THE GOD WHO COULD TOUCH ME

gods-hands-holding-child“Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations. Then said I, Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, I cannot speak: for I am a child. But the LORD said unto me, Say not, I am a child: …Then the LORD put forth his hand, and touched my mouth. And the LORD said unto me, “Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth.” (Jeremiah 1:5-9). 

Those words above are from Jeremiah and they were among the first words I ever recall ever reading from the Bible. He told Jeremiah that he knew about him before he was born. I realized God wanted me to be born and I was a twin! I felt like God cared. I so young but I knew this, I knew I was here for a reason.

The artist of the children’s Bible had a picture of a young boy and God’s hand and a finger coming out of a cloud and touching his mouth. It really struck me. It fascinated me and I kept staring at that picture.

I immediately began to ask, “Can God do that?”

“Can He touch my lips?”

To this day I can remember that moment. I did not know anything about Jeremiah except two things: he was a boy like me and God liked him. God did not seem distant but he seemed like he was reaching out to me.

God liked me.

For some strange reason, I began to take that Bible and go out behind the Park Hill Apartments. I climbed the high hill that overlooked the row homes and I began to yell down to the people. I saw clouds above the apartments and began to tell them, “There is a cloud of sin over this place!”

I don’t know why I was doing that.

I never saw anyone do something like that before.

What was worse people heard me and were coming out of their homes. I could see them below. I was loud enough to be heard. I began reading out of that Bible as loud as I could. Some kids in the neighborhood were making fun of me. To my right, there was other homes and kids came after me trying to beat me up. One kid came after me and I got scared. I think I found a board and hit him in the legs. He limped away (I was not saved yet so cut me some slack).

My mother said to me later in life when I asked her what she remembered. She remembered that day seeing my brother Mike walking in the house.

She asked him, “Where is your brother?

Mike annoyed and embarrassed said, “He’s out there PREACHING!”

This is the second part of my testimony. Please check back to see the next installment.

©2015 Rev. Stephen S. Gibney, give credit where credit is due.

BUSTED

800px-La_conversion_de_Saint_Paul_GNot that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Phil. 3:12).

I found this to be a fascinating verse.

The King James says that God “apprehended” Paul.

That word at first blush seems very strong to us, a word used in police work.

Was Paul was arrested, collared and even “busted” by God?

Well, having seen the actions of Saul of Tarsus now called Paul, this does not seem so far-fetched. Once, he thought he believed right and lived right-better than anyone he knew. But later, he described himself as the foremost of sinners on God’s most wanted list and an insolent opponent of the gospel of Christ (see 1 Tim 1:12-17).

Christ took hold of him right on the street as it were, not even in “church.”  He was not a religious clone like so many today. He was saved by grace not human method’s. A light from heaven flashed and it incapacitated and blinded him (Acts 9). Jesus stopped him in his tracks wondering why Saul continued to persecuted HIM.

Paul was attempting to stop the gospel of Jesus and Jesus stopped him.

Thank God the religious right, or “progressive” left had no say in this! Paul at worst was not executed, nor thrown into prison or at best given community service.  In fact, Paul would be God’s favored instrument, “to turn people from darkness to light and from Satan’s control to God’s.” (Acts 26:16). 

Paul says that Christ took possession of him that day and made him his own. The word used for “take hold of” or “apprehend”  is katalambanō and Thayer describes it as “Christ by his holy power and influence laying hold of the human mind and will, in order to prompt and govern it.”

That is an awesome description of salvation. 

Salvation was the intervention of God and his kingdom in the human heart. Christ had to put the brakes on Saul’s deception that would have destroyed him. He dried up his religious momentum with one phrase, “I am Jesus!” 

He was blinded to his deeds for God and confronted with Christ, by Christ. All his deeds all his religious beauty became pale, his pious strength drained from him, and his theological vigor disappeared and his ecclesiastical energy was gone (see Dan 10:8). He found nothing mattered to the one true God except the person and work of his beloved son, Jesus. 

Some would be resistant (no pun intended) to this God being so enterprising in his saving grace. But the biblical understanding surely shows that God is eager to save us from our sins and give us eternal life. Salvation is found only in Christ.

The words “I am Jesus” are the words that bring light to the darkest of hearts and thank God today we are busted by his grace.

HE WAS THE BLESSING

blessedJesus said, “How blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because it is they who will be satisfied!”

Christ is the end of the law. He satisfied all its demands. HE IS ALL YOU NEED.

By his Sermon on the Mount he exposes our need for him and futility in earning or deserving God’s blessings for all obedience is based on perfection.

Jesus Christ is the One who has satsified God and provided righteousness for those who believe in him.

