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 »
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 »
Apr 042014
 

way truth lifeToday we reach number 6 of the ‘I am’ statements of Jesus. I am leaving number 5 ‘the resurrection and the life’ until the end because it will then really conveniently fall on Good Friday (unplanned but very appropriate).

Number 6 is possibly the statement which is most likely to get people hot under the collar; most people today would call it intolerant and bigoted. If you consider yourself ‘post modern’ this statement really sticks in the throat. Let’s have a look at the passage:

Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:5-6)

I bet you that if I were to go out onto the streets now and ask the general public their opinions about religion, most people would say that all religions are basically the same; it doesn’t matter which one you choose, as long as you are sincere etc etc. I am horrified at how seemingly sane people can believe that all religions are the same. For one thing most religions contradict each other; how then can they possibly all be right?

Some people have tried to use the analogy of an elephant: each religion is like a blindfolded person feeling a different part of an elephant (ears, tail, trunk, legs etc). They all have different views as they are all experiencing different parts of the same thing. It is one elephant but they can’t see it because they are blindfolded. How condescending!

Another illustration is that God is at the top of a mountain and there are all sorts of different paths to reach him.

The people who use these illustrations are demonstrating breathtaking arrogance in their assumption that they actually know that all paths lead to God. The only one who could know how to get to God must be God Himself, no-one else could possibly know no matter how marvellous their explanations sound.

Jesus said ‘I am the way’. He didn’t say ‘I know the way’ or ‘I can point you in the right direction’. He is the way in Himself. If Jesus was not God and yet made this statement, He should be considered deluded or, even worse, mad. But everything Jesus did and said points to the fact that He was and is God and so this statement today must be taken seriously.

The stark question staring you in the face today is ‘what are you going to do with Jesus?’ If you reject Him there is no other way to God. But if you accept Him, the way is open to have a relationship with your heavenly father. It’s a simple choice but the most important choice you will ever make.

 April 4, 2014  Posted by at 12:00 pm Apologetics, Names of Jesus 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 »
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 »
Mar 292013
 

EasterI’m taking a short break from my series on ‘Law and Grace’ as we find ourselves in Easter week. I want to offer some thoughts at this very special time in the Christian calendar.

I love Easter week and I try to take some time aside to meditate and think again about what Jesus has done for us. It’s just the same when I am taking bread and wine; a moment to pause and wonder again at Christ’s sacrifice.

My thoughts this week are from Hebrews 12:2:

“…fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

Fix our eyes on Jesus

What a good idea to fix our eyes on Jesus. It would seem the obvious thing to do wouldn’t it? But we get so easily distracted with the busyness of life, even church life, that we can forget about the centre of our faith. Our prize, our goal, is Jesus. He is the one we long for, the one we love, the one we want to please. Every week is about Him but especially this week when we remember His sacrifice.

He is our pioneer, our example. He has gone before and paved the way. He has shown us the way forward and He is still in the process of perfecting our faith, making us more like Him.

The joy set before Him

What was the ‘joy set before Him?’

As He proceeds to the cross, what possible thing set before Him could bring Him joy in the anguish and brutality that He was about to endure? What is it that will help Him endure such suffering and heartbreak on the cross, the shame of being nailed up, naked and alone?

Partly He did it because He was obedient to the Father. It was the plan and will of God that Jesus should do this. It was the only rescue plan and He suffered it willingly. Jesus wanted to demonstrate just what the father is like, He wanted to show the compassion and perfect sacrificial love of the Father. The joy he received was from doing the fathers will. But it was also from knowing He was on a rescue mission. He loves us so much that the joy of restoring our relationship with Him compelled Him to act.

That’s right, the joy that carried Jesus through was rescuing you!

He loves us so much that He willingly suffered agonising pain so that we could be rescued and spend eternity with Him. He considered you worth it.

God is so passionate about you. He was thinking about you before time began (Ephesians 1:4), He is thinking and praying for you now (Hebrews 7:25) and one day in the future He will bring you into His kingdom to spend eternity together with Him (Revelation 21:1-4). Past, present and future.

Joy for us too

For me, this means that whenever I go through trials and difficulties, I can call on the same joy that Jesus has because:

  • He has gone before me
  • He has won the victory over every work of the enemy
  • He is with me
  • He knows what I am going through
  • He won’t let me go
  • He has promised to carry me through to the end
  • He has RISEN!!

I don’t know about you but I think this is very good news!

 March 29, 2013  Posted by at 8:50 am Resurrection No Responses »
Mar 142013
 

Law and graceEver since writing my recent review of the film ‘Les Miserables’ here, I have wanted to explore the themes of law and grace which were so evident throughout the film. I will be covering this subject in some detail over the coming weeks and I hope you will find it interesting.

According to the dictionary, one of the definitions of religion is: “The practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.”

The general idea is that by following a certain way, doing and believing certain things, you can get right with God. Religion is about living a good life and observing certain do’s and don’ts, try your hardest and you might be alright.

This way of living is very uncertain but to a greater or lesser degree this is the way of 99% of the world’s religions. You never have an assurance of salvation but can only hope that everything will be ok. This uncertainty can drive people to extreme religious observance, as did the Pharisees Jesus encountered. They were so religious that they memorised the whole of the first 5 books of the bible (Pentateuch) and went to extremes of tithing so that even their kitchen condiments were tithed (Matthew 23:23). The Pharisees loved the law, the problem was that they added to it.

Legalism

Next week we are going to look at the purpose of the law (the Pharisees missed the point altogether!). But for now we shall look at “legalism”, the way people try to keep the law.

In Christianity, legalism is the excessive and improper use of the law. This can often take 3 forms: Keeping the law to obtain salvation; keeping the law to maintain salvation; judging others by looking down on them.

