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Saved! Rescued from God, by God, and for God! (Chapter Two: Loved!)

Friends: This is the second chapter of a short book I wrote a couple of years ago. Comments welcome! Subsequent chapters to follow!

Saved! Chapter Two: LOVED!
“Nobody loves me but my mamma — and she might be jivin’ me too!” (B.B. King)
There are many passages of Scripture that tell us that God loves us. The best-known verse in all the Bible is “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).
Whenever I have seen preachers preach on this great verse, they have inevitably stretched out their arms as widely as they could when they repeated the words “God SOOOO loved the world.” God’s love for the world is, indeed, great and is described as such in many passages. Ephesians 3 records Paul’s prayer that the believers might deepen their understanding of that love, “that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.” (Eph. 3 KJV).
Titus 3 reminds us that “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4 But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit . . .”
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We read in Ephesians 2 that God is “rich in mercy” and we learn of “His great love wherewith He loved us.” (verse 4 KJV). I John 3 reminds us to “see what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.” (verse 1).
This greatness of God’s love is a constant theme in the book of Romans where we read that “God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us” (5:5), that “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (5:8). The Apostle Paul asks “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?” (8:35) Paul answers his own question four verses later where he assures us that “neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (8:39) We also learn in Romans that we are loved not just by the Father and the Son, but also by the Spirit. Paul writes, “I urge you, brothers and sisters, by our Lord Jesus Christ and by the love of the Spirit, to join me in my struggle by praying to God for me.” (15:30).
Scripture indicates that God was under no obligation to save any of us, but of His own mercy and love He provided His Son as the ransom for our sins (Mk. 10:45), as the rescue from our lostness (I Thes. 1:10; Col. 1:13), as the redemption from our slavery (I Pe. 1:18; Gal. 3:13; 4:3; Heb. 2:15).
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One of the great privileges in my life is that of occasionally teaching New Testament Greek. Don’t you wish you could study Greek with me? My students labor over a new alphabet, completely strange words, constructions that will drive one close to insanity, and a teacher who insists that studying Greek is a blessing of God! One of the first points I make with my students concerns our verse, John 3:16 which says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
We’re pretty sure we understand that best-known of all Bible verses. What is fascinating is that the little word “so” (“God so loved the world . . .”) doesn’t actually teach the greatness of God’s love, but rather the manner of His love. The verse could be translated, “God loved the world in such a way that He gave His only Son . . .”
My suggestion is that when preachers preach on that famous text, they would be more faithful to what the verse is actually saying if they were to hold their arms out to the side in a parallel fashion, indicating manner, rather than stretching them out trying to indicate greatness. “This is how God loved the world — He gave His one and only Son!”
One story that we want to examine more closely concerning the love of God occurs in each of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). We will find that the question that is raised there is the most profound question one could ask, that the answer Jesus gives is the most shocking possible, and that the
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truths about salvation taught there are quite surprising. We will also see that it is a strange context to speak of God’s love.
Mark 10 tells us about a young man who had a critical conversation with Jesus:
17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
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26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
28 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”
29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Let’s analyze this important section of Scripture. This is obviously someone who desperately wants an answer to his question. He runs up to Jesus. Middle Eastern men normally do not run, especially those who are wealthy. He detains Jesus who was preparing to go somewhere else, prostrates himself before this rabbi, and asks his question. He physically shows his intense desire for an answer to his question by dropping to his knees. But what was his question?
An Urgent Question
If you had the opportunity to literally and personally ask Jesus a question, what would that question be? Some might ask Him, “Why am I going through this trial right now? Why me?” Others might ask, “How can I
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achieve maximum happiness in this life?” Others might not ask a question at all, but might point an accusing finger at Jesus and declare, “How can you allow such evil in Your world?”
This young man’s question (we are told that he is a young ruler in the parallel accounts, Mt. 19 and Lk. 18) was urgent! He “ran up to [Jesus] and fell on his knees before him . . .” He obviously thought his question extremely important. He cast aside all customs of dignity for Eastern royalty to ask his question of Jesus. Eastern rulers did not normally run — for anything. His falling on his knees indicated respect and honor as he fell before Rabbi Jesus.
The very way we sometimes word questions says much about our assumptions — and ourselves. This man’s question was: “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” What a great question! The parallel account in Matthew 19 has him asking, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” (v. 16). This man was really into goodness, wasn’t he?
There is, of course, a difference between asking how might I inherit eternal life and what good thing must I do to get eternal life. I believe that there are ultimately no real contradictions between the gospels, so it may be that Mark picks up on the inheriting part of his question while Matthew focuses on the doing part of his query.
Before we read further in our passage, how might you or I respond to both parts of that question, if we were Jesus? To the inheriting part, we might say, “Well, someone has to die for you to inherit eternal life — and that’s why I came — to die for sinners.” That answer, of course, would be true, but it isn’t how Jesus responds. To the doing part of his question, we might say, “There is nothing that you can do to get
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eternal life! You can’t earn it. You can’t buy it! It is given as a gift!” And that would be a true, biblical answer as well. Jesus’ answer to this man’s question begins, surprisingly, with a rebuke.
Jesus’ Response to Compliments
The man addresses Jesus as “Good teacher.” Whenever we see people in the Bible approach Jesus with a compliment, He seems to either ignore their compliment or to see through their nice-sounding words to the heart of the matter. For example. when Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night and says, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.” (Jn. 3:2), Jesus does not acknowledge Nicodemus’ compliment by saying, “Thank you!” or “Yes, God is really giving me power to do these miracles.” No, Jesus’ response is “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.” (Jn. 3:3).
On one occasion, the Jewish leaders sent their disciples to Jesus along with the Herodians and asked Him, “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you are a man of integrity and that you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. You aren’t swayed by others, because you pay no attention to who they are. Tell us then, what is your opinion? Is it right to pay the imperial tax to Caesar or not?” But Jesus, knowing their evil intent, said, “You hypocrites, why are you trying to trap me?” (Mt. 22:16-18). Jesus saw through their flattery and challenged their motives.
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Jesus did not care for compliments, especially if they were engineered to manipulate or trap Him. The young man in our text (Mk. 10) may have had neither of these intentions, but his greeting of Jesus as “Good Teacher” certainly provoked an interesting response from Jesus.
Perhaps the last response this young man expected from Jesus was what he received. “Why do you call me good? No one is good — except God alone.” (v. 18).
What was wrong with calling Jesus “Good Teacher”? Could it be that the young man had a wrong understanding of goodness and a wrong understanding of who Jesus actually was?
“No One Is Good”
This man may well have been the poster child of all those who think they can earn their way into heaven. “What must I do?” is a great question! What if the answer is, “There is NOTHING that YOU can DO!”?
Perhaps Jesus‘ rather curt response to the young man’s greeting of “Good Teacher” was intentional, was meant to say something about Himself that the one asking the question did not understand. Jesus appears to be saying, “Because there is only one who is good, if you call me good, you are calling me God.”
At the very least, Jesus is establishing the truth that goodness — the kind of goodness that guarantees eternal life — is unattainable by mortal man: “No one is good — except God alone.” This is a lethal blow to man’s pride if he wishes to have a hand in his own
