From Believing In Jesus to Belonging To His Church

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

7MarIf you are a disciple of Christ, do you know what happened when you asked Jesus to saved you from your sin and surrendered to him as Lord?

You were engrafted into the body of believers

And immediately went from believing to belonging.

As someone has so beautifully said,

“You were saved as an individual,

But you were saved to community.”

This truth is troubling for many in a society that prizes independence and individualism.  We live in a culture where the demands and desires of the individual trump the demands and desires of the community, group, organization, or family.  It is not uncommon to hear new believers admit that they fear losing their independence to the church; they’ll say things like, “I love Jesus but not the church” and “I am spiritual but in no way religious.”  When people say such things, they are actually asserting that they have no interest in giving up their own personal rights, desires, wants, and preferences to anyone, including the visible expression of the Body of Christ, the local church family.  It is the clear and present evidence of a self-centeredness that has a stranglehold on them.

I’m a pastor, and I have heard, a great many horror stories of believers who have been hurt by the church . . . I have even been involved in one or two.  It has been said – all too often with complete justification – that the church shoots its wounded.  Christians can be mean and hurtful.  I know; I’m part of the church, and the church is made up of broken, fearful, hurting people just like me and you.  Yet . . .

The church is the Body of Christ,

And

We simply cannot have

The Head without His body.

Jesus intended our salvation to be worked out in the context of community.  Remember, the message of our salvation ends with a wedding (Revelation 19:6-9), and I have never seen or officiated at a wedding with only one person present.  A wedding is a celebration of hearts being united to beat as one, and this is the environment God has created for His people in His church: to live, love, work, grow, serve, and suffer, each for Him and His Body.

God sums this truth up in 1 Corinthians 12:12-26 where the Bible says, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.  For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body – Jews or Greeks, slaves or free – and all were made to drink into one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many.  If the foot should say, ‘Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body.  And if the ear should say, ‘Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,’ that would not make it any less a part of the body.  If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?  But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose.  If all were a single member, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’  On the contrary, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable,  and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty, which our more presentable parts do not require. But God has so composed the body, giving greater honor to the part that lacked it, that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.  If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.”

This really is good news!  You belong to something that transcends your own life; you are part of the family of God.  Yes, your family is a little messed up and sometimes a bit  dysfunctional, but Jesus loves them and died for them – all of them – and you are to love them . . . yes, even lay down your life for them, just as Christ loved you and laid down His life for you.

Keep in mind that the church

Is the only organization in the world

Where membership is limited

To those who are unqualified for membership.

We get in only because of the One

Who sought us, bought us, and brought us in.

One last important point: it is only as a member of the body that you will ever get to truly know your Savior.  You see, the Bible teaches that, the more of Jesus you see the more you see, interact, and relate to the ones He came to save.  You also see more of yourself and the power to live life through Christ the more you see, interact, and relate to the ones He died to save.  As someone has rightly said, “Everybody who belongs to Jesus belongs to everybody who belongs to Jesus.”

Believe and belong; it’s worth the effort!

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth! 

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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The Missing Word in Our Modern Gospel

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

8MarEvery Christian loves the gospel.  We know first hand what makes it such Good News!  However, as one reads the Bible, it is apparent that there is an ingredient of the Gospel that is missing today.   This is important to know because by definition,

You cannot have a Christian

Who isn’t shaped by

And

Saved by the gospel.

We need to preach the gospel the way Jesus and the apostles did.

  • Theirs was not a message of unconditional affirmation.
  • They showed no interest in helping people find the hidden and beautiful self deep inside.
  • They did not herald the good news that God likes you just the way you are.
  • Theirs was not a self-centered or self-help Gospel

Too much “gospel” preaching today sounds like a slightly spiritualized version of that old Christina Aguilera song: “You are beautiful no matter what they say. Words can’t bring you down. You are beautiful in every single way. Yes, words can’t bring you down. So don’t bring me down today.”

I don’t doubt that many of us feel beat up and put down.  We struggle sometimes with low self-esteem, feeling of inadequacy, and even self-loathing.  We need to know we can be okay, even when we don’t feel okay.  It is good news to hear, then, that God loves us in Christ and that we are precious in His sight.

But, the gospel is more than positive self-talk and self-help,

And the gospel Jesus and the apostles preached was more than a warm,

“Don’t let anybody tell you you’re not special” bear hug.

There’s a word missing from

The presentation of our modern gospel.

It’s the word “repent.”

Yes . . . I know . . . that sounds old school, like an embarrassing sidewalk preacher with a sandwich board and tracts with bad graphics and lots of exclamation point preaching.  And yet . . .

Even a cursory glance at the New Testament

Demonstrates that we haven’t understood

The message of the gospel

If we never talk about repentance.

  • When John the Baptist prepared the way of the Lord, he preached repentance (Matthew 3:8,11)
  • When Jesus launched His Galilean ministry He declared, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17)
  • Jesus understood the purpose of His ministry to be calling sinners to repentance (Luke5:32).
  • Just before His ascension, the resurrected Christ implored the disciples to be His witnesses, that “repentance for the forgiveness of sins” would be preached in his name to all nations (Luke 24:47).
  • In fact, if there is a one-sentence summary of Jesus’s preaching in Mark 1:14-15 “Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.’”

Notice that tow words: “repent” and “believe.”  The two are virtually synonymous in the New Testament, not that the words mean the same thing, but that they are signs of the same Spirit-prompted work and lead to the same end times inheritance.

Strictly speaking,

The proper response to the gospel

Is twofold:

Repent and believe

(Matthew 21:32; Acts 20:21).

If only one item in the pair is mentioned –

Which happens often in the New Testament –

We should realize that the other half is assumed.

You can’t really believe without also repenting,

And

You haven’t really repented if you don’t also believe.

The gospel message is sometimes presented as a straightforward summons to repent (Acts 3:18-19). Other times, forgiveness is linked to a singular act of repentance (Acts 5:31; Romans 2:4; 2 Corinthians 7:10).  The message of the apostolic good news is that God will be merciful when we repent and that repentance leads to life (Acts 11:18). Simply put . . . the full gospel message is: “Repent therefore and be converted, that you sins may be blotted out . . .” (Acts 3:19).

If the call to repentance is a necessary part of faithful gospel preaching, then maybe we don’t have as good as grasp of the Gospel as we should have.  The summons to turn from sin, die to self, and turn to Christ is missing from prosperity preachers, from preachers in step with the progressive theology movement, and even from not a few gospel-centered preachers, too.

To be sure, we aren’t called

To beat people up Sunday after Sunday.

