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.

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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.

The Sovereign Lord Who Bought Them

March 25, 2013 at 4:38 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, False teaching, Security and Assurance, Theology | 7 Comments

While recently reviewing verses I’d learned in the past, I was struck by some thoughts from 2 Peter 2:1.  In spite of the chapter change, this verse is a follow up to the argument in chapter 1:12-21, which is, in my mind, the definitive chapter about the inspiration of God’s word.  Peter tells us that Christians will have two sources for knowing the truth when he and the other apostles are gone.  The first is the accounts of those who were eye-witnesses of Jesus (which we call the New Testament) and the second is the word of the prophets (which we know as the Old Testament).  See 2 Peter 3:1-2 for a similar description.  But in the beginning of chapter 2, Peter tells us the negative or warning side of that matter.  Just as there were false prophets in the Old Testament days, so there will be false teachers in the New Testament days.

“But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you.  They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them – bringing swift destruction on themselves.” (2 Peter 2:1 NIV)

I had three thoughts as I pondered these words.  First, the language makes one wonder if the position of teacher has, in the New Testament era, replaced the role of prophet from the Old.  Today the main method God uses of getting his word to his people is not prophets speaking forth his word so much as teachers expounding what he has already given.  Second, I noticed what is denied by the false teachers of the New Testament era.  They deny the sovereign Lord who bought them.  This should be no surprise, because so many false teachings deny the sovereignty of Jesus.  Whenever someone says Jesus is not fully God, that person is a false teacher.  But, third, they deny the sovereign Lord who bought them.  Notice, as I often point out when it comes to salvation issues in the New Testament, that the tense is past; the purchase has already taken place.  Anyone who denies that God’s people are already redeemed, and were so at the cross, also runs the risk of being a false teacher.  Teachers of the true gospel know that we are redeemed, that we have been purchased, that salvation of God’s people is already guaranteed.  There is such great security in knowing my redemption took place at the cross, for then it is dependent on God’s unbreakable promise and not on my wavering faith and weak commitments.

God Hears, Remembers, Sees, and Knows

January 23, 2013 at 5:35 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, God's Love, Security and Assurance | 2 Comments

God’s people thought he’d forgotten and abandoned them.  They were suffering in slavery, and the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were long forgotten in their experience.  But the text says, “During those many days the king of Egypt died, and the people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and cried out for help.  Their cry for rescue from slavery came up to God.  And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob.  God saw the people of Israel – and God knew.”  Exodus 2:23-25 (ESV)  The very next words begin the famous story of God calling Moses through the burning bush.

I love that string of verbs with God as the subject.  God heard; God remembered; God saw; God knew.  Isn’t that powerful?  Whatever situation his people are in, God hears; God remembers his covenant; God sees their struggles and God knows.  He knows both the situation his people are in and what he is going to do about it.  In the Exodus story, he had already put the pieces in motion by saving Moses’ life, by raising him with both the culture of royal Egypt and the God of the Hebrew people, and by moving him from Egypt to Midian.  When he appeared to Moses, God told him, “I have surely seen . . . and have heard . . . I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them” (3:7-8).  Later when Moses’ first attempt failed and he again doubted himself, God reminded him, “I have heard the groaning of the people of Israel . . . I have remembered my covenant.” (6:5)

Wherever you are in life, God hears his people; he remembers his covenant; he sees what is happening; he knows.  Rest in that comfort.

Abraham and Isaac; Assurance and Prosperity

January 10, 2012 at 10:38 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, False teaching, Security and Assurance | 1 Comment

January 10, 2012  Here is a thought from my devotions that should encourage us in our self doubts and reveal the fallacy of the popular prosperity gospel.  Those who say God blesses our faithfulness with material prosperity imply that those who are not wealthy don’t have enough faith.  That teaching leads to many self doubts among the non-wealthy; it makes them think they are not wealthy because of their sin or lack of faith.  As I read Genesis yesterday, it occurred to me that each time Abraham or Isaac sinned, the story of the sin was followed by a mention of God’s prospering them, yet Genesis never says they were repentant or even that they changed their ways so God would honor them with wealth.  It simply tells us God blessed them with wealth (you should read here “in spite of their sin!”).  In other words, God’s material blessing of Abraham and Isaac was a matter of sovereign grace and not a matter of faithfulness.

Notice the pattern:  In chapter 12 verses 11-13, Abraham calls Sarai his sister and not his wife.  In verse 16 Abraham was treated well for her sake and Pharaoh gave him livestock and servants; in other words, Abraham was blessed financially because he lied about his wife.  In verses 19-20 Pharaoh discovers the lie and sends Abraham away, but the very next paragraph (13:1-2) tells us that Abraham became even more wealthy.  When Abraham lied about his wife the second time, he was again blessed with livestock, slaves and silver (ch20).  Finally, when Isaac follows his father’s sin and calls Rebekah his sister, the discovery of the lie is once again followed by a statement of the man’s wealth (26:1-13).  In later years we could add Jacob to this list.  Though he and his father-in-law were constantly trying to out deceive each other, Jacob was made a rich man.  God blessed these men because he chose to do so and promised that he would.  He fulfilled that promise, not because of their faithfulness, but in because of his faithfulness in the midst of their unfaithfulness.

That should encourage those of us who doubt God’s promise because of our sin and unfaithfulness.  God keeps his word, in spite of us.  When the Bible says those who trust in Jesus have eternal life, it is true, even when we sin.

Security and Christmas

December 16, 2011 at 11:49 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Security and Assurance | Leave a comment

I am often asked questions about security issues:  “How do I know for sure I’m saved?” and “Can a Christian lose his/her salvation?”  In answer to the last question, I often point out the tenses used in the NT to describe the salvation of those who trust in Christ.  A scan of the posts in the security and assurance link will reveal some of those thoughts.  Here is another interesting use of tenses in the NT that reveals the security we have, and it’s also a great Christmas season reminder.  In his second letter Paul encourages Timothy not to be ashamed of “the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner,” then he adds the positive, “but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God.” (2 Tim 1:9 ESV) That’s great encouragement, but the description of what God has done which follows is very instructive.  He “saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began.”  Notice the tense of the verbs, “he saved,” “he called,” and “he gave;” things that are already completed.  But just so you wouldn’t miss the point, Paul tells us it was completed “before the ages began.”  If you trust is Jesus, then you were given grace before the ages began.  You were in God’s plan from eternity, and nothing in time can change that.

The reason this is a great Christmas passage is because of verse 10 that follows.  This grace, which was already given to us, “now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.”  Jesus’ coming to earth, his life, death and resurrection (i.e. the gospel), was a revelation in time of God’s eternal grace.  That is why the whole Christmas story is such good news.  God’s grace makes it all worth celebrating!

So I close with my favorite Christmas verse: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”  (2 Cor 8:9 ESV)  Have a merry Christmas, secure in God’s grace.

Salvation by Grace through Faith? Look at the Overwhelming Evidence!

April 18, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Posted in False teaching, Grace and Faith, Questions for Pastor Glenn, Security and Assurance, Theology | 8 Comments

Do we really believe that God offers salvation freely by his grace, and that our part is simply to trust in his provision?  I am so often hit with questions about this matter that I thought I would post many or these references together.  There are those who teach that we must practice certain things or go through certain rituals to be saved.  But what does the Bible say?  Look at the overwhelming evidence in this matter.  Notice that there are not just a few verses pulled out of context but some long passages and references from four of the major authors of the New Testament.

From Luke:

Acts 2:21;  Acts 4:4;  Acts 10:43;  Acts 13:38-39;  Acts 14:1, 27;  Acts 15:6-11;  Acts 16:29-31;  Acts 18:27;  Acts 20:21;  Acts 26:12-18.

From Paul:

Romans 1:16-17;  Romans 3:21-26, 27-30;  Romans 4:1-25;  Romans 5:1-11;  Romans 10:9-13;  Galatians 2:15-21;  Galatians 3:1-15;  Galatians 5:2-6;  Ephesians 1:13-14;  Ephesians 2:8-10;  2 Timothy 3:14-15;  Titus 3:3-7.

From John:

John 1:10-13;  John 3:14-17, 18, 36;  John 5:24;  John 6:28-29, 35, 40, 47;  John 7:37-39;  John 8:24;  John 11:25-26;  John 12:44-46;  John 20:30-31;  1 John 5:11-13.

From Peter:

1 Peter 1:3-5, 18-21;  1 Peter 2:6-10.

Maybe you never realized the Bible was so overwhelmingly clear.  Maybe you’ve run across this post because you’re under the teaching of someone who wants you to sign on his program or get baptized by his church because, he tells you, it’s the only way you can be saved, and he’s quoted to you a few obscure verses twisted to his purposes.  Maybe you think you’re saved because you were baptized or you’ve done many good works or you walked down a church aisle one day.  Maybe you’re trusting in yourself and what you can do.  The Bible is unmistakably clear on this matter:  Salvation is a gift of God’s grace through our trust in Jesus.  All that must be paid for our salvation has been paid by Jesus.  When you trust in him you are eternally saved from your sin.  Put your trust in Jesus today.

“Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned.  He has crossed over from death to life.”  –Jesus

Christian Suicide

April 5, 2011 at 10:02 am | Posted in It's All About God, Questions for Pastor Glenn, Security and Assurance | 4 Comments

To my readers: I would encourage you to also read the comments section of this post.  Some friends with greater understanding than mine have written some wise words about this topic. –Pastor Glenn

I received the following e-mail from an unnamed source whose address began with Q, so I will simply call the person Q.  Pray for Q if you feel so led.  Maybe some others need this information as well.

Pastor Glenn,

I was wondering if you could tell me what the Bible says about a Christian taking his own life?  Would that person go to heaven or go to hell?  I was wondering if you could back it up with scripture?  I’ve contemplated this for long time and have come to no conclusion. I really need to know. Please help.

Thank you for your time!