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salvation. We can bring nothing good to God for helping Him save us. We have nothing to bring.
Isaiah had it right when he said, “All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags” (Is. 64:6). I understand the Hebrew word for “filthy rags” is menstrual cloths, evidence of no new life.
We have nothing to bring, nothing to commend us to God, nothing to contribute to our salvation. Because we are not good, because we are sinners, all we have are our transgressions, our iniquities, our failed efforts to measure up to God’s standard of holiness and perfection.
A Shocking Response
Jesus allows the young man to set the agenda for the conversation, and the agenda is goodness. “Let’s start at the most logical place,” Jesus seems to be saying when he declares, “You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’” Jesus begins with the commandments of the Decalogue (the Ten Commandments) which pertain to how we relate to other human beings. The first half of the Decalogue has the commandments:
1. You shall have no other gods before me.
2. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything (no graven images/idols).
3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord.
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4. Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.
The second half of the Ten Commandments pertain to men. 5. Honor your father and mother.
6. You shall not murder.
7. You shall not commit adultery.
8. You shall not steal.
9. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. (Exodus 20)
So, what commandments has Jesus listed for this young man? He has listed commandments #6-#9 and #5. I’m not sure why He has brought in the fifth commandment to honor one’s parents last, but these are the commandments He lists. Notice that Jesus has left out the first four commandments — the ones that command how we are to relate to God Himself. He has also left out the tenth commandment: do not covet.
How does this young man respond? He says to Jesus, “Teacher, all these I have kept since I was a boy.” [It is interesting that the man does not address Jesus again as “Good” Teacher.] I wonder how he said those words. Were they said in pride? Were they said quietly, and, what might seem to us impossible, in humility? The passage doesn’t tell us. All we can do
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is notice how Jesus responds to this man’s declaration of goodness.
Let’s give this man the benefit of the doubt and assume that he is telling the truth about his own life, as best he can determine. To his knowledge, he certainly had never murdered anyone or committed adultery with anybody. He had led an exemplary life of honesty, not stealing from anyone or giving false witness about anyone concerning anything. He had a morally flawless track record, at least in his own mind. And when it came to his relationship with his parents, his name would be on the honor roll of those who respected his parents. His righteousness scorecard was looking pretty good, at least in his own mind.
One wonders if this young man was surprised that Jesus’ listing of the commandments started in the middle of the Decalogue, with commandment #6 (“You shall not murder”), not beginning with the commandments about how we are to relate to God, and also leaving out the last commandment about coveting. The young man obviously knew the Decalogue by heart. He had to suspect that Jesus was up to something in the very way He responded with the commandments.
But he was honest — and he had led a nearly flawless life. It is fascinating that Jesus does not correct him when he says, “All these I have kept since I was a boy.” Based on Jesus’ expansion of the Law in the Sermon on the Mount earlier in the gospel of Matthew (Matthew 5-7), Jesus could have said to him, “If you have ever hated someone in your heart, you are guilty of murder. If you have ever lusted after a woman, you
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are guilty of adultery. If you have even once taken the credit due to someone else, you have acted as a thief. And your parents — if we were to interview them — would they say that you have honored them twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, since you were a child? I don’t think so!”
Jesus does not challenge this man’s claim. However, the very next statement that Jesus would make to him would shatter his world, would turn his understanding of goodness on its head, would cause this young man to walk away from the God-man Jesus.
“One Thing You Lack”
The young ruler had come to Jesus with a question. That question was essentially, “What do I need to do, what in my life is keeping me from inheriting or earning eternal life?”
Jesus now answers that question. Of the three gospel accounts which include this story (Mt. 19, Mk. 10, and Lk. 18), only Matthew’s account has the young man ask, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” (verse 30).
But before Jesus tells this young man what he lacks, Mark’s gospel alone includes an interesting statement. There we read, “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” We know that God loves the whole world. Why are we told here that “Jesus looked at him and loved him”?
It seems reasonable that because Jesus knew how this young man would respond to His next words, Jesus looks
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at him with love. Jesus knew that what He would say to this young man would push him away from eternal life, would shatter his self-righteousness, would cause him to walk away with his possessions but without Jesus.
Jesus then says to him, “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (v. 21).
On the surface this sounds like salvation by one’s works. Nowhere in the Bible are we told that salvation comes by divesting oneself of all worldly goods, donating those possessions to the poor, and then following after Jesus. Trying to buy one’s way into heaven is a mockery of the very idea of why Jesus came — to give His life a ransom for sinners, as we learn in this very chapter of the gospel of Mark (10:45).
Jesus says to this five-out-of-ten-commandment-keeping young man: “One thing you lack. Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (verse 21).
Perhaps this young man expected Jesus to compliment him on his law-keeping, model behavior toward other people. He apparently was taken by surprise by Jesus’ “one thing you lack.” How awful that must be to be told by the Son of God, “One thing you lack.”
Matthew’s account adds, “If you want to be perfect . . .” It appears that Jesus is saying, “You’re into humanly-achieved perfection? Then let me give you the key. The only requirement you need to
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meet is to sell everything you’ve got, give the proceeds to the poor, and come follow me.”
But let’s not move too quickly past these words: “one thing you lack.” The young ruler knew something was missing when he first approached Jesus with his question: “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He knew that there must be something for him to do, that he was not yet a recipient of eternal life. When faced with some of the Ten Commandments, he testifies of his relative goodness, perhaps thinking that Jesus will say, “My, you have been good! And that’s what heaven requires: goodness! You’re ‘good’ to go!” But what he gets instead are the words, “one thing you lack.” And that thing was not something peripheral, something on the edge of something else. It was the main point. Jesus doesn’t say, “Well, there are a lot of things that you’re missing. Here’s one . . .” No! He says, “One thing you lack.”
How would he make up for this lack? Jesus‘ instructions are unambiguous: They really involve four steps: (1) go; (2) sell all you have; (3) give the proceeds to the poor; and (4) come, follow me.
What precisely is Jesus asking this man to do? First, to go away from the immediate presence of Jesus. The rich young ruler had something he needed to do before he could join Jesus. He had to leave or depart from Jesus. Second, he had to divest himself of all that he had. This would involve inventorying his possessions, finding buyers for them, and letting them go. Third, he was to donate the proceeds of his massive garage
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sale to the poor. He would have had to literally hand over the monies received from the sale of all of his possessions to those who had nothing to give him in return (“the poor”). This man himself would be a giver of grace to those who had nothing to give back, who only had empty hands and hungry stomachs to welcome his generosity. Perhaps this was to help him see his own poverty. Then this young ruler could come, totally penniless, and dedicate himself to Jesus and join his traveling entourage.
We dare not skip over the promise of Jesus regarding the third step in this man’s quest to make up for what he lacked. Jesus says concerning his giving his monies to the poor: “and you will have treasure in heaven.” Well, that is exactly what the man wanted! He wanted an inheritance in heaven. He wanted to inherit eternal life. And Jesus guarantees him precisely what he had asked Jesus for.
Wait a minute!, some might say. Jesus is telling this young man how he can earn eternal life? This isn’t the message of salvation by grace that we read about in the rest of the Bible! What is going on — and how in the world do we defend Jesus here?
