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for the Blessed Hope!
2:13-14 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great
God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might
redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special
people, zealous for good works.
is the hope of a Christian? Paul says that those who are not "in
Christ" or saved have no hope (Ephesians 2:12). They have nothing
good to anticipate either in life or in death. As Christians our hope is
in the Lord. We have confidence in Him and in His promise that He will
return. We don't hope to be saved. We know we are saved because the
Bible says that those who trust Christ are saved. But we also have hope,
that is, we are anticipating a bright future. When people reject the
reality of the Lord's return, then this life is all that they have. This
life can be very enjoyable; however, even if this life makes us happy
beyond all of our expectations, when it is over—then what? If we
believe that the Lord is going to return we live in view of a better
tomorrow. His coming encourages us and purifies us. What would it be
like to live with "no hope?"
is the Lord going to return? The Lord doesn't say. However, in Daniel 9,
He does lay out a literal prophetic calendar for the nation of Israel.
As I understand it, there are 483 years (69 weeks of years) from the
commandment to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem until Messiah the
Prince. That time period was fulfilled to the day when the Lord rode
into Jerusalem on the donkey's colt. That left one week of years
unfinished. That unfinished week begins with the Jewish nation signing a
peace treaty with a man of false peace. They will have rejected the true
Messiah and will accept this false Messiah. When they sign that treaty,
seven literal years of 360 day years called the tribulation will begin.
Because Christians are saved from the wrath to come, we will be caught
away before this judgment starts. That is one reason why the return of
the Lord is a "blessed hope" for the Christian. At the end of
the tribulation period, the nation of Israel will have a small remnant
left who will confess that they crucified their Messiah. When that
happens a literal physical Kingdom of God of 1000 years will begin.
have laid out the prophetic interpretation that believes that calendars
associated with Israel are literal. Thus, I believe that in the future
Satan will be bound for 1000 years and the Lord will reign for that same
period of time. Many teachers believe these calendars are all symbolic
and that there is no literal millennium. This is called the amillennial
view. This view makes the church the Kingdom of God on earth. The covenants
and promises to Israel become the covenants and promises of the church.
Those who advocate this approach are not looking for the rapture but
many of them today are trying to make the earth a better place to live
until the Lord comes on Judgment day.
believe in a pre-millenial, pre-tribulation rapture or catching away of
the Saints. At one time I would have argued that it didn't really matter
which prophetic plan we advocated because those of us who are saved will
be safe and secure in Christ no matter how God works this out. I could
have been called a "pan" millennialist. This approach says it
will all "pan" out in the end. But recently I have begun to
realize how important our view of the prophetic plan is. Those who
believe that the church represents the Kingdom of God on earth and that
there is no literal millennium teach that Christians have a
to change the culture. Many who hold this doctrine want to Christianize
the world in order to prepare it for the Lord's return. This view makes
Christians an earthly people who are trying to reform society.
who are looking for the "blessed hope" are focused on heaven
and on eternity and are trying to see people saved from this present
evil age (Galatians 1:4). We recognize that we have responsibilities to
the Lord to live right. However, we cannot make the unsaved live right
until they are convicted of their sin and they trust Christ for
salvation. Pressing righteous standards on an unregenerate world makes
people resent us.
prophetic view makes a difference in how we view our responsibilities to
this world. My view is that I should preach the Gospel and save people
from the coming judgments on this world. But we should never expect the
world to be our friend or to be a Kingdom of God on earth until the Lord
comes and sets up that Kingdom Himself.
for the week of November 6, 2011
God has Said!
3:1 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which
the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed
said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?"
speaks in at least three ways today. He speaks through creation, through
our consciences and through His written Word. He has also spoken through
His Son. When God speaks, the serpent makes sure he raises the question,
"Has God indeed said?"
devil is called a serpent. As the serpent, he deceives. He is a
destroyer and a murderer. Sometimes he is seen as a dragon. As a dragon,
he heads up a cruel, oppressive political system. He is real. Although
he was created by God, he was lifted up in pride and sinned against God.
