Salvation

The Greatest Gift

greatest gift

Whether we like to admit it or not. We all like gifts. The thing I like about children is that they are way more honest than most adults. Adults talk about the “true meaning” of Christmas and pretend that they don’t get excited about the presents they see wrapped up under the tree with their name on it. But, I have good news for us all, we can stop pretending. It’s okay to get excited about gifts, because God designed us that way. Not only did God design us to like gifts but he gave us the greatest gift of all, His own Son.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” -John 3:16

This verse is by far one of the most familiar verses in all of the Bible. Even people who don’t read their Bibles or don’t know anything about the Bible have heard this verse, and what a beautiful verse it is. I was speaking to a pastor friend of mine recently about this verse, and the gift of Jesus, and he made the point that he thinks sometimes people don’t understand why it is that Jesus is a gift.

To answer this question fully would take way more time than a single blog would allow, but I think the book of Romans helps us to shed some light on the question at hand. Romans 3:23 tells us that, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”

Every person reading these words right now has sinned against God. The Bible time and time again tells us that God is Holy. Since God is Holy, he cannot dwell in the presence of sin. Most of us would like to believe that God could just look past our sins or just “get over it.” But to do that would violate who He was as God. So, if we know and believe that God is indeed Holy, but we are sinful, and that God and sin cannot dwell together, then that creates an obvious problem.

But, here is the amazing thing. Romans 5:6, “…Christ died for the ungodly.” In Romans 5:8 the Apostle Paul said it like this, “…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

I can’t think of a more beautiful picture or a more wonderful thing to celebrate this Christmas than the fact that a Holy God would love sinners so much that He would give his only Son to the world. Many times when we read John 3:16 we think of God “giving” Jesus to the world simply in terms of his birth, or maybe even his life and ministry while on earth. And while the birth of Jesus, His incarnation and everything that flowed from that is an amazing thing, and something we should celebrate…God went even further than that.

Not only did God send His Son Jesus to be born into a world of sin and to live amongst sinners and to teach us about God and do all of the amazing miracles that He did. But God the Father actually sent His Son to earth to die for sinners. Christmas isn’t simply about the cute baby Jesus in a manger, but it is also about a Roman Cross and the death of our Savior for us. It is about Jesus coming to earth to take upon Himself the sins of His people.

God gave His Son to the world so that we might believe in Him and receive eternal life. Is there a greater gift than this?

Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

You and me, through our sin we earned death. But God has gifted us with His Son Jesus, and in Him Eternal life. In Matthew 7:11 Jesus says, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

Friend, the greatest gift God could give us is His Son Jesus. My question this Christmas season to you is, have you received this gift? Those of us who have children know, there are few joys greater than giving our children gifts. God feels the same way about his children, and if you are yet to ask him for this gift of eternal life that only comes through Jesus, I ask you today to come to Him and ask. It is a gift. There is nothing you can do to earn it, the gift is free…all you have to do is ask.

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Is Calvinism in the bible?

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If you are looking for the name Calvin, well…no, you won’t find  Calvinism. But Calvin didn’t invent anything new. In Calvin’s writings,  and teachings, he simply taught about a sovereign God who is in control  of every aspect of life and faith.Salvation is certainly a part of that.  This idea didn’t start with Calvin, it started with God, and you see  this idea throughout Scripture.

 I think the big question we have to ask  ourselves is this: Is God actively working out all things for the good  and the joy of his people for his own glory, OR is he up in heaven just  standing by, hoping that we are going to make the right choices? Is God  and his will the center of all things, or is it man and his will. This  doesn’t eliminate human responsibility: as clear as the Bible is about  God’s sovereignty it is equally clear about man’s need for repentance and need to turn to God. The big question there is, do we repent and  turn to God, then receive the Holy Spirit as the seal of our  salvation…OR…is this repentance a result of God actively changing our hearts in order to make us into new creatures, and into the likeness of Christ?

 So here are some things I think we should ask ourselves:

 Is man able to do anything in order to save himself apart from  God?(Total Depravity) I think Romans 3:11 and John 3:3(amongst many  others) are clear that man cannot save himself if God does not do  something to change his heart, because ultimately the issue isn’t our  deeds, but our heart.

 Is there anything within man, or any merit on the part of man that  causes God to save him, or is salvation completely of God’s  grace?(Unconditional Election) Romans 9:16 says no, salvation is all about grace…and not about anything that man does or can do. Also see  Romans 8:29,30 and Ephesians 1&2.