This passage is not speaking of those who suffer from spiritual starvation and dehyrdration and because of that- they will be seen as righteous.

Being poor in spirit does not mean spiritual poverty merits heaven, the same as meekly going through abuse does not mean you merit earth’s blessings.

Showing mercy and creating a peaceful environment will not earn us mercy and brand us with the title “sons of God.”

The same with hunger and thirst. The source of life, which is the opposite of lifeless toil is Christ and he as the Bread of Life tells us we will never need to be hungry and as the Water of Life we will never need to be thirsty.

Anytime we hunger or thirst we are directed to Him as our Source of blessings and satisfaction.

No one but Jesus who ended the demands and curses of the law upon us can merit heaven, earth, mercy, sonship and righteousness.

HE WAS THE BLESSING.

THE BLESSED became poor so we could INHERIT THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN.

THE BLESSED mourned with strong crying and tears bringing us COMFORT FROM GOD.

THE BLESSED was meek and lowly in heart so we could find REST FOR OUR SOULS WHILE HERE ON EARTH.

THE BLESSED was hungry during temptation, thirsty on the cross so WE COULD BECOME HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS.

THE BLESSED was pure in heart so he purifies us so that we CAN CLEARLY SEE THAT AS HE IS AND BE LIKE HIM.

THE BLESSED was the prince of peace SO HE BROUGHT PEACE BETWEEN US AND GOD SO THAT WE ARE HIS SONS.

THE BLESSED was insulted, mocked and persecuted SO HE COULD EMPATHIZE WITH OUR WEAKNESS AND BRING JOY TO US IN THE MIDST OF DIFFICULTY.

THE BLESSED WAS THE BLESSING.

© 2013 Soul Health Care Ministries. If you use this article tell people about us and where you found it. Don’t plagiarize.

Condemned?

Sometimes questions are better than answers.

Paul asks a good question, “Who is he that condemns?” (Rom. 8:34NIV).

That is a not only a good question but a loaded question.

Well, who is it Paul? 

“It is Christ.”

Surprised? I was. The answer is something different from what we expect.

There is a truth you may not have  known: Christ condemns.

What is it to be condemned?  Is it someone being mean to us, not understanding us? We usually think of being condemned in a unjust light. We do not want people to judge us. But God’s judgement is different. He never misses a clue, he never overlooks evidence, he sees clearly every motive and thought. He is just. When God condemns he sentences a wicked person-a person worthy of punishment and God’s wrath. One day Christ will sentence people for their crimes against heaven.

Christ is the one in scripture that could easily condemn anyone, anytime on the spot! One day people will drop lifeless as the awesome Christ sentences them. I have heard preachers say that those rebels who refuse to bow on Judgment Day would have their knees broken. There is no need for such an action.  Christ conquers all his enemies while seated on his throne and he does not need to rise to his feet (Ps 110:1). All he needs to do is speak and the “spirit of his mouth” will cut people to shreds. His words are sharper than any two edged sword and His words will impale and slice them to pieces to the very marrow of their spirit, soul, and body (Heb 4:12; 2 Thess 2:8). He is the judge of the living and the dead (Acts 10:42; 2 Tim. 4:1). The Bible speaks of the wrath of the Lamb (Rev. 6:16) and that we should “kiss the Son lest he be angry.” (Ps. 2:12). Yes, Christ is the Judge of all men.

The idea of Christ being crucified for our sins should shock and terrify us. It was by far the most horrific catastrophe in history! The Author of life  had a chapter entitled “Death” (Acts 3:15) in his book. The wicked hands of sinners took the eternal Son of God who was always with the Father, begotten before all worlds, Lord of life and heaven and crucified him. Oh what condemnation should be ours!

It is like when a newscast is taking place covering the crucifixion and suddenly the screen freezes on all channels and all you can see is the head of Christ hanging on his chest, blood covering his body and every channel you switch to is the same. THE SON OF GOD CRUCIFIED! Oh we are without hope, because of sin, yet the death of Christ was worse than all sin put together and piles on an unthinkable condemnation upon us! It takes away the breath of life and darkens the sun of hope from all creation!

Christ could condemn us but instead it says it is, “He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.” (Romans 8:31NASB). He who is the perfect Judge is the perfect Savior!

For one question, four wonderful answers!

It is Christ that died. He was crucified  for you and I. Christ could condemn us for our many sins before and after we became Christians, yet he does not. Why, oh, why when he should! But he does not. This does not mean he pleads our innocence before the Father, but his work on the cross. He testifies to his blood that poured out after gulping in the cup filled with the liquid wrath of God that was rightfully ours to experience. 