Many folks stumble into church

In desperate need of the Balm of Gilead.

We must not overlook that.

I think anyone who listens to several weeks of my sermons will hear that I’m not a “finger-wagging scolder.”  And yet . . .

If I never call people, with God’s authority,

To be genuinely sorry for sin,

To hate it more and more,

And to turn from it,

Then I’m not doing the work

A Gospel preacher should do.

The unpopular fact remains that the ungrateful and unrepentant will not be saved (1 Corinthians 9-10; Galatians 5:19-20; Ephesians 5:1-20; 1 John 3:14).

The New Testament has nothing

To say about building the kingdom,

But it does have everything to say

About how we can enter into the kingdom.

The coming of the King is only good news

For those who turn from sin and turn to God.

If we want to give people a message that saves, instead of one that only soothes, we must preach more like Jesus and less like our pop stars.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

 Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Sharing The Gospel – The Natural Outcome Of Hearts Filled With Jesus

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

6Mar  Several years ago, Dr. David Beck, professor of New Testament and Greek at Southeastern Seminary, made this statement, “Evangelism is often recognized as the heartbeat of the church, yet it is rarely the focus of serious research among biblical scholars.”  In a message during a Southeastern chapel service, he asked faculty and students:

“How did people in the first century evangelize without attending an evangelism training seminar?  Did Paul invent the FAITH outline, did Peter ever go through CONTINUING WITNESS TRAINING, or did James write the FOUR SPIRITUAL LAWS booklet? … Why did none of the New Testament authors write and circulate an evangelism manual? … It would seem that evangelism was not something planned or programmed by the early church. Yet consistently and constantly the Bible tells us that, ‘The Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved [Acts 2:47].’”

Dr. Beck concluded that the early church does not appear “to have been trained in any special [evangelism] seminar. …

When you study the Book of Acts, what you discover is . . .

Evangelism in the life of the early church

Was neither a plan, a program,

Or a particular presentation.

Rather . . .

It was the natural overflow

Of hearts filled with Jesus.

I believe that today’s church needs to return to a less programmatic Gospel presentation and return to a Gospel presentation that results from “the natural overflow of hearts filled with Jesus.”

To do this the church needs to focus on answering three questions:

  1. What are the Gospel essentials?

What content must a person know in order to share the entire Gospel with unbelievers?

God answers that question

Through Paul’s Spirit inspired

Summary of the Gospel

In 1 Corinthians 15:1-4.

There he declares, “Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you which also you received and in which you stand, by which you also are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.”

These verses sum up the entire teaching of the Bible

Concerning what we need to know regarding

What Jesus Christ has done for us

In order to provide us the gift of eternal life.

Anyone who knows enough of the Gospel to have heard it, believed it, and been saved by it, knows enough of the Gospel to share it.  Conversely, anyone who doesn’t know enough of the Gospel to share it should ask himself whether he has ever heard and believed enough of the Gospel to have been saved by it in the first place.

Recall the Gospel message you heard and believed.  At its core, it likely included:

  • The reality and consequences of sin.
  • The truth that the God-man Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day.
  • An invitation to repent of your sins and trust what Jesus did on the cross through His resurrection alone to save you; and verbally confess as Savior and Lord.

This truth is what causes our hearts

To overflow with love and appreciation

For what Jesus has done.

This is the only enduring motivation

That fills our hearts to overflowing

And “compels” us to share Christ with others.

This is reinforced in Romans 10:14-15, where the Bible says, “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed?  And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?  As it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, who bring glad tidings of good things!” 

Note the last phrase of verse 15 – “Glad tidings of good things?”  This phrase is doubly emphasized in the original Greek because the verb itself means “to preach good news.” In a sense, nothing more would have been needed.  But Paul then adds an adjective which the King James Version captures well — “glad tidings of good things” — literally, “who preach good news of good things.”  In other words . . .

Paul is telling us that . . .

This is outstandingly good news,

Great news, unimaginable, super news

That is unmatched and unparalleled

To any other news we receive!

It is, furthermore, “news” from outside ourselves, news of something that we’ve not done, to which we’ve made no contribution.  When the television announcer says, “Here is the news,” we don’t immediately tense up, wondering what we are going to be asked to do.  We relax, we listen, we understand, and if the news is good – if the economic situation is improving, if the weather is going to be nice, or if our favorite sports team has won – we are glad for it.

In the same way . . .

The gospel is news outside ourselves,

News of what someone else has done

Which can affect us in a supremely positive way!

What is this good news?

Quite simply, it is salvation.

Paul loves to use that word over and over again.  In Romans 10 verses 9, 10, and 13 he has emphasized it repeatedly: “That If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved . . . With the mouth confession is made unto salvation” . . . “For whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

This is the good news –

Through what Jesus has done we are saved –

Saved from sin, from wrath, from death, from the devil, and from hell.

The good news is that we may be saved in our bodies and in our souls, saved for joy, for holiness, for fulfillment, for God.  We may be saved for an endless, abundant life in heaven.  God has done something by which we may be saved. Think of a project you have written on your computer which has taken hours of careful work.  What an achievement, but one thing remains even when you have put in the last sentence.  You need to move the marker to the “Saved” box and click on it.  Then all that carefully gathered and thought out work is saved!  The Lord Jesus Christ was sent into the world by the Father to seek and to save that which is lost.  If He has come for us, and found us, and died for us, and lives in heaven interceding for us then how can we be lost?  He has saved us.  Great news!  We are safe because of what the Son of God has done for us.

Paul uses a beautiful phrase in Romans 10 verse 12 when he describes him as “the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him.”  Here is more good news – How great are those riches!  What good news this is!  Instead of condemning us to hell for ever, God in Christ bestows His riches on us.  In fact . . .

It would be wrong to confine this to abstractions,

For the good news is a person –

The Lord Jesus Christ.

He is the good news.

It is Christ Himself

Whom the preacher offers.

This is the best news there ever has been or ever will be!

  1. What Scriptures will I use to communicate these essentials?

Which Bible verses communicate these essentials that you and I have heard and believed?  The New Testament presents two reasons why the Scriptures must be incorporated in our Gospel presentations.

1) Hearing the Word of Christ is prerequisite for biblical faith.  The Bible says in Romans 10:17, “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  This truth is reinforced in Deuteronomy 8:3, Matthew 4:4; John 8:31-32; and 1 Peter 2:2.

2) Those who share the Gospel with unbelievers in the New Testament overwhelmingly incorporated the Scriptures (e.g., Luke 24:14-32; Acts 2:14-41; 3:11-26; 4:1-12; 7; 8:4, 35; 13:13-49; 16:25-32; 17:10-13; 18:5, 28; 20:27; 26:22-23; 28:23-27).

