their lives. They produce the same cursing, same vulgarity, same illicit relationships, and not one thing to indicate that they have actually spent time with Jesus Christ and are a new creation.

As for society, just look at our workplaces. Lies, deceit, and dishonesty rules the day. Few are willing to take a stand, and when something is said as a reminder, those speaking up are quickly removed. What does this have to do with Easter time? Simply this. These same practices and philosophies have moved from universally being accepted as part of the workplace to being fully accepted in the circles of so-called Christianity.

Let me be very blunt!

Easter is NOT about a bunny that lays eggs!

Easter is NOT about furry chicken that lays candy!

Easter is NOT about egg hunts, bouncy castles, lattes, and clowns on a Sunday.

Easter is supposedly to revolve around the holy Person of Jesus Christ. The reminder of the week prior to the Sunday should be a solemn reminder of the price that was carried on the cross. The wrath of God the Father was poured upon His only begotten Son because of the sins of mankind. It pleased the Father to bruise and crush His own Son because of the cursing, the vulgarity, the illicit relationships, and all sin that separates us from a holy God.

Christianity has allowed society to tell us that Easter has nothing to do with Jesus Christ. We are not allowed to speak of Jesus Christ and His sacrifice on Calvary, but we can speak the religion of secularism and commercialism all day long. Nobody has one single problem with that. The world and the church have now merged in such a way that it is almost impossible in most circles to know where one starts and one ends.

If you are a true believer and have placed your faith in Jesus Christ alone for your salvation, then this next section is a solemn reminder and exhortation to you and your family.

This Sunday, we have the privilege of celebrating the most glorious event that has ever transpired in all of human history. Nothing can top what took place almost 2000 years ago. Let me summarize what this Sunday SHOULD mean to you.

1. He laid aside His glory as the all-powerful majestic King of all Creation and came down to this sin-cursed earth.
2. He was born in a lowly stable showing the stark opposite of what He had enjoyed for all of eternity past.
3. He was welcomed by magi as well as lowly shepherds who guarded the lambs that would be sacrificed each Passover.
4. He grew in wisdom and stature and lived in obedience to the commands of both His earthly parents and the will of His heavenly Father.
5. He spent 3 ½ years walking the dusty roads of Galilee, Judea, and Samaria preaching the kingdom of heaven.
6. He was betrayed and abandoned by every one of His disciples.
7. He, the King of all Creation, was beaten, mocked, scourged into a bloody mess, and then hung between earth and heaven.
8. He bore upon Himself our sins and was ultimately forsaken even by His own Father in heaven because God the Father could not stand to look upon sin.
9. He became sin on our behalf and became clothed with our filth so that we would be clothed in His righteousness.
10. He died and was buried like a common criminal in a borrowed tomb.

But Sunday was coming!

There should be no doubt that the disciples had contacted the local businesses to ensure that bouncy castles were set up outside the tomb to celebrate what was going to happen. There should be no doubt that the apostle Peter, having just denied the Lord three times earlier that week, was the instigator in setting up an Easter Egg hunt in order to entice the children of the murderous hordes to come to their service so that they would have greater numbers. There should be no doubt, based on what we see in modern Christianity, that the early New Testament church was prepared with the latest jokes and frivolity after having just seen the King of all Creation die and be buried.

Dear brothers and sisters, do you see the hypocrisy in the above statements? If it does not bother you to see the entertainment on any given Sunday in church, then it is time to examine your heart to see whether you are truly of the faith. If the only thing you can think of is, “Well, what you say may be true, but the Bible says not to judge,” then you have failed miserably to comprehend the solemnness and the seriousness of what this Sunday is all about. If you think that Easter is about the bunny and candy eggs, then your pastor and church have failed in their responsibility to teach you the truth of the gospel.

Easter is NOT about you and your perceived needs!

Easter is about the conclusion of the worst week in the history of mankind!
Easter is about the reality of the sacrifice that Christ made on Calvary!
Easter is about the truth Christ came to save sinners, of whom I am chief!
Easter is about the defeat of sin, hell, Satan, and the grave!
Easter is about Resurrection Sunday!
Easter is about Jesus Christ coming back to life victoriously!
Easter is about Jesus Christ one day coming for all who believe on Him!
Easter is about change and becoming a new creation in Christ!