Nowhere in the Bible do we get any hint that man can be good enough to earn God’s grace. So Jesus is giving this man a process by which he will learn that he is not good, that he is spiritually poor in himself, that he is in need of one thing: grace.
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“How hard it is for the rich . . .”
How did this young man respond to that “one thing he lacked”? Matthew’s gospel says, “When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.” Luke’s gospel says, “When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy.” Our passage, Mark, reads, “At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.”
What was so devastating about Jesus’ statement that would cause this young man’s face to fall, for his conversation with Jesus to abruptly end, and for him to walk away from the one Person in the universe who could tell him how to receive eternal life?
The Bible does not leave us in doubt here. We do not need to speculate as to why this response by Jesus was so terminal, why what He said caused this young man to abandon the conversation and turn his back on the Savior. The passage tells us he left “because he had great wealth.”
In His brilliant response to the young man’s question, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”, Jesus had put His divine finger on exactly what kept him from the kingdom — his wealth. Wealth is never characterized in the Bible as evil, but the holding onto wealth can anesthetize one’s heart to having treasures in heaven. Jesus had gone right to this man’s heart, for He had said to him, “Sell all you have, give it to the poor, come and follow me, and you’ll have treasure in heaven.” The man’s question had been about inheritance — “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus’ answer had been the key
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(for this man) of how to inherit eternal life. The key to getting treasure in heaven is to make sure our treasures on earth haven’t hijacked our hearts.
Jesus was obviously not telling this young man how he could buy his way into heaven. Nothing in the Bible indicates that we can bribe God, or pay off God, or achieve eternal life by any kind of installment plan. This man’s secret sin was precisely that which the tenth commandment prohibited: coveting. And it seems obvious that he did not covet his neighbor’s house or his neighbor’s wife, or his neighbor’s male or female servant, or his neighbor’s ox or donkey, or anything that belonged to his neighbor (Ex. 20:17). It appears that he coveted his own possessions. His possessions possessed him. And they caused him to walk away.
Let’s review the strategy of Jesus in this conversation:
1. He is open to this man’s question which is asked in an urgent fashion.
2.He responds to this man’s greeting with a profound theological statement: “Why are you calling me good. No one is good but God alone!”
3. Jesus’ profound theological statement is followed by a selective listing of some of the Ten Commandments (commandments #6-9 and #5).
4. The young man responds by saying, “Teacher, all these I have kept since I was a boy.” Jesus provides the opportunity for him to claim a certain righteousness. And Jesus does not correct or rebuke
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him. He lets him dwell in his own “righteousness.” He does not directly confront him with his sin.
5. The next step is that “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” In our efforts to help people recognize their need of Christ, do we really love them? Does our love involve the recognition that some will find the words of the gospel too hard, too demanding, to be followed? Will they feel loved as they walk away?
6. Jesus then directly says to him, “One thing you lack.” Do we point out what people “lack”? It seems arrogant on the surface that we would dare point out anyone else’s “lack.” But if we have recognized our own need, and find that need had been thoroughly met by Christ, how dare we not share that satisfaction with others? But what if they feel that they are already fulfilled, satisfied, complete? We then want to use God’s Word to show them their self-deception. This young man thought he was set, that he had done the best he could, that there might have been something small that he was missing. But that something small was actually something very large in his eyes: all his possessions had to be gotten rid of! And that was too much for him.
7. The last step is that Jesus allows him to walk away. This may appear to have been an evangelistic failure on Jesus’ part, but nothing could be further from the truth. We are not told what happened to this young man after he left Jesus. Perhaps he thought about what Jesus had said, thought about his lack, thought about the 10th Commandment. Perhaps he gave away all his wealth and joined Jesus. We simply don’t know.
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And it does not appear to be the Bible’s intention to end this story on a happy note. The conclusion of the conversation is extremely sad. The man “went away.” He went away “sad.” Jesus did not come to make everyone He met happy. Some need to be saddened on their way to salvation.
Perhaps as the man walked away, the disciples might not have noticed his negative reaction to the words of Jesus. Maybe they had assumed that he was going to do exactly what Jesus told him to do — to sell all his possessions, give to the poor, then come back and join them in following Jesus. But instead of saying, “He’s got a few things to do — He’ll be back,” Jesus makes an amazing statement to His disciples.
Jesus turns His gaze from the young ruler walking away to His disciples who are standing there. Jesus declares, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” (v. 23).
These words must have amazed Jesus‘ disciples, for they assumed that a wealthy Jew was a righteous Jew, already in a relationship with God. Apparently the idea had never struck them that one’s riches could keep one from the kingdom of God rather than guarantee entrance into it.
Jesus uses the man’s walking away as an object lesson. He also employs an absurd-sounding illustration. Jesus says it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. (v. 25).
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Talk about cognitive dissonance! Perhaps the disciples were already calculating how this rich young ruler could financially help their cause. Jesus challenges the disciples’ assumption that the rich are already right with God.
Responding to their amazement, Jesus intensifies His statement: “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God.” (verse 24). He then resorts to an analogy to drive home the difficulty of getting into God’s kingdom. He refers to a common camel and a common sowing needle. “It is easier,” He says, “for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (verse 25).
Christian preachers have tried to argue that the eye- of-the-needle gate is a small gate entering Jerusalem and for a camel to go through it, the camel would need to kneel and crawl through. That isn’t what Jesus is saying. The word “camel” here is really the word for camel and the word “eye of a needle” refers to the opening at the top of a sewing needle. Jesus’ point is not the need to bow to drag oneself into the city, but the impossibility of getting into the kingdom by human effort.
Jesus challenges conventional wisdom that believed the rich had it made, not only in this life, but also in the life to come.3 Jesus says, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples responded with amazement, He added, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God.” (verse 24).
3 He does the same in His famous parable about the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16). 32
His analogy of the camel and the eye of a sewing needle causes the disciples to verbalize their astonishment and say, “Who then can be saved?” (verse 26). Their understanding of who was “good to go” had just been shattered by Jesus’ declaration. Now they were open to the truth about who gets into the kingdom of God. And Jesus’ point is that human effort amounts to exactly zero when it comes to securing one’s place in God’s kingdom.
We read that “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.’” (verse 27) Jesus declares with divine authority the truth that man cannot accomplish his own salvation, even when he has an abundance of material possessions at his disposal. In fact, it appears that having an abundance of material possessions at one’s disposal could very well keep one from the kingdom of God! There needs to be a poverty that only God can remedy, a lack that only He can meet.
Could it be that the entire point Jesus was making with the rich young ruler was exactly what we read in verse 27- “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God”? The rich young ruler wanted to do something to inherit eternal life, but an inheritance is received upon another’s death. There was no good thing that he could do to merit eternal life. As exemplary as his life might have been, it fell way short of loving God with all his heart, mind, soul, and strength. He was not willing to give up his worldly possessions to secure treasure for himself in heaven. The cost was too much. And he needed to learn
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that salvation can’t be purchased by sinful man, no matter how much stuff he donates to the poor.
Only God can do the impossible — and He has provided salvation for those who trust in His Son and in His Son alone for their rescue. But Jesus will speak the truth in love to all who think they can earn their own way to heaven. To each of us, with love, Jesus says, “One thing you lack . . .”

