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IF THE GOSPEL REALLY IS TRUE . . . We Have a HOPE! (Part 8 Final)

I don’t agree with Karl Barth on much, but his question — “Is it true? Is the Christian faith true?” is essential to biblical Christianity. We’ve seen that certain conclusions follow IF Christianity is true. For example, we have a message for the world which is both good news and bad news. Second, we have every reason to challenge other worldviews and religions as to their response to the gospel. Third, if the gospel is true, we have a complete justification to make the Bible our absolute guidebook for life. Fourth, we agreed that we desperately need the people of God, the church. Our fifth conclusion was that we can honestly face the suffering in the world without becoming cynical or callous. We have a theodicy which helps us understand evil and suffering.

Let’s look at a sixth — and final — conclusion and it is this —

IF THE GOSPEL IS TRUE, THEN . . .

We can be biblically hopeful about the future because our God is sovereign. Someone has posted the following on Facebook —

I think that’s a terrific way of thinking about the Christian life! Despite life’s challenges, the follower of Jesus is, in a sense, neither a pessimist nor an optimist. He or she is a realist who is eternally grateful that his cup “runneth over”!
%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%%We have an eternal hope that God will wrap up history, exercise righteous judgment, reward the godly, forever separate the ungodly from His kingdom, and will usher us into an eternity of worshiping and serving our blessed Savior! There is no greater hope, is there?

What might be some characteristics of one who is biblically hopeful? Several occur to me: (1) We will not overestimate man’s abilities to solve his own problems. We will care about our world and cooperate to alleviate man’s suffering, but will recognize that only the Lord can meet a person’s deepest needs;
(2) We will cling tightly to the truths of Scripture and allow its worldview to be our worldview. This means identifying and rejecting the “wisdom of the world” and being determined to stand with God’s people, even when they are suffering;
(3) We will affirm with the Apostle Paul that “our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Cor. 4:17) What’s the “them” in that text? Logically, the “them” refers to our troubles, our outwardly “wasting away” (v. 16)

Today’s Challenge: Do a bit of a word study of the term “hope” in the Scriptures. What are several truths you can share with those who read this blog?


 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 26, 2021 in gospel

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #51 “Critical Imperatives for the Christ-Follower” (A Study of Romans 12) Part 23

Many of you know that my New Jersey friend Frank and I are reading through God’s Word together (described here). We’re now in the book of Romans and have been reading chapter 12 during the last while.I count 24 injunctions or commands or imperatives for the believer here in Romans 12. I’m aware that the expression “critical imperative” is redundant, but I think it’s useful for what we see here in this great chapter.

We’ve seen that the believer is to offer his body as a living sacrifice, not to conform to the pattern of this world, to be transformed by the renewing of his mind, to think of himself with sober judgment, to use his gifts to build up the body of Christ, to hate as God hates, to be devoted to the body in love, to honor one another beyond yourselves, to keep one’s spiritual fervor, to be joyful in hope, to be patient in affliction, to be faithful in prayer, to share with the Lord’s people who are in need, to practice hospitality, to bless those who persecute them, to use our emotions for the Lord and for each other, to live in harmony with one another, to reach out to others regardless of their status, to not repay evil with evil, to do right before everyone, to live at peace with everyone when possible, and not to take revenge but leave room for God’s wrath!

Let’s continue our multipart study by looking at verse 20.

The twenty-third critical imperative is straightforward —

23. Believers are TO CARE FOR THE NEEDS OF THEIR ENEMIES! (v. 20)

“Am I a soldier of the cross?”, we used to sing in Sunday School when I was young and the last of the dinosaurs were becoming extinct. Soldiers have enemies. The fact that I can’t name one single enemy is disturbing to me.

Why? Because the gospel of Christ divides people into those who believe it and those who oppose it. And if I’m doing a good job of sharing and living the gospel before others, I should probably be making some enemies along the way.

But let’s assume I’ve got an enemy or two. How should I treat that person? Enemies should be executed — or at least imprisoned, right?

In his book of poetry entitled You! Jonah! Thomas Carlisle records Jonah saying, “I hate God’s enemies with a perfect hatred! Why can’t God do as much?” But today’s critical imperative tells us that we should feed our hungry enemies and give them something to drink when they are thirsty! What?

Ah. Here’s the conclusion: “In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Great! That’s exactly what I want to do! But have I understood that verse correctly?

The description of “heaping burning coals” is a reference to Proverbs 25:21–22.

21If your enemy is hungry, give him food to eat;
And if he is thirsty, give him water to drink;

22For you will heap burning coals on his head,
And the LORD will reward you.

