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NOVEMBER 2007

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Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.

 

Sometimes I preach and teach the Gospel in congregations where we would expect that everyone is saved. I do this to confirm those who are believers and because the Gospel that saves us is also the Gospel that restores our fellowship with the Lord when we are away from the Lord. I have had some interesting experiences because I have done this.

Older people have told me that they never knew that they could be fully assured that they were saved on this side of eternity. They didn't realize that the Bible was written so that we might know and not hope that we have eternal life. 

Some people tell me that they invite the Lord into their hearts over and over again to make sure that they are saved. When I tell them that they shouldn't have to do that if they have really trusted in Christ, they look at me like I am from Mars.

I have spoken on John 5:24 and have emphasized that when you trust Christ you HAVE everlasting life. I have had very elderly people come to me and ask where that verse was in the Bible and then mark it down. They seem to be hearing it for the first time.

I have discussions with people after I tell them how I was reached with the Gospel asking me to explain how I could have believed that the Gospel was true from the time I was young and not be a Biblical believer until I was twenty years old. They don't seem to understand the difference between believing that the Bible is true and actually trusting in the promise of salvation by grace through faith in Christ.

Some people tell me that they have always believed. That means that they were born in faith and were not born in sin and unbelief. They were never lost. I understand that many people never marked a date on their calendar when they were saved. Many young people don't remember coming to Christ with the same vivid memories as Paul did who was saved on the Damascus road, but Biblical doctrine says that we are lost before we are saved. We weren't always believers. When we trust Christ, we are saved, born again and converted. Those things happen at a point in time.

I am going to start asking my friends privately how many of them actually believe in eternal conscious punishment for the unbeliever. I get the impression from the literature I read that warning people that they might be going to hell is counter productive. It is all right to warn them about cancer, global warming, drinking and driving, and smoking; but it is apparently not cool to warn them to flee from the wrath to come (Matthew 3:7). 

I am convinced that the Gospel is still the power of God unto salvation to all who believe it. The unsaved need it and the Christians should enjoy it. The Gospel should never seem like stale manna to us. By the grace of God, I am going to continue teaching it and preaching it as the Lord gives me opportunity. Sometimes the people who are blessed are the ones that we would least expect to benefit from it.

Meditation for the week of November 4, 2007

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NKJV)

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

 

Love in the sense of charity is what makes the world and the people in it attractive. Hate is what makes the world a dangerous place. Love is what we are supposed to have for God. However, we find that we wouldn't love Him if He hadn't first loved us (1John 4:19). This kind of love is not feeling so much as doing. It is not emotion so much as devotion. But true love will lead to the right feelings and emotions. Love is what God is. It is not just what He does, it is what He is (1 John 4:8). And God says that without love, we are completely worthless. Profitless. A big zero. 

Our passage in 1 Corinthians 13 is part of Paul's essay on love. The part we have quoted defines love and has fifteen characteristics. Love:
1.Suffers long-that is, love is patient. 
2.Is kind-that is, love considers the feelings of others.
3.Does not envy-that is, love is satisfied.
4.Does not parade itself-love does not brag.
5.Is not puffed up-love does not fill us with pride.
6.Is not rude-love recognizes that how we say what we say is important.
7.Is not self-centered-love puts the interest of others first.
8.Is not provoked-Love is not quick to get angry. 
9.Thinks no evil-Love does not have a depraved mind and does not keep a list of wrongs.
10.Does not rejoice in iniquity-Love is not happy when sin and sinners win and is grieved by sin.
11.Rejoices in the Truth-Love is glad when the truth prevails
12.Bears all things-Love endures circumstances without complaining.
13.Believes all things-Love does not automatically assume that everyone is lying. This does not mean that we always believe people who we know have a reason to lie.
14.Hopes all things-Love has a positive attitude. Love expects things to work out.
15.Endures all things-Love perseveres under trial.

Most of us would recognize that we don't live up to these standards. I know that I am not very patient, that sometimes I envy others, sometimes I am proud even though normally I am proud of the fact that I am not proud. I don't always put others first and I certainly don't always expect things to work out. My motto is “If anything can go wrong, it will go wrong!” 

But there is someone like this. His name is Jesus. I call Him Lord. I know that when you study the old testament, there are times when God does not seem very loving. However, if you believe, as I do, that God is seen in Christ, then we who have trusted in Christ worship the God of love who does not hate. Christ proved His love by taking the punishment that our sins deserved on Himself. In the old testament we see a lot of God's justice and judgment mixed with His grace. In the new testament we see a lot of His grace with a reminder that if we reject that grace, we are going to experience God's judgment and justice. 

