Apr 102015
 

Why did Jesus have to dieEaster is a wonderful time to take some time aside and think about what Jesus has done for us. It is amazing that God should become a man and die for us, but have you ever wondered why he needed to die for us and why it had to be in such a horrific way?

When somebody writes a biography, they usually write the vast majority about the person’s life and very little about their death. In a biography of Winston Churchill’s life, the British prime minister, there are only 3 pages out of 300 that are devoted to his death. That’s just 1% of the book. However, when we look at the New Testament we see that approximately 33% of each gospel is devoted to the death and resurrection of Jesus. The reason for this is that His death and resurrection are absolutely vital to the gospel message. Indeed, the main reason why Jesus came to earth was not just to give us a good example of how to live, or provide us with moral teaching, but to die and rise again!

The cross of Christ lies at the heart of Christianity, to not understand it means we have missed the very reason why Jesus had to die. The death of Christ was no accident, it was foretold in many places throughout scripture.

Some would ask “So why couldn’t God just forgive sin without Jesus having to die?” To ask this question demonstrates a lack of understanding of the holiness of God and also the severity of sin which undermines it. The holiness of God means that God cannot just sweep sin under the carpet, it must be punished. The true and just punishment of sin is death. The other side of God’s character is love and mercy and that is what happens at the cross; God’s holiness and judgement meet His love and mercy, in a ‘once for all’ sacrifice. It was once for all because only a perfect person could meet the full criteria. If we had died on the cross it would simply have been a just punishment because we are all sinful, but because it was Jesus, the perfect substitute, God’s judgement is satisfied. Jesus died in our place.

There are 4 main things that happened at the cross and we will look at each of them briefly;

Justification – to be declared ‘just’ (or not guilty)

Because of what Jesus did on the cross, we are declared not guilty by God. Christ died for us to pay our debt. How amazing, the God whom we have offended is the one who comes to our rescue!

For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

The Apostle Peter also speaks of Christ’s death in this way:

He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. (1 Peter 2:24)

An easy way to remember this concept is to break the word justified up into ‘Just as if I’d never sinned’ not great English but a great truth!

Redeemed – to be bought out of slavery

To redeem means to ‘buy back’. The bible shows that we were slaves to sin and death, but now we have been bought back at a very high price, the death of Jesus. Slaves were sometimes redeemed in ancient times, if they had enough money they could redeem themselves by buying their freedom for a price. The bible is clear that we would never have had enough ‘money’ to free ourselves, we were morally bankrupt. The only person who could buy our freedom was Jesus and He paid the ultimate price with His own life.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace  (Ephesians 1:7)

Substitution – to have someone take our place

Anyone who knows me, knows I am a big follower of football. Oftentimes in football, when somebody is having a bad game, or is injured a substitute will come on in their place. One person is replaced for another. Jesus was our substitute. In the Old Testament a lamb was substituted for the sinner and was killed instead of the person. A death had to occur and it was better that it was the lamb’s. In the same way Jesus was our substitute, He took our place on the cross and bore our punishment. He was saying to the father “Father, punish me instead of them”

but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)

Jesus was willing to be our substitute to bear our punishment so that we could be spared.

Reconciliation – the healing of a broken relationship

All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18)

The bible makes it clear that even from birth we are alienated from God, we were born in sin because of our first parents – Adam & Eve. Every human being since has started life separated from God because of that sin. We don’t start life with a clean slate, it is already tainted. This prevented us ever having a relationship with him.

But on the cross Jesus restored that broken relationship by removing God’s wrath and anger from the sinner and taking it upon himself. With the barrier of sin removed, it is now possible to have peace with God. A relationship restored and not only that but adoption into God’s own family.

But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God. (John 1:12)

These 4 things mean the following wonderful truths:

  • We know God’s forgiveness– God chooses to forgive and not remember our sin anymore
  • We have access to God – We can now enter right into God’s presence, free from guilt and fear. When Jesus died, the temple curtain was torn from top to bottom (Mark 15:38) signifying the separation has been completely taken away.
  • We have peace with God– we are no longer enemies of God but have now become friends
  • We are adopted into God’s family– God has adopted us into his family and we are now sons and heirs.
  • We have eternal life – The fear of death is gone because Jesus has defeated it. When we die in this life, we just pass on to a better life forever with Him.

So how do we know that Jesus succeeded in what he set out to do on the cross?