Today, you have a choice. You can choose to continue replacing Easter with the world, or you can stop setting your affections on the things of this world, and setting your affections on the things of heaven.

My purpose is not to judge the world with my words. My thoughts are to be a beacon in the wilderness shining a light that points others to Jesus Christ alone. My desire is to be a gentle reminder that true believers are called to be different, not the same as the world.

We are NOT replacing Easter in our home, but we will joyfully, reverently, and humbly celebrate –

Resurrection Sunday!

He is risen! He is risen indeed! Blessed be the name of the Lord! And can it be that He died, was buried, and rose again for me!

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

Deuteronomy 32:35 (King James Version) 35. To me belongeth vengeance and recompence; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come upon them make haste.

I read throughout the Bible where God punished Israel (and even other heathen countries) for their rebellion against Him and His laws. And I also read where eventually they cry out to God for repentance. They come to the place where they realize that they have wronged God and turn back and beg for mercy. Of course, God stays His hand and gives them relief from their punishment and all is rosy for a while.

I look at society today and see a completely different sort. I see a people who are so intelligent and logical that they can explain the most horrendous events away and never be none the wiser as to their origins.

I see a people who not only have the greatest hate for God, but seem to get offended at the drop of a hat when He is mentioned.

I see a society that sneers at the Christian and detests his existence.

If you mention that pandemics and suffering originate from the sovereign hand of God, they laugh you to scorn and pity your ignorance (Eph. 4.18).

What has changed? Why don’t people throw themselves to their knees in remorse and cry out for mercy anymore?

It’s the same God that runs the show. It’s the same God that is growing angrier by the day over man’s rebellion. It’s the same God that keeps the fires of hell stoked for the day of Judgment.

Yet, man as a whole, just carries on as if life is bliss and all is well in heaven and earth.

I like how Jonathan Edwards relates the picture of a spider being held over the fire. My wife hates spiders with a passion. She would rather put up with thousands of mosquitoes rather than live with one spider. I picture her having to hold a big, juicy, squirming spider by the leg as it frantically tries to crawl back onto her hand. I know for a fact that it wouldn’t be too long before she hurled that vial creature into the consuming flames.

Man is indeed walking through life with a countdown timer ticking. Second by second, tick by tick, man is creeping ever closer to the day he will stand before God and give account for his life on earth. Yet, life seems to continue as normal. Yes, we have quarantines, isolation, social distancing, etc., but how many of us have had genuine thoughts of repentance, reform or revival these last weeks? How many of us have literally been stopped in our tracks by this whole trial and looked up?

Not very many I’m afraid. If the church isn’t turning to God and crying out for reform, then why should the world? All the world sees is a disobedient church rebelling against the orders from our local governments and doing what they can to skirt the rules. How does this make Christ look, seeing as we are supposed to represent Him?

Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God should be listened to by all, saved and unsaved. At this time of year, as we inch closer to remembering Christ’s sacrifice and resurrection, shouldn’t we be focusing on allowing this wake-up call to cut through the cobwebs and mental fog and really shake us up?

What’s so different between this calamity and those we read about in the Bible? Same God. Same sin. Yet, we seem to feel like this is just a virus and it doesn’t really concern us (Prov. 28. 14).

At no other time in history are we as a society faced with so much that can confuse, deceive and destroy us. Some between 40 to 60% of everything we’re told online is fake. The problem is, which part? It is virtually impossible to figure out what’s true and what’s false. And in doing so, you will run into many sources that make their stance sound like the real one. Argh! Even when it comes to Scripture. If you look online you will literally find hundreds or even thousands of interpretations regarding Revelations and eschatology. How on earth can anyone find the truth anymore?