 Did Christ’s atonement cover the sins for all mankind, or did his  atoning blood only atone for the sins of the elect?(limited atonement)  I’m not saying anything about the sufficiency of Christ’s blood to atone(who can limit Christ?)…I’m simply asking, did Jesus’ blood cover  all of man, or only those whom the Father gave him? (John 6:37-39)  Didn’t Jesus himself say, ” Many are called, but few are chosen…”(Matthew 22:14) There is certainly an offer for salvation to all  men, but obviously all men are not saved. But Jesus clearly says in John 6 that “All that the Father gives me will come to me…”

 Are we saved because we cooperate with God? If God chooses to save  us, can we resist His will?(irresistible grace) Scripture says in  Ephesians 2 that we are spiritually dead apart from God and his grace. So my question is, what can a dead man do? Nothing. Did Lazarus do  anything to contribute to his resurrection, or to his being made alive,  or was it all a result of Jesus calling him forth from the grave? A dead  person can’t contribute anything to life…this is obviously true in the  physical world, it is no less true in the Spiritual. Again, as Jesus  said, “You must be born again”(John 3:3)…but where does this birth come  from? God of course…Does a newborn contribute to his being born? No, and  neither do we contribute to our new birth. But like a newborn, we will  breathe this new life we have in Christ. That is our human  responsibility.

 If God does save us, will any of those whom he has saved fall away?(perseverance of the saints) Does God grant salvation and then take  it away? Does God pour out his love then snatch it back? Romans 8:35  asks the question, “What can separate us from the love of Christ?” The  answer is NOTHING. Actually all of Romans 8 is a beautiful testament to  this fact…But what does Jesus also say? We talked about it earlier…John  6:37, “All that the Father gives to me WILL come to me, and whoever comes to me I will NEVER cast out.” What about John 10:28-29, “I give  them eternal life and they will NEVER perish, and NO ONE will snatch  them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater  than all, and NO ONE is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand….”

 All of this being said, I think the Bible indeed speaks of what  today, and has historically been called Calvinism. BUT, this should not  be a point of contention amongst brothers and sisters in Christ. Many  people who love God very much have rejected Calvinism. We need not  ascribe to Calvinism or any system of theology, but what we must do is  love God, love Jesus, and serve Him with all that we are. We don’t have  to agree on John Calvin, but all should be able to agree on the beauty  of who Jesus is…knowing we are all brothers and sisters in Christ, and  knowing that we all share the grace he has poured out on us, ought to  move us to love one another without throwing rocks, or arguing over  non-essentials.

 There is a place to talk about theology, which is what  I’ve done here…but whether anyone agrees or disagrees with my  understanding of the Scriptures does not determine or measure where we  are in our walks with Christ, or make any of us less a child of God. We all have equal footing at the cross…

For a much more eloquent defense of Calvinism, read Spurgeon’s ‘A Defense of Calvinism’.

Gospel Living

Gospel Living…

“…to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.”
(Titus 3:1-2 ESV)

Why?

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. ”
(Titus 3:3-7 ESV)

And furthermore…

“The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people.”
(Titus 3:8 ESV)

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits…

What I am meditating on as Easter approaches…

Job 14:14

“Can the dead live again? If so, this would give me hope through all my years of struggle, and I would eagerly await the release of death.”

Psalm 130

“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord! O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy! If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared.

I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I hope; my soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen for the morning, more than watchmen for the morning.

O Israel, hope in the Lord! For with the Lord there is steadfast love, and with him is plentiful redemption. And he will redeem Israel from all his iniquities.”

The wisdom of children: Another lesson from my kids…

I posted this on the Facebook page of a Christian that I truly respect (Ed Stetzer) the other day, and thought it deserved a mention here on my blog. Ed made the comment, “The Bible is all red letters…It’s all about Jesus and it’s all Spirit inspired.”

His comment reminded me of something I had just spoken with my wife about a few days earlier. Here was my response:

“I was actually telling my wife the other day, I think our 22 month old twins have it right…Every time they pick up their little Bibles, they say “Deedus”, or “Sheezus”, depending on which one asks, and they bring it over to me and climb in my lap…When they bring their Bibles to me, they want me to show them Jesus. I told my wife, they really have it right…Every time they open their Bibles they want to see Jesus, they expect to see Jesus..I think more of us need to have this attitude…”

Jesus Himself said that the Scriptures were about Him, and bore witness of Him. (Luke 24:27, John 5:39) When we open our Bibles, we ought to be doing the same thing as my sons Noah and Caleb, and looking for Jesus. The Scriptures all point to Jesus in some way. It warms my heart so much when I hear those little voices calling out the name of my Savior Jesus, (Deedus, Sheezus). I pray one day they will call out His name, as their own Savior, I pray that same prayer for all of my children. Just imagine, if it warms my heart so much, imagine how much it warms the heart of Christ…

“Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.” -Mark 10:14-16

“And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, “Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise?” – Matthew 21:16

You should be in hell right now…

When’s the last time you stopped and thought “I should be in hell right now.” Francis Chan

That is very powerful statement made by Francis Chan. So what say you?

