No Mistaken Identity

September 10, 2019 at 12:31 pm | Posted in Grace and Faith, It's All About God, Security and Assurance | Leave a comment

We just finished a sermons series called “No Mistaken Identity.”  Each week we took a biblical word that describes who we are, if we trust in Jesus Christ.  We defined those words and studied them in the Bible.  Then each week we read a “major truth” defining who we are.   What follows is all the major truths we read with the passage we studied that day.  I hope this summary is a good reminder for you.

Justification:  By his grace, God has declared me not guilty.  My righteousness is not based on what I do but on what God has done.  Romans 3:21-26

Forgiveness:  By his grace, all my sins against God have been cancelled and will not be held against me.  Colossians 2:13-14

Redemption:  By his grace, I was delivered from the slavery of sin and am free to serve and worship God.  Colossians 1:13-14

Regeneration:  By God’s grace, I am a new creation who has been born again. Titus 3:3-7

Reconciliation:  By his grace, I have an intimate relationship with God and can introduce others to Him.  2 Corinthians 5:17-21

You can listen to the messages here.

The Plain Language of Scripture

March 21, 2019 at 4:13 pm | Posted in Grace and Faith, It's All About God, Questions for Pastor Glenn, Security and Assurance, Theology | Leave a comment

I have been preaching through the spiritual blessings we have in Jesus, as they are spelled out in Ephesians 1:3-14.  Throughout the series I have encouraged the congregation to accept the plain words of the Bible even when they are hard to understand or hard to accept.  Because the first two of these blessings are so hard for some to accept, I took time to go through the Bible and show how these two blessings are not stand-alone scriptures but are spelled out clearly in other places.  I wanted to get those notes written out here as well, for future reference.

The first of the six spiritual blessings we have in Jesus is that God chose us before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him.  The second is that we were predestined to adoption as his children.  The language is very clear, and no other translation of the words is really possible.

Below are some other passages of scripture that also teach this doctrine.  I know this is lengthy, but its very length is what adds so much support to the case.  Let the plain truth of God’s Word speak.

Genesis 25:23.  Jacob was chosen over his brother even before they were born.  See also Romans 9:13 quoting Malachi 1:2-3.

Genesis 45:5, 7, 8.  God not only ordains the steps of nations, but also of individuals.  Joseph could say (three times) that God sent him to Egypt.

Jeremiah 1:4-5.  Jeremiah was chosen to be a prophet even before he was born.  Thus the Old Testament shows a pattern of God choosing people before they choose him.

John 6:37, 44.  Jesus said “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him,” and “All that the Father gives me will come to me.”

John 17:2. On a related note, Jesus said in his priestly prayer, “Father, the time has come. Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.  For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.”  Coming to Jesus is something we cannot do apart from a work of God in our lives to draw us to him.

John 15:16. Jesus said to his disciples, “You did not choose me but I chose you and appointed you . . .”

Acts 9:4, 15.  Paul was God’s chosen instrument long before he accepted the Gospel.  In fact he was hell-bent on destroying the followers of Jesus, yet Jesus said, “He is a chosen instrument of mine.”  So Ananias could say to him, “The God of our fathers appointed you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear a voice from his mouth.”  (Acts 22:14)  And that’s why Paul could say God had set him apart before he was born (Galatians 1:15-16)

Acts 2:39. Peter’s Pentecost message ended with these words “The promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord God calls to himself.”  Not the other way around, “everyone who calls on the Lord God,” as I so often read it in my earlier years.

Acts 13:48.  After Paul’s first recorded sermon, Luke tells us that “all who were appointed to eternal life believed.”  Again it’s not the other way around — it’s not “all who believed were appointed to eternal life.”

Acts 16:14.  The Lord opened Lydia’s heart to accept the words of Paul.  And so she became the first known convert of the Western Hemisphere.  It took a work of God before she responded

Acts 18:10.  Before they were converts, Jesus spoke of the people in Corinth,  “And the Lord said to Paul one night in a vision, ‘Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent, for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people.’”

