Things I’ve Learned

Seven or eight years ago, I went through the greatest trial of my life so far. My life has not always been easy, but looking back at most of the difficult times, I can see how God used them in some way in spite of how hard it was to go through them. This last trial, I still cannot see any good that came out of it, and I possibly never will. I can say, though, that God is still faithful. Although He felt distant at times, He kept holding my hand and, eventually, I was able to smile again. He also has opened doors for me that I would not have walked through had I not gone through that. Hmm. Maybe something good came out of it after all.

People like to quote Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to His purpose.” The key words are “for them that love God.” Sometimes bad things happen because of people’s selfishness or fleshly desires. God is not obligated to bring anything good out of these situations. He may do so, but He may not.

Too many treat God like a genie. When they need something, they call on Him. When everything is going well, they ignore Him. When things aren’t going as they’d like and He doesn’t answer how they wish, they get mad at Him. How this must grieve Him!

I turned 45 earlier this month. That may seem young to some of you and old to others, but I think of it as somewhere in between. I know I have a lot to learn yet, but I have learned a few things in my relatively short time here on earth. The one thing I cling to in the good and the bad times is that God is faithful. People are not always, but God is.

As long as there is breath, there is hope. The fact that I am alive proves that God still has a work for me to do, and I know that is the same for you as well. When troubles come, you may want to shut down and give up. That is the worst thing you could do. Give your burden to the Lord. Let Him carry it while you continue doing the work that God has called you to do.

I hope this encourages you, as that is my intent. “In the world you shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; [Christ has] overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Are You Ready to Die?

And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires (Galatians 5:24).

How easy it is in today’s society to declare, “I am a Christian,” but how hard it can be to walk the walk sometimes. “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die,” said Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I expect many people are as afraid to die to their flesh as they are for their flesh to die.

This evening, my Walk of Repentance Bible study focused on Galatians 5:16-26. So much is contained in those eleven verses which start with, “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (v. 16, emphasis added). It goes on to list the lusts of the flesh versus the fruits of the Spirit. It’s sobering to compare the two lists and ask yourself, “In which category do I exhibit the most traits?” When you compare yourself with others, it’s easy to feel good about yourself but, when you look into the mirror of God’s Word, that is when you see what you are really like without His Spirit. It is not a pretty sight.

One of the things Steve Gallagher mentioned in this study was, “If we attempt to obey the Law outside of the Spirit, we will soon find ourselves becoming hard-hearted, self-righteous, and contemptuous of others.” So the answer is not just doing good. Therefore, the question is, How do I become filled with the Spirit?

This is not something one can conjure or “will” into existence. Instead, you must surrender every part of yourself to Christ. You must turn off the entertainment and spend more time with Him. You must study His Word to learn what He desires of you, and then do it. Let Christ chip away every bit of stone around your heart so that His Spirit can fill in the gaps. As this happens, your desires will change so that you want to do the right things for the right reasons.

As I mentioned in the beginning, dying to self is not an easy process, but this death is the only one that will bring everlasting life.

Keep Praying for your Kids

This is a very good testimony from a brother in Christ, Ryan Haines. We have shared some material from Ryan before on the issue of homosexuality. He has a ministry called The Gospel Training Ground. I recommend listening to this video, especially if you have children who are far from God.

History of the Sabbath

Published in 1636, Peter Heylyn’s The history of the Sabbath: in two bookes details how man’s religion re-skinned the Jewish Sabbath and called it a Christian ordinance. I have edited it to modernize the English and eliminate most of the Latin in an attempt to make this work available and accessible to 21st century readers.

From the dawning of the New Covenant, Christians have struggled over how the Old Covenant Scriptures are to be applied to the lives of the saints. Acts 15 is one of several records showing how some Christians thought the Mosaic Covenant applied to Christians, claiming saints must be circumcised and follow the law of Moses (Acts 15:1 & 5). Peter rebuked these brothers, observing that the Mosaic Law (which was the centerpiece of the Old Covenant) was a yoke too heavy for man to bear and requiring this was putting God to the test (verse 10).  Jesus said His yoke was easy, that He would carry the burden of His sheep (Matt 11:30) and John tells us, This is how we know that we love God’s children when we love God and obey His commands. For this is what love for God is: to keep His commands. Now His commands are not a burden (1 John 5:2-3).

Despite this clear teaching, over time, many Christians began to teach that Christians must be “baptized” as infants and obey the law of Moses – specifically the 4th Word of the Decalogue.

Heylyn’s book shows the historical development of this Christian Sabbatarian practice and how those who taught this practiced it. We see the common tale of those who say, “Do what I say, not what I do.” Paul taught against this (Romans 2:21); it ought not be so within the body of Christ!