 
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Posted by on November 16, 2021 in saved

 

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Saved! Rescued from God, by God, and for God! (Introduction and Chapter One: Lost!)

Friends: This is the first chapter of a short book I wrote a couple of years ago. Comments welcome! Subsequent chapters to follow!

 Introduction

“Jesus came to seek the least, the last, and the lost.” (anonymous)

“When you try to add to God’s salvation, you subtract. If you try to merit God’s salvation, you haven’t believed in God at all; you are trusting yourself, even if you try to do only a little bit.” (Timothy Keller)

Pastor Billy Bob Yokel had been “preachin’ the gospel” for thirty years. This morning’s revival service at 1st Holiness Church was no exception. “Ya’ll need to REPENT — and believe in Jesus as your SAVIOR!”, he shouted, pounding the old wooden pulpit with each syllable of Sav-i-or.

Pastor Billy Bob wasn’t much to look it, some might say. On the other hand, he was hard to miss, all 312 pounds of him. A preacher’s history of after-service fried chicken dinners had ballooned the former left tackle for Park High School into what some people called a holy heart attack waiting to happen.

When he stepped out from behind the pulpit, his shirt tail had escaped from his pants and his stretch slacks were rolled over at the waist. His ever- present handkerchief, discolored by tobacco stains, wiped the sweat off his brow as he continued his sermon: “If you believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior — and confess your sins — you will be SA-V-ED!” The last word he drew out, raising both arms in the air in a pleading gesture.

When his sermon was over, he waddled over to the large chair on the podium and collapsed into it, exhausted from another round of fighting for the souls of men and women, boys and girls.

We might recoil at the sight of Pastor Billy Bob, thinking that his appearance obviously invalidated his message. Would we be right? What about his message, Beloved?

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There is much confusion these days about salvation, and some of the questions which need to be addressed include: What does it mean to be “saved”? Why do we need to be saved? Saved from what? Does Jesus save us from God? Is salvation individual or corporate? Are just our souls saved? Is salvation permanent? Who can’t be saved? What is the alternative to being saved? What role does the Holy Spirit play in our being saved?

We’ve subtitled this book “Rescued from God, by God, and for God.” As we will see in our study of salvation, our sin puts us in a lost condition from which we need to be rescued. The only One qualified to save us is God. But God needed to become man in order to die for our wrong-doings. We come into this world not as friends of God, but as enemies, and only God’s wrath awaits us if we are not rescued. We need to be saved from a holy, righteous God. And the One who provides that salvation is none other than the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We are rescued from God . . . by God.

But salvation — as we will see — is not just an escape from God’s wrath. We will learn that God saves us to make us like His Son and to deploy us into the world to seek others who recognize their need to be rescued. We are saved for God.

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                   Chapter One: LOST!

The explorer Daniel Boone was once asked, “Have you ever gotten lost?” He replied, “No. But I was bewildered for three days once.” Ours is much more than a bewildered society. It is a LOST society, plain and simple.

But lost how? We learn in the Scriptures that we have not only departed from biblical mores and ethics, but we have abandoned God Himself. We have wandered — some have run — away from the true God and constructed our own substitutes. “Idols” is the term the Bible uses, illustrating in no uncertain terms what Paul in the New Testament book of Romans says when he describes sinful man as “worshiping the creation rather than the Creator.”

Someone has said that man’s first duty is to find someone to worship. And we have often simply discovered ourselves. In a sense, God took a great risk in creating this world at all. The moment He created Adam, He created the possibility of idolatry, didn’t He? Adam could now worship himself instead of God.

