REALITY CHECK

1367518065“So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’” (Luke 17:10 NIV)

We should be humble in whatever we do for Jesus and not delude ourselves into thinking that we can merit any favor or grace in any way.  

I totally concur with saying what the Word says about our identity in Christ.

We should say what God says about us.

But this passage really addresses those who teach there are higher levels spiritually that some reach and some do not. 

There is salvation by grace and there is growth in grace. Knowing Christ is how both take place. God does not owe us anything now that we are saved and obey him.

“When we realize all that God has done for us in Jesus, we want to serve Him out of gratitude. When our hearts are right, we live and act as if we are happy to have the privilege of being allowed to serve God.” (D. Guzik). 

Some people think because they have done so much more for God than others they think God owes them something such as: health, money and position. 

He does not. When he chooses to bless He has his glory in mind.

God is self sufficient. He does not need anything. The Bible is all about what God has done, is doing and will do. It is not about how wonderful we are.

The facts are, God cannot gain anything by what we do and is never in our debt despite how much we do for him.

God is self sufficient. All things come from him. What can we give back to him except what he has already given us?

He has no need of us, and anything we do does not improve his status in the universe because he is already perfect.  He is already God with or without us.

Sadly, much of what we do falls short anyway.

Do not respond to this with lengthy diatribes on having bad self esteem when Christ says we should call ourselves. “Unprofitable servants.”

His love for us is based totally in grace and he is not indebted to us in any way. This verse simply reminds us where we came from and not to forget that we are in a state of grace and no one will brag about anything when they get to heaven (1 Cor. 1:29).

Serving him is our privilege- for God is happy all by himself and we are a hot mess without him and find the grace we need and the peace we need because or who He is all by Himself. 

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Christ’s Manifest Presence

IMG_2494The Bible teaches that Lord is enthroned and inhabits the praises of his people (Ps. 22:3).

This praise here is he Hebrew word  tĕhillah-an exuberant, spontaneous singing. The people here are the church, his saints who have been given grace to respond to the love of the Lord with all their hearts.

Only a real Christian who has the Lord on the throne of their heart will be aflame with the joy and rest of the Holy Spirit. Only that person desires to engage their Lord with exuberant joyful singing! Worship is never boring to them-that is why they sing with joy! 

First, biblical praise simply means worshiping God for who he is-his nature and character as revealed in the scriptures. That is why I love the old hymns, that focus on the loveliness of Jesus and the glory of our heavenly Father and the communion of the Holy Spirit.

When you hear the saint singing they do not ask him for anything they just sing loud and strong about him-that He is love; He is holy; He is faithful and He is powerful. Praise acknowledges the Lord Jesus who says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” (Rev. 1:8). The saint counts on the fact that with him, I have no need!

Second, we worship God for his actions: for what he has done what he is doing and what he will do (Hab. 3:2).  Psalm 111 says that, “The works of the Lord are great, sought out of all them that have pleasure therein.” We are thankful to God for his salvation and the forgiveness of sins; the sweet infilling of  the Holy Spirit and answered prayer. We thank God for his protection, provision and power over sin.  We thank God for giving us the strength to work, providing our needs, for physical health and well being. Thank God that he allows us to serve him by helping others, giving and encouraging others. There is something about thanking God in and above everything that brings joy!

Third, this sort of praise boldly responds to the involvement, even the invasive power of God that comes on the scene of our lives. When he is enthroned it is called “the throne of grace” where we can find mercy and help in the time of need (Heb 4:16). Praise him in the time of need!  Jesus is alive and real and ready to be there for us. He never changes, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” (Heb. 13:8). He will come to you in power.  In this type of praise there is more than acknowledging that God is everywhere. This is talking specifically about the unique worship of the saints.  Jesus said that it is his manifest presence (John 14:21-23).  What is the manifest presence? 