I pray this old booke helps open the eyes of those who are trying to carry a heavy yoke or burden other saints with such teaching. In paper and Kindle formats.

The Life and Theology of Paul

The Life and Theology of Paul

A review by Stuart Brogden

I was intrigued when I saw this book come available for review. I’ve reviewed this author’s commentary on Acts and was eager to see how he addressed Paul. This book will not disappoint the reader who truly wants to know the theology of Paul, which is to say, the theology of the Bible.  

Guy Water’s has organized this book into 12 chapters, covering Paul’s conversion and calling by God, his view of sin, justification, sanctification, the church, and the end of the age. In the introduction, Waters points out that Paul’s life stands as “a testimony to the gospel that he preached” – even while acknowledging what we can know about Paul’s life is found only in the Bible. But considering how much of the Bible Paul wrote, and what Luke wrote about him, we have more than enough material (inspired by God!) to know Paul very well. In summing up a nice, concise review of Paul’s life, our author tells us of two ways his life is still fundamental in the life of the church today. First, God prepared Paul “from the womb to be the “Apostle to the Gentiles.”” (page 10). We should consider our own lives as having been worked out by God for use to His people, trusting Him when we are not sure of our path. Secondly, although he was dramatically converted, the man was not transformed into someone else. Since God had prepared Saul for his role, it would overthrow all that preparation if the result was a different man. God’s preparation leads to His plans being fulfilled. When we look at ourselves, we should look unto the Lord, knowing He is faithful and trustworthy to equip us and keep us.

In his review of Saul’s conversion, Waters observes (page 15), “Saul, then, would serve as a pattern or model of what Jesus Christ would do in the lives of men and women who hear Saul’s witness to Christ.” He notes that not all who hear the gospel are saved, but that those who are saved are saved in the way Saul was. I’ve made note of this myself in much the same way and think people who claim man plays a role in his own conversion would benefit from chapter 2 and the biblical evidence our author marshals.

It has been said that the basis of the Reformation was the doctrine of justification. Waters quotes Martin Luther: “If the article of justification is lost, all Christian doctrine is lost at the same time.” (page 49) Without a clear understanding of Who saves whom – and from Whom – the Christian will tend to drift into thinking too highly of self too lowly of Christ. Waters’ two chapters on justification follow his two chapters on sin. And following justification, we have three chapters on sanctification. I have been severely grieved of late by the number of Christians I’ve encountered who consider sanctification a one-time thing that is finished upon redemption. While I disagree with Waters on his interpretation of the man in Romans 7, his teaching in these chapters is very good and concludes on the high note that the “Christian life is one of unceasing dependence upon Christ” (page 89) and “Our ultimate good is our glorification in and with Christ.” (page 99). If we keep these biblical truths in front of us, we will do well.

Since justification is the hinge point of our faith, I think it best if we make sure we understand it. Waters quotes Romans 3:21, reminding us that “Paul has labored to argue that sinners lack the righteousness that God requires of human beings. Now, for the first time in this letter, Paul begins to describe the righteousness that God has accomplished in Christ and that He freely gives in the gospel to sinners (see Rom. 1:16-17)” (page 50). He then tell us of three important words used by Paul to define and describe this gift of righteousness: redemption, propitiation, and justification.

Redemption, we are told, has a rich history in the biblical story. In Exodus 6:6 and 2 Sam 7:23 God describes “His deliverance of Israel from bondage in Egypt” with this word. “In Isaiah’s prophecy, God often speaks of Himself as the Redeemer of His people,” (page 50) laying the foundation that God is the initiator and author of man’s redemption. To redeem mean to buy back something, such as a slave, by paying a ransom. In redeeming sinners, Christ Jesus has purchased us from the slave market of sin; the purchase price was His life. Waters points out that Paul connects our redemption to the shedding of Jesus’ blood in Eph 1:7.

Secondly, propitiation “is the turning aside or averting of wrath.” (page 51) Our author declares, “those for whom Jesus died have not only had their sins atoned for, but they have also had the Father’s wrath averted from them. Jesus has turned aside the wrath of God from His people because He exhaustively bore the wrath of God on their behalf at the cross.” (page 51) It has been well said that we are saved from God by God. Those who are perishing will not be separated from God in the complete sense – only as regards His benevolence. They will be personally experiencing His unending wrath for eternity as their sinful human frame is unable to atone for their sin against an infinitely holy God. This is why Paul wrote that “there is, therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1) – God’s wrath was satisfied in the sacrifice of Jesus. There is no wrath left, no sin debt unpaid, for those who are in Christ!