But how much do we need to be “saved”? And what does being “saved” mean?

Jesus made it quite clear that He had come to earth “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Lk. 19:10). This book assumes the biblical facts that Jesus was and is the Second Person of the Divine Trinity who chose to come to earth as a perfect human being for the explicit purpose of dying for sinners. He knew His mission and explained it several times. Not only did He say that He came to seek and to save that which was lost, but also that He did not come “to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mk. 10:45).

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In the 1996 movie “Ransom,” Mel Gibson plays the role of an airline executive whose son is kidnapped. One of the more dramatic moments of the movie is when Gibson is on the phone with the kidnapper and shouts, “GIVE ME BACK MY SON!” God gave us His Son that we might get ransomed back to God.

Somehow our lost condition put us in a kidnapped condition. The only rescue was for the Son of God to give Himself as the ransom!

All Are Lost!

But do all human beings need this salvation? Are all lost, or only a few? Estrangement from God is humanity’s universal condition. We come into this world as God’s enemies! Romans 5:9-10 reads:

9 Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! 10 For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life!

Lest any of us think we had anything to do with our salvation, Paul makes it clear that we were in a state described as God’s enemies when the Son was given to bring us back to God. What must it feel like to be an enemy of God? If you have trusted Jesus as your Savior, has it dawned on you that you were an enemy of God prior to your being saved? C.S. Lewis reminds us that “Fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms.”1 We don’t want to think of ourselves as God’s enemies, as rebels who without cause turned away

1 C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: HarperCollins, 1952/2001), 56. 4

from their Creator. But that’s the testimony of Scripture.

We would prefer to think of ourselves as slightly off spiritually, as those who have wandered away a bit, semi-sinners who probably need some assistance in getting back to God. But like a stage 4 cancer patient who asks merely for an aspirin, we have greatly underestimated our perilous condition before the God who is holy, and expect Him to work with our foolish self-diagnosis.

How lost are we? In 1981 a Minnesota radio station made an odd announcement about a car which had been stolen in California. The police were staging an intense search for the vehicle and the driver, even placing radio ads to contact the thief. On the front seat of the stolen car sat a box of crackers that had been laced with poison to be used as rat bait. Now the police and the car owner were more interested in apprehending the thief to prevent him from eating the poison than to recover the car. So often, when we run from God, we feel it is to escape His punishment. But what we may actually be doing is eluding His rescue.2

On this issue of being rescued, allow me a brief story. When I was in college, I took a life-saving course with about 25 other students. The Bible college I attended had a swimming pool in the basement and the young man who taught the course was not a student at the Bible college, was mean as a snake, and apparently didn’t want to teach us how to rescue drowning swimmers.

I remember his telling us one night to come wearing a pair of pants over our swim suit because he was going to teach us how to use our pants as a flotation device.

2 Leadership Journal. Further information unavailable. 5

He had us jump into the deep end of the pool, pull our pants off, blow them up, and then use them as a kind of buoy. My only problem was that that night I wore a pair of tight, bell-bottom jeans, and I couldn’t get mine past my ankles. I began to drown — in lifesaving class! No one noticed my predicament. I saved my own life by doggie-paddling to the side of the pool.

The instructor taught us how to rescue someone drowning when we had nothing to reach out to him with, or no rescue buoy to throw to him, but had to swim out to the drowning person and physically rescue them. He explained that a drowning person will climb on our heads and drown both of us. So he taught us to dive down when we got within 8 feet of the victim, grab them by their hips, spin them around, and come up holding them in a head lock. If they struggled or panicked and tried to climb on top of us, we should take them to the very place they did not want to go — under water — so they would give up and let us rescue them.

After the month’s worth of grouchy classes, our instructor said, “Your final exam will be next week and it will be simple. I will jump in the deep end, pretend to be a drowning victim, and your job will be to rescue me. I WILL TRY TO KILL YOU!”

Each of us, one after another, rescued the instructor. Each of us took the instructor to the bottom of the pool — whether he struggled or not. It was a glorious ending to a gruelling course.

Watchman Nee relates a similar story from one of his experiences as a Christian leader in Communist China. A group of young Christian brothers were gathered together to take a swim in one of the many creeks that run throughout the countryside there. Since most were

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not good swimmers, they were careful to remain close to the banks so as not to get in water over their head.

One of the brothers got out a little too far and begin to struggle in the deep water. Realizing his predicament he began to cry out to his neighbors, who by now were out of the water and drying off. “Help! Save me!” he yelled, all the while thrashing his arms and legs in a futile attempt to keep his head above water.

Brother Nee knew that only one man was experienced enough at swimming to provide some assistance, and he turned to him for help. But strangely enough, the would-be rescuer calmly watched the man’s plight but made no move to save him, to the great consternation of Brother Nee and the rest of the group. “Why don’t you do something?” they all screamed in unison. But the man just stood there apparently unconcerned.

After a few moments the drowning man could stay afloat no more. His arms and legs grew tired and limp and he began to sink underwater. Now the slow-moving lifeguard dove into the creek, and with a few quick strokes reached the victim and pulled him to safety.

Once all was well, Brother Nee was beside himself. “I have never seen a Christian who loved his own life quite as much as you,” he scolded the rescuer. “How could you stand by and watch your brother drown, ignoring his cries for help and prolonging his suffering?”

But the man calmly explained. “If I were to jump in immediately and try to save a drowning man, he would clutch me in panic and pull me under with him. In order to be saved, he must come to the end of himself, and cease struggling, cease trying to save himself. Only then can he be helped.”

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Feelings, Nothing More Than Feelings

But what if one doesn’t feel lost? Our feelings can be of great help in many situations in life, but when it comes to our spiritual condition before God, they can become outright deceptive. If we ask the question, where should we go for a definitive diagnosis of our relationship to God?, the Bible and the Bible alone is our best source.

The Bible claims to be direct revelation from God and is characterised by an expectation that it will be taken seriously. Although we should not simply affirm the authority of the Bible without good reason, providing those reasons isn’t our task here. Others — one thinks of Lee Strobel’s A Case for Faith — have done a commendable job of providing good and sufficient reasons to accept the Bible and the Bible alone as the Word of God to man.

Here we wish to ask, what is the Bible’s analysis of our spiritual condition before God? As many preachers have said, the heart of the problem is the problem of the heart. We would prefer to think that our hearts are right before God, but the witness of the Bible challenges our preferences.