Dear Q,

The Bible doesn’t say much about suicide directly, although much of what the Bible says impacts our understanding of that topic.  But your asking about it makes me wonder why.  I can understand that you might be in great physical or emotional pain, and I feel for you.  But God in his grace can help you deal with life and come out of your darkness.

With that said, I can only imagine four reasons why someone would ponder such a decision.  The first reason would be that you don’t know Jesus.  In other words you may not be a Christian in the Biblical sense of the word.  When someone trusts in Jesus, the Bible assures us that God’s Spirit comes into that person’s life and gives them a reason to live.  The manifestation of the Spirit in one’s life is joy and peace.  Maybe you aren’t trusting Jesus but are trusting in your religion, or your good works, or in your friends or family’s faith.  True salvation means turning our backs on everything we would seek life in and trusting totally in Jesus.

Second, you might ponder that decision because, though you have trusted Jesus, you haven’t learned what He means in your life.  He really does give abundance and meaning, but such meaning is for his glory and not our own.  Life really is all about God and not about us.  Suicide is the ultimate selfishness.  It looks at life from one’s own perspective regardless of God’s view and the feelings of others.  Take time to read the NT passages about who we are “in Christ,”  and spend a lot of time in the Psalms.  The authors of the Psalms are brutally honest about struggles and darkness in their lives, yet they always come back to God’s steadfast love and faithfulness.  Please read the first 50 Psalms numerous times in the next few months, even if you don’t think this is the reason for your question.

Third, you might ponder suicide because you have been oppressed by the demonic.  If this is the case, you need to get help from someone who knows God’s Word and has dealt with these situations before.

The only other reason I can think of giving rise to such ponderings is an imbalance in your own system that requires medical attention.  Though I tend to think the professional counseling community overemphasizes this, it is still a real possibility.  This too requires some professional help.

If you are a Christian, as you say you are, then God has a great plan for your life.  Your life is much more than the problems you face.  You have the amazing opportunity to be apart of something so much bigger, an opportunity to impact those around you for all eternity.  Focus on God and his plan rather than your self and your struggles.

Whatever may be happening, and whatever the reason, get some help.  Those who truly know Jesus will welcome you with grace rather than condemnation and will help you discover God’s purpose in your life.

In the grip of His grace,

Pastor Glenn

For another perspective on this matter, please check out my article called, Life Can Be Empty.

Saved to the Uttermost

March 10, 2011 at 9:36 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Security and Assurance | Leave a comment

We can add to the previous post the amazing promises of God that follow in the next few chapters.  These words about Jesus’ accomplishments are our anchor in God:

He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him.  …  He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.  …  He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance.  …  Christ entered heaven itself now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.  …  He appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.  …  Christ offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins.  …  By a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.

Those in Christ are saved to the uttermost; they already have eternal redemption; their sin has been put away; they have been perfected.  Amen!

Wonderful grace of Jesus, greater than all my sin;
How shall my tongue describe it, where shall its praise begin?
Taking away my burden, setting my spirit free,
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.
Wonderful grace of Jesus, reaching to all the lost,
By it I have been pardoned, saved to the uttermost;
Chains have been torn asunder, giving me liberty;
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.
Wonderful grace of Jesus, reaching the most defiled,
By its transforming power, making him God’s dear child,
Purchasing peace and heaven, for all eternity;
For the wonderful grace of Jesus reaches me.

Secured within the Veil

March 8, 2011 at 5:06 pm | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Security and Assurance | 1 Comment

I’ve done a good job showing off my ignorance of maritime matters in recent days.  On Sunday I misstated how soundings were done to measure the depths of the sea.  Something true I’ve never learned and something false I’ve assumed for years came together to make a false statement in my message.  Fortunately, it was a trivia matter from the passage, and had nothing to do with the meaning and application.  Then on Monday, my small group was talking about anchors in the Bible, and I misstated that an anchor doesn’t necessarily land on the bottom to hold a ship.  Later I realized that was a silly thing to say.  It was in my mind because of the passage I’d just read in Acts 27, “fearing that they would run aground on the Syrtis, they lowered the gear (footnote: sea anchor), and thus they were driven along.”  Anchors don’t always touch bottom, but can be used to slow a ship’s progress in an undesirable direction; however that certainly wouldn’t hold a ship in place.  To hold the ship, an anchor would have to be secured to something solid – something with more strength than the waves and wind trying to move the ship.

In light of those embarrassing misstatements, I read an interesting passage in my devotions this morning.  “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.  It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf.”  (Hebrews 6:19-20)  The promises of God are sure; the hope they give us is our anchor, and that anchor is lodged behind the veil in the inner sanctuary.  In other words our anchor is lodged in the very presence of God – in something with more strength than any problem or sin or temptation or devil can ever have.

The same passage declares that God’s promises are three-times certain.  They are sure because God’s purposes cannot change; because God confirmed them with an oath; and because God cannot lie. (Hebrews 6:17-18)  That is great security.  No matter what winds or waves may batter us, those who trust in Jesus are secured behind the veil.

 

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