Likely you can call to mind verses that communicate the Gospel essentials that you heard and believed.  For example . . .

  • John 3:16 tells us of God’s great love for us and what His love led Him to do.
  • John 6:38-40 tells us specifically where Jesus fits into God’s Gospel message.
  • Romans 3:23 communicates the consequences and reality of sin.
  • 1 Corinthians 15:3-4 conveys the truth that the God-man Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and was raised on the third day.
  • Romans 10:9 contains the Gospel’s invitation to repent of your sins; believe in both Jesus Christ and His death, burial, and resurrection for your salvation; and verbally confess, “Jesus is Lord.”

With the Spirit’s help, select a verse that communicates each of the Gospel essentials and use these verses in your evangelistic presentation of those Gospel essentials.

  1. How do I instruct a willing hearer to repent, believe, and confess?

Some Christians believe that the most difficult aspect about evangelism comes at the beginning of the process – starting a Gospel conversation with another person. However, another aspect of evangelism can be just as terrifying, if not more so and that is finding that the person you share the gospel with is convicted by God’s Spirit of their sin and their need to accept Christ as Savior; yet you don’t know how to help him receive Christ.  How do you lead an unbeliever to repent of his sins, believe in Jesus Christ for salvation, and confess Him as Lord?

If, after an unbeliever hears the Gospel,

They are convicted by the Spirit

Of the sin and need of Jesus,

And

Desires to repent, believe, and confess,

Then consider asking him to call on God in prayer.

Usually, an unbeliever does not know how to pray to God.

So, first have him share with you the reason he needs to pray to God.  As they respond listen for them to admit their sinfulness and need for God’s forgiveness.

Second, ask him to tell God, in his own words, that what he has understood from the gospel essentials you shared can forgive his sins and make him right with God.  Listen for him to reference the essence of the Gospel.

Third, instruct him to confess with sincerity the phrase, “Jesus is Lord.”

Finally, invite him to thank God for what he understands God has done for him.  Usually, new believers will thank God for His forgiveness, His presence, His mercy, and His grace.

Wow . . . doesn’t all this truth warm your heart and cause it to overflow in love and thanksgiving for all the Jesus has done?  Well then, go out and tell someone about Jesus!

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Are We Acting Wisely Toward Outsiders?

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

5MarIf you know Christ personally, I am sure you are like me, you desire to share Christ’s love and life with others who do not know Him.  The Bible says in Colossians 4:5, “Walk (conduct yourselves) in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming (making the most of) the time.”  This verse has always caused me to seriously examine how effective I am in fulfilling my assignment from the Lord to share Him as I go about my daily life (Matthew 19:20).

I pray that today’s blog will be a source of instruction and inspiration to lead you to examine whether your “conduct” with non-Christians is wise or unwise.  The grammar in this verse dictates that the answer to this question determines whether I am maximizing each God-given opportunity that I have with unbelievers.

Even though Paul clearly teaches the Colossians to speak the “mystery of Christ” among those who do not know Jesus (Colossians 1:5, 25; 3:16, 17; 4:3, 6), his command for them to “walk in wisdom toward those who are outside” seems to demand more.  It is interesting and instructive to note that Paul is not led by the Holy Spirit to use the word “speaking.”  This, of course, would only involve verbal discourse.  God leads Paul to use the word “walk” which is a word that incorporates all aspects of human behavior.  Taking note of how Paul uses this word in other places in his letter to the Colossians will help us get a clearer definition of what he is implying with this command.

Paul uses the Greek root for “walk” three other times in this letter:

(1) In Colossians 1:9-10, Paul prays that the Colossian believe may be “filled with the knowledge of His [God’s] will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding” … so that [they] “may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him …”

(2) In Colossians 2:6, Paul writes that just as the Colossians have, “received Christ Jesus the Lord, so [they should] walk in Him.”

3) In Colossians 3:7, after listing several evidences of the flesh, “immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed,” (3:5) Paul reminds the Colossians that “in which you yourselves once walked when you lived I them. But now you yourselves are to put off all these . . .”

When we look at how Paul uses the word “walk,” we can see . . .

That his concern for their effectiveness

In witnessing to unbelievers

Encompasses both their verbal

And non-verbal behavior.

Paul expects the Colossian believer’s words and deeds to match the divine standard for Christian witness – to lift Jesus up and to draw all men to Him (John 3:14; 12:32).  That is why he directs us in Colossians 3:17, “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” and in Colossians 3:23, “And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men.”

It is not surprising that Paul then further qualifies his command with the phrase “in wisdom.”  Literally, the verse says, “In wisdom, conduct yourselves.”  By phrasing it this way, Paul is emphasizing the substantial role that wisdom plays in the believers’ spoken and unspoken “conduct” with those outside the church.

As he writes his letter, he talks about how “the knowledge of the mystery of God” is fully realized as we receive and live by the truths of God (Colossians 2:2-3).  That is why he says in Colossians 2:6, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus, the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established I the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving” (Colossians 2:6-7)

The Word of God is very specific about how you as a Christian are to conduct yourself toward the non-Christian.  

Before we go any further, we need to focus on something very important . . .

The cross of Christ.

It is because of the cross

And our redemption found there

That we are able to seek to be wise

And good towards unbelievers.

The sacrifice of Christ has cleansed us from our sins, given us forgiveness of our trespasses, and enabled us to be gracious and kind by changing us.  While we lived in rebellion and rejection of God’s rule over us, He was gracious and kind to us.  Because of what God did through Jesus we have the power and ability to be kind to others.

Literally, the Greek says to “walk in wisdom toward outsiders.”  To the Jew every non-Jew was an outsider.  To the Christian, every non-Christian is an outsider; that is, outside the family of God . . . Outside of a relationship with the Lord Jesus.  In the days of the early church believers were often slandered by these outsiders.  Christians were called atheists because they served no visible god, unpatriotic because they did not burn incense before the image of the emperor, and immoral because, of necessity, they would often meet behind locked doors.

Today there is still an attack on the church.  Christians are called bigots because they condemn homosexuality, intolerant because they oppose abortion, religious extremists because they condemn sin, and narrow-minded because they believe there is “one faith, one Lord, and one baptism” (Ephesians 4:5).  Yet, in spite of these attacks we are to remain humble, loving, caring, kind, and gentle toward them.  If we are not, if we do not show love and forbearance in the face of cruelty, insult, intolerance, and ridicule, then we are not showing the world that we know Jesus?

