Saturday, April 25, 2015
Sir Robert Anderson, in the preface of his book, Forgotten Truths, wrote these words: "In the early years of my Christian life I was greatly perplexed and distressed by the supposition that the plain and simple words of such Scriptures as John 3:16; 1 John 2:2; 1 Timothy 2:6 were not true, save in a cryptic sense understood only by the initiated. For, I was told, the over-shadowing truth of Divine sovereignty in election barred our taking them literally. But half a century ago a friend of those days (the late Dr. Horatius Bonar) delivered me from this strangely prevalent error. He taught me that truths may seem to us irreconcilable only because our finite minds cannot understand the Infinite; and we must never allow our faulty apprehension of the eternal counsels of God to hinder unquestioning faith in the words of Holy Scripture."
Sir Robert Anderson warned of those who teach that the atonement of Christ crucified is not sufficient for the salvation of all mankind. He gave three examples in John 3:16, 1 John 2:2, and 1 Timothy 2:6. A literal interpretation of these verses makes it clear beyond question that the death of Jesus Christ is sufficient for the salvation of all people.
John 3:16 teaches that God loves the world. That is God's common grace appearing to all mankind. A distinction must be made, however, between God's common love for all and God's covenant love for the church, which includes all born again believers (Ephesians 5:25). Those who are born again experience God's love in their hearts (Romans 5:5). God's love is for all, however, God's salvation is efficient only for believers.
1 John 2:2 teaches that Christ crucified is an atonement sufficient to save all mankind, "the whole world." To deny this is to deny the plain and clear understanding of Holy Scripture. The atonement of Jesus Christ once again is declared sufficient for sinners everywhere. However, once again it is efficient to save from wrath only those who believe on our Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:36).
1 Timothy 2:6 makes it clear that Christ gave himself as a "ransom for all." While some teachers interpret this to mean all the elect, that is not what the text states. Here we find a ransom sufficient for all mankind. God's will of command is for all people everywhere to repent, turning by faith to our Lord Jesus Christ for salvation (Acts 17:30; 1 Timothy 2:4). However, the ransom is only efficient for all who repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.
What is an atonement sufficient for all and efficient only to save believers? Sufficiency is about the value of the atonement. The blood of Jesus Christ is unlimited in value to save to the uttermost all who believe in Him. The efficiency of the atonement is certain to save God's people by grace through faith, in Christ alone.
Tuesday, April 14, 2015
“But godliness actually is a means of great gain when accompanied by contentment.” I Timothy 6:6 (NAS)
My father bought a small farm from my grandfather back when he was first married. He reared five children and sought to train them to work hard and accept responsibility. In his latter years he piddled around with a few head of cattle and spent a lot of time sitting under the big oak tree in his yard. It was in that setting that a discussion took place that impacted my life.
I suggested that the old pickup truck he was using might need to be retired. It had dents on top of dents. “It runs alright,” he said. After some silence I ventured another suggestion. “You really enjoy watching the ball games on TV. Why don’t we get you a better TV with a bigger screen?”
“I can see that one alright,” he answered.
We sat for a while as I studied his responses. Neither he nor I had a lot of money, but either one of us could have afforded my suggested upgrades. “You seem very content,” I said. “You always have been. How did you reach that level of contentedness? It seems that most of the world can’t wait to get the newest and best widget.” He laughed.
“ A long time ago, I just decided to like what I have instead of wanting what I don’t have.”
I realize that that attitude taken to its extreme would impede progress and could lead to non-production, but there is a correcting truth there that can offer freedom from materialistic bondage. In a world gone mad over bigger and better, appreciation for what we have has been lost. Contentment is seen as passive — thus negative. But the lack of contentment creates turmoil in the soul and consequently sells lots of medications.
Sadly, as the apostle instructs Timothy, some use a form of religion to get gain. They sell their ministry by appealing to the consumer demands of the listeners. They promise financial gain for those who follow their particular instructions. People who have not found their supply in God’s faithfulness are susceptible to promises of gaining earthly wealth. The unscrupulous minister takes advantage of this weakness and exploits them. Both the preacher and the people “who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction.” I Timothy 6:9 (NAS)
The key to contentment is a consciousness of the Father’s love, which assures that circumstances do not determine the level of our joy. As we share his life, we rejoice in his faithful provision of our needs. Since we no longer need possessions as trophies of our significance, we are free to be grateful for what we have and to ask for what we need. Materialism is at odds with contentment. Money can’t buy it. It is more valuable than all the world’s riches. It is ours for free just because we are his children. Maybe today would be the right time to decide to be grateful for what we have, rather than yearn for what we don’t.
Monday, April 13, 2015
The Bible is unmistakably clear that unrepentant sexual immorality excludes one from the kingdom of God. We see this most clearly in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11,
“Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:9-11).
The word translated “sexually immoral” here and also in Hebrews 13:4 (“for God will judge the sexually immoral and all adulterers”) is the same: pornos. In both places it refers to anyone, male or female, who engages in any form of illicit sexual behavior outside of marriage, whether heterosexual or homosexual. You can be single and guilty of sexual immorality: it’s called fornication or pre-marital sex. You can be married and guilty of sexual immorality: it’s called adultery or extra-marital sex.
The phrase “men who practice homosexuality” in v. 9 is actually two terms in Greek. One refers to the active or more aggressive and masculine partner in a same-sex relationship and the other refers to the passive or less aggressive and overly-feminized partner in a same-sex relationship. The point is that all same-sex intercourse is forbidden. Contrary to what some revisionist interpreters have suggested, there is nothing in these words or in the context of 1 Corinthians 6 or in the cultural setting of the ancient world that would lead us to believe that these terms refer to homosexual exploitation or homosexual rape or the abuse of a younger man/boy by an older one. The terms quite simply forbid all homosexual intercourse.
Paul isn’t saying that if you ever commit a homosexual act you are forever excluded from the kingdom of God. He isn’t saying that if you were ever guilty of idolatry or ever committed adultery or ever swindled someone or ever got drunk, even if only one time, that you are excluded from the kingdom of God. Quite clearly many of these Corinthians had lived for lengthy periods of time in such behavior. “But,” says Paul in v. 11, “you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” In other words, he has in mind unrepentant immorality and drunkenness and idolatry. He’s not talking about people who sin, but of people who relish their sin and are proud of it and have given themselves over to it and refuse to repent and turn away from it.
Men and women who sin, and all do, but are broken and grieved by it and seek God’s help to forsake it are not in view in this passage. Both Paul and the author of Hebrews are talking about those who sin defiantly, persistently, as a matter of course, as an uninterrupted habit for which they feel no remorse or regret or pain of conscience. And these, whether they be homosexual or heterosexual, will come under God’s judgment.
So let me be perfectly clear about this. Men and women who struggle with same-sex attraction are not excluded from the kingdom of God. Rather, Paul and the author of Hebrews have in mind men and women who persistently and unrepentantly indulge in same-sex activity.
All of us are broken and disordered because of the fall of the human race into sin. All of us are born with a sinful orientation. We are conceived in unbelief and rebellion against God. But the mere fact that we are by nature sinners does not mean that we are absolved of guilt for the acts of sin we commit.
The question of whether or not people are born gay is irrelevant to the question of whether or not same-sex intercourse is immoral. I was born with a disposition to lie. It comes quite naturally to me. No one had to teach me how to lie. I was born with an orientation to steal what doesn’t belong to me. I was born with an inclination to lust after women. I was born with a nature that hates God. But that doesn’t mean I can lie and steal and lust and hate God and not be held morally responsible for my actions.
The primary issue when it comes to homosexuality isn’t attraction but action. It isn’t primarily about the bent of your soul but the behavior of your will. Men and women who are attracted to members of the same sex are not for that reason excluded from the kingdom of God. Men and women who repeatedly act on that attraction and engage in unrepentant same-sex behavior are.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that one should simply resign himself or herself to this struggle with same-sex attraction. I do believe the Bible affirms what I call redemptive transformation. By this I mean the work of the Holy Spirit in sanctification by which he changes and transforms and renews and heals the sinful bent of our souls.
That being said, we must not forget that same-sex intercourse, not same-sex inclination, is the focus of Paul’s condemnation when he threatens exclusion from the kingdom of God as well as the focus of the author of Hebrews when he says that God will judge the sexually immoral and all adulterers.
To stand resolutely in opposition to same-sex intercourse and so-called same-sex marriage and to clearly denounce heterosexual immoral behavior such as pre-marital sex and adultery, as well as drunkenness and idolatry and a host of other sins is the “second” most loving, kind, compassionate, and merciful thing you could ever do.
I’ll explain in a moment why it is only the “second” most loving thing you can do. But for now, recall that in Hebrews 13:1 we were told to “let brotherly love continue.” Whether someone is our Christian brother or not, we are called to love them. And one of the most loving things you can do for a man or woman is to warn them about the certainty of divine judgment against unrepentant sexual immorality (Heb. 13:4). There is not to be found the slightest tinge of genuine love when you encourage a person to engage in behavior that puts their soul in eternal jeopardy.
Both the Apostle Paul and the author of Hebrews (whoever he was), together with every other biblical author, is calling us to stand firmly in opposition to the world when it comes to matters of sexual morality. The world now celebrates pre-marital sex. The world now rejoices in adultery. The world now embraces so-called same-sex marriage. And the world insists that if you don’t celebrate and rejoice and embrace such sexual behavior, but rather insist that it will most assuredly bring eternal judgment, you are hateful and bigoted and blind and on the wrong side of history.
I’m appealing to all of you that you take your cues on marriage and sexual morality from the Bible, not from TV, no matter how funny or entertaining the show may be, or from the Internet, no matter how commonplace this new morality is, or from Facebook, no matter how many of your “friends” may think otherwise, or from Oprah or Rob Bell or our President or any Hollywood celebrity, no matter how influential and powerful he or she may be.
So what is the “first” most loving, kind, compassionate, and merciful thing we could ever do? It is to introduce people to the Savior, Jesus Christ, in whom there is forgiveness for all sin, whether homosexual or heterosexual.
Look closely again at 1 Corinthians 6:11 - “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” This is the hope that the gospel of Jesus Christ provides for any and every form of sin, whether racism or same-sex intercourse or idolatry or drunkenness or theft or fornication or hatred or adultery.
God offers to us in Christ the hope of being “justified” or declared righteous by faith in Jesus! No matter how defiled you may have become because of whatever sin you indulged, you can be “washed” clean and entirely forgiven for every sin, past, present, and future, through faith in Jesus!
No matter to what or to whom you have previously given yourself, you can be “sanctified” or set apart unto God as his precious son or daughter, through faith in Jesus!
Just think of it: through faith in Jesus Christ and repentance from sin God can release into your life the power of the Holy Spirit that can swallow up your disordered desires in something greater and more beautiful and more desirable so that you can live each day in a way pleasing to God, even in the midst of on-going struggles and brokenness.
To introduce a man or woman to this gloriously great news of freedom and forgiveness is the single most loving thing you can ever do for another person.
I will conclude with this simple but pointed statement from John Piper. I completely concur with his sentiments, and I hope and pray you do so as well:
“God's judgment on homosexual and lesbian relationships is not because he is a killjoy, but because he is opposed to what kills joy. And our opposition to such partnerships is not because of some knee-jerk homophobia, as they say again and again, but because of a settled and reasonable conviction that God knows better than anybody what is good for us and for society” (Piper).
Saturday, April 04, 2015
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.”
(Mark 1:14-15 ESV)
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. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. (1 Peter 2:24-25 ESV)
Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. For the time that is past suffices for doing what the Gentiles want to do, living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry. (1 Peter 4:1-3 ESV)
For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
(Titus 2:11-14 ESV)
Jesus did not die for our sins just to leave us in them. He paid the sin debt for all those who would trust in him for forgiveness, and believe in his death on the cross, and resurrection from the dead. A holy and just God would neither be holy or just if he did not require justice and payment for sin. Every single human being who has ever lived, except for Jesus, was born in sin, and is broken as a result of sin. Whatever transgression you can think of, Jesus took that sin on himself, and willfully paid the penalty for it. In light of this fact, why would we use the grace of God to stay in willful disobedience to God's commands?
If we are truly born of the Spirit, we will hate it when we miss the mark, and ask for forgiveness daily. We shouldn't seek to justify our rebellion to God's word, or the rebellion of others in the name of compassion. Jesus' way of showing compassion is loving us despite our sin, and showing us a way out of our wrong choices. Unlike some of the religious folks of his day, and ours, He showed kindness to the woman caught in adultery, but he also told her, "to go, and from now on, sin no more.” (John 8:11 ESV) which is something many Christians are afraid to do today for fear of offending someone. The kindest thing you could do for me, is to bring correction to me, if you see that I have wandered from the truth.
Turning from our sin requires the power of God's Spirit at work in us. Human beings do not possess enough will power to stop sinning. But to "cease from sin" requires denial of the kind of self-gratification that is clearly outside of God's will for our lives. If we have truly chose to follow Jesus, we have chosen to deny ourselves, and to take up our own cross, and to follow him. This is clearly not the "American way, " but it's the Jesus way. We can't live in sinless perfection in this life, but God requires us to repent (turn from our sin ) when we do transgress. To seek to justify our sin instead of confessing it, and turning from it, is to refuse to follow Jesus on the narrow way. So let us love one another with a heart of mercy and compassion as we seek to live out our faith. - Bobby
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. (Matthew 16:24-25 ESV)
“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14 ESV)