I have had many conversations with Christians in person and online and I have only found a very small few that I can actually talk too and agree on most everything. Notice I said, ‘most everything’. But then there’s those who call themselves Christians and believe such erroneous ideas that you stand back and shake your head in disbelief. Just because one calls himself ‘Christian’, doesn’t mean he’s saved. That’s for sure!

In my experience, one truth seems to outweigh everything else when it comes to God. That truth is His absolute sovereignty. God is supreme and all-powerful and in control of the good and the bad. Every creature is on a leash and He controls them all. There is no such things as free will and there is no such thing as some sort of battle between good and evil. God controls the devil and allows him to do His bidding just as He does everyone else, and no one, no matter how powerful he is, can operate outside His sovereignty.

This truth separates the true believer from the false convert. The true believer will embrace God’s sovereignty and rest in its comforting shadow, while the false convert will fight and struggle against it.

This deception has all but ruined the church, but it has done something amazing. It has revealed the tares and separated them off from the wheat. Now we can tell them apart! Now we can know who’s genuinely saved and who’s faking it.

Unfortunately the world doesn’t care about the wheat and the tares and all they see is a bunch of hypocrites.

At this time of year, when we celebrate God’s wrath passing us over and the the beautiful work of Jesus Christ washing us clean from all sin, we must ensure that we act in such a way that brings glory to Jesus Christ and makes the world take notice. They do watch us and they are aware of the fakery of the church. I see this all the time in satires and jokes.

Jesus deserves to be held in such high regard that any notion of sin would be so abhorrent that we would run away from the temptation faster than a COVID-19 symptom party. Paul speaks of carrying around the dying body of Jesus Christ in his daily life. How would that change your way of doing things if you were given the task of carrying the bleeding Lamb of God around all day? Everytime you went to sin, you saw Him staring at you through swollen eyes? Everytime you wanted to sin, you would hear a whisper from bleeding cracked lips, “Don’t”.

I think more of us need this daily reminder. We take life to flippantly. We waste way to much time and leave far too much behind us on a day to day basis. This, I suppose is the downside to eternal security. We don’t have to do anything to earn or secure our salvation, so most, if not all of us, become complacent and comfortable. This is indeed a tragedy. Instead we are suppose to be running the race, spreading the seed of the Gospel to all mankind, and being the ACTIVE ambassadors we were commissioned to be.

Yes, the sinner is in the hand of an angry God, and the more he sins the greater God’s hatred and disgust grows against him, but we as Christians are supposed to be the light that shines in the darkness that gives the lost a beacon of hope to latch onto. If we adopt the dimmer switch of compromise, then when the darkness thickens, the lost won’t see you.

 

All I Have is Christ

I personally believe that Christ actually died on Thursday and not Friday. I do not see how to get three days and three nights between Friday and Sunday morning. However, the day that He died is not as important as the fact that He did die.

(Edited – If anybody is interested in a previous article I wrote back in 2013 on the crucifixion, then go to THIS LINK.)

The words in this hymn resonate in my heart and I pray they will encourage you today. Whatever day the crucifixion took place, the reality is that Sunday is coming! This coming Lord’s Day we will remember Resurrection Sunday for truly “up from the grave He arose with a mighty triumph o’er His foes!”

And I beheld God’s love displayed
You suffered in my place
You bore the wrath reserved for me
Now all I know is grace!

Like Dust in the Wind

6d84a2f11faaeece5ed0256704c7a4cf(Octavius Winslow, “This God is Our God”)

“For this God is our God forever and ever–He will be our guide even to the end.” Psalm 48:14

“The world passes away.”

Everything here in this present world is changing.

Life is like a painted dream,
Like the rapid summer stream,
Like the fleeting meteor’s ray,
Like the shortest winter’s day,
Like the fitful breeze that sighs,
Like the waning flame that dies,
Darting, dazzling on the eye,
Fading in eternity.”

A rope of sand,
a spider’s web,
a silken thread,
a passing shadow,
an ebbing wave,
are the most fitting and expressive emblems of all things belonging to this present time’s state.

The homes that sheltered us in childhood we leave.

The land which gave us birth we leave.

The loved ones who encircled our hearths pass away.

The friends of early years depart.