God wants our conduct to be with wisdom.

This conduct is our  the life that we life.

How may we walk more wisely?

1) We are to be sympathetic (this could be in counseling, listening, etc.) compassionate and humble – 1 Peter 3:8 – “To sum up, let all be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit.”

2) We are to be loving – 1 Peter 3:9 – “Don’t repay evil for evil, or insult with insult, but with blessing repay the evil cast at you”

3) We are to be patient – you are to be considerate and longsuffering with the unbeliever.

4) We are to be careful in how we live – Ephesians 5:15-17 – “Be very careful, then, how you live — not as unwise but as wise, 16making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.  Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.”

5) We are to be careful in how we talk – Colossians 4:6, “Let you speech always be with grace; seasoned with salt, that you may know how you ought ot answer each one.”

Paul is asking the Colossians to be careful with their tongues.

  • Careful when they speak in public and private, no gossip.
  • Careful when they speak to an equal or someone in power, no slander.
  • Careful when they speak to the poor and the rich, no favoritism.
  • Careful not only when speaking of the gospel but also when speaking of the weather, the economy, politicians, the authorities.

In all our conversations God wants us to be careful, gracious, kind in your speech.  Grace is getting whatever you do not deserve.  And note the word “always.”  In all situations at all times – playing a sport, watching a movie, driving, shopping, business, in church, out of church, at work . . . The Bible says in Ephesians 4:29, “Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that I may impart grace to the hearers.”

6) God also wants us to know how to answer everyone – Verse 6, “That you may know how you ought to answer each one.”  In 1 Peter 3:15, the Bible says “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who ask you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.”

Part of having answers means being wise.

Proverbs, as well as the rest of the Bible, is the only source of true wisdom.  With wisdom, you will be able to properly answer in times of counseling and heartache, joy and sorrow, and in times when morality is an issue.

Part of having answers means knowing doctrine.

The Bible is an excellent teachers of doctrine.  We are to know the doctrine of the Trinity, the deity of Christ and of the Holy Spirit, the gospel message, the resurrection, the return of Christ, and the rest of what the Bible teaches.

Part of having answers means studying difficult issues.

Study evolution, cults, and other religions.  You don’t have to master them, just be familiar with them.

We will walk wisely when we give ourselves to the following  . . .

  1. Learn to fear God – Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding.”

  2. Spend more time in the Bible – Psalms 119:130, “The entrance of Your words give light; it gives understanding unto the simple.” The purpose of the book of proverbs is, “To receive the instruction of wisdom, justice, and judgment, and equity.” (Proverbs 1:3)
  3. Make walking in wisdom a priority – Proverbs 4:7, “Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.” Study the 119 verses in Proverbs on wisdom.
  4. Ask God for wisdom – James 1:5, “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraids not; and it shall be given him.”

  5. Follow the advice of 1Thessaloians 5:21-22 and prove all things before we make a decision. 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good. Abstain from all appearance of evil.”
  6. And don’t forget, in your wisdom and grace toward those who are outside the faith, pray for them.
  • They need to be granted the faith that God gives – John 6:28ff.
  • They need to be granted the repentance that God gives – 2 Timothy 2:25.
  • They need to be granted the belief that God gives – Philippians 1:20.
  • You can make a difference in your prayers – James 5:16.

So . . .  what difference do these verses make in your life?  It should be plenty.  Your conduct and speech before an unbeliever is vitally important.  Your conduct should be with wisdom, your speech with grace.

I heard about a Christian who years ago worked with an unbeliever.  For two years, this Christian answered the unbeliever’s questions; he was gentle and kind in his conduct in all situations and always tried to point his friend to Christ.  He sought to be wise and gracious.  Today that unbeliever has become a pastor.  The Lord used that Christian, his wise conduct, his gracious speech, to help bring another into His kingdom.  To Jesus be the glory, Amen!

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Five Most Important Teachings of the Bible

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

4Mar  I often take the Bible for granted, millions of people all over the world have never even seen one.  I have seen the faces of people who have held the Bible in their hands for the very first time.  I get goosebumps when I see it.  They want to learn more about it.  Seeing people get and begin reading the Bible for the first time is always beautiful and amazing.

How grateful we ought to be

For how God is leading

And providing opportunities

To get the Bible into the hands

Of every people group.

In today’s blog I want us to think about the greatest Book that has ever been written; about the marvelous truths the Bible contains that will teach us about life and how to know Him and relate to Him; and about the powerful eternal life that the Bible points us to.

What Makes The Bible Unique?

God needs to always remind us of what a treasure we have in God’s Word.  Written over a period of 1,500 years, the Bible is a collection of 66 books penned by shepherds, kings, prophets, doctors, and fishermen.  God inspired different men to write the historical records, poems, prophecies, and letters that we know as the Bible.  Yet, in spite of the years involved in writing it and the many different writers God used to give it to us, there is a unified purpose and message that man desperately needs to hear.

When we read the Bible, God Himself

Through His Spirit speaks to us.

The Bible is God’s Word to us about His Love

And the Life we need to know.

It’s a record of His work throughout history

And

Contains everything He really wants us to know.

When we open our Bibles and read them,

We learn who God is,

How He saves from sin,

And what He wants from us.

His love for us comes alive!

What Does The Bible Really Say?

One Christian organization recently asked 2,500 people, including executives, skilled workers, writers, pastors, seminary professors, teachers, and students, what they thought were the main messages of the Bible.

Over and over, they mentioned themes of

Love, Grace, Sin, and Forgiveness.

Let’s look at the five more important teachings of the Bible . . .

1) A loving God created our world.

We take it for granted, but the book of Genesis sets the foundation for the rest of God’s story.  Our universe was no accident.  God existed eternally, and He created the heavens and earth.  God’s nature is love, and He desires a relationship with man, the crown of His creation.

The core truths in Genesis sets the stage for all else

That humanity is a special creation

Above all other created things;

That sin against God truly matters;

And

That God had a plan for redemption

In mind from before the creation.

2) Man needs a Savior.

The Bible says in Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”

Most of us don’t like to talk about sin,

Much less admit we’re sinners,

But it’s an important theme of the Bible.

In Genesis 3, the serpent tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God.  When they disobeyed God, they sinned, and they lost their perfect relationship with their Creator.  The Bible teaches that the consequence of sin is eternal separation from God.   Old Testament stories illustrate how sin creates a barrier between man and God.  The New Testament presents Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

I believe the church today has a huge under-emphasis on sin.  The Bible teaches that sin is so serious that God had to send Jesus into the world save sinners, not the so-called good people or righteous people.