A lot of things are wrong in this world. We need to be reminded that sin is the cause of those wrongs. Satan is the source of sin, and he hates and murders. Because God is love, He has been long suffering with those who serve sin instead of righteousness (See Romans 6). Love has to eradicate sin so at some point Satan will be doomed as will those who follow him. I am looking forward to the sinless society of heaven where Christ and love reign. Satan and hate will no longer be able to control us there. That will be a great place!


Meditation for the week of November 11, 2007

Isaiah 55:6-7 (NKJV) Seek the LORD while He may be found, Call upon Him while He is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the LORD, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.

 

Norman Mailer was a respected author that recently died. An interviewer once asked him what his thoughts were on religious matters. Norman Mailer believed in reincarnation. He believed that his God rewarded the good and punished the bad. He thought that the reward did not have to do with heaven and hell but that it had to do with how we are reincarnated. He says:

"Heaven and Hell make no sense if the majority of humans are a complex mixture of good and evil. There's no reason to receive a reward if you're 57/43 — why sit around forever in an elevated version of Club Med? That's almost impossible to contemplate." (Timesonline, November 17, 2007, from The Times)

Norman Mailer did things in his life that most of us would consider bad. I doubt, from what he says, that he ever felt his need to acknowledge his sin. His concept of God and reincarnation did not require him to be accountable to the Creator God of the Bible. If he had repented, he could have been forgiven both now and in eternity. It is unlikely that he had this change of mind before he died.

Norman Mailer was like many people today who think that their thoughts are more dependable than what the Bible says. Many today think that the Bible is awfully narrow with only two roads, one to heaven and the other to hell. Some think that if there is a heaven, Jesus Christ is not the only way to get there (john 14:6). Some people who claim to be Christians think that we can be saved without becoming Christians and that the Bible contains truth but isn't the final word on truth.

I wonder what Norman Mailer thinks now. The problem with his "now" is that he cannot seek the Lord and find Him now. The Lord has "power on earth" to forgive sins (Matthew 9:6). And it is only on earth that He does forgive sins. There is no Biblical second chance after we die.

We all have a choice to make. Are we going to believe that we are the final authority or that final authority is found outside of our own minds? And if final authority is found outside of us, who and where is that final authority? I have banked my eternal destiny on the fact that the Bible expresses God's mind and is the final authority. I will take its teaching over that of the most respected scholar that rejects its teaching. I believe God when He says:

"He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him." (John 3:36)

 

Meditation for the week of November 18, 2007

Romans 10:17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

 

We had our thanksgiving meal early at the Waterloo Senior Center. The Senior Center is never open on Thanksgiving day, so it has been traditional to have the Thanksgiving day meal the Thursday before Thanksgiving. Since I had a Bible study there that Thursday, I asked each of those attending if they had something special for which they were thankful. I wanted to see how many of them would be thankful for the Lord Jesus or for salvation or at least for the Bible and its promises. I though some of them might be thankful for answered prayer. I had hoped that this might make some of those who come that may not be saved think about their relationship with the Lord.

This teaching exercise caused me to realize how thankful I am that I can read. I am glad that the Bible has been translated and printed so that anyone who reads can read it. Our verse says that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. Today most of us not only read but we have our own copies of the whole Bible. We are fortunate since if faith comes by hearing, hearing can come by hearing the Word of God preached and read, but it can also come by reading and by "listening" to what we are reading. I am glad that I have the Bible available and that I can read it for myself. I don't have to depend on what men say the Bible says, because God has privileged me with a good Bible and the ability to read it. For that I am thankful.

Faith is sometimes considered to be a subjective belief in an abstract unengaged God. I look at faith as a very objective belief in the Lord Jesus Christ. My belief in Him is based on the promises of the Bible. This kind of faith makes sense to the thinking person even though the things we believe can not be proved. For example, If someone has a reputation for telling the truth, we assume that we can have faith that he will always tell the truth even though we can't prove that he will always tell the truth. When we begin to see the fulfilled prophecies of Scripture, particularly as they relate to the birth, death and resurrection of Christ, it is easy for me to believe that we can depend on all the promises of God with regard to salvation.

I am glad that I have the ability to read and to understand the truth of John 3:18, "He who believes in Him (Christ) is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God."

This verse tells us how to be saved and it tells us the reason why some are already under condemnation. I know what this verse means and I don't need a theologian to explain it to me. I am sure that you understand the verse as well. We all have faith in something or someone. Because of what I read in the Scripture, I have faith based on the Word of God that Christ, Who has the right to condemn me, will never condemn me. My faith is the result of hearing what God says in the Bible.

 

Meditation for the week of November 25, 2007