We know He succeeded because He rose again. We can so easily purely focus on the cross, but His death and resurrection go hand in hand. In fact, if Jesus had not raised to life on the third day our faith would be pretty meaningless. But the very fact that he did rise shows that his mission was completed and his death on the cross was a success. He rose because death no longer had a hold on Him and everything He said about himself, including His divinity was true.

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:14)

And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. (1 Corinthians 15:17)

So in conclusion, there was no other way for our sins to be dealt with. The cross shows us the seriousness of sin before a Holy God and that a death had to occur. It shows how rebellious mankind can be and it also shows us the amazing love that God has for us and the beautiful obedience of the son who would go to any lengths to rescue us.

The fact that Jesus died though, demands a response. It is not enough just to know that it happened. The bible makes it clear that we need to take some action in response. To fully experience God’s forgiveness and have a right relationship with Him you need to;

  • Repenting of your sins, admit that you have done wrong in your life and that you need Jesus’ forgiveness.
  • Believe that Jesus is the Son of God and died on the cross bearing the full penalty your sins deserved. That He rose again from the grave and has conquered death as the risen Lord.
  • Commit your life into his hands. He is now Lord of your life and with the power of His Holy Spirit, you can now live a life that pleases Him.

That is the gospel in a ‘nutshell’ and it is no wonder they call it good news!

 April 10, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics, Resurrection, Salvation, The gospel No Responses »
Jan 302015
 

Do babies go to hellA couple of weeks ago we looked at the question “How can a God of love send people to hell?” but we didn’t cover the aspect of what happens to the unborn, babies or small children if they die before ever having the ability to make a choice to follow Jesus or not. It’s a fair question because the bible says that it is only through Jesus that we are saved (Acts 4:12) It also says that we are born in sin (Psalm 51:5) so the assumption is that babies, small children are unsaved and heading for hell.

But that doesn’t sit right does it?

That answer is a bit black and white though, isn’t it? As in many areas of life there are no definitive answers in the bible and so we need to look at some general principles from the bible and form an opinion based on these.

I would always focus the attention firstly on the character of God. The bible reveals a lot about that.

First of all God is good

Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. (Psalm 34:8)

He is also trustworthy “All your commands are trustworthy” (Psalm 119:86)

He is also a righteous judge “He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice.” (Psalm 9:8)

There are so many attributes I could fill a book (a very big book!)

Basically because he is righteous and just and good and also knows all things, we can therefore trust him implicitly.

Let me ask you a question. Do you think a God like that would send little children or even the unborn to hell?

Let me change angle.

The bible states that we are all sinners by nature and choice;

For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)

There is no-one righteous, not even one.” (Romans 3:10)

It even shows that we were sinful at or before birth;

Even from birth the wicked go astray; from the womb they are wayward and speak lies.” (Psalm 58:3)

Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.” (Psalm 51:5)

This means that yes, young children and even the unborn are sinful. Being so young, they are unable to repent or believe, but how different is that to adults? We have all turned away from God. There is no-one who seeks after God

there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God.” (Romans 3:11)

Anyone who is a Christian is only a Christian because God has fore-ordained it because Salvation is from God alone and it is based solely on his grace.

who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time.” (2 Timothy 1:9)

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” (Ephesians 1:4-6)

But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.” (Ephesians 2:4-5)

God choosing us is called the doctrine of ‘Election’. Speaking about Jacob and Esau it says in Romans;

Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls—she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” Just as it is written: “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” (Romans 9:11-13)

So the fact that anybodyis saved (Children or adult) is a miracle of God.

If God chooses and saves adults by his grace not because of anything they have done, will he not also save children by his grace as they have not even had a chance to do anything, good or bad?

There is evidence in the bible of God’s hand of grace on unborn children. Speaking of John the Baptist in Luke’s gospel it says..

for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.” (Luke 1:15)

And King David says in the Psalms..

From birth I was cast upon you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.” (Psalm 22:10)

After the death of David’s child, David makes an interesting statement, which would certainly suggest that his newborn son has gone to heaven..

But now that he is dead, why should I fast? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him, but he will not return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:23)

There are other clues in the bible if you look for them that suggest that young children or the unborn who die prematurely are at rest, which would certainly not be the description of hell. After Job has had all his family and possessions wiped out he mourns and curses the day of his birth. In Job 3:11–13 he says;

Why did I not perish at birth, and die as I came from the womb? Why were there knees to receive me and breasts that I might be nursed? For now I would be lying down in peace; I would be asleep and at rest

And in Ecclesiastes it makes a statement about a stillborn child;

A man may have a hundred children and live many years; yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he.” (Ecclesiastes 6:3)

Better off? In hell?