Understanding our sin problem

Is absolutely essential

To understanding God’s love

And

To receiving God’s grace.”

3) Jesus is God and Savior.

The Bible says in 1 John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He lovesd us and sent His Son to be the propitiation (the atoning sacrifice) for our sins.”

When I was growing up, I always pictured God as an all-powerful, loving creator, but I couldn’t understand what the big deal was about Jesus!  I found answers to my questions as a college student when I read in John 1 that God came to earth as a man.

A reading of John’s gospel

(And the other Gospels – Matthew, Mark, and Luke)

Reveals that Jesus continually claimed to be God.

That’s one reason religious leaders wanted Him crucified.

Jesus lived a sinless life, but He died to pay for our sins.

It was the whole reason He came to earth.

The Bible tells us in Matthew 23,

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child,

And bear a Son And they shall call

His name Immanuel, which is translated,

“God with us.”

The very name “Jesus”

Means “The Lord saves.”

4) God calls us to relationship.

The Bible says in John 1:12, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave power to become sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.”

Most Christians agree that

Redemption and relationship with God

Are central themes of the Bible.

Abraham was called a friend of God because his faith brought him into a right relationship with God.  Moses met with God face to face, not based upon who he was or what he did, but through His faith and acceptance of God’s message.

Although our sin makes it impossible

For us to draw near to a Holy God,

Jesus paid the penalty for sin

To clear the way for us to enter into God’s family.

We have an amazing privilege:

When we place our faith in Christ,

God adopts us,

Giving us the status

Of beloved sons and daughters.

Anyone can have a personal relationship with God through placing faith in Jesus Christ.  The call to place a faith commitment in Christ is the purpose for God sending Jesus here and for giving us the Bible.

5) God rules and reigns forever (even when it doesn’t look like it).

The Bible says in Psalm 103:19, “The LORD has established His throne in heaven.  And His kingdom rules over all.”

As many watch injustice, violence, wars, and natural disasters on our television screens, they sometimes struggle to believe in a good, all-powerful God.  Yet, the Bible teaches that God, perfect in wisdom, is always at work for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28).

Even when bad things happen in our personal lives, believers can rest assured that our Heavenly Father will work all things together for our good.  Part of His sovereign purpose is to transform us and make us more like Himself: loving, wise, joyful, and peaceful.

Man’s sin has spoiled this world,

And

Satan exerts influence and authority,

Yet,

Jesus will come again.

God will have the final victory

Over sin and death.

His Word assures us of

A hope and a future.

The Bible says in Revelation 21:4-5, “And God will wipe away ever tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.  Neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things have passed.  Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make al things new.’  And He said to me, ‘Write, for these words are true and faithful.’”

The Bible imparts timeless truths

That will bring us to faith,

Build us up in the faith,

And

Become a blessing to our faith

When we take time to read it.

Reminding ourselves of our beliefs helps us stand firm when the world around us is falling apart and the ground beneath us seems is shaky.  Remember the five most important teachings of the Bible . . .

We are fearfully and wonderfully made.

God loves us with an unconditional love.

Jesus died to pay for our sins,

So we can become sons and daughters of God.

He will come again to take us home.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

 Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Resting In A Powerful Truth For Ministry

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

Mar1  I remember the first time I heart this quote from Francis Schaeffer, “As there are no little people in God’s sight, so there are no little places.”

I was sitting in chapel service at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.  As a first-semester seminary student, my mind and heart were full of excitement and expectation, especially concerning where the Lord may take me in the ministry.  Having observed watched and heard many “celebrity” pastors, I remember thinking and hoping that maybe God would direct my ministry to such a height someday.  Yet, as the speaker preached and referenced this quote, I remember my heart being shaken, and my direction in ministry changed.

My assumption up to that point – and if we are honest, the assumption of so many of us – was that God was always going to call me to bigger and better places.

The small ministry that I had before seminary was in my past.

Greatness, notoriety, and prosperity were surely on the horizon.

Yet, the truth is, this is the way of the flesh and not the way of Christ!

Jesus prescribes the position of the heart that must prevail in the life of His disciples in Luke 14:7-11:

There the Bible says, “And He told a parable to those who were invited, when He noted how they chose the best places, saying to them: ‘When you are invited by anyone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the best place, lest one more honorable than you be invited by him; and he who invited you and him come and say to you, ‘Give place to this man’ and then you begin with shame to take the lowest place.  But when you are invited to go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when he who invited you comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, go up higher.’ Then you will have glory in the presence of those who sit at the table with you.  For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself with be exalted.'”

Jesus’ teaching to those who heard this parable was simple:

Take the lowest position

And trust the Host

To put you

In the right position.

What Jesus teaches in this parable is echoed throughout the New Testament . . .

  • In Matthew, Luke, and John, we have the example of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet.
  • In Philippians 2, the Apostle Paul reminds his readers to have the same mind in them as Christ Jesus, who took on flesh, took up the cross, and humbled Himself to the point of death.
  • In 1 Peter 5:6, Peter encourages his readers to, “Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time.”

Dr. Schaeffer comments on the point of this passage in his book, No Little People: “This is the way of the Christian: he should choose the lesser place until God extrudes him into a position of more responsibility.”

Living out the teaching of Jesus

And the message of the New Testament

Requires us to always seek

Faithfulness over a following.

When we embrace New Testament humility, we are not promised a massive following.  When we embrace New Testament humility, there is no promise that money will flow in.  When we embrace New Testament humility, there is no assurance that any man will ever see us as a success. BUT there is the promise that we will be exalted by the Lord.

Choosing to be faithful on the lesser path

May never lead to the praises of man,

But it will lead to the approval of our Savior.

Additionally, living out this teaching of Jesus requires us to always seek out piety over a platform.

As disciples of Jesus,

Our aim should be

To grow in our devotion to Jesus

And

Not to grow our ministry reach.

For many of us (myself included), false humility pervades our social media channels.  We use false gratitude and fancy phrases that are posted, pictured, and planted all over our social media feeds in hopes that our reach will grow farther and our notoriety will increase.  These false actions often take our attention away from faithfully following Jesus.

We are tempted to grow our own following

Instead of more faithfully following Him.

Since the way of Christ is so clear, we should do two things. First, we should follow Christ’s call, no matter the span of our influence.  Second, we should work as servants and not seek celebrity status. Dr. Schaeffer says,

“Jesus commands Christians to seek consciously the lowest room. All of us—pastors, teachers, professional religious workers and nonprofessional included—are tempted to say, “I will take the larger place because it will give me more influence for Jesus Christ.” Both individual Christians and Christian organizations fall prey to the temptation of rationalizing this way as we build bigger and bigger empires. But according to the Scripture this is back-wards: we should consciously take the lowest place unless the Lord Himself extrudes us into a greater one.”