2 Thessalonians 2:13.  “But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.”  God chose you to be saved — pretty clear.  NOTE 1 This is not deliverance from the antichrist, as someone tried to tell me, because he clearly spells out what he means by salvation; it’s sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.  Not one word study I checked (five of them) or commentary (seven of those) listed that idea as even a possibility for this passage.  It clearly means spiritual salvation.  NOTE 2 The ESV says “God chose you as the firstfuits,” but it also could be translated “God chose you from the beginning,” (see NIV, NASB, KJV, NKJV, HCSV) which makes the point even more clearly.

2 Timothy 1:9-10.  God “has saved us and called us to a holy life — not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace.  This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.”

Revelation 13:8, 17:8.  Who will worship the Beast?  “All who dwell on earth will worship it, everyone whose name has not been written before the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.”  “And the dwellers on earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the foundation of the world will marvel to see the beast, because it was and is not and is to come.”  Those who might point out that the Greek of these passages says “from” and not “before” should note that the verbs are perfect tense.  In other words, it doesn’t mean “names that were written since the beginning until now,” but “names that already stood written at the beginning.”  That’s why some translations not incorrectly use “before;” it clarifies the meaning in English.

Revelation 17:14.  I taught this to my New Testament students as the theme verse of Revelation.  “They will make war against the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them because he is Lord of lords and King of kings — and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers.”

The language of these passages should cause us to worship in awe a God of such incredible grace.  We deserve nothing, but God has chosen us of his grace.

A Question About Calvinism

August 17, 2017 at 8:10 am | Posted in It's All About God, Questions for Pastor Glenn, Theology | Leave a comment

I work with a college ministry called Campus Ventures, and occasionally get questions of a theological nature from the staff there.  I got a question yesterday, and the following text conversation ensued.   I wanted to keep the wording, and thought it would be appropriate to post here.

Glenn, what’s your take on the Five Solas of the Reformation?  We have a volunteer staff that is from a Reformed background wanting to do a Bible study on this.  Any chance this can twist off into Calvinism?  Doesn’t seem like it, but I wanted your thoughts about both questions.

The authority of the scriptures alone.  Salvation by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone to the glory of God alone.  To me that’s just good solid Christian doctrine.  The real Gospel.  Yes there are some areas you can get off into Calvinism, especially grace and glory.  Personally, I have trouble with the Arminian doctrine actually expressing those five things in truth.  But that shows my own bias in the matter.

Thanks, Glenn.  I couldn’t see any problem with it either, but there has been such a problem of late with people here going off the deep end with Calvinism, I wanted to make sure before getting back to him.

The true heart of Calvinism is the glory of God in all things, unfortunately too many people who call themselves Calvinists emphasize things in such a way that they give the glory to themselves. They’re the ones who know it all.
They’re proud to be the elect, but that misunderstands the whole point!

Wow!  That is good stuff, Glenn.  Thanks for sharing that with me.

I would add here that Calvinism correctly understood should make us fully aware that we are very sinful people; that we are separated from God; that we can do nothing about our situation; that our salvation is completely the work of God; that even our good deeds after salvation are God working through us; that it is ultimately all about God.  That should promote humility.

Note how much of what I said in the last paragraph is expressed in this famous passage:  “By grace you have been saved through faith, and not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, not as a result of works that no one should boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

Forgive me, God, when I am proud of what I know or of what I think are my own accomplishments.

Safely Home: An Awesome Book!

July 20, 2016 at 9:43 pm | Posted in Books and Movies, It's All About God | Leave a comment

My family spent part of last week camping in the mountains where I had time to do some fun reading.  I read the best novel I have read in years, probably one of the best ever.  It was Randy Alcorn’s Safely HomeI had read Alcorn’s theology of Heaven, which I reviewed in this blog, but had never read his novels.  I will be sure to read more of them now.  I hesitate to use the word awesome for much, but this book was awesome!  I may have to add it to my list of most influential books ever read; time will tell.

Safely Home tells the story of two college roommates who reconnected twenty years after they graduated from college and had lost touch.  One was a successful business executive in America, the other a locksmith’s assistant and house church leader in China.