Apparently he didn't want to serve the Lord, he wanted to be equal to
him (Isaiah 14:14, Ezekiel 28:12-19).
is called the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4). He not only wants to
be worshiped, he doesn't want humans who were made by God for His
pleasure, to worship God. It appears to me that Satan is trying to prove
to God that anything He has made can be made to turn against Him and can
be destroyed. He tried to prove this with Job who was put through
terrible trials so that satan could see that some people worship God and
are loyal to Him no matter what.
satan goes about like a roaring lion (1 Peter 5:8). He is dangerous when
he roars but not nearly as dangerous as when he appears to be speaking
through prophets who claim to be speaking by divine inspiration. This
happened to King Ahab in 1 Kings 22:22. God put a lying spirit in the
mouth of Ahab's prophets. Baalam also was able to defeat the children of
Israel by hearing God speak to him personally and then using that
information against the Lord and His people. In addition, sometimes
satan is able to use the natural reasoning of man to keep people from
truly worshiping the Lord (1 Corinthians 2:14, Colossians2:8).
we avoid being deceived by Satan? We can! But we must believe God when
He speaks in His Word. I realize that there are problems with knowing
what is written FOR us and what is written TO us in our Bibles. I
realize that there are problems with translations. But what bothers me
is that on very fundamental issues Christians are divided today. Most
people that that say they are Christians do not see the plan of
salvation the same. They do not see baptism the same. They do not see
the prophetic plan the same. They do not see holiness or separation from
the world the same. Why is that? Basically because most of us are taking
our theology from popular writers whose point of view is much different
from the point of view of those who are traditionalists when it comes to
interpreting the Bible. However, God has only One Truth so we can all be
wrong but we cannot all be right when we have differing points of view.
is one thing I have noticed about those who have a clear testimony as to
their "new birth" experience. Because they have their
confidence in what God has said about salvation, they have a desire to
understand and believe what God has said about the life of a true
worshiper. They are not raising the question, "Has God indeed
said?" Instead they are doing like King Zedekiah when he needed to
know what God was saying. In Jeremiah 37:17 we read, "The king
asked him secretly in his house, and said, 'Is there any word from the
LORD?' And Jeremiah said, 'There is.'"
need to be taught by the ungrieved unhindered Holy Spirit so that we
know immediately when Satan is whispering, "Hath God indeed
said?" We need to be simple enough to believe God when He says that
He said something.
for the week of November 13, 2011
is a Great Blessing!
13:25) Grace be with you all. Amen.
writer to the Hebrews closes his epistle by hoping that those who read
the letter will be benefited by its teaching. The fundamental theme of
the epistle is that Christ and His blessings are better than the
blessings available under the old testament law. Apparently the writer
knew that there were quite a few Jews who claimed to be followers of the
Lord when they were in fact trying to be perfected by the keeping of the
old testament law. Obviously, not all of his readers understood this
grace that he wrote about.
word for grace is sometimes translated favor in the Bible. Sometimes it
is translated thanks, sometimes pleasure, and sometimes it is seen as a
free gift. It is a spiritual blessing that comes from a loving God. All
who are saved have received the grace (or gift) of eternal life
according to Romans 6:23. Grace is contrasted to the law in a number of
places. For example Romans 6:14 says, "For sin shall not have
dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace."
God's grace is available to all but has been truly received and
appreciated by only a few.
contrast between law and grace concerns the writer of the Hebrew
epistle. Do his readers really understand that grace AND truth came by
Jesus Christ? Do they really understand that the law cannot save, only
Christ saves? Do they understand that the Lord has now placed His name
with a new group of people called the church and that the ceremonies of
the old testament nation are not the ceremonies of the new testament
grace is seen in the old testament, that does not seem to be the
predominant theme. Ruth, a Moabite, was shown favor by Boaz who is a
picture of the Lord in the book of Ruth. While there are other examples
of grace in the old testament, most reading the old testament would
likely be more taken with the righteousness of God as seen in His
judging sin than in the grace of God as seen in his providing an
am thankful for the grace of God. Some seem to think that grace means
that God has predetermined who will believe and that those who are saved
have nothing to do with their own faith in Christ. This view holds that
believers believe because God has chosen them to believe. However, grace
does not mean that we cannot do anything to be saved. Instead, it means
that we cannot do anything to DESERVE to be saved. But we can strive to
enter in, we can seek, we can ask to know the truth. When the truth is
presented to us, we can agree with God and believe it. However, God does
predestine those who do believe in His Son to be conformed to the image
of His Son (Romans 8:29). He chooses people for certain jobs just as He
chose twelve men to be His apostles. He does predestine believers to be
with Him in heaven and he predestines unbelievers to be banished to hell
and ultimately the Lake of Fire forever.