For each of us,

The command of Christ is

To be humble and to trust

Him alone for where we are headed.

May we always seek the lower place so that we can give Christ the highest praise with our lives!

. This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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The Danger of Drifting Spiritually, Part 3

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

28Feb  Tuesday we began to look at Hebrews 2:1-4, where the writer is warning his readers about the danger of drifting spiritually.  In Tuesday’s blog we looked at verses 1-2 and saw the first of three motivating truths that we should stand on that will help us not drift away spiritually:

The salvation Christ offers is indescribably great.

Yesterday we looked at the second great motivating truth in verses 3-4 that will keep us from drifting away:

 Because God’s salvation is so great,

The consequences of neglecting it are terrible.

Let’s look again at what the Bible says in Hebrews 2:1-4, “Therefore, we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.  For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?”

Today we will look at the third motivating truth that will keep us from drifting spiritually:

  1. In spite of the greatness of God’s salvation, we all are in danger of drifting away from it.

The author uses “we” to include himself as the ones who are vulnerable.  The immediate cause of their drifting was that they were facing trials and the threat of persecution.  Whenever we are in those situations, we need to be on guard.  We are then most in danger of drifting.  But even at other times, drifting is easy because all it requires is neglect.

The cause of drifting is neglect.

Usually drifting is inadvertent.  If you’ve ever steered a boat, you know that if you do not deliberately keep it on course, you will drift with the currents.  The stronger the current, the more you have to give constant attention to keep the boat on course.

Since we live in the strong current of this evil world,

We all are prone to drift with the culture.

It does not take active rebellion or defiance against God to go to hell.  Simple neglect of salvation while you attend to other things will do the trick nicely.  The importance of the charge to “take more earnest heed” in Hebrews 2:1 is seen in Jesus’ parable of the king’s invitation to the wedding feast in Matthew 22:5, “But they made light of it and went their ways, one to his own farm, another to his business.”   Here we see that those who were given the invitation did not pay the necessary attention to it, ignored it, and continue with their normal activities.

There’s nothing inherently sinful about farms and businesses – unless they cause you to neglect the king’s invitation!  Someone put it this way: “What must I do to be lost? Nothing!”  Just drift through life, paying attention to other things.

The antidote to drifting is paying attention.

We see this in verse 1 of Hebrews chapter 2, where the Bible says, “Take more earnest heed to the things we have heard.”  What does this say to us?

If you attend a church where God’s great salvation

Is proclaimed from week to week,

Pay attention to the message!

Don’t tune it out and think about what you’re going to do with your week or wish that the pastor would be more interesting and entertaining.  If he is a Bible teaching, Gospel preaching servant of God, what he is proclaiming is significant and should be of interest to us.

Oh, how we need to pay attention to the truths of this great salvation!

So … what are these verses wanting us to do?  Start with the basics:

  • Are you giving deliberate effort to seeking God and His salvation?
  • How much attention have you given to understand the gospel?
  • Do you pore over Scripture as you would read a will if you thought a rich relative had left you an inheritance?
  • Do you listen to God’s Word being preached with a deep hunger and thirst to receiving His truth?
  • Do you read and study God’s Word as His treasure entrusted to your soul?
  • Is spending time alone with God in His Word and prayer a priority in your schedule?
  • How much effort do you put into learning about this great salvation and seeking to live by it?
  • Do you set some spiritual goals to help you grow in your faith?
  • Do you look for solid books to read that will help you know God and His plan better?
  • Do you listen to sermons from godly men that help you become more godly?
  • Do you cut out of your life anything that would divert you from such a great salvation?

It’s wonderful to fall in love and get married.  I highly recommend the experience!  But marriage is a relationship and relationships take time and effort to maintain.  I don’t care how deeply you were in love when you got married, if you neglect your marriage and devote your attention to other things, your marriage will fail.

Marriage is a wonderful gift from God

And is worth the time and effort it takes

To maintain and deepen that relationship.

But salvation is a far greater gift than marriage,

Because it has to do with our eternal destiny!

Don’t let it drift!  Don’t neglect it!

Don’t get distracted with other things, even with good things!  Because our salvation is so great, we must pay closer attention to it, so that we don’t drift away from it.

You are either drifting

With regard to your salvation

Because of neglect,

Or

You are growing

Because of

Deliberate effort and attention.

Which is it for you?

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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The Danger of Drifting Spiritually, Part 2

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

27Feb    Yesterday we began to look at Hebrews 2:1-4, where the writer is warning his readers about the danger of drifting spiritually.  In yesterday’s blog we looked at verses 1-2 and saw the first of three motivating truths that we should stand on that will help us not drift away spiritually:

 The salvation Christ offers is indescribably great.

Let’s look again at what the Bible says in Hebrews 2:1-4, “Therefore, we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.  For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?”

Today we will look at the second great motivating truth in verses 3-4 that will keep us from drifting away:

  1. Because God’s salvation is so great, the consequences of neglecting it are terrible.

The author does not specify here what we would face if we neglect this salvation.  But all we have to do is read ahead (10:27), where he gets more graphic:

If we don’t escape,

We face “a terrifying expectation of judgment

And the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries”

(See also 12:25-29).

Some may be thinking, “How can these frightening warnings apply to Christians? Aren’t believers eternally secure?”

One of the mistaken ideas that the author of Hebrews confronts in this and in every other warning section is what we could call “the myth of the carnal Christian.”  This idea was popularized by Lewis Sperry Chafer’s He That is Spiritual [Dunham] and by the Schofield Reference Bible (note on 1 Cor. 2:14) early in the 20th century.

It was later picked up by Campus Crusade’s booklet, “How to Be Filled With the Holy Spirit.”  The idea is that there are three classes of people: the natural man (unbeliever); the spiritual man (the Spirit-filled believer); and, the carnal man (the believer who is running his own life, not subject to the Holy Spirit).  For the sake of time, I cannot go into many of the problems with this classification (see Ernest Reisinger’s booklet, “What Should We Think of the Carnal Christian?” [Banner of Truth]).

But one problem is that it gives false assurance to the person who says, “I believe in Jesus as my Savior, so I am going to heaven. But I am not submitting to Him as my Lord.”  For the author of Hebrews . . .

Either you are holding fast to your

Confession of faith in Christ

And are striving against sin,

Or you are drifting spiritually

And are in danger of frightening judgment.