AW Tozer puts it this way:  

“The Presence (of God) and the manifestation of the Presence are not the same. There can be the one without the other. God is here when we are wholly unaware of it. He is manifest only when and as we are aware of His Presence. On our part there must be surrender to the Spirit of God, for His work it is to show us the Father and the Son. If we co-operate with Him in loving obedience God will manifest Himself to us, and that manifestation will be the difference between a nominal Christian life and a life radiant with the light of His face…our pursuit of God is successful just because He is forever seeking to manifest Himself to us. The revelation of God to any man is not God coming from a distance upon a time to pay a brief and momentous visit to the man’s soul. Thus to think of it is to misunderstand it all. The approach of God to the soul or of the soul to God is not to be thought of in spatial terms at all. There is no idea of physical distance involved in the concept. It is not a matter of miles but of experience.”

Ah there is no distance between us and God! He is ever seeking to show himself to us and rid us of that the misconception of distance!  Oh let us praise him with our whole hearts. May he be  joyfully enthroned in our lives and I believe that we will experience him more and more and that the light of Christ will be seen in our lives.  This praise declares that Jesus is here to save, deliver, heal and set free.  We will know him not only as dear, but near.

TODAY COULD BE THE DAY!

jesu with us“Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” (Rev. 3:10)

PROPHETIC VIEWS are not a salvation issue for me. While, rapture “haters gonna hate” it is one of those things (at least for me) that we can agree to disagree on as Christians.  In my opinion, very few seem to believe in and preach on the RAPTURE of the saints before the Great Tribulation these days, I will continue to do so charitably. There are those who avoid speaking about the rapture due to the all the false prophecies that have been made especially in the last few years.  But it makes no biblical sense to change doctrine because people have misunderstood it or preached it incorrectly.

In my humble understanding, there are three Advents or “arrivals” of Christ.  The first Advent was his incarnation (God coming as man) when he came to bring us salvation from sin (Matt 1:23; 1 Tim 3:16).  The second Advent will be the Rapture of the church “in the air” which will be his salvation from the seven year Great Tribulation (1 Thess. 4:13-18).  The third Advent will be his coming to earth to rule and reign for 1000 years ( Rev. 19:11-14; Zech. 14:1-4).

The Rapture is when the saints who died and those who are alive “will be suddenly caught up together…in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord.” (1 Thess. 4:17).  Christ’s coming in the Rapture for christian people is imminent meaning that he could return at any time.  Many passages suggest this (1 Corinthians 1:7; Philippians 3:20; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Timothy 6:14; Titus 2:13; Revelation 22:20).

“The basic idea of the Rapture is drawn from the Latin term for “caught up”—rapturo. It means that the church of Jesus Christ, those who have trusted in Christ as their Savior, will literally be transported from earth to heaven in an instant. There will be no death for those who are raptured. They will be taken—caught up—in the air to be with Jesus! Paul believed that Jesus’ return was imminent, and that brought great comfort to him in his daily struggles. It is not difficult to understand Paul’s longing for this to occur when faced with the trials we are confronted with daily. However, no one knows when this will happen. We do know that we are given His Word as the assurance that it will happen.” (C. Stanley)

The sense of Christ’s coming seems to not hold the same excitement as it once did for some and the idea that, “Today could be the day.”  no longer seem to be as the Bible says, “the Blessed Hope.” As a young believer, I was excited about the rapture. I was excited that one day I would be able to see the Jesus that saved me from from the miry clay of sin. The Jesus that I loved was coming for me.  I was excited about being in heaven with all the men and women that I was reading about in the Scripture. I was excited to be with those that I knew as believers that had died and went home before me. Many times after prayer or being in church I had a real sense of the presence of Christ knowing he could take me home to heaven  at any moment.  It also gave me the sense that every day I could expect great things from God.  Now at this point in my Christian faith, truly understanding justification by faith alone and the grace of God I can truly do what Paul says and comfort and encourage-not TERRIFY others with these words! Those wonderful words of grace which speak about the coming of Jesus for his people.

Some Christians forget, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” (Phil 1:21-23).  To be with Jesus is FAR BETTER! But today it is like the old preacher said, “Everyone wants to go to heaven but nobody wants to die.”  Jesus tells us, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24).  I am excited that Jesus who is the resurrection and the life (John 11:25) and Christ who is our life (Col 3:4) will appear for us and bring us home at any moment! Some Christian people wonder if they will make it because they struggle with sin. I did not say trying to get away with sin, but  they fight sinful issues. Paul prayed,  “Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Thess 5:23). Paul also taught that Christ will, “Present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, (Col 1:22). Child of God get ready, the Lord loves you and wants you with him, he has reserved a wonderful place for you already (John 14:1-3). 