It is Christ that is Resurrected. He could have condemned me to death and hell. Instead he generously sends us to heaven. He gives us not only “newness of life” (Romans 6:3) but eternal life! Christ says, “Because I live you shall live also!” He gives us newness of life, the new birth! His power has raised our dead spirit. He fuels our hope, and ignites his holiness in our hearts.

It is Christ that is Enthroned.  Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords.” (1 Tim 6:15; Rev 19:16).  Instead of condemning us He has conquered us by his Sovereign matchless grace.  Jesus is King, all other would be rivals are exposed as frauds, and that there can be no other King other than Christ. Those things that would have dragged our souls down as abject slaves the Lord Jesus Christ has defeated! He takes the authority away from all the powers of sin, demonic forces, and death (Heb. 2:14-15). 

It is Christ who Intercedes.  He could have condemned us by not praying for us. Yet scripture says, “From my birth he has made mention of my name.” (Isa 49:1).  We could never go to God on our own. We must have a mediator.  The second person of the Triune God became flesh in his incarnation, becoming one of us and at the same time not  like us. He is the God-man. He can sympathize with our weakness without giving into weakness. Oh what joy and hope is this: that the Son of God whose prayers never go unanswered has already prayed, keeps praying and prays again for his saints.  He is the one who stands between us and God. He is the perfect mediator.

Be encouraged Christian! Christ does not condemn those he has already chosen, called and saved. He seals them up in his heart! None shall be stolen, their foot shall not slide, he will bring you home to present you, “holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight.” (Col 1:22).

Christ Will Catch You

 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a net, that was cast into the sea, and gathered of every kind: which, when it was full, they drew to shore, and sat down, and gathered the good into vessels, but cast the bad away. So shall it be at the end of the world: the angels shall come forth, and sever the wicked from among the just, and shall cast them into the furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.” (Matt. 13:47-50)

Manual labor was how most people survived in Bible days. Fisherman, farmers, shepherds, potters and carpenters are all used as illustrations of God’s Kingdom and how he worked in human lives. Farmers grew things, shepherds guarded things, potters made things and carpenters built things. The analogy Christ gave to his first followers in this parable included nets, fish and fisherman. His very first followers were fisherman and they were in the business of catching things.  

 We see that fisherman used a large net with weights on it or a dragnet to catch fish. Jesus teaches that the kingdom of heaven, the Sovereignty of God, his rule and reign over the earth and the hearts of men is like a dragnet. It is the preaching of the biblical gospel that catches people, like fisherman use a dragnet to catch fish (Luke 5:10).

The dragnet draws them in from the sea. The sea is symbolic of the world and its people, “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.” (Isa. 57:20). Like the world it is restless and unstable but God Almighty is an excellent fisherman (Ezek. 32:2-3). Christ is the Creator of life in the seas, oceans, lakes and rivers. He was the one who at Creation, said, “Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life.” (Gen. 1:20). So he who made the fish knows where they hide.

They collect every kind of fish: there all kinds of people the gospel dragnet catches. The Bible says God makes, “men as the fish of the sea…” (Hab. 1:14NIV). They come from every ethnic group, nation and tongue. Some are famous people, others unknown people, some rich, some poor. Christ catches all kinds of people. 

Once the dragnet is full they bring it to shore and sit down. One day fishing will be over. There will be no more need for gospel preaching, “And then shall the end come.” (Mt 24:14). The end of this “present evil age” (Gal. 1:4) will come and give way to the fullness of the kingdom age (Rev. 21: 4). For now the kingdom of God has come in this age but not in fullness (Heb 6:5). The kingdom of God has invaded and defeated the kingdom of Satan (Mt. 12:28) but Satan and death the last enemy are still around doing their dirty work.  So for now we have the righteous and the wicked side by side.

Then the fisherman shall sit down and separate the good fish from the bad. This involves the ministry of the holy angels who are appointed the task of separating the good fish from the bad or the righteous from the wicked, “and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.” (Mk. 13:27).

When the kingdom of God arrives, the wicked and the righteous will be separated like weeds and wheat, sheep and goats and good and bad fish. Those who are disobedient to the gospel call and refuse to turn from their sin will be sent to hell and those whom he saves will be allowed access into heaven. We need to be careful to mention all have sinned (Rom. 3:23) and we all are pretty bad fish. The “good fish” Christ catches for salvation in his mercy and grace but they are not good in themselves. But not everyone will be saved. He keeps the living “fish” (those who have been born again) and the dead fish (those who are not born again) are thrown away in condemnation.

This message of the dragnet of the gospel has bad news and good news. We can see in this great dragnet of God’s kingdom His, “goodness and severity.” (Rom. 11:22). One day everyone will be caught and there is no where you can run from God. The Bible asks, “How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation.” (Heb. 2:3). Those who are saved are drawn out from the drowning waters of God’s judgment (Ps. 18:16). But the wicked will be burned in a furnace of fire (Mt. 13:42, 50). This is a constant theme in scripture where God differentiates between those who serve God and those who do not (Mt. 13:30, 41-42).  