Those are the only options.

True believers may drift and may get entangled in sin.  But when they are confronted with the truth, they will turn from their sin and pursue holiness.  If they do not turn from it, they have no basis for assurance of salvation.  The longer they continue in sin, the more reason they have to question whether their profession of faith was genuine.  But no one has the option of saying, “I’m just a carnal Christian. I’m living for this world now, but when I die I’ll go to heaven.” That option does not exist.

The author sets forth the consequences of neglecting salvation by contrasting the Law with the gospel.

  • The Law imposed some frightening penalties for disobedience.

“The word spoken by angels” refers to the Law given to Moses on Mount Sinai.  The Old Testament does not state directly that angels gave the Law to Moses, but it implies such (Deuteronomy 33:2; Psalm 68:17) and the New Testament confirms it (Acts 7:38, 53; Galatians 3:19).  That Law imposed frightening penalties for sin.  Any defiant disobedience was punished by stoning to death (Numbers 15:30, 32-36; Joshua 7:1-26).  Sometimes God sent punishment directly from heaven, such as when the ground opened and swallowed up Korah and his fellow rebels (Numbers 16), or when God sent plagues among the people (Numbers 16:46-50; 21:6-9; 25:8-9).  In these judgments, God was not being cruel; He was acting in justice (Hebrews 2:2).

  • The neglect of the gospel will bring far worse consequences.

The argument is from the lesser to the greater.  Greater revelation imposes greater responsibility.  If the Jews under the Law were punished for their disobedience, how much more will we come under God’s judgment if we associate with God’s people, but turn our backs on the great salvation that is offered through the death of God’s own Son?  That is his argument and appeal.

We err if we think that the demands of the gospel

Are less exacting than those of the Law.

We also err if we think that grace means

That we can be sloppy about God’s standards of holiness.

That is a dangerously wrong way to think!  As the writer states in chapter 10 verse 29, “How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace?”  To drift away from the gospel after you’ve been exposed to it is to turn away from God Himself, who sent His Son so that we could have His gift of salvation.  You don’t want to do that!

 This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

 Pastor Terry

 Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

GraceForTheJourneyBottomOfPagePicture 

The Danger of Drifting Spiritually, Part 1

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

26Feb  The Bible says in Hebrews 2:1-4, “Therefore, we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.  For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?”  The writer, as he is being guided by the Holy Spirit, is warning his readers about the danger of drifting spiritually.  Over the next three days, I want to look at what these verses teach us regarding this important topic.

I read recently that the Tour de France bicycle champion, Lance Armstrong, and his wife are divorcing.  The article stated that at this point, he does not have another woman in his life.  Rather, his many hours spent pursuing his bicycle career left no time for his marriage.  I would predict that 25 years from now, Armstrong will look back at his life and say, “I was a fool to sacrifice my family for my sport!”  But at this point, the fame and fortune are blinding him to the more satisfying value of a lasting, loving marriage and family relationship.

It’s easy in life to get caught up in matters that seem very important at the time, but in the light of eternity will shrink into oblivion.  Because we all have only so many hours in our day, our focus on these seemingly important matters also means that we neglect matters that are huge in light of eternity.  When these things nag at our consciences, as invariably they do, we justify our current priorities by saying, “Someday I will attend to these eternally important matters, but right now, I’m too busy.”  But such procrastination can be eternally fatal!

The one sure fact of life is death.  As George Bernard Shaw observed, “The statistics on death are quite impressive: one out of one people die!”  Since that is true, you would think that we all would live with a view of eternity, but we don’t.  Other pressing matters come up to divert our attention: “I’ve got to get through school.” “I’ve got to get established in my career.” “I’ve got to get the kids raised, and then I’ll have some time.” Many of these pressing matters are good and important, but they easily can crowd out the most important thing.  As a result . . .

Even we who know the truth of the gospel

Are always in danger of drifting spiritually.

The author of Hebrews spent the first chapter extolling the supremacy of the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He does not mentioned a word of application or exhortation in the entire section.  But when he begins chapter 2, he pauses in his argument to apply what he has written.  Over the next three days we will be looking at the first of five warning sections in this letter.  These warnings are addressed to professing Christians who were in the church.  By using the first person plural pronoun, “we,” the author identifies himself with his readers.  He faced the same temptations that they faced.  He was not in an ivory tower, exempt from these pitfalls.  Like every faithful pastor, he was exhorting himself first, even as he exhorted his congregation.

The danger that he was confronting was this:

You are either drifting with regard to your salvation because of neglect,

Or you are growing because of deliberate effort and attention.

But nobody grows by accident.

The central thrust of this warning is:

Since we have encountered such a great salvation,

We must be careful not to drift away from it.

Today we will look at the first of three main points of verses 1-2.

  1. The salvation Christ offers is indescribably great.

He calls it “so great a salvation” (verse 3).  The writer gives us four reasons that this salvation is indescribably great.

  • Salvation is great because it is the one thing that every person needs more than anything else.

In church circles we toss around the word “salvation” so often that it loses its true meaning.  But verse 3 contains another word to alert us to the significance of the concept: “escape.”  An escape points to a situation of great peril.  You don’t need to be saved unless you are in grave danger of perishing.

Our soldiers in Iraq rescued Jessica Lynch from hostile enemies. They saved her so that she escaped further torture and perhaps death.  Outside of Jesus Christ, every sinner (that is, every person, since all have sinned) is under God’s just condemnation. Breaking God’s holy law incurs a just penalty (2:2), namely, eternal separation from God in hell.  The Bible reminds us in Romans 6:23,“The wages of sin is death.”  God’s wrath abides on the one who does not obey Jesus Christ (John 3:36).  As Jonathan Edwards pictured it in his famous sermon, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” every sinner is like a spider dangling by a thread over a fire. Only God’s mercy keeps us from falling into the eternal flames.

Salvation does not mean, as one popular TV preacher put it,

“To be changed from a negative to a positive self-image.”

  • Salvation does not mean that Jesus helps you fulfill your dreams.
  • Salvation is not about Jesus improving your marriage or giving you peace and joy.
  • God’s salvation isn’t a nice thing to round out your otherwise successful and happy life.
  • Salvation is about Jesus rescuing you from the wrath to come!

And since every person is in imminent danger of facing that wrath, salvation is every person’s greatest need!

  • Salvation is great because it comes to us from none other than the Lord Jesus Himself.

The “Therefore” in verse 1 points back to chapter 1, where the author has extolled the supremacy of Jesus, God’s eternal Son.