When I was born, I came into this world as a premie. I was stuck in an incubator (I’m sure they didn’t call it that) for a while before I could go home with my mother. Being born premature led to hernia surgery at the age of one month, predisposed me to be early for every appointment in life, and also meant I was born with a leaky heart valve (called mitral valve prolapse). That condition never really created any problems for me in my first fifty-some years of life, except for my having to take massive amounts of an

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antibiotic whenever I got dental work done (a mouth infection can apparently go directly to that heart valve in cases like mine, without passing “Go” or collecting $200).

When I turned 59, my cardiologist said, “Your heart has gradually enlarged because of your leaky valve. We need to fix that.”

I said, “Okay. Does that mean I’ll get a zipper from my chin to my belly button?”

“No,” said my cardiologist. “We can now do robotic surgery to repair your heart valve and only have to poke a couple of holes in your chest.”

“Cool,” I said. (probably not — but who’s telling the story?). “Let’s do it.”

I went to Atlanta for the surgery with some fear and trepidation. You see, the robotic surgery was going to be done by the Da Vinci machine, and I had been a bit quite critical of Dan Brown’s book The DaVinci Code. Fortunately, Dan was not in the operating room, and the surgery came off without a hitch.

My point is that my heart needed repair. Only an expert could tell me that it was not what it needed to be — and required a radical intervention, plus several holes, plus a very large bill.

Our spiritual hearts are not right either. They suffer from far more than a leaky valve. We need a new heart — and that’s what the gospel provides to all who believe.

Before one can get saved, he or she must get lost. What we mean by that is that he or she must recognise

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their lostness and respond to God’s gracious offer of forgiveness through Christ.

Apart from terms like “lost” and “perishing,” the Bible uses several metaphors to describe (in painful detail) how absolutely needy we are in our fallen condition.

I never got into the TV series “Lost.” I must admit, that after following a few episodes, I became, well, to put it mildly, lost! The story took so many twists and turns and used so many flashbacks that I found myself wanting to be stranded on a tropical island without electricity just so I wouldn’t have to watch the next installment. Lynnette Porter and David Lavery even wrote a 270-page book entitled Unlocking the Mystery of Lost: An Unauthorized Guide. I hate to admit it, but I was beyond finding, beyond caring, how to sort out the plots and counter-plots. I was happy to be lost with Lost.

But God is not happy with our being lost. He is no confused or reluctant Savior. In fact, we understand that there is a pep rally — the Bible doesn’t say “pep rally,” but it could — in heaven every time a sinner repents! There is more rejoicing over a repentant individual than over 99 righteous people who don’t think they need to repent.

We read in verse 10 of Luke 15, “In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” We are told back in verse 7 that there is more rejoicing over one sinner who repents than over 99 who don’t need to repent. Finding that one lost sheep is somehow valued more by the shepherd than the 99 who didn’t get lost or didn’t

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see themselves as needing to be found. Quantitatively, the Shepherd rejoices greater over that lost one who is found than over the 99 who don’t need to be looked for, or don’t think they are lost. And when it comes to that lost coin, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents!

I’ve always assumed angels were happy 24/7, but here their happiness breaks out into full-fledged rejoicing! I wonder how angels rejoice? Do they slap their wings together like high school kids at a football game when their team has scored a rare touchdown against their cross-town rivals? Do they shout “Yippee!” in Hebrew? Or Greek? Or Southern English, “Out of sight, ya’ll!” When an introverted, pimply-faced teenager believed the gospel fifty years ago, was there a senior angel who turned to a group of energetic angels and shouted, “Give me an ‘L’! Give me an ‘A’! Give me a ‘R’!” and so forth?

I was actually the very first male cheerleader at the Bible college I attended after high school. I learned some valuable lessons there, such as never stand next to the girl with the megaphone. I also became fluent in defensive cheers (our team seldom seemed to have the basketball). My next year in Bible college I joined the second string of the team as a player. My claim to fame was being put in a game we were losing by 70 points (seriously). I no sooner stepped onto the court than a player from the opposing team rocketed a pass to a teammate and my left pinky got in the way. I spend a couple of hours at an emergency room getting my dislocated finger popped back into place. It was better — and safer — as a cheerleader.

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Perhaps when we get to glory, God will let us hear the original, composed-for-the-moment cheer the angels joined in when each of us got saved. It will be a glorious experience! And no dislocated fingers.

 
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Posted by on November 14, 2021 in saved

 

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Five Benefits of Salvation (A Brief Look at Hebrews 6)

Hebrews 6 is a challenging chapter. Several of my friends and I are reading through this chapter each day this week (our Bible study is described here) and then, on Sunday, we will write each other a brief email highlighting something we got out of the chapter before we move on to Hebrews 7.

I want us to focus this morning not on the possibility of one losing his or her salvation, but on the benefits of being in the family of God. Here are the verses I’m thinking about:

There is much here, but I want to list and briefly discuss each of the five benefits of salvation highlighted here by the author of Hebrews. The text speaks of

THOSE WHO HAVE —

1. ONCE BEEN ENLIGHTENED

2. TASTED THE HEAVENLY GIFT

3. SHARED IN THE HOLY SPIRIT

4. TASTED THE GOODNESS OF THE WORD OF GOD

5. TASTED THE POWERS OF THE COMING AGE

Although I don’t believe the Bible teaches that a genuine believers can lose his salvation, these expressions sure sound like true salvation, don’t they? If this is not a description of a born-again person, it certainly seems to be true of one incredibly close to the family of God.

Let’s think about each of these descriptions for a few moments. This person has —

1. “once been enlightened”– Would you describe your coming to Christ with those words? You’ve been “enlightened”? God, by His grace, opened your eyes and you saw your sin and His holiness and you fled to the Lord Jesus for forgiveness? Light broke into your soul and you saw the truth!

2. “tasted the heavenly gift” — How fascinating that the writer uses the sense of taste to describe one’s salvation. What is the “gift” to which he refers? The gift of salvation? Forgiveness of sins? A place in God’s family? And notice please that this gift is “the heavenly gift.” We don’t earn it; it is not of this earth. It is direct from heaven to us through the Incarnate Son of God.