You see Jesus was not our idea of a Savior and as sinners we have a twisted way of thinking completely remote from God ways and thoughts.  In building God’s kingdom, God the Father determined that Jesus was be the cornerstone and foundation of the church. The religious people were clueless. So Christ said to them, “Didn’t you ever read this in the Scriptures? The stone that the builders rejected has now become the cornerstone. This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful to see.’ He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.” (Mt 21:42-24NLT). The cornerstone is a stumbling stone for many people, but the idea of Jesus Christ being a savior scandalizes and outrages people. But Christ will catch you. He will catch you as a Savior or he will catch you as your Judge.

I find it interesting that fisherman back then used a dragnet. According to the dictionary a dragnet is also, “a systematic and coordinated search for a wanted person made by police.”  (Encarta).  God is on a manhunt or soul hunt for those who have broken his law! This is a warning to those who think they can wait around and follow Christ whenever they want or whenever they are ready. It does not work that way (Isa. 55:1,-3, 6-7).  Augustine said, “God has promised forgiveness to your repentance but not time to your procrastination.  All will be caught in an inescapable net one day. You will be entangled in this net, if you are not already. God will act in his justice and he will catch up with those running from it,  “Moreover, no man knows when his hour will come: As fish are caught in a cruel net, or birds are taken in a snare, so men are trapped by evil times that fall unexpectedly upon them.” (Eccl. 9:12).

The bad news first: Judas was caught in the dragnet of Christ, but for condemnation. It is so very sad. What a trophy Satan has on hell’s wall in capturing Judas. Here Judas was a disciple he performed miracles and preached the gospel. “He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.” (Mt 10:1NIV) and yet he would be the one who would betray Christ (Mt. 10:4).  

That is why Jesus said don’t rejoice in performing miracles but rejoice that “your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20).  The Bible says that the devil put that idea of betraying Christ in his heart (John 13: 2) and entered into him (Luke 22:3) and Christ called him a devil (John 6:70) despite the fact he chose him for service. All Judas thought about was a convenient (Mk 14:11) opportunity (Mt. 26:16) to betray Christ to those who would eventually crucify him. Jesus treated Judas as the guest of honor at the last supper and washed his feet knowing what he was going to do. But Judas eventually committed suicide and after his neck broke, his body fell and cracked open and his intestines gushed out (Acts 1:18).  How did such a sad fish get in the net?  

You see, in the dragnet of the Kingdom of God there are good and bad fish. In theology, we call it the visible and invisible church. Simply put, the visible church has saved and unsaved people. It has real believers and hypocrites. There is the church we see and people who seem to be Christians and there is the church God sees and those he knows belong to him. They all coexist for a time and then God sifts them. A heart unchanged by the Spirit of God will not choose to serve God. Sin rules their heart. They can mask their true condition by religiosity, morality, generosity, and civility but they are still sinners.

They are slaves to sin and in their hearts they have a hatred for God and all his laws (Rom 8:7). But it is not so obvious. Yes, they can imitate things, they can play the role of religion but one day they will be exposed as frauds. “Remember, the sins of some people are obvious, leading them to certain judgment. But there are others whose sins will not be revealed until later.” (1 Tim. 5:24NLT).  The more they are around miracles, even solid preaching of the word of God instead of becoming softer they become harder. The Bible says, “When the ground soaks up the falling rain and bears a good crop for the farmer, it has God’s blessing. But if a field bears thorns and thistles, it is useless. The farmer will soon condemn that field and burn it.” (Heb. 6:7-8NLT). The Spirit of God asks, “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin? But because you are stubborn and refuse to turn from your sin, you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself. For a day of anger is coming, when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” (Rom. 2:4-5). 

Peter was caught in the net of Christ for salvation. When the disciples went fishing at the Word of Christ, their nets broke under the weight of the miraculous catch and the boats began to sink (Luke 5:2, 7).  Peter was terrified. He said, “Depart from me for I am a sinful man oh Lord!”  (Luke 5:8). But Peter was hooked he could not shake the dragnet of grace that now rest upon him. Seeing the sin in his life he knew he needed to change his ways as the very presence of Christ came as light that illuminated the darkest parts of his soul in one moment. He was afraid, because he was exposed, for he was tangled in the nets of Christ and was at his mercy.