Another interesting point to note is that throughout the bible, whenever judgement is mentioned it is always in the context of works, for instance;

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had doneas recorded in the books.” (Revelation 20:11-12)

Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” (John 3:36)

Even though young children are born with a sin nature and are therefore sinful, they have no chance to follow or reject God, so how can they be judged?

And the little ones that you said would be taken captive, your children who do not yet know good from bad—they will enter the land. I will give it to them and they will take possession of it.” (Deuteronomy 1:39)

In conclusion

If your view of God is of a cruel, nit picky and capricious God who stands at the gates of heaven with a clipboard and if you don’t tick all the boxes you don’t get in, then you will believe that God judges harshly with young children and the unborn and resigns them to hell because “those are the rules.”

But if your view of God is based on how God has revealed himself in the bible; a gracious, kind, patient, giving, forgiving, merciful, compassionate heavenly father, who lavishes his grace on us not because of anything we have done but because of his great mercy, then I suspect your view might be quite different.

Let’s leave the last words with Jesus which I believe is the clincher;

Jesus said “Let the little children come to me and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)

 January 30, 2015  Posted by at 12:00 pm Hell, Salvation 2 Responses »
Dec 052014
 

Second chanceI asked all my readers recently to provide me with any questions you may have that perhaps you have struggled with or wondered about as you have read the bible and I would do my best to bring an answer.

The title of this blog is the condensed version of one of these questions.

To expand it a little, the question was; “Given that God is a just God, it would seem unjust if someone died who had actually not rejected Jesus because they had never understood whilst alive. Surely they must have a chance to choose to accept or reject Him, so would they be given a chance to make that decision after death?”

A similar question would be “What happens to the people who have never heard the gospel?

That’s a great question! As you will have noticed in nearly all my blogs, I have used scripture a lot to back up what I am saying. This can be quite an emotive subject and so rather than give my own opinion, as best I can, I want to answer this question with the unchanging, eternal, word of God, whether I particularly like the answer or not. Remember as I said last week we want to get past our own opinions and hear what God really wants to say.

I know that some will disagree with me on the next point, but let’s start with the issue of salvation. Who is responsible for it? Is it God or ourselves? Some would say that it is only our choice, we are the ones who see our need to be saved and so when we realise this we repent and are saved. God provided it but the decision belongs to us. This is commonly referred to as the Arminian position.

The bible states that before we are Christians we are ‘dead’ in our sins (Colossians 2:13 and Ephesians 2:1) and the last time I noticed, dead people are incapable of making decisions! I believe that it is God who is the ‘Founder and perfector’ of our salvation as it says in Hebrews 12:2.

Ephesians 1:4 also makes it clear that God chose us. “even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him.

Jesus makes this even clearer when He said;

You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide (John 15:16)

So point number one is that salvation is dependent on who God chooses, not on our own decision, even though it feels like our decision when we do receive him. We were drawn to make that decision by The Holy Spirit

So what about the question of God being unjust to people who don’t even get to choose?

The bible is clear that actually no-one is without excuse;

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)

Also that no-one has an inclination to seek after God either;

None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. (Romans 3:10-12)

The natural state of everyone is rebellion towards God, we are all the same. Even if we were given a second chance we wouldn’t take it. Many people have received amazing miracles & still rejected God. Even Jesus when He walked this earth, after performing amazing miracles and seeing the dead raised was still rejected. In the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-31 The rich man asked for warnings to be given for his 5 brothers who are still alive and Abraham responded;

He said to him, ‘If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead. (Luke 16:31)

The hope of a second chance is completely extinguished by the verse in Hebrews 9:27

it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.

So the answer is that when we die, everyone receives justice, we all get what we deserve. For some of us though who have put our trust in Him and who God has called, we receive the most amazing mercy. We who were once God’s enemies are declared righteous and welcomed into the family of God as His own children for all time.

If you have any other questions about the bible you would like me to look at, please let me know in the comments below. I will be looking at a few more bible difficulties in the coming weeks.