Alcorn researched the book carefully, and though it is fiction, he claims the statistics reported are true as are many of the stories out of China; those that are not actual stories are in line with things that do happen in China.  Though the characters are fictional, they ring true to life, so much so, I got caught up in the book as though it were a real story.  The way they learn from each other is a great education for the reader.

The presentation of the persecuted church in contrast with American materialism is absolutely fascinating and convicting.  It caused me to question a lot of my assumptions about the world-wide church, about persecution, and about American church values.

I would give you some great quotes from the book, except I got caught up in the story and didn’t bother to write anything down,  Besides I was so impressed with it, the others in my family hijacked the book as soon as I was done so they could read it too!

All proceeds from the sale of the book go to ministries supporting the persecuted church around the world, so buy a copy and read it.

Here is a link to a site that has 14 quotes from the book.  My favorite from this page is “If you are looking for a religion centered around yourself, Ben, I must agree that Christianity is a poor choice.”

I Hate the Doctrine of Hell

March 3, 2016 at 2:15 pm | Posted in Eschatology, It's All About God, Theology | Leave a comment

“I hate the doctrine of hell.”  So begins the video by R.C. Sproul linked in this post.  I would agree with him.  An eternal hell is one of those things we Christians don’t like to talk much about, because we are so uncomfortable with what we say we believe.  Dr. Sproul explains our discomfort with hell while defending why it is still true.  One of the best things I’ve heard in a while.  The video is well worth the 3-1/2 minutes it takes to listen.  R. C. Sproul on God’s Glory in Judgment.

All Matter Is Part of an Unending Cycle. Really?

March 31, 2015 at 8:41 pm | Posted in Books and Movies, It's All About God | Leave a comment

“Even the smallest stone in the riverbed has the entire history of the universe inscribed upon it.”  So begins the Japanese novel The Stones Cry Out by Hikaru Okuizumi.  The author was very popular in Japan, and this was the first of his novels translated into English.  It has won some awards in Japan, including the country’s most prestigious literary award.  I picked it up because the biblical reference in the title, and I noticed the author was educated at International Christian University.  I thought a Christian (maybe) novel from an Eastern perspective would be insightful.

The first two-thirds of the book were interesting, though not an exciting page turner, but the last third was dark and often confusing.  The ending was both sudden and weird, and it was unclear what the author was doing with it.

However, the most insightful thing to me was the emptiness the book portrayed.  Life, outside of God, is vain and this book paints a picture of one man’s hollow life.  Tsuyoshi Manase suffers from nightmares and memories of World War II.  The war ended when Manase was in a cave with a commanding officer killing off his troops, and a dying corporal telling him about his fascination with stones.  Eventually Manase too falls in love with stones and becomes quite an accomplished amateur geologist.  As he shrinks further and further into his fascination with geology, he becomes more and more isolated from his wife and family.  In the end, his life and the lives of his sons prove to be meaningless.

It occurred to me after finishing the book, that most of the world’s population probably views life as this novel presents it.  It is an existential, almost nihilistic, view that there is no meaning in anything.  Manase hears the following story from the dying corporal and relates it to each of his sons later in the book.  It summarizes what my earlier studies indicated to be the Eastern view of history, a cyclical, no direction no purpose, view.

Even the most ordinary pebble has the history of this heavenly body we call earth written on it. For instance, do you know how rocks are formed? Rocks are formed when red-hot magma cools and solidifies; rock erodes under the influence of wind and weather on the surface of the earth. That’s how you get stones. Stones are eventually ground into sand, sand into soil; then stones and sand and soil are carried away by streams and settle on the bottom of lakes, fens, or the sea, where they once again harden into rock. That rock crumbles and changes back into stones and sand and soil, or it may be pushed deep beneath the surface of the earth and, under the influence of heat and tremendous pressure, reborn as rock, in all shapes and sizes; or sometimes it melts into magma and returns to its origins. The form of minerals is never static, not for a second; on the contrary, it undergoes constant change. All matter is part of an unending cycle.  (pp. 2-3)

Life goes on unendingly.  There is no ultimate goal or purpose to history.  So the main point of the story seems to be.