There was a terrible storm one time and Christ came walking on the water, Peter stepped out of the boat to walk on the water with Christ, but he could not for long stay in that position. As he began to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me!” (Mt. 14:30).   I know Peter walked on the water for a time, I have heard this passage preached on, some good ones and others mangled out of context.  But here is the actual point:  Christ is Peter’s only hope and Savior.  We too must see the boisterous winds and powerful surging waves of Divine justice!  We must see our souls sinking down and look to Christ’s sinewy arm to reach in the waters and rescue us from drowning. His work, his will, his human powers of soul and spirit could not save him! He needed to be saved from and outside source and only Christ would and could save him!  What a difference when he first met Heaven’s Fisherman and said, “Lord, leave me!  Now he says, “Lord save me!”  

Before the crucifixion there were three main targets that Satan was after, Christ, Judas and Peter. He had a foothold situation in Judas. He was done. Satan had literally requested to sift Peter. Peter was in the dragnet, but was he to be a good fish? He was going to deny the Lord which is almost just as bad as or worse than betraying Christ. But Jesus told him,But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” (Luke 22:32NLT).  Peter belonged to Christ by grace and despite all his failings; Christ assured him that he would be converted and able to strengthen his brothers. That day came and Peter’s greatest catch was on the Day of Pentecost when three thousand souls were added by grace to the church (Acts 2:42). Once caught by Christ he taught them that they too would be those would cast their nets for souls. Christ made it clear: they would catch men (Luke 5:10), therefore, the nets of their testimony must rest in his strength.  For the spirit of prophecy and all preaching must be and can only be the testimony of Jesus or it is not biblical and God honoring (Rev 19:10).   He that wins souls is wise (Prov. 11:30) but only Christ is powerful to save (Acts 4:12)!   To fish for them is to simply cast the net of God’s Word and let the Spirit of God do the work in the ocean of the world.  

Oh this dragnet can also be salvation to those people who God is calling in his grace. Christ is the Ultimate Fisherman who catches the drowning souls of men. Each and every day God is drawing those whom he has loved before the foundations of the earth were made “a people yet born, the people which shall be created shall praise the LORD! (Ps 102:18). The Bible teaches that the Father never fails to bring people to Christ who he is drawing. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me…No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him…” (John 6:37, 44).  He is saying now, “Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.” (Jer. 31:3). Your salvation cannot rest on anything but Christ alone and his power to save! This awesome Fisherman of Heaven has set out to catch you. In fact, you are as good as caught right now. Christ came and called men to follow him (Mt. 4:19) and they were caught in his dragnet of grace. You can struggle Mr. and Ms. Fish but once the dragnet is over you, you are at subject to the discrimination of the Master. Don’t be caught dead without Jesus. Because one day Christ will catch you!

DID GOD KILL ADAM?

expulsion1Hamartiology is a theological term that refers to  the study of sin.  Yes, I said the word sin and the word theology. This article will be heavy theology to some by wade through the waters if you can. I am just a student attempting to learn more about our Lord. 

Sin means to miss the mark of God’s standard and perfection. I know it is an unfamiliar word in some circles but it is the most dangerous influence in the universe. The truth about sin is an acquired taste and it is definitely unpalatable to this generation and in times past. Sin is breaking God’s law (1 John 3:4). The Bible calls it the plague of the heart (1 Kings 8:38). People do not, cannot and will not become conformed to the will of God because they are deformed in their nature because of sin. Sin is not just a habit or an illness it is the punishment that  has brought spiritual death. We need to study about the radical depravity of humans because unless we know about the  nature, origin and consequences of sin we can never genuinely worship God for his mighty power to save and free us from its penalty, power and presence. 

The book of Genesis records that God created our planet in six 24 hour periods or days (Gen. 1-2). God created human beings in his image and breathed life into them (Gen. 1:26; 2:27).  Adam was a man who had a body which served as an earthly exterior and he was given “the breath of  lives” and given a spirit and soul or heavenly insides. God made a garden paradise for them to live in (Gen 2:8).

Grace or Work in The Garden

Certain theologians insist that adhering to the belief that God and Adam had a covenant of works-based on the obedience of Adam to God’s command as a test of whether you really have pure doctrine.  But John Murray says,

“Towards the end of the 16th century the administration dispensed to Adam in Eden, focused in the prohibition to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, had come to be interpreted as a covenant, frequently called the Covenant of Works, sometimes a covenant of life, or the Legal Covenant. It is, however, significant that the early covenant theologians did not construe this Adamic administration as a covenant, far less as a covenant of works. Reformed creeds of the 16th century such as the French Confession (1559), the Scottish Confession (1560), the Belgic Confession (1561), the Thirty-Nine Articles (1562), the Heidelberg Catechism (1563), and the Second Helvetic (1566) do not exhibit any such construction of the Edenic institution. After the pattern of the theological thought prevailing at the time of their preparation, the term ‘covenant,’ insofar as it pertained to God’s relations with men, was interpreted as designating the relation constituted by redemptive provisions and as belonging, therefore, to the sphere of saving grace.”  (John Murray, Collected Writings of John Murray: 4, Studies in Theology, “Covenant Theology,” (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1982), pp. 217-18).

But there is too much evidence of  grace and mercy in the Garden of Eden  as God condescended to the first couple.  Adam was not left to himself without help and and just because his decisions or his will were unfettered from evil desires does not mean he did not need God’s life and communion. He was made to fellowship with God.  Because Adam fell was he more dependant on God for mercy?  I do not think so. Adam needed God’s presence and life just in his glorious state of perfection as well.  God was the Creator and He was still the created. Eventually, we see the root of his sinful pride was that he did not want to depend on God alone. But Adam, holy and innocent as he was stood out as a specimen of the Sovereign grace of God. His wife was a gift by grace. His home, work and title were all gifts of grace.  He owed his very existence to God’s grace!   The biggest problem with the Covenant of Works is that it misconstrues God’s dealings with Adam. Does God legally deal with Adam on the basis of his works and obedience and then make another covenant of grace later that deals with us in mercy apart from our actions?   What did Adam fall from anyway? It was an awful apostasy and breakdown from the life, love and communion he had with God.  He fell from grace!

Wanted: Adam Dead or Alive

Adam was  promised life for obedience and threatened death for disobedience.  He has to obey God or he could not enjoy fellowship with God. As many preachers point out that he was free to eat from every tree except that one. The emphasis was on God’s grace and Adam’s status. Adam was a representative or federal head of all human beings (Rom. 5:12-19; 1 Cor. 15:22, 47).  There is a biblical implication that God made a covenant with Adam but it was because of grace and steadfast love (Hosea 6:6-7). Then our first parents disobeyed God (Gen 3).  When he disobeyed things changed. When Adam sinned he died spiritually (Ezek. 18:20; Eph. 2:5) and He became a slave to sin (Romans 6:16; 2 Peter 2:19) and the sin he sinned and the death he died was transmitted to all of humanity (Rom. 5:12). Simply put, total depravity means human beings are dead in sin and sold out to its power. Death and total depravity are synonymous.

The idea of God giving Adam the death penalty for his crime had somehow slipped our minds.  But it is clear as day. God’s justice and mercy are woven through the tapestry of scripture. God sentenced Adam to slavery to sin and spiritual death. Was God unrighteous to enforce this penalty as Creator and Lawgiver? His perfection, holiness and justice are limitless! He hates sin. All sin is against God (Psalm 51: 4).  This must never be forgotten. Adam countered God’s goodness, kindness and glory with violating his law! Adam was made for God’s glory and to serve him and Adam betrayed the God of heaven with what R.C. Sproul refers to as “cosmic treason.” Adam deliberately rebelled against God and defected to serve Satan and his lies. That is why God inflicted capital punishment upon him and sentenced him to death, “in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die!” (Gen 2:17).  God takes vengeance upon Adam and repays him to the face for his deed with spiritual and eventually physical death and also slavery to the sin Adam loved so much (Deut 7:10; Rom 12:19).

Arthur Pink comments that man, “is like a murderer in the condemned cell awaiting execution…he is dead vitally, without a single spark of spiritual life. Thus he is totally dead to God and holiness, cast out of His favor, without any power to recover it.”  That is total depravity in a nutshell. Adam was put to death by God.  He was executed for his crime. The day he ate he died inside and he sat on death row until he died physically. The payback of sin is death (Romans 6:23).  Human beings are so entrenched in sin they cannot produce anything that is equal to God’s standard for heaven.  The heart and will are dead. This does not mean he cannot feel guilt or is unable to discern right and wrong. This does not mean they cannot make day to day decisions or feel affection for others. What this means is that men are incapable of loving God in and of themselves and in their mind hate the truth of God are defiant against it. In everything humans do is tainted with sin. This truth should humble us.

A Love-Hate Relationship

God was angry at Adam for what he did.  American Christianity will avoid talking about God’s wrath or deny God has anger at all.  They think  it portrays God having some fault or blemish in his character. But he detests, loathes and has an aversion to evil and hates sin. God does not separate that anger toward those who live in sin either. People will say that God’s wrath was an Old Covenant issue, not in the New Covenant. Ridiculous! Right now God’s wrath is revealed from heaven (Rom. 1:18).  There is a day of wrath coming (Mt 3:7; Luke 3:7; Rom 2:5). For people who do not believe in Christ God’s wrath is upon them (John 3:36), they are ominously called “the children of wrath” (Eph. 2:3).

God does love righteousness and hate iniquity (Ps. 45:7; Heb. 1: 9). Let us be clear: God’s hatred for sin and the God’s passion for justice  are divinely foreign and transcend human emotions and affections. He does not love as we love, he does not hate as we hate-He is perfect love and perfect holiness! Many people point out that God is love (1 John 4:8) but He is not all loving and all forgiving. He also is holy and just. There are scriptures that teach God hates the unrepentant reprobate (Hosea 9:15; Ps. 5:5; 11:5; Lev. 20:23; Prov. 6:16-19; Mal. 1:3; Rom. 9:13)!  Does this shock you? How could this be? I know it is a lot to think about. We have always been taught that God does not hate anyone.   The Bible teaches this in contradiction to much preaching today. This is the most difficult truth for anyone to swallow because the majority of people especially church goers under spin doctor preaching or pop theology want unconditional acceptance from God no matter what they do. God giving people over to their desires such as Romans 1:18-32 is another truth that sours in their spiritual stomachs.

They also think in humanistic terms because what they do is not as bad as others. Notice the comparison they use, “not as bad as others.”  We hate (tolerantly, politely and sometimes angrily) those who commit awful crimes. The molester, child abuser or murderer are an object of hostility, abhorrence and revulsion. Whereas we know we should not take the law in our hands but when justice is served upon awful criminals, molesters, murderers-we loathe them and want to see justice served.  Those who we appoint to represent us and to deal with crime, are called God’s servants,  “an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” (Rom 13: 4). But God’s wrath is free from anything tainted by sin and what are the sinful actions of we human beings contrasted with the thrice Holy God of the universe? Where angels since eternity involuntarily past spill out and never grow weary of crying out, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty!” (Rev. 4:8).  What sin ticks God off? All sin  whether in thought, word or deed (James 2:10). Even taking a piece of fruit in the Garden angered him, because He commanded Adam not to do it.

Christ is the Only Hope For Sinners

In Genesis chapter three Adam and Eve were unable to clothe themselves, hide themselves, excuse themselves and unable to save themselves. The flimsy leaves of their self righteousness could not clear them of their deeds (Isaih 64:6). I believe that God acted in mercy toward the elect first parents by slaying the animal and clothing them with animal skins. Sin had to be punished and at the same time he wanted to save his creation! But how could he justify the ungodly without violating his own laws (Prov 17:15)? Only Jesus, the eternal Son of God was the only One who could save them.  His sacrifice was the only act that could save us. For Adam and Eve, Abel and others those who saw the shadow of the cross across their path were saved retroactively (Heb. 10:1).

Christ removes spiritual death and the last enemy to be destroyed has already been dealt a death blow (1 Cor 15:26).  The God-man was the perfect once-for-all sacrifice (Heb 10:10). King Jesus, the Lord of glory (1 Cor. 2:8) left his throne above to come and die in the place of sinful men, to satisfy a God who was offended at the despicable acts of man. This was a type of what the predicted “seed of the woman” would do (Gen 3:15). He would be sacrificed to appease the anger of  God. That is the meaning of the word propitiation and atonement. Only in Christ can we be saved from God’s wrath (Rom. 5:9; 1 Thess. 1:10). 

Jesus Christ came into this world for lawbreakers and sinners (1 Tim. 1:15) and they can only be saved by the power of the Spirit of God drawing them to foot of Calvary’s cross (John 6:44).  Jesus died saying, “Father forgive them!” (Luke 23:34) in making covenant in his blood (Heb 13:20). he not only made the covenant but he  was the Covenant (Isaiah 42:6)  and he sealed these people as he died for them to give them eternal life (Eph4:30).  Jesus could look at  the people given to him by the Father and say, “because I live ye shall live also.” (John 14:19).  The last Adam was a life giving spirit (1 Cor 15:45) who came and resurrected the lost souls of his elect people by his own resurrection.  He is the first of the harvest of the resurrection (1 Cor 15:23). Jesus will resurrect human beings from their graves notonly physically (John 5:28) but he gives new birth to those whom he breathes on and speaks life to (John 3:5; 20:22; Eph 2:1, 5). He will give life, eternal life to believers, those ordained to eternal life (Acts 13:48).  He sees people in their dead condition and he says, “Come forth!” (Luke 11:43). 

Notice what Jesus says, “For the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God.” (John 16:27). “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” (Eph 5:25).  Jesus loves us, he comes as God’s answer not ours. He died in love for his church, “having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them unto the end.” (John 13:1). He stooped down to wash their sins away and to remove the reason for God’s wrath against them!  He loves the justified sinner (John 14:21). The blood of Jesus Christ washed their sins away (Rev. 1:5). He lavishly, abundantly poured out the riches of his grace and forgiveness “in love” upon his own, those he has saved (Eph 1:4-7). We are rooted and grounded in that love (Eph3:17) and Christ is the sole hope of salvation.