It’s true you know. We all should be in hell, but because of the unbelievable love and mercy of God, poured out to us through Christ, we aren’t, and don’t have to be, if we put our trust in what He has done…So what say you?

Romans 3:23-25 “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by His blood, to be received by faith.”

Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Purchased for a purpose…

I mentioned in one of my recent blogs, “Post with a purpose” that there would be another related post coming soon. I had hoped to write this sooner, but as often happens in my life, it took a little longer than expected. Either way, here it is…

I wrote in my former blog about how all things, including people are created with a purpose in mind, by a creator, to serve their creator’s purposes. I also wrote of what happens when those things and people do not serve the purposes that they are created for. I don’t feel the need to go too deep into those points in this post, so please visit my former post if you want to read further.

In the same way that we as created beings were created with a particular purpose in mind, we also who have been saved by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, have been purchased with a certain purpose in mind. To some that may be an odd choice of words, “purchased”, but that is precisely how the Apostle Paul viewed it. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” Paul here is making the two points that I want to make in this post. One, that we are not our own, we have been bought with the blood of Christ. Two, we were purchased by Christ, for the purpose of glorifying God.

This is a tough concept for many to swallow, even Christians. But the fact is that we are never truly our own. Our world doesn’t like this fact, but it is true. We all like to feel like we are in control, doing our own thing, making ourselves happy, and we really don’t like to answer to anyone. This was the sin that caused the undoing of our first parents, Adam and Eve, and sadly we continue to repeat it daily. The Bible gives us, or at least it is for me, a startling revelation about what we are truly doing when we are following after our own desires and not the desires of God, our creator. Read Ephesians 2. In Verses 1-3, Paul tells us that when we are following after the passions of this world, and the desires of our bodies, and the passions of our flesh, we are really serving Satan (the prince of the power of the air). Think about what he is saying here. When we are not serving God, when we are not serving Christ, we are really serving Satan. Paul refers to those not serving God as “sons of disobedience” and “children of wrath”. Very simply put, you either belong to Christ, or you belong to Satan. There really is no in between.

Thank God Ephesians doesn’t end there, and it goes on to tell us that God is rich in mercy, and loved us, and sent Christ to save us. We have now been reconciled to God, and are now part of His household. What a glorious promise…I encourage everyone to read through Ephesians 2.

So now let me attempt to sum up as quickly as possible, and take a look at a few more bits of Scripture. We as created beings were created with a purpose, to Glorify God. Sin entered the world through Adam and Eve (See Genesis 3) and many since that time, have tried to serve themselves, while in reality they are really serving Satan (Ephesians 2:2). By the grace of God however, we as Christians have been reconciled to Himself, through His Son Jesus Christ. We have been bought at a price, the very blood of Jesus, in order that we might glorify God. (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

A couple more passages of Scripture come to my mind as I reflect on what I’ve read and what I’ve written. Read Romans 12. Paul starts off the Chapter with these words, “I appeal to you therefore brothers by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” He goes on in the rest of Romans 12, to show us how that works itself out in our lives. A must read for all who claim the name of Christ.

Another passage that comes to mind is 2 Corinthians 5:15, “and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.” Christ died so that we would no longer live for ourselves, or as Ephesians 2 explains further, for Satan, but so that we would live for Him (Christ), the one who died for us, and who was raised from the dead.

I’m going to end here, but think of how Paul, and the other Apostles viewed themselves. Paul in his letters constantly referred to himself as a slave, or a bondservant of Christ. You will find similar language from the other Apostles such as Peter and James as well. They knew whom they belonged to…I hope now, no I pray now, that perhaps, I and you the reader will have a more accurate picture of who we belong to as well. More than anything if we are Christians, if we belong to Christ, I pray that we will live like it. If there is one out there reading this, and they are seeking to serve themselves, and are on that path to destruction while serving Satan, I pray they might seek the grace of God, that he has offered through Christ, and turn to Him right now, and become His child.

God bless.