(1) Keeping the law to obtain salvation

We will see later that it is simply not possible to keep the law to a high enough standard in order to be saved. We may find ourselves doing really really well at keeping the law, but the bible says that if we fail at just one point we are guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10). The bible also says that if we were able to keep the whole law then Christ would have died needlessly (Galatians 2:21).

(2) Keeping the law to maintain salvation

This is very common and one which is easy for all of us to fall into. We fully appreciate all that Jesus has done for us but feel we must add to it in order to keep our salvation. When we think about this we start to realise how arrogant this way of thinking is.

We are justified by faith alone, not by faith and works. The bible is very strong on this. In Galatians 3:10 it says “For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” And Jesus further hammers it home in Matthew 7:22-23 where he says ““Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.’

(3) Looking down on others

The third kind of legalism, where a Christian keeps certain laws and regards with contempt other Christians who do not keep his standard of holiness, is a frequent problem in the church.  It is of course clear that certain situations need to be judged carefully and lovingly where obvious sins are committed (murder, fornication, lying, stealing etc) but this is not the same as judging others in debatable areas which are not clear from the bible. We need to be very careful and this is where legalism is more difficult to define.

Romans 14:1-12 says that we are not to judge our brothers on debatable issues.

One person esteems one day as better than another, while another esteems all days alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind. (Romans 14:5).  As long as our freedom does not violate the Scriptures, then everything should be okay.

 March 14, 2013  Posted by at 8:34 pm Grace, Salvation No Responses »
Feb 142013
 

saintsLast week I asked the question “Do you know who you are?” Amongst other things, we looked at the fact that if you are a Christian the bible describes you as a new creation, according to 2 Corinthians 5:17.

This week I am going to look at the fact that you are now also a saint.

It was interesting to hear this week of the pope’s announcement to stand down due to his old age. This got me thinking about some of the problems I have with Roman Catholicism, one of them being how they ‘decide’ on who a saint is. It is quite a complicated process: the candidate in question first has to be considered exceptionally holy, he/she is then put forward to be canonised (a lengthy process sometimes taking centuries!). And they obviously have to be dead. Their remains are declared holy; they can then be prayed to and even worshipped.

The reason that you and I are saints (if you are a believer) is because Jesus has passed the test for us and fulfilled every requirement that we are unable to fulfil. We are ‘In Him’. His righteousness is our righteousness. I might live an exceptionally holy life, but that is only as a consequence of His grace upon my life. All the glory and honour goes to him. He is the only one who should be worshipped.

You too became a saint the moment He saved you. You ceased to be a sinner (even though you may still occasionally sin). From that moment you were declared righteous, nothing you now do can make you any more (or less) holy. You have been changed on the inside – even if this hasn’t yet been fully seen on the outside.

Neil Anderson sums it up nicely in his book ‘God’s power at work in you’:

“Paul does not say that we are saints by hard work. He clearly declares that we are saints by calling. Because of the unholy conduct of many believers, the word ‘saint’ has often been reserved for those who exhibit superior character and behaviour. The bible, on the other hand, identifies all believers as saints (see Romans 1:7,  2 Corinthians 1:1 and Philippians 1:1). In the King James version, believers are called saints, holy ones or righteous ones more than 200 times. In contrast, unbelievers are called sinners more than 300 times. Clearly the term ‘saint’ is used in Scripture to refer to the believer and the term ‘sinner’ is used in reference to the unbeliever. Although the New Testament gives us plenty of evidence that the believer sins, it never clearly identifies the believer as a sinner.”

How we see ourselves is so important – it changes our whole outlook on life. We need to believe the truth and get it inside ourselves. I listened to a sermon the other day by the author and pastor Phil Moore; he said that his whole outlook was changed when he resolved to spend more time reading the bible than watching television or reading newspapers and magazines. If you want your outlook to change, that’s not a bad idea.

 February 14, 2013  Posted by at 10:24 pm Grace, Salvation 3 Responses »
Feb 082013
 

Do you know who you are? That question could have a thousand answers, but let me be more specific. Do you know who you are when you become a Christian? Do you know what changes?

The bible says in 2 Corinthians 5:17

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

The knowledge of who we are in Christ is fundamental to how we will live out the Christian life. It can make the difference between success and failure, a fruitful life or an unfruitful one. The truth about you doesn’t change, it’s just who you choose to believe will make all the difference.

A new creation means a fresh start, something different. You have been transported from one kingdom to another. The kingdom you have come from will now try to lie to you and persuade you that you are still under its power. If you are now trusting in Jesus you are no longer the same as you were before, even if sometimes you ‘feel’ like you are. You are now ‘In Christ’ and operating in His power.

This week at the foundation course I am helping to run at our church we looked at this subject. We looked at the 1st chapter of Ephesians and as a little exercise we noted how many benefits were included in verses 3 to 14. There are quite a few. I have included the passage below, see if you can get over twenty.

3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. 4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love 5 he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will— 6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves. 7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace 8 that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, 9 he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, 10 to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

11 In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, 12 in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. 13 And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.

However many you got, the important part is that you believe what has been written about you, the fact that you have been included in Christ. You will find this phrase ‘in Christ’ or ‘In Him’ nine times in the first 14 verses and over 40 times throughout the whole letter. God is trying to tell us something.

The passage we have just read declares that we are ‘new creations’. We are now ‘In Christ’ all the benefits, privileges and inheritance that are His are now ours as well. God the Father looks at us and sees His son. Isn’t that fantastic news?

I’m going to take a few weeks exploring this exciting subject and it is my prayer that these truths will help you to live a more victorious life. If you have any questions please let me know as usual in the comments box below. Have a blessed week!

 February 8, 2013  Posted by at 11:48 am Salvation 2 Responses »