And the world that was so sunny, and life that was so sweet, is all beclouded and embittered; the whole scenery of existence changed into wintry gloom.

Such are the saddening, depressing effects of life’s vicissitudes.

But in the midst of all, “This God is our God FOREVER AND EVER!”

All beings change, but God.

All things change, but Heaven.

The revolutions of time revolve, the events of earth go onward–but He upon whom all things hang, and by whom all events are shaped and controlled, moves not.

“I, the Lord, do not change.”

Our affairs may alter.

Our circumstances may change.

Our relations and friends may depart one by one.

Our souls in a single day pass through many fluctuations of spiritual feeling.

But He who chose us to be His own, and who has kept us to the present moment, is our covenant God and Father forever and ever, and will never throw us off and cast us away.

“For this God is our God forever and ever–
He will be our guide even to the end!” Psalm 48:14

How Should a King Come?

Today starts the remembrance of Passion Week. This week we remember when King Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, and He came for the sole purpose of dying. The people did not know this when the Triumphal Entry took place, but in just a matter of days the hearts of the people were revealed in all their depravity.

Yet, despite the fact that He did not come to defeat the Romans riding on a white horse, He still came. He defeated sin, hell, and death. Glory be to God!

The Humble Coronation of King Jesus

Regardless of the situation in the world, this time of year should be a beautiful reminder that Spring is coming. With the Spring, comes what the world calls Easter. However, for true believers, we are preparing to celebrate Resurrection Sunday!

Matt 21:1-11 records the triumphal entry of Jesus Christ the Messiah into Jerusalem. This is the lead-up to Passion Week where we remember what Christ suffered and that culminated in His death and burial.

1 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Bethphage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying, 5 “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.'” 6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” 10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”

In this short message, John MacArthur brings this passage in Matthew to the forefront of our hearts and minds.

Charles Spurgeon on the So-Called Free Will of Man

sheep-found-1005-115From his sermon, “The Holy Spirit in the Covenant,” preached on a Lord’s Day morning, 1856

What a vain pretense it is to profess to honor God by a doctrine that makes salvation depend on the will of man! If it were true, you might say to God, “We thank thee, O Lord, for what thou hast done; thou hast given us a great many things, and we offer thee thy meed* of praise, which is justly due to thy name; but we think we deserve more, for the deciding point was in our free will.” Beloved, do not any of you swerve from the free grace of God, for the babblings about man’s free agency are neither more nor less than lies, right contrary to the truth of Christ, and the teachings of the Spirit.

How certain, then, is the salvation of every elect soul! It does not depend on the will of man; he is “made willing” in the day of God’s power. He shall be called at the set time, and his heart shall be effectually changed, that he may become a trophy of the Redeemer’s power. That he was unwilling before, is no hindrance; for God giveth him the will, so that he is then of a willing mind. Thus, every heir of heaven must be saved, because the Spirit is put within him, and thereby his disposition and affections are molded according to the will of God.

*Meed = reward, fitting return, recompense

 

More of Spurgeon on God’s Sovereignty

Brethren, if God does not rule everywhere, then something rules where he does not, and so he is not omnipresently supreme. If God does not have his will, someone else does, and so far that someone is a rival to God. I never deny the free agency of man, or diminish his responsibility, but I dare never invest the free will of man with omnipotence, for this were to make man into a sort of God, an idolatry to be loathed. Moreover, admit chance anywhere, and you have admitted chance everywhere, for all events are related and act on one another. One cog of the wheel of providence disarranged or left to Satan, or man’s absolute freedom apart from God, would spoil the whole machinery. I dare not believe even sin itself to be exempted from the control of providence, or from the overruling dominion of the Judge of all the earth. Without providence we were unhappy beings, without the universality of the divine power providence would be imperfect, and in some points we might be left unprotected and exposed to those evils which are, by this theory, supposed to be beyond divine control. Happy are we that it is true, “the Lord doeth as he wills in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth.”

Spurgeon, Charles, Spurgeon’s Sermons Volume 16, (Albany, OR: Ages Software) 1998.