[The following is from several commentators. Please forgive the long sentences.] “In Egypt, there had been a custom to carry a pan of burning coals on one’s head as a sign of repentance. Kindness and forgiveness to those who abuse us, ideally, will make them ashamed of themselves, and hopefully bring them to repent. The strongest, most powerful response to persecution and hatred is to love your enemies. Not to do him hurt, not to aggravate his condemnation, as if this would be a means of bringing down the wrath of God the more fiercely on him, which is a sense given by some; as if this would be an inducement to the saints to do such acts of kindness; which is just the reverse of the spirit and temper of mind the apostle is here cultivating; but rather the sense is, that by so doing, his conscience would be stung with a sense of former injuries done to his benefactor, and he be filled with shame on account of them, and be brought to repentance for them, and to love the person he before hated, and be careful of doing him any wrong for the future; all which may be considered as a prevailing motive to God’s people to act the generous part they are here moved to.”

It must refer to the burning pain of shame and remorse which the man feels whose hostility is repaid by love. This is the only kind of vengeance the Christian is at liberty to contemplate.

We need desperately to shun the example of Jonah and love our enemies as the Lord Jesus taught us. Carlisle caught Jonah’s sentiment exactly when he wrote:

And Jonah stalked
to his shaded seat
and waited for God
to come around
to his way of thinking.

And God is still waiting for a host of Jonahs
in their comfortable houses
to come around
to His way of loving.

Today’s Challenge: Got any enemies? You might be surprised. Look for an opportunity to show kindness to him or her so that they will repent and come to the Lord!

 

 
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Posted by on March 21, 2021 in Romans 12

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #50 “Critical Imperatives for the Christ-Follower” (A Study of Romans 12) Part 22

Many of you know that my New Jersey friend Frank and I are reading through God’s Word together (described here). We’re now in the book of Romans and have been reading chapter 12 during the last while.I count 24 injunctions or commands or imperatives for the believer here in Romans 12. I’m aware that the expression “critical imperative” is redundant, but I think it’s useful for what we see here in this great chapter.

We’ve seen that the believer is to offer his body as a living sacrifice, not to conform to the pattern of this world, to be transformed by the renewing of his mind, to think of himself with sober judgment, to use his gifts to build up the body of Christ, to hate as God hates, to be devoted to the body in love, to honor one another beyond yourselves, to keep one’s spiritual fervor, to be joyful in hope, to be patient in affliction, to be faithful in prayer, to share with the Lord’s people who are in need, to practice hospitality, to bless those who persecute them, to use our emotions for the Lord and for each other, to live in harmony with one another, to reach out to others regardless of their status, to not repay evil with evil, to do right before everyone, and to live at peace with everyone when possible!!

Let’s continue our multipart study by looking at verse 19.

The twenty-second critical imperative is straightforward —

22. Believers are NOT TO TAKE REVENGE BUT TO LEAVE ROOM FOR GOD’S WRATH! (v. 19)

We learned in critical imperative #19 that we are not to repay evil for evil. There may be occasions where revenge seems (and may well be) right, but we are not to substitute human revenge for the wrath of God.

Our culture would prefer not to think about the WRATH of God. But preachers like Jonathan Edwards reminded his contemporaries of this critical — and biblical — aspect of God when he preached his famous “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”

I wrote an article on God’s wrath a few years ago entitled “Warning a Wrath-Deserving World: Evangelicals and the Overhaul of Hell.” If interested, it can be accessed here.

There are many biblical texts on God’s wrath (I touch on most of them in the article referred to above). Vigilante justice is a very engaging and attractive movie plot these days, but hardly the kind of response God expects from His children! Righteous people don’t respond with revenge. All judgment is not finished on this earth. There will be a final judgment of God! And we are to wait for it!

Today’s Challenge: You might think to yourself, “There’s no way I would plot revenge against anybody for anything.” Great! But what if someone hurt you or your family? God’s judgment may be delayed, but we are not to preempt His righteousness no matter how just we may feel.

 

 
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Posted by on March 19, 2021 in Romans 12

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #6 The Final Judgment of God (Romans 2:7-11)

Many of you know that my New Jersey friend Frank and I are reading through God’s Word together (described here). We’re now in the book of Romans and are reading chapter 2 each day this week. Here is something that I noticed in reading this chapter:

Please notice that the two sets of parentheses are supplied by me. When I work on a passage, I try to see the structure and this paragraph divides nicely into two categories. I’ve also put this in chart form:

This is a fascinating text! If I’m understanding the passage correctly, this is a description of God’s final judgment on all people, Jew and Gentile. And there will be — and are presently — two and only two categories of human beings: (1) those who persist in doing good, and (2) those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil.