However, we who believe there is a sovereign God controlling the universe have to believe that he has an ultimate purpose and plan, and that all history is moving toward that goal.  We have hope and purpose because ultimately God brings about his plan.  With God in the picture, life is not an empty unending cycle of all matter, but a meaningful and significant progression with a glorious end in view.

One passage I have been pondering the past few weeks is appropriate to this discussion.  “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.” Romans 8:28-30 (NASB)

King Solomon of Israel also had some thoughts related to this.  Checkout my popular post called Life Can Be Empty to see his perspective.

Grocery List Prayer

June 30, 2014 at 9:29 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, It's All About God, Prayer | Leave a comment

I have always believed in praying the scriptures, and have tried to learn more about that practice in recent days.  I have been using scripture-based prayer in all of our church prayer sessions since I took over that area of ministry a few months ago.  Daniel Henderson, prayer pastor at Mission Hills Church here in Colorado, has had a positive impact on my thinking in this regard.  Here is a great quote from an article he wrote n the “Prayer First” Newsletter from Converge Worldwide (June 2014).  It talks about “grocery list” prayer, coming to God only with a list of my requests.

Grocery list prayer, while very common, is an approach to God that stems from our persuasion that prayer exists for us to inform Him about our problems, hoping He will order the universe according to our expectations.  These expectations are usually rooted in our desire to avoid suffering or difficulty.  God is reduced to a heavenly vending machine that exists for our temporal satisfaction.

Prayer is so much more than our list.  Praying through the Psalms has been a huge help to me.  Don’t just read the Bible, pray it back to God as you read.  It might just transform your thinking about prayer, about yourself, about life, about God.

If you are interested in a conference on scripture-based prayer, check out the 64 Fellowship website.  Cathy and I are attending the conference in Denver on July 30-31.

It’s All About God — Joshua Edition

March 13, 2013 at 7:50 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Grace and Faith, It's All About God | Leave a comment

The book of Joshua is the story of God’s people entering the Promised Land.  The book makes it clear that the land the people were going in to possess was given to them by God – that it had nothing to do with their goodness but was all about his grace.  And it makes clear that they were his people by his grace and not by their choice.  The book begins with God’s first words to Joshua: “Arise, go over this Jordan, you and all the people with you, into the land that I am giving to them.” (1:2 ESV)  In that same commission are these famous words for Joshua, “I will not leave you or forsake you.  Be strong and courageous.”  The reason for this is clearly stated:  “for you shall cause this people to inherit the land that I swore to their fathers to give them.”

I underlined every reference to what God did as I read through this book this past week.  I was surprised at how often it shows up.  There is only one two-page spread where I didn’t underline anything, and that is in the list of how the land was divided between the tribes in chapters 18-21.  But even that section ends with these words: “The LORD gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. . . .  And the LORD gave them rest on every side. . . .  Not one word of all the good promises that the LORD had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass.” (21:43-45)

Finally, the book ends with a renewal of the covenant at Shechem.  Here God again reminds the people of all that he did for them.  He is the subject of the entire section.  “I took your father Abraham from beyond the river . . .  I gave him Isaac . . .  I gave Jacob . . .  I sent Moses . . .  I plagued Egypt . . .  I brought you out.”  And so it goes for 13 verses – half a page in my Bible.  That section concludes with perhaps the most famous verse in the book, Joshua’s challenge: “Choose this day whom you will serve . . .  As for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.” (24:15)

And then the people made their commitment to God.  “It is the LORD our God who brought us and our fathers up from Egypt . . .  who did those great signs in our sight. . . .  And the LORD drove out before us all the peoples who lived in the land.  Therefore we will serve the LORD, for he is our God.” (24:16-18)

This is how it always works.  God did everything for a people who didn’t deserve anything – that’s called grace.  Their choice to follow him and serve came as a result of his goodness and grace.  It isn’t the other way around.  God does it all, and he gets all the praise.