of the big contrasts between God and man is this character of grace.
God's grace is undeserved and yet it is available to all and is bestowed
freely on all who trust the Savior. Men show grace to those they like or
to those who have in some way "earned" their favor which means
that it is not true grace at all. Grace is liberating and freeing. The
law and its associated religion is burdensome and captivating. We who
live this side of the cross and who have benefited by faith in the grace
of God are indeed a blessed people. We are loved, we are saved, we are
freed from the bondage of sin, we have a glorious future that we do not
deserve waiting for us "on the other side".
is so easy to trade this precious grace for the burden of religious
hypocrisy. We find it easy to trade this free gift for the obligatory
works of the law. No wonder, this writer wants ALL of his readers to
we are enjoying grace, we are enjoying the Lord.
for the week of November 20, 2011
to Rejoice and be Thankful!
He said to them, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to
every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he
who does not believe will be condemned." Mark 16:15-16
is my favorite time of year. I trusted in the Savior on November 24,
1963. President Kennedy had been assassinated on the 22nd and that
cataclysmic event made me realize that if there was anything to this
business of being saved, I needed to get matters settled with God. If
there wasn't anything to this business of being saved, I needed to
forget about it and get on with life. Thankfully, when I finally
realized that I couldn't figure out what it meant to be saved, I found
out that Christ had died 2000 years ago to save me. What a relief! I
found out that I didn't need to work it out, I didn't need to figure it
out, I just needed to believe God when He said Christ had died for my
sins. I did believe God that Sunday afternoon and the promise that I
believed in that day still gives me peace.
Thanksgiving weekend has also been a weekend to remember. I had the joy
of baptizing my granddaughter. She is young but she can clearly tell why
she knows she is saved. I asked her before I baptized her if Christ had
died for her sins. She said yes. I asked her who was watching besides
her family and some friends. She said Jesus. I asked her if she thought
the Lord Jesus was happy with what she was doing and she said yes. I
believe she was right.
seems to be one of the most controversial concepts in the Bible. Some
make too much of it and tell us that we cannot be saved unless we are
baptized. For some that means baptizing their infants so that they will
become children of God. Others think that the verse for today says that
you must believe AND be baptized in order to be saved. What they fail to
understand is that the verse does not say that the person who believes
MUST be baptized to be saved. It simply assumes that a believer will be
baptized and those who believe and are baptized are saved. The latter
part of the verse is clear that the Lord condemns those who do not
believe but there is no mention of condemnation for those who believe
but are not baptized.
make too little of baptism and seem to think that it is unimportant.
Baptism was important in the new testament and it is important to the
Lord. We can go to heaven unbaptized but what believer would want to go
to heaven unbaptized if they have the opportunity to be baptized?
Greek word translated baptism means immersion. The baptisms in the new
testament were immersions. Romans 6:4 makes it clear that baptism is a
picture of a death, burial and resurrection. Thus, Scripture is teaching
that all those who believe in the Lord should show it by being baptized
or immersed in a watery grave. They arise from that grave just as Christ
arose. We who are saved have openly confessed our willingness to be
identified with Christ in His death, burial and resurrection. Baptism is
important if we want to please the Lord and be obedient to Him. While
baptism does not save in the sense that it makes us fit for heaven, it
is an important step that helps preserve us from the corruption of this
world as we walk this new life with the Lord (1 Peter 3:20-21).
granddaughter took this important step this weekend. I believe the Lord
was rejoicing. I know her family was--and so was I.
for the week of November 27, 2011