 December 5, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Salvation No Responses »
Aug 292014
 

SaviourThe concept that Jesus is a saviour is one of the most fundamental ideas in the whole of the bible. Becoming a Christian means you have acknowledged your need of a saviour in the first place and recognised that Jesus is the only one who can save you.

I would imagine that most people who read this blog are already Christians, but if you are not and are interested in discovering more, then this blog should explain some of the basics of the Christian faith. If you are a Christian, then it’s never a bad idea to go back to the reasons why you followed Jesus in the first place.

A saviour is somebody who rescues a person who is in big trouble and is unable to save themselves.

Every one of us needs a saviour because we are all in big trouble. We have placed ourselves in the wrath of God because of our sin, which means we basically go our own way with no regard to God. We haven’t just ignored God; we have been wilfully disobedient. The bible says that because of this sin each one of us deserves death: “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Death is the payment for our disobedience. Earlier on in Romans it also makes clear that we are all in the same boat: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). There are no exceptions, we are sinners in our very nature, our whole bias is towards disobedience and the choices we make on a daily basis prove that bias within us.

We would never be able to save ourselves even if we wanted to. We would need to lead a perfect life from the start to stand any chance of achieving our salvation. As the old saying goes ‘nobody is perfect’- and here lies the problem. And here is precisely where Jesus comes in. Jesus is God and is therefore perfect. As God, He stepped into history and became a man. God put flesh on. In the most supreme sacrificial and loving act of kindness in the whole of history, God ‘picked up the tab’ for our sin. He went all the way and died a brutal death on a cross for us. He was dead and buried until the third day when He rose again, proving His victory over death and sealing our salvation.

However, this salvation only becomes a reality when we believe what God has done for us and repent of our sins. This great news is called the ‘gospel’ and in Romans 1:16 it says that this gospel is “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” This great news is something far too great to keep to ourselves and so our saviour commanded us in Mark 16:15-16 “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

There are 3 main points I want to make about Jesus as our saviour:

· For everyone – His offer of salvation is for everyone: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoeverbelieves in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)

· Only through Jesus – There is no-one else who can save us: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

· Safe and secure – He is not going to let you go: “He is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.” (Hebrews 7:25). “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:27-28)

If you have read through this and wondered whether to accept Jesus as your saviour I urge you to follow Him now:

For he says, “In a favourable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favourable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2)

If you have made a commitment through this blog, I would love to hear from you and help you follow Jesus more closely, so please contact me.

This seems to be a really good place to finish on this ‘names of Jesus’ series. We have been looking at this topic for about 9 months now and there are still many more aspects of His character to discover, but I hope, like me, you have learned a whole lot more and have come to appreciate this wonderful Jesus, the God/man, in a whole new light.

 August 29, 2014  Posted by at 12:21 pm Names of Jesus, Salvation No Responses »
Nov 142013
 

helmet of salvationThis week in my series on the armour of God we will focus on the ‘helmet of salvation’, a very important piece of the soldiers’ attire.

Moving away from the soldier analogy for just a moment, I have not worn any of the equipment we have mentioned so far, but I am very familiar with helmets. I wear one every day when I ride my scooter. Apart from the fact that it is illegal not to, I wouldn’t dream of riding my bike without a helmet. I have come off my bike a number of times and although I haven’t landed on my head, if I ever were to land without having a helmet on, it would be extremely messy.

When I travel to Spain in the summer holidays I am constantly amazed by the amount of people who ride their scooters and mopeds without helmets. Many of them carry them on their arm, I presume in case they see a police officer and can quickly pop them on. Of course it is hot in Spain and wearing a helmet can make the head very sweaty, but the consequences of not wearing one could be fatal.

Our heads are amazingly designed. The skull is pretty hard and for every day bumps it offers great protection, but when hit harder, serious damage can be caused to the brain which is of course a vital organ. We all know what can happen when our brains don’t function correctly. The goalkeeper of my favourite football team was knocked unconscious last week and although he appeared to make a fairly quick recovery, the damage inflicted if he had got concussion could have been serious. The subsequent news stories of people dying from double-concussion (second-impact syndrome) have been quite frightening, albeit very rare.

I am not entirely sure why the helmet in Ephesians 6 is ‘of salvation’. I can only assume it is because our thoughts and intellect are under constant bombardment. Salvation is such a precious gift and we need to live our lives in the good of it. As soon as we start to doubt our salvation (and this can often come from wrong thinking) we become susceptible to depression, doubt and fear. If we become complacent and wear our salvation helmet on our arm, whenever we fall we are very vulnerable.