Astonished at the Majesty of God

November 14, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, It's All About God, Worship | Leave a comment

“And all were astonished at the majesty of God.”  (Luke 9:43 ESV)  These words jumped out during my quite time reading recently.  I wondered how often am I astonished at the majesty of God.  Yet if we comprehend his majesty, his might, his holiness, his grace, then we should be astonished in a major way.  Jesus had just recently healed a woman who had spent her entire 401(k) on doctors who could do nothing for her.  Just the touch of Jesus’ robe brought her complete healing (8:42-48).  Astonishing!  He went to the home of a dead girl and with only two words brought her back to life (8:49-56).  Even more astonishing!  Jesus sent out the twelve and gave them power and authority over demons and disease (9:1).  That also impressed me on the same morning: If Jesus cold give away that kind of power and never lack it himself, what kind of power and authority does he have?  Astonishing!  He took a few loaves and a few fish and fed over 5,000 people – an act of creation (9:10-17).  Even more astonishing!  Then Jesus healed a boy with a demon that his disciples (with their given-by-Jesus authority) could not (9:37-42).  Astonishing!

No wonder all were astonished.  So I had to ask myself, “Does Jesus astonish me?  Or am I so used to these stories that I simply don’t react any more?”  Jesus is astonishingly powerful and astonishingly majestic.  Yet I often miss it.

It was in that context of thought that the next words jumped out to me as well.  “But while they were all marveling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.’” (Luke 9:43-44 ESV).  The most marvelous thing about Jesus is not the miracles he performed while walking on earth; the most marvelous thing about Jesus is what he came to earth to accomplish.  Let this sink into your ears, he said; something more marvelous than all these astonishing miracles is about to take place.  I will be put to death by the authorities (9:44, see also 9:21-22).

I should marvel at the amazing power and authority of Jesus, but I should marvel even more at what he accomplished in his death.  He purchased my forgiveness and life in full.  “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!”  Amen.

True Worshipers

June 15, 2012 at 11:07 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, It's All About God, Worship | 2 Comments

John 3-4.  These two chapters are full of some pretty incredible things.  There is so much that could be written, said, preached about them:  There is Jesus’ talk about being “born again;” there is the most famous verse in the Bible (3:16), a verse that presents the Gospel in a sentence; that is followed by 3:20-21, a statement that has fascinated me in recent years – those who trust Jesus show their works to be done by God; there is John’s incredible statement, “He must become greater and I must become less (3:30); there is a contrast between those who believe and those who do not in 3:36, a verse that convinced me once and for all that punishment is in store for those who don’t know Jesus; these are followed by the amazing story of the Samaritan woman at the well in chapter 4, which includes Jesus’ teaching about giving the living water (4:13-14), Jesus’ only direct claim to be the Messiah other than his testimony under oath (4:26), and a passage which demonstrates that Jesus was all-knowing (4:18, 29); these chapters possibly include the first non-Jews to believe that Jesus was the Savior of the world (4:42); and finally,there is an official’s son whom Jesus healed from a distance (4:49-53).

However, I was pondering 4:23, where Jesus said to the woman at the well that true worshipers worship the Father in spirit and in truth.  The Jews and Samaritans had a debate about proper worship, whether it should be done on the Samaritan mountain where Abraham built his altar, or in Jerusalem where Solomon built the temple.  Jesus seemed to say that place didn’t matter as much as the heart of the worshiper.  Today we also have debates about worship, whether it should be done in this or that style.  I think Jesus would say that style doesn’t matter near as much as the heart of the worshiper.  As I age, I hope I can worship with any style the people I worship with use.  I hope I can worship with any age group no matter the music they use, as long as it is God-exalting music.  I hope I age with a heart of worship rather than with a form I happen to like.

With that thought, I love the words of this song we sing occasionally on Sunday:  “I’ll give you more than a song, for a song in itself is not what you have required.  You look much deeper within, through the way things appear; you’re looking into my heart.  I’m coming back to the heart of worship, and it’s all about you.  I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it when it’s all about you, it’s all about you Jesus.”

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