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.

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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.

 

Help My Unbelief!

February 10, 2011 at 11:44 am | Posted in Devotional thoughts, Security and Assurance | 5 Comments

Here are two follow up thoughts on my recent article called No Condemnation.

In my Reformation Overview study this week, we discussed the matter of Sola Scriptura, the belief that the Bible is our sole authority in the church and in our Christian lives.  At the end, someone prayed “Lord, open our eyes to the times and the ways which we don’t accept the Bible as our authority.”   Having just had some conversations about assurance and having just written an article about it, it occurred to me that the assurance issue is for many an issue of biblical authority.  Many people who struggle with assurance are really struggling with this foundational matter.  They are counting feelings and perceptions as more authoritative than the truths of God’s Word; they believe how they feel rather than what God says.  Believing what God says is a matter of will, not a matter of feelings.  We must decide to take what God says seriously, regardless of what we feel or what we perceive to the contrary.  God says it, therefore it’s true.  The feelings may or may not follow after, but the truth remains the same.

The second thought should encourage those who struggle with biblical authority over feelings and perceptions.  This morning I read Mark 8 and 9 in my devotions, and one of my favorite unnamed biblical characters appears in the second of those chapters.  He is a father whose son has had a demon since childhood which had “often cast him into fire and into water to destroy him.”  After pleading with Jesus to do something about it, Jesus said, “All things are possible for one who believes.”  The man’s response to that is forever preserved in scripture, I think, for our encouragement.  He says, “I believe; help my unbelief!”  As though he knew he had to believe Jesus, but wasn’t sure he fully believed, he did what all of us must do in that situation, cry out to Jesus for help.  That is true faith.  Often when we struggle with a lack of faith, we somehow think we have to try harder to believe more.  But that action is the very denial of faith.  When you struggle believing, confess it to Jesus and ask him to help your unbelief.

No Condemnation

January 27, 2011 at 11:04 am | Posted in God's Love, Security and Assurance | 4 Comments

I am often asked questions about security and doubt, and I usually answer by pointing people to the tenses in the New Testament.  I have referenced many of these in the past; a check of the security and assurance tab on the right will show some of those articles.  I’ve been reading Romans in my devotions this week and have found numerous verses that assure our salvation by the tenses Paul used.  Those in Christ already have the benefits of salvation, because God has already declared it or done it.  I will keep my comments here to the eighth chapter.  If you are a follower of Christ who struggles with doubts, meditate on these passages with special focus on the tenses.

The key verse is Romans 8:1.  “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”  Notice that this is true – it is not just a possibility; and notice that is true now – it is not for some indefinite time in the future.  The reason is given in the next verse, “for the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”  Notice, that if you are in Christ, you are already set free from the law of sin and death.  Your sin does not result in death because that law no longer applies to you.  Now Christ righteousness applies to you instead!  God has already done what the Law could not do (v.3).  “By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us.” (v.4)  He already did it; it’s a done deal.

If some try to argue that these things can be undone, they haven’t read the rest of the eighth chapter, where Paul, anticipating such an argument, asks numerous questions:  If God is for us who can be against us?  Who can bring a charge against God’s elect?  If God justifies, who can condemn?  What can separate us from the love of God?  The answer to all of these is an emphatic no one or nothing.  In fact, in all these things, “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” – it doesn’t say we will be or can be but that we are.  (Read vv, 28-39)

May the assurance offered in God’s Word penetrate your mind and spirit so that you may fully trust in his truth.  I pray that you will know the amazing grace of God in Christ.

 

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