3. “shared in the Holy Spirit” — As some of you know, I’ve been working on a book on the Spirit of God and how we can and should develop a “relationship” with Him. What do we “share” in the Holy Spirit? We share our bond in the Lord Jesus. We share God’s purpose in reaching the world for Christ. We share in the gifts the Spirit gives to build up Christ’s Body, the Church. The unbeliever does not have the Holy Spirit, is not indwelt by the Holy Spirit, cannot have fellowship with the Holy Spirit. And consequently has nothing to share.

4. “tasted the goodness of the Word of God” — This is the writer’s second reference to tasting. How fascinating! We “taste” the goodness of God’s Word. We are challenged in Psalm 34:8 to “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him.” If we are feasting on God’s Word, we are tasting of its goodness, its relevance, its incredible practicality in our lives.

5. “tasted the powers of the coming age” — This is the writer’s third reference to tasting. I really don’t know what is meant here, to be quite honest. Perhaps it is the idea that God’s power breaks into our present age through miracles and the conviction of the Holy Spirit in changing lives, through the powerful preaching of God’s Word, etc. Are such truths a foretaste of what heaven will be like? Your thoughts on this point?

Conclusion: Again, my purpose in this post is not to argue if a genuine child of God can get lost. I want us to concentrate on and thank God for the five benefits we have in presently knowing Christ. And why would anyone give those up?

 
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Posted by on August 8, 2021 in Hebrews 6

 

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Twenty Questions about God’s “Rest” in Hebrews 4

1. What is that “rest”?
2. What is the “promise” of entering that rest?
3. How does one fall short of that rest?
4. How does obedience fit into this issue of God’s rest?
5. We who have believed enter that rest! (v. 3)
6. How does God’s resting on the 7th day relate to this topic?
7. There remains for some to enter that rest. (v. 6)
8. Some did not go in because of their disobedience.
9. How does “today” relate to this rest? (v. 7)
10. What is the rest that Joshua could have given them? (v. 8)
11. What is this Sabbath-rest for the people of God? (v. 9).
12. How does one “enter” God’s rest? (v. 10)
13. Does verse 10 show that this rest is salvation (= resting from one’s works)? (v. 10)
14. How is God’s creation rest a good metaphor for this salvation-rest? (v. 10)
15. What is the alternative to not making the effort to enter that rest? (v. 11)
16. What is meant by perishing in verse 11?
17. How are unbelief and disobedience related to one another? (v. 11)
18. What is the connection of this discussion of rest with the next few verses about the Word of God? (v. 12)
19. How does all this relate to Jesus as our great high priest? (vv. 14-16)
20. Is approaching God’s throne of grace with confidence another way of describing salvation — or the Christian life? (v. 16)

 
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Posted by on August 6, 2021 in Hebrews 4

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #25 “Nine Truths about Being Saved!” (A Study of Romans 10)

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 10 each day this week.

NINE TRUTHS ABOUT SALVATION:

Truth #1- Our heart’s desire and prayer to God should be for others to get saved! (v. 1).

Truth #2- Getting saved means submitting to God’s righteousness in Christ! (vv. 3-4).

Truth #3- Christ provides righteousness to everyone who believes! (v. 4).

Truth #4- God’s way is not a righteousness by the law but by faith! (vv. 5-8).

Truth #5- The guarantee of salvation is declaring Jesus is Lord with your mouth and believing in your heart that God raised Him from the dead! (v. 9). [Interesting verse re the “Lordship salvation” debate].

Truth #6- Both heart and mouth are integral to salvation: one believes with the heart; one professes with one’s mouth (v. 10).

Truth #7- Believing on Him and calling on Him brings salvation, whether one is a Jew or a Gentile (vv. 11-13).

Truth #8- One needs to hear the message of salvation in order to believe in it (vv. 14-15).

Truth #9- Not all who hear the message will accept the good news (vv. 16-21)

 
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Posted by on January 24, 2021 in Romans 10

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #15 “Eight Blessings of Belief” (A Study of Romans 5:1-5) Blessing #4

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 5 each day this week. Here is something that I noticed in reading this chapter:

Here are the eight blessings that I see in this passage:

1. Justified through faith (v. 1)

2. Peace with God

3. Gained access into this grace (v. 2)

4. Boasting in the hope of the glory of God

5. Glory in our sufferings (vv. 3-4)

6. A hope that does not put us to shame (v. 5)

7. God’s love poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit

8. The Holy Spirit has been given to us

We will think about each of these blessings — one by one — in subsequent posts. Let’s notice this morning the fourth blessing: WE CAN NOW BOAST IN THE HOPE OF THE GLORY OF GOD (v. 2).

I will be the first to admit that I don’t have a clue what that expression means! Boasting in the Lord makes perfect sense. Boasting in our salvation — brought about by His grace — makes perfect sense. What does it mean to “boast in the hope of the glory of God”?

We will see in our next blessing that we are to “glory in our sufferings”! Perhaps this boasting in the hope of the glory of God is one way to describe our settled position in Christ. We have the certain hope that we will share in His glory and live forever in the presence of the beauty and magnificence of the Trinune God.

But right now — I’ve got some boasting to do.  And so do you. Talk about your hope in Christ today — and brag about His grace and mercy in saving you!

 
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Posted by on January 4, 2021 in Romans 5

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #14 “Eight Blessings of Belief” (A Study of Romans 5:1-5) Blessing #3

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 5 each day this week. Here is something that I noticed in reading this chapter:

Here are the eight blessings that I see in this passage:

1. Justified through faith (v. 1)

2. Peace with God

3. Gained access into this grace (v. 2)

4. Boasting in the hope of the glory of God

5. Glory in our sufferings (vv. 3-4)

6. A hope that does not put us to shame (v. 5)

7. God’s love poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit

8. The Holy Spirit has been given to us

We will think about each of these blessings — one by one — in subsequent posts. Let’s notice this morning the third blessing: WE HAVE GAINED ACCESS INTO THIS GRACE (v. 2).

The exact statement is: “we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.” We have obtained entrance into God’s concert of grace. The ticket that let us in was not obtained by our works, but by the finished work of Christ. No bouncer can kick us out. We have every right to enter fully into God’s saving grace. And we are to stand strong in that grace.

Today, thank the Lord for your free and complete salvation in the Lord Jesus — by grace through faith in Him! And stand in that wonderful truth!

 
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Posted by on January 2, 2021 in Romans 5

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #9 Justified! (Some Thoughts on Romans 4)

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 4 each day this week. Here is something that I noticed in reading this chapter:

Paul uses both Abraham (vv. 1-5, 9-25) and David (vv. 5-8) to prove righteousness comes by faith, not by works!

1. Our natural tendency is to try to get ourselves justified by our works (v. 2).

2. Our before-conversion works don’t count! (v. 5).

3. Righteousness is credited to the one who doesn’t work but trusts God by faith (v. 5).

4. Righteousness is credited to those who believe in him who raised Jesus from the dead (v. 24)

5. The Lord Jesus was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification (v. 25).

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2020 in Romans 4

 

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DON’T FORGET WHO YOU ARE! (A Study of I Peter 2:9-10)

You may have heard the story of the man who said he was going through a double crisis. “Really?” His friend said. “What do you mean?” “I’m going through both an identity crisis and an energy crisis.” “What?” “Yes, I don’t know who I am — and I am too tired to find out!”

I. Your Identity (v. 9)

1. A Chosen People (v. 9)

2. A Royal Priesthood

3. A Holy Nation

4. God’s Special Possession

II. Your Purpose (v. 9)
>> “that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

III. Your New Status (v. 10)

>> You have moved from the category of NOT A PEOPLE to the category of THE PEOPLE OF GOD! And you’ve moved from the sad status of NOT RECEIVING MERCY to the blessed condition of HAVING RECEIVED MERCY!

Today’s Challenge: Do you know who you are in Christ? Then live today as a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, and as God’s special possession. Not for yourself — but to declare the praises of the One who called you out of darkness into His wonderful light!

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2020 in I Peter 2

 

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Why Shouldn’t the World Think Us WEIRD? (A Study of I Peter 1:8-9) Part 4 Conclusion

My friend Frank and I are now going through I Peter. This is our read-the-same-chapter-every-day-for-a-week online Bible study which I’ve described here. We’re making great progress going through the epistles of the New Testament. But the following passage from I Peter really got me thinking:

Please forgive my underlining and bolding and changing colors, but these two verses kind of hit me between the eyes. And they help me not to be so surprised when the world looks at me funny and thinks I need medication or a lengthy stay in a mental hospital. Let’s continue our study of these two verses:

I. We Love What We Do Not See!

But others SAW Him — and used empirical language to describe their experience. We are to “walk by faith and not by sight,” but this doesn’t mean that our faith isn’t established on the facts!

We noticed a second truth in this text and it was that —

II. We Believe in Him! (v. 8)

We are not gullible to believe in Him! And there are so many benefits to belief in Christ (survey the gospel of John for a fascinating study!).

We then continued our study by noticing —

III. We Are Filled with an Inexpressible and Glorious Joy (v. 8)

Someone has said that “the mentally and emotionally healthy are those that have learned when to say Yes, when to say No, and when to say Whoopee!” (Willard S. Krabill, M.D.). If there is no contagious joy with the believer, something is wrong and someone needs to get filled.

Let’s conclude our study of these two amazing verses by seeing that —

IV. We Are Receiving the End Result of Our Faith — the Salvation of Our Souls (v. 9)

What is the conclusion, the pay-off if you will, of our faith in Christ? The salvation of our souls! There are other biblical texts that indicate that our salvation is not just of our souls (as we’ll see below), but here Peter’s emphasis is on that surviving-beyond-death aspect of our humanity.

Is salvation of our souls alone? Some believe that the body is the prison house of the soul (which is not a biblical concept). However, Scripture teaches that our natural body is to be resurrected and changed into an immortal body fit for eternity (I Cor. 15:35-58). In fact, our bodily resurrection is referred to as “the redemption of our body” (Rom. 8:23-24).

Some Christians hold to the idea that we are three parts: body, soul, and spirit (trichotomy). Others (like myself) see the Bible as teaching dichotomy (that the terms “soul” and “spirit” are sometimes used interchangeably). I believe this is what I call a “distinctive” area of belief (in other words, there can be legitimate disagreement between believers without either falling into false teaching). I Thessalonians 5:23 does say, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

As one writer puts it, man is a unified being divisible into two aspects, material and immaterial. “In the Bible these aspects are variously termed, body and soul [e.g., Matt. 10:28], body and mind [e.g., Rom. 12:1-2], body and spirit [e.g., 1 Cor. 7:34; James 2:26], flesh and spirit [e.g., 1 Cor. 5:5; 2 Cor. 7:1], flesh and heart [e.g., Rom. 2:28-29], and, of course, the outer man and inner man [e.g., 2 Cor. 4:16]. Human beings, though they were created to live in the physical world, are also capable of existing in the spiritual realm as disembodied souls or spirits [e.g., Heb. 12:23; Rev. 6:9-11]. See the article “Body, Soul, and Spirit: Monism, Dichotomy, or Trichotomy?” found at https://www.equip.org/perspectives/body-soul-and-spirit-monism-dichotomy-or-trichotomy/

One writer says, “The problem with trichotomy is that the words “soul” and “spirit” are used interchangeably throughout Scripture. Jesus says that his soul is troubled (Jn. 12:27), but a few verses later, we read that he became “troubled in spirit” (Jn. 13:21). Likewise, Jesus mother says, “My soul exalts the Lord, 47 And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior” (Lk. 1:46-47). Moreover, dead believers can either be called “spirits” (Heb. 12:23) or “souls” (Rev. 6:9; 20:4). At death, either the “soul” departs the body (Gen. 35:18; 1 Kings 17:21; Isa. 53:12; Lk. 12:20) or the “spirit” departs (Lk. 23:46; Eccl. 12:7; Jn. 19:30; Acts 7:59). The “spirit” knows an individual (1 Cor. 2:11); therefore, the soul and spirit perform the same function. (see http://www.evidenceunseen.com/theology/anthropology/trichotomy-or-dichotomy/)

Conclusion: From our brief study of I Peter 1:8-9 we’ve seen that we are to love Him whom we do not presently see, are to believe in the One who is not visible to us right now, and that both those responses are to fill us with unbelievable joy! The bottom line is the salvation of our souls — and we should not be surprised if the world thinks us weird! God doesn’t!

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 4, 2020 in I Peter 1

 

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