Regarding justification, Waters warns us about some who claim “justification carries the idea of inward transformation” (page 52), as the Roman Catholic Church does. To Paul we go to find out his view, as we see it as something brought to us once as a gift, and the alternative to condemnation (Rom 5:16; 8:33-34). “The opposite of justification is condemnation. This … confirms justification as a strictly forensic (that is, courtroom) reality.” (page 52) Justification, he says, “has in view two inseparable realities.” (page 52) Firstly, Rom 4:7-8 teaches that forgiveness is complete, none of the sins of the saints are unforgiven, as if the blood of Christ was not sufficient. Secondly, we are declared righteous. “In Justification, God does not clear our account of debt to Him and tell us to start over and do better this time. We are, rather, counted as righteous for Christ’s sake.” (page 53) This is a status that cannot be over turned – not by man, devil or God.

One point of strong disagreement I have with Waters comes to us on page 55 where read that the righteousness of Christ is “offered in the gospel and may be refused (see Rom. 9:30-10:4)” Nowhere in the Bible is the gospel an offer, something that can be refused. When a sovereign says, Come!, that is a command of a superior to an inferior, not a request. The grace that saves is a gift from God, but not a gift that CAN be refused. A proper understanding of redemption reveals that man is regenerated by the Holy Spirit and THEN given the faith needed to receive the grace to believe. John 6:44 sums up the actions and sequence: John 6:44 (HCSB) No one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day. Note the first act – God draws, or drags, the person who is dead in sins (Eph 2:1-2) to Himself. Everything else, though it cannot be disconnected from this, follows it. Being regenerated, the sinner now wants God where he was unable to before. No one being so changed would be able to refuse God, just as one not changed is not able to want God nor discern spiritual things (John 8:43; 1 Cor 2:15). Further, nothing in the Scripture noted by Waters (Rom 9:30 – 10:4) supports his assertion that sinners are offered salvation and can refuse that offer.

Wanting to finish this review on a positive note, overall Waters does very good, indeed. His third chapter on justification rests on our “union with Christ.” The bond we saints have with Christ Jesus is essential to our salvation and our standing with God. He rightly asserts, “if we are in Christ, this relationship and all that it carries are due entirely to the gracious initiative of God. … Our unity rests on nothing in ourselves, but entirely on our Savior and what He has done to rescue us from sin and death and bring us to eternal life.” (page 68) Christ’s righteousness has been imputed to us just as our sin has been imputed to Christ. We have no righteousness or merit of our own; if not joined to Christ we have no hope. But we who are in Christ have security, we “have a certain glorious future and, therefore, hope for the present.” (page 68)

Reader – pick up this book and read. Your soul be edified.

Are You Starving?

As I was doing my Bible study last evening, Romans 1:28 jumped out at me:

And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a debased mind, to do those things which are not fitting.

Matthew 5: 6 says:

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be filled.

If you are not hungering and thirsting for God and His righteousness, if you do not long for it as though you were starving, may I submit that you may very easily fall into the category of those who do not like to retain God in their knowledge? These people are “filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness,” among other things (Romans 1:29). If you are reading this, I’m guessing you would not put yourself into one of those categories, but if you are not actively seeking God, spending time with Him, studying His Word, you may very easily find yourself falling into an alternate lifestyle and then wondering how you got there.

In Matthew 12:30, Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me.” You cannot serve God and the world. I see so many who act like they can have all this and Jesus too, but we serve a jealous God. He wants our full devotion. He does not want to compete with the plethora of entertainment that we have today.

D.L. Moody is quoted as saying:

The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.

If you never have time to read God’s Word or spend quality time in prayer, I challenge you to examine your heart and ask yourself why. I understand there are busy days and busy seasons, but there should not be busy lifestyles that keep us from doing the most important things. Most of us do not forget to eat or drink, at least not usually the whole day. If you have time to do that, you can find time for God. Download a Bible app and read while you eat if you need to, but make sure that you are getting God’s Word into your heart so that you don’t sin against Him (Psalm 119:11).

This hit me in a new way last night, and I am asking God for help to make the time to draw near to Him, to continually learn of Him, to listen to Him. If you and I are too busy to do those things, we are simply too busy.

God is Good

So when things look dreary and sad
When I no longer feel like i’m glad
When things are painful, I might add
God is good all the time
And all the time, God is good.

When I’m struggling and life seems blue
And all the things that I’m going through
People take it and purposely misconstrue
God is good all the time
And all the time, God is good.

When the heartbreak just wears me down
In my sorrows I feel like I’ll drown
And most people look at me with a frown
God is good all the time
And all the time, God is good.

When the agony of life hurts my heart
And those I thought loved me depart
And from death’s door comes a dart
God is good all the time
And all the time, God is good.

Whatever the problem or trial ahead
Whatever might hurt you or you might dread
Whatever you go through, think instead,
“God is good all the time
And all the time, God is good!”

Violet Inez
7-10-2018