I think because people have lost this hope of the RAPTURE it seem they are giving in to a fear of death or at least the unknown. The Bible says that Jesus came so through his, “death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (Heb 2:15).  In fact, through the new birth (John 3:3-5) the Christian has already been spiritually resurrected. Their bodies will be transformed, into a spiritual body that will be imperishable and and raised in power (Phil 3:21; 1 Cor 15:34, 42, 44). Whoopeee!  Those bodies will have no pain, and never die. Each body will have a label marked by the eternal designer God as it were, which says, “made in heaven.”  (2 Cor. 5:1). That is awesome.  This means they already have eternal life. That is exciting!  Today, yes today could be the day.

JESUS AND GRAVITY

ascension of ChristI never seen anything like it. At first, I thought I was seeing things or hallucinating.

One moment he is standing talking with us answering our questions and then the next moment he begins to…rise in the air.

How could this happen? Why is this happening?

It was if gravity lost its power for a moment. He did not float it was though a invisible power pulled him upward.

He waved goodbye and became smaller and smaller and then he vanished in the clouds. All of us were stunned. It was like a dream.

I felt like shouting, “Don’t leave us!” But he was gone.

We just kept staring at the clouds wondering if he would come down again.

He has disappeared before and we thought he would reappear. So we just waited.

All of a sudden two beings that came from nowhere-heavenly messengers beautiful and powerful stood by us and spoke up. I thought I would have a heart attack. They told us,

“Galileans why do you keep staring into heaven? This SAME JESUS that was taken up from you into heaven will come again back to earth in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.”

I was excited and sad. I missed him already.

THE 1 JOHN 1:9 CONTROVERSY 3: UNDERSTANDING FORGIVENESS

6105349915_17ab703908_zThere are days you can feel you are just learning things you thought you understood but I think humility should always be the product of good theology. Don’t you?

So once again lets go into 1 John 1:9. Now it is clear that from this passage that God meets the Christian at the point of their failure each and every time. he is never seeking to punish them for sins that he allowed Christ to be punished for-that would be what we call double jeopardy

While our sins are already forgiven the UNDERSTANDING of that sin being forgiven must be illuminated to us TIME AND TIME AGAIN.

God in Christ always initiates HIS love acceptance and forgiveness and comes to us when we sin. forgiveness has been secured before our sin but it is secured by our faith and confession in the time of need (Heb. 4:16) or the time we need forgiveness. God will never refuse to forgive us or hold a grudge against us. It has always been his way (1 John 4:10). He makes sure that we know that there is no need for fig leaves borrowed from the “wallowing in guilt tree” when we have the robe of Christ’s righteousness. Our sins are already forgiven by the application of the sense of forgiveness and deliverance from its guilt are applied each and every time we confess. 

The Christian has no problem immediately confessing his sin to God -confession means to know, account and yield to the truth that they are not only forgiven of all sins but they are dead to sin and that sin has been conquered at the foot of the cross (Rom. 6). That is why the Christian does not practice sin. They are called and empowered by the Holy Spirit to put off the old man and put on the new man. 

A genuine believer hates sin and sees it as destructive to their life and others. Knowing the price Jesus paid for sin, Calvary love (agapao) is constantly before their eyes through the Holy Spirit who has poured the love of God (all the work of Jesus on Calvary) into their hearts (Rom 5:8). It is that love that gives them joy not to focus on sin but accept by faith the forgiveness already procured at Calvary for them.

While our sins are already forgiven, as we confess our sins we understand God’s forgiveness and God helps us to put sin out of our lives and overcome them.

This is my humble understanding of the subject so far.

©2014 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney

THE 1 JOHN 1:9 CONTROVERSY 2: WHY CONFESS SINS ALREADY FORGIVEN?

victoryJesus has dealt with our sins and removed them.  God says, “I will forgive their wickedness and I will no longer hold their sins against them.” (Heb. 8:12).