There are two great ways of remembering this precious salvation that God has given us; the first is to tell it to others. When we share with others what God has done, in an amazing way it becomes even clearer in our own heads. The second way is to meditate on scripture. When was the last time you dwelt on your own salvation? Unusually I haven’t included any bible passages so far, so let me just share these few at the end for you to meditate on and get your helmet securely in place:

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.” (Psalm 62:1-2)

Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16)

“….that if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” (Romans 10:9-10)

Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” (Hebrews 7:25)

Just as man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.” (Hebrews 9:27-28)

 November 14, 2013  Posted by at 10:18 pm Armour of God, Salvation No Responses »
Jun 132013
 

MephiboshethI am currently following a bible reading plan which takes me through the whole bible in a year, reading a few chapters each day. Just recently I came to one of my favourite stories in the Old Testament and it is a wonderful picture of the grace that we have received.

The main part of the story is in 2 Samuel 9. I will briefly outline the situation:

King Saul has failed as Israel’s king and David has been chosen to take his place. Saul is jealous of David and is determined to kill him. He pursues him for a long time and even though David has two clear opportunities to kill Saul, he refuses to do it as he doesn’t want to touch God’s anointed king. David waits for God’s timing to receive his promised position as king. Saul’s son Jonathan is best friends with David and is fully committed to him, refusing to help his father in his pursuit.

Eventually David becomes king after Saul and his son Jonathan die in battle. Even though Saul was his enemy, David wants to show kindness to a member of Saul’s family, namely Mephibosheth (Jonathan’s son, Saul’s grandson). Mephibosheth is summoned to the king’s palace.

Now Mephibosheth is crippled, being lame in both legs. He has to be carried everywhere and is totally dependant on others helping him. In an extraordinary act of grace, David gives him all of Saul’s property and states that he shall always eat at the king’s table.

Later on in the story we see that Ziba (Mephibosheth’s servant) spreads a false rumour about Mephibosheth to David, resulting in Ziba receiving a substantial part of his master’s estate. In 2 Samuel 19 we see Mephibosheth vindicated, but he never seeks revenge. He doesn’t care that half his estate has been handed over to Ziba. He is just happy that his king, David is back and he can share his meals with him again.

This is an amazing picture of what King Jesus has done for us. We were not able to help ourselves (spiritually crippled), we were in essence enemies of the king. But Jesus sought us out, determined to show kindness to us. King Jesus has now given us full access into His palace where we can enjoy food, shelter and protection for the rest of our lives (and into eternity).

Let us never lose the wonder of how far away from God we were (even further than Mephibosheth) and how now, through no effort of our own, we have been brought right into the king’s presence. Let’s be like Mephibosheth, who even though he lost material possessions, it really didn’t compare to the joy of spending time with his king.

 June 13, 2013  Posted by at 8:48 pm God's family, Grace, Salvation, The gospel 1 Response »
Apr 302013
 

Conscience cleansedGrace not only frees us from sin and guilt but also frees us from the bondage of religious formality

“…how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Hebrews 9:14)

We can assume dead works are ‘high church’ religious observances – what we sometimes refer to as ‘smells and bells’. We may become rather smug, thinking how free we are. But ‘dead works’ actually means a lot more than this.

As the term suggests, ‘dead works’ are deeds we do which have no life in them, done simply by going through the motions without exercising any faith. We can do all manner of church activities out of habit, or maybe out of a sense of duty because we feel we ought to.

Another example of dead works is ‘presumption’; we simply assume that God is with us. An example of this is in the Old Testament: shortly after the Israelites won a famous battle where the walls of Jericho fell, they assumed they could go to battle against the city of Ai with just a few thousand men in order to give everyone else a rest. However, they failed to consult God first and discovered He was angry with them because of sin in the camp. This story can be found in Joshua 7.

The obvious question to ask is “did God tell you to do it?”. It may seem to be a noble task you are about to undertake, but has God asked you to do it? He has a specific plan for each one of us. This does not mean that we wait for a definite ‘go ahead’ for everything that we set out to do, but it does mean we should pray about our plans. God will clearly guide us if He doesn’t want us to proceed.

In 1 Corinthians 13 the apostle Paul talks about being able to speak in tongues, having great prophetic gifts, and giving everything we have to the poor. But if we don’t have love then these are all dead works too.

If we are at all unsure of our acceptance in Christ, we can quite easily fall into a works righteousness pattern, attempting to impress God or other people. But as we have seen over the past few weeks, grace makes us completely free from having to earn any credit at all. A lovely little verse to hold onto (amongst many others) is this:

Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness.” (Romans 4:4-5)

How amazing is that? We don’t work, we trust God, and it is credited to us as righteousness. As I have mentioned before, the more we read God’s word, the more this truth will become a part of us and set us free.

These thoughts have been taken from Terry Virgo’s fantastic book ‘God’s lavish grace’ which I heartily recommend. You can order the book by clicking on the links on the left.

 April 30, 2013  Posted by at 10:08 pm Grace, Righteousness, Salvation 5 Responses »
Apr 252013
 

confused-woman-420x0Over the last few weeks we have been looking at the wonderful gift of God’s grace; Jesus has done everything for our salvation, we could do nothing.

In Romans 5 the apostle Paul talks about sin increasing and grace increasing all the more.

One conclusion could be that we keep on sinning so that God’s grace looks even better. If preached properly, grace should appear scandalous and utterly irresponsible. We are telling people that they can do what they like, it doesn’t affect their salvation at all. This is what Paul is leading towards throughout his letter to the Romans.

However, Paul’s next statement in Romans 6 is absolutely key:

What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (Romans 6:1-2)

Knowing this truth is crucial to our freedom. We have died to sin.

We are now faced with another question which so many Christians struggle with. It goes something like this: “I know I’m saved but how do I get free from the power of sin”. Reality feels so different doesn’t it? We can know by reading the bible that we have died to sin and yet feel utterly crushed because we continue to sin.

As Christians we can know we are forgiven, yet still feel in slavery to sin.

In his book ‘God’s lavish grace’ Terry Virgo highlights 3 very important steps:

(1) We need to know

Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (Romans 6:3)

We need to know that the bible is true. If it is not, simply put, God is a liar and we are to be pitied amongst all people. We need to see that the fact that we are freed from the power of sin is for all of us, not just some elite Christians who have really got their act together. We need to also realise that it is not some future experience that happens when we go to heaven. No, it’s true NOW. If you are still struggling, make a note of some of the following verses. Take them like medicine 3 times a day if you have to, until the truth gets right inside.

(2) Count yourself dead to sin

In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus. (Romans 6:11)

This is an accounting term, reckoning, making sure it’s in the ‘right column’.

It is not mind over matter. We consider it true because it is true.

When I go to Spain I set my watch forward an hour. I have transitioned from one country to another, therefore this is now the correct time in my new location. We need to ‘set our watches’. If your ‘watch’ says you are dead to sin, then you are dead to sin. Reckon it so.

(3) Take responsibility

Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. (Romans 6:12)

Why does it say ‘mortal’ bodies? Because until we get resurrection bodies, we still have to put up with these old things; “…treasure in jars of clay” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Before salvation, our spirits and bodies were happy to sin but now they are at war with each other. We need to take authority over our bodies and make wise choices; where we spend our time, what we allow ourselves to look at etc.

We now belong to a new master and are slaves of righteousness.

So should we carry on sinning? Why would we want to?!

 April 25, 2013  Posted by at 8:15 pm Grace, Righteousness, Salvation No Responses »
Apr 172013
 

Free gift of righteousnessAs we saw last week in Romans 5:17 we reign in life, not only through God’s abundant grace but also through His free gift of righteousness.

We can enjoy God’s grace fully when we become absolutely assured that He has made us righteous. We are not ‘being made righteous’; we are fully, completely and utterly righteous right now. Again, not through our own works but because through His sovereign grace, God has made it so.

As people prior to conversion become aware of their sin, they may try to improve themselves through ‘good works’. Until one day they hear the glorious gospel; that all they have to do is repent, turn and come to God just as they are. However, even before they have finished giving their lives to Christ, the person leading them through the ‘sinners’ prayer’ can start adding a list of things they really should be doing (bible reading, prayer, witnessing etc). Many churches can be found doing this and it is often due to a misunderstanding between “justification” and “sanctification”.

Justification and Sanctification

It is vital we know the difference between justification and sanctification.

Justification is our standing before God. When we become Christians He declares us righteous. We cannot add to it or take anything away from it. It is summed up in one of my favourite verses: “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Sanctification is the ongoing process which makes us holy. It is the gradual change that happens through our Christian walk which changes us “from one degree of glory to another” (2 Corinthians 3:18). This happens as we spend time with God and other Christians, but it never affects our justification. Some of us are sanctified quicker or slower than others but we are all justified the same, hallelujah!!

In Adam or In Christ?

The apostle Paul’s favourite title for a Christian is someone who is ‘In Christ’.

Before we became Christians we were all ‘In Adam’.

The bible talks about various people in the bible being ‘types’ of Christ. For example, Jonah was in the belly of a fish for 3 days; Jesus was in the tomb for 3 days. Adam is a type of Christ in that what he did had an affect on the whole human race. Because he sinned, we are all considered sinners because we are considered to be ‘in Adam’.

We are saved now because we are ‘in Christ’. He died and rose again so that whoever believes in Him will be saved. We have died to the old life and have now been raised with Christ. We have now been ‘born again’. (John 3:3)

When you were ‘in Adam’, whatever good works you did were never enough to ‘get you out’ of Adam. You can’t ‘get out’ that way. Now you are ‘in Christ’ you can’t ‘get out’ of Christ by sinning.

That’s right – nothing you can do can take you out of Christ because it wasn’t your efforts that ‘got you in’ in the first place. It was all by God’s grace.

Bu that’s scandalous! Yes it is and it begs the question “shouldn’t we keep on sinning then so that God’s grace looks even better?”. This is the question we will look at next week. But this week let us simply enjoy the magnificent freedom of God’s grace!

This blog is a summary from a chapter in Terry Virgo’s wonderful book “God’s lavish grace” you can order a copy by clicking on the links on the left hand side

 April 17, 2013  Posted by at 10:01 pm Grace, Justification, Righteousness, Salvation, Sanctification 2 Responses »
Apr 102013
 

Reigning in lifeI have been greatly influenced by the teaching of Terry Virgo on the whole subject of Grace. I remember first hearing Terry speak about it at a John Wimber conference in the 1980’s, then reading Terry Virgo’s subsequent best selling book ‘God’s lavish grace’.

Rather than re-inventing the wheel, I thought I would summarise a few chapters from that book over the next few weeks to help us as we continue through the wonderful subject of Grace. If you have read the book, I’m sure it will not do you any harm to revisit it again, but if you haven’t I highly recommend it and have provided a link on the left sidebar so you can order it from Amazon. (If you do click on the link and buy it I will receive a small commission!).

For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!” (Romans 5:17)

The promise to ‘reign in life’ is a wonderful promise for the Christian. This and other such verses which tell us that we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37) and that Christ leads us in triumph (2 Corinthians 2:14) should leave us wonderfully exhilarated. However in reality these can actually leave us feeling deflated and condemned.

Our mindset can easily be that everything we have is earned. We know from the above verses that we should ‘reign in life’ and so after hearing a particularly stirring sermon or while making new year resolutions, we determine that we will do better. We will set the alarm clock an hour earlier, pray more, study more and witness to more people. Then after a few days we find we are already a chapter or two behind on our reading plan, we start falling asleep through our prayer times and to be honest it’s all a bit dry. We get dejected and feel thoroughly rotten until the next time we hear a challenging sermon and go through the whole cycle again.

Is this your experience?

Go back and read Romans 5:17 again. We reign in life by receiving God’s grace, not through earning it. If we try to earn it we have got it all wrong. It’s because of your standing in Jesus that you reign in life. It’s about your position, not your performance.

Romans chapter 7 gives the example of being married to the law. The law is a horrible husband to be married to. He is a dominating husband, not lifting a finger to help, pointing out your failings and inadequacies and is annoyingly always right. He is also impotent and so cannot breathe life into these dead laws. And on top of everything else, he will never die!

But the great news in Romans 7:4 is not that the law has died but that WE have died to the law. In his book, Terry gives a great illustration of a soldier who has just been discharged from the army, walking across the parade ground in his civilian clothes he completely ignores the sergeant major barking commands for him to get in line. That is now our attitude to the works of the law. They are still perfect, but we are released from them.

Rather than impotence we can now bear fruit for God. Jesus said:

Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. “(John 15:4-5)

We need to get this inside of us; the realisation of this truth will revolutionise our lives. I will finish with Galatians 5:1

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

 April 10, 2013  Posted by at 9:10 pm Grace, Salvation No Responses »