What are some observations you would add to this brief look at Romans 2:7-11? Feel free to leave a comment below.

 

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2020 in Romans 2

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #3 “I Give Up!” (Romans 1:21-28)

Many of you know that my New Jersey friend Frank and I are reading through God’s Word together (described here). We’re now in the book of Romans and are reading chapter 1 each day this week. Here is something that I noticed in reading this chapter:Does the Lord ever say, “I GIVE UP!” Of course not! But He does say “I GIVE OVER!” Note in this section of Romans 1 God’s reaction to man’s rejection of his Creator:

(1) God “gave them over” in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another (v. 24). This “giving over” was God’s response to their exchanging God’s truth for a lie and for worshiping created things instead of the Creator.

(2) God “gave them over” to shameful lusts (v. 26). If verses 26-27 aren’t a condemnation of homosexual behavior, I don’t know how clearer God could have said it!

(3) God “gave them over” to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done (v. 28). Why did He respond this way? Because they “did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God (v. 28)!

These are somber verses. But they seem to describe perfectly much of our world’s present state. Oh, how we need to pray for our friends and neighbors and relatives to come to know the true Creator so that they will not be “given over.”

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2020 in Romans 1

 

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If . . . Then . . . ! (A Study of 2 Peter 2:4-10)

Some of you might want to see how I approach a section of Scripture like the following. We read in 2 Peter 4 —-

Notice how often Peter uses the word IF!  Let’s structure the above paragraph along the lines of the IF’s that he uses —

The sinning angels, the ancient world judged by the flood, the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, the case of Lot — all these historical examples lead to Peter’s THEN . . .

And Peter’s conclusion is a double one: (1) The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials and (2) He knows how to hold the unrighteous for punishment. Peter then applies those truths to the present false teachers who follow their flesh and despise authority.

Today’s Challenge: Thank the Lord for His acts in history and His protection and holiness today!

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2020 in 2 Peter 2

 

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Cursing Others! (A Study of I Corinthians 16:22)

Friends: If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that my friend Frank (in New Jersey) and I have been doing an email Bible study for over a year. We read the same chapter every day for a week — and then send a brief email of encouragement to each other. We’ve completed most of the epistles of the New Testament — and it’s been a great discipline for both of us.

We’re now finishing the book of I Corinthians. We started reading I Corinthians 15 on Easter Sunday! As we conclude I Corinthians, I want to post several last outlines on the last chapter, chapter 16. Verse 22 hit me like a bucket of cold water!

What a shocking way to end this first epistle to the Corinthians! Paul has given sixteen chapters of instructions about controversies, sins, and the spiritual giftedness of these believers. And now he concludes this letter with this statement: “If anyone does not love the Lord, let that person be cursed! Come, Lord!”

If we believe that Paul’s letter is inspired of God, then God the Holy Spirit led him to write those words! There are two and only two categories of human beings: (1) those who love the Lord, and (2) those who don’t. For that second category, only God’s judgment awaits. They are presently under God’s curse and will be so for all eternity unless they repent of their sins and trust in Christ. Such a categorical statement is intolerable to our present culture, but is nonetheless true.

A Possible Outline:

Cursing Others!
(A Study of I Corinthians 16:22)

I. The Imperative of Loving the Lord

God’s Word commands us to love the Lord our God with all our strength!

II. The Consequences of Not Loving the Lord

Only God’s curse awaits those who choose not to love the Lord!

III. The Expectation of Those Who Love the Lord

Those who love the Lord are looking forward (and seeking to “hasten”) the return of the Lord!

Today’s Challenge: If I acknowledge that there are two and only two categories of human beings — those who love the Lord and long for His returning and those who don’t and are under God’s curse — I will do something about it! I will seek to share the gospel of God’s grace with all I meet, either face-to-face or online!

 
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Posted by on May 4, 2020 in I Corinthians 16

 

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What Difference Does the Future Make? The Practical Application of Prophecy (Part 4)

As I am preparing for Cedar Valley Bible Church’s “Second Coming Conference” (November 16-17) in Iowa, I am working my way through three prophetic texts: I Thessalonians 4:13-18, II Peter 3:1-18, and I John 3:1-10.

We’ve looked at I Thessalonians 4:13-18 and seen how the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus ought to encourage our hearts! We are now thinking about our second text, II Peter 3:1-18. Let’s look at this passage again —

The theme of this text is:  the Certainty of Final Judgment.
We’ve noticed, first of all, that prophetic teaching should lead us to wholesome thinking (v. 1). We were then reminded of God’s climatic actions in the universe (vv. 3-7). Specifically, creation (v. 5) and the flood (v. 6) are provided as evidence that God can — and will — dramatically interrupt the normal, everyday pattern of life (contrary to the uniformitarianism of Peter’s day).

We also learned of God’s longing that people repent (v. 9). We avoid God’s judgment by repenting and believing the gospel!

The final challenge that I see in this passage concerns the practical, right-now, application of the truth of God’s final judgment (vv. 11-18). These believers are NOT told to buy ascension robes, climb to the top of the highest hill, and wait for the Second Coming. They are instructed: “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (vv. 11-12).

These believers are also challenged to “make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (v. 14). Being forewarned of this certain future, these Jesus-followers are to “be on [their] guard” so that they will not be “carried away” by error (v. 17). Lastly, they are challenged to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (v. 18).

There is no room for eschatological coasting! The certainty of FINAL JUDGMENT should motivate the believer to godliness, purity, and vigilance.  (to be continued)

 
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Posted by on August 24, 2019 in 2 Peter 3

 

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Getting to Know . . . I Samuel (6:13-21) Irreverence and Judgment!

The ark of God had been captured by the dreaded Philistines, but God has brought disaster upon them. For seven months they have endured God’s wrath of tumors and great panic (5:9). So they decide to send it back to Israel.

The people of Beth Shemesh, seeing the ark, rejoice! The cows are sacrificed as a burnt offering to the Lord and the Levites take down the ark (as well as the chest of gold objects). The five Philistine rulers watch this event.

However, not all is rejoicing. Seventy citizens of Beth Shemesh are struck dead because they looked into the ark (v. 19). This “heavy blow” that the Lord had “dealt” them caused them to ask, “Who can stand in the presence of the Lord, this holy God? To whom will the ark go up from here?” (v. 20). They then invite the people of Kiriath Jearim to come take the ark to their town!

If I had been a citizen of Kiriath Jearim, I would have rejoiced that we get to go and bring the ark of the covenant back to our town! I wonder if the people of Beth Shemesh told the people of Kiriath Jearim about the Seventy?

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2018 in I Samuel 6

 

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Getting to Know . . . I Samuel (3:1-21) When the Lord Calls!

God has just pronounced a profound judgment against Eli and his entire family line! The story now turns to the fulfillment of God’s promise of raising up a faithful priest who will act in tune with God’s heart and mind! And that faithful priest would be Samuel.

In contrast to Eli’s indulgence of his sons and his own gluttonous ways, “the boy Samuel” is described as “ministering before the Lord under Eli” (v. 1). We are then told that there were few visions from the Lord at that time; “the word of the Lord was rare.” But that is about to change!

The Lord calls out to Samuel, but Samuel thinks it is Eli calling out to him. This happens three times. Eli realizes that the Lord “was calling the boy” (v. 8). We are told that “Samuel did not yet know the Lord” (v. 7). Does this refer to salvation? Perhaps not, for the sentence goes on to say “The word of the Lord had not yet been revealed to him” (v. 7). To “know the Lord” here seems to refer to God’s direct communication with a person. Eli gives Samuel instructions how to respond to the Lord (I wonder if he was thinking back to when he listened to the Lord himself?). Someone has said that Eli’s instructions to Samuel to say “Speak, Lord, for your servant is listening” have been changed to, “Listen, Lord, for your servant is speaking!”

Samuel responds to the Lord and the Lord tells Samuel His plans. What He is going to do “will make the ears of everyone who hears about it tingle.” (v. 11). [We’ve lost our tingling ears, haven’t we?] God tells Samuel of the judgment He will inflict upon Eli and his family — and why. His sons blasphemed God; he failed to restrain them (v. 13). And then the awesome words: “The guilt of Eli’s house will never be atoned for by sacrifice or offering” (v. 14).

Samuel feared telling Eli what the Lord had said to him, but, upon Eli’s insistence, tells him everything. Eli’s response is: “He is the Lord; let him do what is good in his eyes” (v. 18).

We then read “The Lord was with Samuel as he grew up” (v. 19). To have the Lord “with” him means that God promises that “none of Samuel’s words [would] fall to the ground” (v. 19). This involved all of Israel recognizing that Samuel “was attested as a prophet from the Lord” (v. 20). We then read, “The Lord continued to appear at Shiloh, and there he revealed himself to Samuel through his word.” (v. 21).

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2018 in I Samuel 3

 

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