We have God’s love, acceptance and forgiveness forever because of Christ. So why confess them? It is simple really. 

1. Christ died not only to forgive our sins but to give his victory over sin to us. “We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.”  (Rom. 6:6NIV).

John says, “The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”  (1 John 3:7-8).  Jesus appeared to destroy the works of the devil which are defined as sins power! This is part of our confession as Christians!

2. God is light and in him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).  We were once darkness, but now we are light in the Lord and are to walk as children of light (see Eph. 5:8). Christians are not to make a practice of sin but seek by the power of the Holy Spirit to put it out of their life. The reality is this-Christian men and women do not have to live defeated lives (being harassed but habitual sin) for the presence of Christ’s overcoming life (his seed and nature) is in them. We confess that, “No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” (1 John 3:9).

3. They are never to nurture guilt and condemnation (Rom 8:1). We must believe and have faith in Jesus that he has forgiven all our sins for all time (Rom 10:9-10; Heb. 11:6). The Apostle John is not asking Christians to participate in protestant penance in order to satisfy God and obtain forgiveness. Repentance is NOT some board on which we float to heaven. IT IS a change of mind and direction at the START of our Christian walk.  We are already on a direction toward Christ as our goal (Phil 3:10-14).  We walk by faith not by sight or feelings for that matter (2 Cor 5:7).

God desires us to know that sin does not have to be the rule, nor rule in our lives by guilt or by control. He says, “My dear children, I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ, the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1-2). The Christian is already forgiven by the presence of his Advocate, Jesus the Righteous who lives in our hearts (Col. 1:27).

©2014 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney

THE 1 JOHN 1:9 CONTROVERSY 1: DEALING WITH GNOSTICS

teachingI am taking a stab at what has become the 1 John 1:9 controversy, so be patient with me, I am still learning.

The warp and woof of cults and false doctrine is to make a square peg fit into a round hole so scripture must be interpreted by scripture not by what we want it to mean. OK? 

John was writing this to two groups: the Gnostics and Catholics (code for true Christians not Roman papists).  Many of the creeds were written due to Gnostic heresies. We are not talking about Agnostics but Gnostics. An Agnostic is one who believes that it is impossible to know whether there is a God. The Gnostics believed in an elite knowledge that brought an individual a cosmic “awakening” not salvation from sin by Christ. But then again they are not sure how to define themselves! To understand Gnosticism, they say, “one needs something very much like a musical ear. Such a Gnostic “musical ear” is not come by easily. ” 

Christians commit sin or sins. Big surprise. The Bible says so.  But we confess our sin. We agree with God who have fellowship with the Father and his Son Jesus Christ. Gnostics don’t homologeo or say the same thing that God says about the existence of sin in humans and in the world. Gnostics reject the law entirely or as they say,  For man, the universe is a vast prison. He is enslaved both by the physical laws of nature and by such moral laws as the Mosaic code.

The Bible says you are a liar if you don’t see that sin is real. In fact, the Bible says you call God a liar if you don’t think so. The Gnostics were such liars. They do not believe man is spiritually dead in sin (Eph. 2:1) but they are in a state of stupefaction and need an some sort of “awakening” from this “stupid” semi-conscious or unconscious state-to knowledge of the universe and transcendence. Gnostics see no need for salvation or regeneration like the Bible teaches (John 3:3-8). They have no need for anything like faith or good works. They say, What effects the awakening is not obedience, faith, or good works, but knowledge.

But what does the Bible says about sin? It is breaking the law of God. “Everyone who sins breaks the law; in fact, sin is lawlessness. But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin. No one who lives in him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen him or known him.” (1 John 3:4-6NIV).

Many who have rediscovered the gospel of grace face the false accusation of being antinomian or lawless. But those who study scripture realize that Christians do not mix the law and gospel for salvation. They understand like Luther, “The Law is for the proud and the Gospel for the brokenhearted.” 

The law cannot save, no good works can satisfy God’s law which demands perfection. In fact the law crushes, “the sinner’s hopes of escaping God’s wrath through personal effort or even cooperation… first comes the law to proclaim judgment and death, then the gospel to proclaim justification and life.” (Bavnick).

©2014 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney