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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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IF THE GOSPEL REALLY IS TRUE . . . We Have JOY! (Part 7)

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 conclusion and it is this —

IF THE GOSPEL IS TRUE, THEN . . .

We can be supernaturally joyful despite the challenges of this fallen universe. I love the statement by the preacher who said that Christians owe it to the world to be supernaturally JOYFUL! Yes, we do! And we owe it to the Lord of joy! The epistle of Philippians emphasizes the issue of JOY in spite of suffering.

2 Corinthians 4:17 says, “For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” Your present troubles may not see “light” and “momentary,” but they are compared to what our Savior suffered on our behalf. We are to be “looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2)

The follower of Jesus recognizes the tragedy of sin, the effects of the cosmic fall, the sadness of unbelief, but he or she must keep in mind what the Apostle Paul says in Romans 14 — “for the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” (Romans 14:17)

Today’s Challenge: Would you describe yourself as full of joy in the Holy Spirit? If not, why not? What are some joy-killers that can drag down the believer and keep him or her from saying “Whoopee!”?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2021 in gospel

 

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IF THE GOSPEL REALLY IS TRUE . . . We Have a THEODICY! (Part 6)

This profound question raised by Karl Barth is fundamental to biblical Christianity. Certain conclusions follow IF Christianity is true, such as we have a message for the world which is both good news and bad news. We’ve also seen that we have every reason to challenge other worldviews and religions as to their response to the gospel. If the gospel is true, we have a complete justification to make the Bible our absolute guidebook for life. We looked at a fourth conclusion which was we desperately need the people of God, the church.

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

IF THE GOSPEL IS TRUE, THEN . . .

We can honestly face the suffering in the world without becoming cynical or callous. Biblical Christianity affirms the reality of suffering. But it also affirms the truth of the goodness of God. Putting those two truths together — which many worldviews deny — is called a theodicy (a defense of God’s justice in the face of evil’s reality).

The “thorns” in our world come in many different varieties. There are self-inflicted thorns; pains produced by others; brokenness inherent in our fallen world. Some thorns are given directly by God (one thinks of 2 Corinthians 12 and Paul’s “thorn in the flesh”); others sovereignly allowed by Him.

Biblical Christianity provides the best theodicy for it acknowledges that this world is fallen (it is not what God intended it to be), mankind is in rebellion against God, and a Savior has been provided for those who turn to Him in faith. He solves the problem of personal evil and suffering and one day will deal with the issue of cosmic brokenness.

In his very helpful book Why a Suffering World Makes Sense, Chris Tiegreen makes the following points:
(1)  He writes: “I will never understand those who believe that spiritual problems can be solved with social programs, that peace can be achieved by treaties, that prejudices can be eliminated by discussion, that rebellious youth can be corrected with heavy doses of esteem and understanding, that scars can be healed through therapy, that wrongs can be righted by litigation, and that diseases can be eliminated by research. Evil is woven into the fabric of humanity, and it’s obvious.”
(2) Philosophically, “I both know that philosophers and theologians have found the existence of evil plus the existence of God more than a little troubling. They have also found the existence of evil plus the theoretical nonexistence of God utterly depressing.”
(3) “The Bible teaches that God is sovereign and that he is love, in spite of clear evidence of rampant evil and excruciating suffering in this world.”

Today’s Challenge: There so much that is helpful in Tiegreen’s book that I’ll do the following: For any of you who reads his book, I will send you one of mine free. You can choose from DocTALK, DocWALK, When Temptation Strikes, Unlike Jesus: Let’s Stop Unfriending the World, and even The Other Side of the Good News! Deal?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 22, 2021 in gospel

 

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A Great Video . . . on Compassion!

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2021 in compassion

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #39 “Critical Imperatives for the Christ-Follower” (A Study of Romans 12) Part 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 12 each day this week.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. Let’s continue our multipart study by looking at verse 12.

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, and to be joyful in hope! Whew!

The eleventh critical imperative is —11. Believers are to BE PATIENT IN AFFLICTION (v. 12)!

Ok. Truth time. I don’t care for affliction. Whether it is criticism (deserved or undeserved), athlete’s foot, heart surgery, or a devastating loss in tennis — I don’t really like affliction. None of us do. But we are guaranteed suffering in this world. [For a discussion of our poor theology of suffering, take a look at our post found here.]

Here our critical imperative is to be patient in affliction. Why “patient”? Because I (and, I presume, you) want suffering and affliction O-V-E-R! We want to move on to a state of non-affliction! Right now. And it may be that Paul has in mind affliction over which we have no control. We can’t stop it or avoid it or somehow ignore it. So, we have the option of being patient IN it. And that’s a great reason to drop to our knees and . . . pray (which will be our next critical imperative).

Today’s Challenge: How would you fill in the following blank? “Right now, in my life, I am going through the following affliction: _____________________. And I can’t stop it or avoid it or ignore it. BUT, I can, by God’s grace, be PATIENT in it.

 

 
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Posted by on February 25, 2021 in Romans 12

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #18 “Eight Blessings of Belief” (A Study of Romans 5:1-5) Blessing #5c

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 continue to think about the fifth blessing: WE CAN NOW GLORY IN OUR SUFFERINGS (vv. 3-4)!

In the West we suffer from a poor theology of . . . suffering! We do. We need to get back to the Scriptures and recover a biblical glorying in our suffering!

We listed several clear, biblical statements about the believer’s suffering in our last post. But how do we GLORY in our suffering?

Here in Romans 5 Paul explains a bit more what glorying in our suffering involves. He writes, “we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Suffering is productive! It is not wasted. There are results that can come about, presumably only by suffering. Want to persevere more? You need to do some suffering! Want to have your character built to be more like Christ? You’re going to have to go through some suffering! Want to have some biblical, not worldly, hope? Apparently that kind of hope can only come through suffering!

Please don’t misunderstand me. I don’t believe Paul is saying that we pursue suffering or that we take a psychologically-twisted joy in suffering. No! But suffering is inevitable as a believer. And the real question is — What will you and I make of our suffering?

May I ask you — how are you suffering right now? The death of a loved one? A struggle at work? Covid-fatigue? Financial challenges? Use your suffering to become more like Christ! And glory in that!

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2021 in Romans 5

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #17 “Eight Blessings of Belief” (A Study of Romans 5:1-5) Blessing #5b

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 continue to think about the fifth blessing: WE CAN NOW GLORY IN OUR SUFFERINGS (vv. 3-4)!

In the West we suffer from a poor theology of . . . suffering! We do. We need to get back to the Scriptures and recover a biblical glorying in our suffering!

We listed several clear, biblical statements about the believer’s suffering in our last post. But how do we GLORY in our suffering?

Romans 8 indicates that when we suffer we are somehow sharing in Christ’s suffering (v. 17). To share anything with Him ought to lead us to a sense of glory! We also learn in Romans 8 that present suffering shows us (by way of comparison) the greatest of the glory that will be revealed in us (v. 18). The Apostle Paul defines the suffering of the Ephesians as “your glory” (Eph. 3:13)!

Suffering is a gift that no one wants, but it is described as something granted to the believer (along with belief in Him) (Phil. 1:29). Our participation in Christ’s sufferings is integral to getting to know Christ! (Phil. 3:10).

If someone sent you an invitation that began with the words, “Please join me in suffering . . .”, wouldn’t you think them strange, twisted, in need of medical attention? But the Apostle Paul actually invites the believers in 2 Timothy to “join with me in suffering for the gospel” (1:8; cf. 2:3).

Peter tells us that we’re to follow in Christ’s steps in suffering ( I Pe.2:21); that we’re to suffer for what is right (I Pe. 3:14); that we’re to rejoice in participating in the sufferings of Christ (I Pe. 4:13); that we are to praise God that we suffer as Christians (I Pe. 4:16); and that we’ve been called to God’s eternal glory in Christ after we have suffered a little while (I Pe. 5:10). Wow! If those passages don’t help us to GLORY in our suffering, we’re not paying attention!

But here in Romans 5 Paul explains a bit more what glorying in our suffering involves. And we will look at his explanation in our next post.

 

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2021 in Romans 5

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #16 “Eight Blessings of Belief” (A Study of Romans 5:1-5) Blessing #5a

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 fifth blessing: WE CAN NOW GLORY IN OUR SUFFERINGS (vv. 3-4)!

That just seems pathological, perverted, twisted, abnormal, doesn’t it? We flee suffering. We avoid it like the plague (and we do all we can to avoid plagues too). Why in the world would we “glory” in our sufferings?

Well, we are never told in Scripture to pursue suffering. But suffering inevitably comes to the child of God. Suffering we did not choose for ourselves. Suffering we cannot escape. But what use do we make of suffering?

We follow our Savior, that’s what we do! And He told us clearly that we would suffer.

In the West we suffer from a poor theology of . . . suffering! We do. We need to get back to the Scriptures and recover a biblical glorying in our suffering!

The Lord Jesus said in John 15:20 “Remember what I told you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” Acts 9:16 records God’s declaration about the newly converted Saul: “I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Here are several clear, biblical statements about the believer’s suffering:
1. We share in Christ’s sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory (Rom. 8:17).
2. We are to do a cost/benefit analysis and realize that “our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” (Rom. 8:18).
3. Suffering and glory are often connected with each other in Scripture, such as in Ephesians 3:13- “I ask you, therefore, not to be discouraged because of my sufferings for you, which are your glory.”
4. We learn that suffering is a grant, a gift. Philippians 1:29 says, “For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him . . .” According to the Apostle Paul, it is a privilege to participate in Christ’s sufferings as integral to getting to know Christ (Phil. 3:10).
5. Paul actually invites the believers in 2 Timothy to “join with me in suffering for the gospel” (1:8; cf. 2:3).
6. We also have several references to suffering in I Peter (we’re to follow in Christ’s steps in suffering, 2:21; we’re to suffer for what is right, 3:14; we’re to rejoice in participating in the sufferings of Christ, 4:13; we are to praise God that we suffer as Christians, 4:16; we’ve been called to God’s eternal glory in Christ after we have suffered a little while, 5:10).

But how do we glory in our suffering? We will tackle that question in our next post on this topic of suffering.

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2021 in Romans 5

 

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Ruminating on ROMANS! (Some Thoughts on Paul’s Great Epistle) #11 “Two Reasons to Boast!” (A Study of Romans 5:1-5)

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:

[You’ll forgive me for my notes on the passage (the bolding, the comment “It’s not a waste!”)? These are the first thoughts that hit me as I read the passage.]

Notice two points in this text:

(1) We boast in the hope of the glory of God (v. 2)

(2) We also glory in our sufferings (v. 3)

I’m not certain what the first statement means, but I want to focus on the second. “We glory in our sufferings.” WHAT?! Is Paul crazy? How could he say such a thing?!

This same Paul talks about his “thorn in the flesh” in 2 Corinthians 12 and actually says there that he “delights . . .  in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.” (v. 10). But, notice please, I left out some critical words: “for Christ’s sake”! The Christian life is not pathological, but purposeful. Whatever we suffer — it is for Christ’s sake!

Here in Romans 5, Paul wants us to glory in our sufferings because —

(1) of what we KNOW — we know that suffering produces! Suffering is not worthless or a waste. It can be incredibly productive! It produces perseverance, character, and hope! And we could all use more of that trinity of qualities, right?

(2) of what we HOPE FOR — We are not “put to shame.” What does that mean? Put to shame about our suffering? We have HOPE that our suffering will make us more like Christ. And our assurance of that progress towards holiness is the wonderful work of the Holy Spirit who has poured out into our hearts the love of God. A gift worth everything!

 

 
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Posted by on December 27, 2020 in Romans 5

 

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Want to Be Pulled Out of Your Pain?


“I would have pulled Joseph out. Out of that pit. Out of that prison. Out of that pain. And I would have cheated nations out of the one God would use to deliver them from famine.

I would have pulled David out. Out of Saul’s spear-throwing presence. Out of the caves he hid away in. Out of the pain of rejection. And I would have cheated Israel out of a God-hearted king.

I would have pulled Esther out. Out of being snatched from her only family. Out of being placed in a position she never asked for. Out of the path of a vicious, power-hungry foe. And I would have cheated a people out of the woman God would use to save their very lives.

And I would have pulled Jesus off. Off of the cross. Off of the road that led to suffering and pain. Off of the path that would mean nakedness and beatings, nails and thorns. And I would have cheated the entire world out of a Savior. Out of salvation. Out of an eternity filled with no more suffering and no more pain.

And oh friend. I want to pull you out. I want to change your path. I want to stop your pain. But right now I know I would be wrong. I would be out of line. I would be cheating you and cheating the world out of so much good. Because God knows. He knows the good this pain will produce. He knows the beauty this hardship will grow. He’s watching over you and keeping you even in the midst of this. And He’s promising you that you can trust Him. Even when it all feels like more than you can bear.

So instead of trying to pull you out, I’m lifting you up. I’m kneeling before the Father and I’m asking Him to give you strength. To give you hope. I’m asking Him to protect you and to move you when the time is right. I’m asking Him to help you stay prayerful and discerning. I’m asking Him how I can best love you and be a help to you. And I’m believing He’s going to use your life in powerful and beautiful ways. Ways that will leave your heart grateful and humbly thankful for this road you’ve been on.”

– Written by Kimberly Henderson of Prov. 31 Ministries –

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2020 in suffering

 

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