  • He is God’s final word to us, the heir of all things, and the creator of the universe.
  • He is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature.
  • He upholds all things by the word of His power.
  • He made purification for sins and now sits at the right hand of the Majesty on high (1:2-3).
  • He is far superior to the angels, who worship and serve Him (1:4-14).

Hebrews chapter 1 sets forth the doctrine of the exalted Person of Jesus Christ in relation to the Father and to the angels.  It is only after the author has set forth this doctrine that he gives this first exhortation.  Sound doctrine must always be the foundation for practical application.

And yet, we live in a day when many pastors are minimizing doctrine.  I’ve heard things like, “Doctrine is divisive.” Or, “People don’t need theology or biblical content. They  need to know how to get along in their marriages and how to deal with life’s problems.”

So pastors are giving sermons (if you could even call them that!) that are devoid of doctrine.  Frankly, many such sermons could easily appear in Reader’s Digest without much modification!

But the author of Hebrews wants us to see the connection between the great doctrines about Christ in chapter 1 and his exhortation in chapter two.  That is why he uses the word “therefore.”  Our salvation is indescribably great because it comes to us from none other than the eternal Son of God who left the Majesty on high to become the sacrifice for our sins.

He announced this good news during His earthly ministry (Hebrews 2:3).

His teaching shows us the way to be reconciled to God.

Having offered Himself for our sins and rising from the dead, He is now back at the right hand of God, awaiting the time when His enemies become His footstool (Hebrews 1:13).  How can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation!

  • Salvation is great because eyewitnesses confirmed it as true.

Salvation is only great if it is true.  If it’s just someone’s fanciful idea, with no factual basis, it may be nice, but it certainly isn’t worth suffering the loss of your property or shedding your blood for (Hebrews 10:34; 12:4).  This great salvation was not only “first began to be spoken by the Lord,” but also it “was confirmed to us by those who heard Him” (2:3).  The point the writer is making is the gospel that Jesus proclaimed comes to us from those who directly witnessed His earthly ministry.

The gospel is not the best ideas of a bunch of religious philosophers speculating about how they think we can be reconciled to God. The gospel is a matter of revelation and historical fact.  Jesus really lived. His teaching and miracles are truthfully recorded

in the gospels. He died on the cross and was raised physically from the grave before He ascended bodily into heaven. Many eyewitnesses saw these things and recorded them for us. If they were fictional stories, those in that day who read these accounts would

have laughed the apostles out of town. But rather, these witnesses held to the truth about Jesus, even when cost them their lives.

  • Salvation is great because God Himself confirmed the message by miracles through the apostles.

God testifies through these witnesses “both by signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His will” (2:4).  The writer is referring to the miracles performed mostly by the apostles as recorded in the Book of Acts.  The terms, “signs, wonders, and miracles” are basically synonymous, but have different nuances.

Signs point to the fact that miracles have spiritual significance.  When a lame man is healed or a dead man is raised, it points to something beyond the bare fact.  These are pictures of how God powerfully acts to save souls.

Wonders emphasize the human response of awe and amazement when we witness God doing the humanly impossible.

Various (“manifold” or “many colored”) miracles (dynamis) focus on God’s power displayed in numerous ways.

Gifts [literally, distributions] of the Holy Spirit are given “according to His will.”  This emphasizes God’s sovereignty in bestowing spiritual gifts as He sees fit for His purposes (1 Corinthians 12:11).  As Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 12, not everyone has the same gifts, but as in the human body, so in the body of Christ each member has a vital function for the overall health of the body.

To sum up the first point:

Because every person desperately needs salvation,

Because it comes to us from none other than God’s exalted Son,

Because it was confirmed to us as true from those who were with Jesus,

Because God confirmed their testimony through miracles,

It is indescribably great.

Tomorrow we will continue looking at powerful truths from Hebrews 2:1-4.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

 Pastor Terry

 Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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Paths Of Providence

Grace For The Journey

2018BlogTheme

22Feb“Providence” was a term that was frequently used by America’s Founders, such as the unforgettable expression of their “firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence” in the nation’s Declaration of Independence.  Providence is rightly defined as “the foreseeing, benevolent care and wise guidance of Almighty God in the lives of His creatures.”

The Bible says in Psalm 25:4-6, Show me Your ways, O Lord, teach me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and teach me, for You are God my Savior, and my hope is in You all day long. Remember, Lord, Yyour great mercy and love, for they are from of old.”

David’s psalm (and, indeed, all of Scripture) reveals that this life is a journey without a destination . . . until we get to the other side of the grave.  We are pilgrims passing through this world, not settlers in it.

Regardless of where our path leads,

When it is a path of Providence

It will always end

In the glory of God and our good.

David deeply wanted to walk the paths of Providence, and he was crying out to God to teach him the right path to take . . . and this path will always lead in the opposite direction of the way the world is encouraging us to go.  David had no interest in looking to the imagination of man as his guiding light.  He sought the revelation of God (“guide me in your truth”) because he knew that God will always lead us in the right direction.

It is important that we understand:

The path of Providence may very well not

Be free of all obstacles and challenges.

Often just the opposite is true!  But when God is guiding us in His truth and teaching us along the way, we can be assured that we will reach the other side better than we were before we got there.

God never promised us painless paths of providence;

What He did promise was to get us safely to our destination.

Knowing that truth, we are strengthened and comforted to press on, regardless of the cost or circumstance.

The key for successful Christian living is

To hold tight to the same hope David had.

He was not hoping for an easy, painless path of Providence

To travel through this life.

His hope was in God, morning, noon, and night.

If you know the Scriptures, you might well ask, “Was David’s hope always in God?”  I believe the answer is “Yes.”  In his flesh, David stumbled badly on more than one occasion; he turned away from his holy hope and trusted in things other than God.  Yet every time David did so, God would guide him back onto His path of truth and wisdom.

Deep down,

David’s hope

Was always

In God.

We see this even in one of the most awful events recorded in sacred Scripture; David committed adultery and then murder to cover it up.  Yet, the Lord’s great mercy and love still reached out and met David in his place of deepest need.  To be sure, there would be great consequences for David’s sin, and it took a visit from the prophet Nathan to make that clear to the broken king.  But through it all, God grew David up to become a man after God’s own heart (Acts 13:22).  He continued to set David’s feet upon the paths of Providence all the way into glory.

So . . . what paths of Providence have you been walking lately?

Is God leading you . . . or

Are you trying to lead God?

The answer to these questions

Will make all the difference

In how your life works out.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!ese questions

Will make all the difference

In how your life works out.

This is God’s Word For Today … This Is Grace For The Journey

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

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