Must God Kill Us?

Some of you bristle still at the fact that God executed Adam for his crimes and sentenced him to return to the dust. But there is a death we all must die that is not physical. It is through the conviction of the Holy Spirit that the Word of God must kill us (John 16:8; Heb 4:12).  God says to Israel, “I cut you in pieces with my prophets, I killed you with the words of my mouth; my judgments flashed like lightning upon you.” (Hosea 6:5NIV). Real biblical preaching  puts to death the pride of humans and exalts God! That is where surrender to God comes in the form of repentance. Why?  Repentance is the death to self that we all must die so that we come alive in Christ clothed in his righteousness not the tattered rags of our self righteousness. We must take up our cross and follow Christ.  Adam’s flimsy leaves, and taking cover behind the tree of his sins could not cover his sin.  Like him we cannot hide. All the church of today offers with its self improvement, motivational psycho-gospel  leaves us red faced and ashamed in the presence of the God whose piercing gaze cannot be bribed with the good works of man.  Humans must take on the robe of Christ and hide behind or in the rugged wood of the cross of Christ! 

Let me finish with the words of Charles Spurgeon:

“This downcasting and slaying is good for us. We take a deal of killing, and it is by being killed that we live. Many a man will never live till his proud self is slain. O proud Pharisee, if you are to live among those whom God accepts, you will have to come to the slaughterhouse and be cut in pieces as well as killed. “This is dreadful work,” saith one, “this dividing of joints and marrow, this spiritual dismemberment and destruction.” Assuredly it is painful, and yet it were a grievous loss to be denied it.  Alas, how many are so good and excellent, and strong and wise, and clever, and all that, that they cannot agree to be saved by grace through faith. If they could be reduced to less than nothing it would be the finest thing that ever happened to them. Remember what Solomon said might be done with the fool, and yet it would not answer–he was to be brayed in a mortar among wheat with a pestle,-pretty hard dealing that, and yet his folly would not depart from him. Not by that process alone, but through some such method, the Holy Spirit brings men away from their folly. Under his killing operations this may be their comfort that, if Jesus Christ rose literally from the dead (not from sickness, but from death), and lives again, even so will his people. “

The Mud and Water of the Gospel

healing_of_the_blind_man_jekelNotice that beautiful phrase: “And Jesus passed by.” Did you see it? Oh how I long for you to see him passing by you right now. Jesus the Messiah, God in the flesh, the same one Moses saw when, “the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth.” (Ex 34:6). Jesus passed by this man, stopped what he was doing and stooped down to help him. 

 

There were many beggars, many blind people but he did not stop for them. But he stopped for this man! Why? Grace! The Sovereign grace of God! He says, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” (Rom 9: 15-16ESV). Will Jesus pass by you? Will he see you  and where you are at and help you with his presence and power? There are those in the church who wonder why they do not experience more of the presence of God.  Like Jeremiah we feel like God is a visiting guest staying only for a night (Jer. 14:8). I think we need the mud and water of the gospel!

 

Oh, I would like to pray like Elisha, “O LORD, please open the eyes of these people that they may see the son of Man, Jesus Christ walking in the midst of his church” (see 2 Kings 6:15-17; Rev. 1: 12, 13). There are people that do not realize that Jesus is passing your way! Throughout your life he lifted you to his cheek. Like a doting parent he taught you how to walk, leading you gently by the hand but you did not know or even care he led you through life with gentle cords of kindness and love (Hosea 11:1-4). Ah we are truly God chosen frozen! We need a fresh anointing of the Holy Spirit! In our services have we forgotten that Jesus is walking down the aisle moving through every seat, touching people at the altar who are praying!  He says he desires the works of God to be seen in our lives! All it takes is some gospel mud and water!

 

Ah, but we want Jesus Christ to come to us on our terms! We want something that will blow us up, shake us up, and fire us up! At one time God told Elijah, “Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice.” (1 Kings 19:11-12).  The Lord was not in the show! He was in a whisper, a gentle sound of quiet stillness! Ah, that is where we miss it! The man in our story was not deaf! He could hear the words of the still, small calming voice of the Savior! This man was not blown up, shaken up, or fired up! But after some spittle, a little mud, and washing his face in a pool he could see!  But the voice of Jesus is so powerful a whisper can make all the difference. Do you hear his whispers?  By God’s grace you may not see everything that is being told you tonight but you can hear it. All it takes is some mud and water of the gospel!

 

“He saw a man blind from birth.” Jesus saw this man and he sees those who are lost in darkness. The blind man did not once ask Jesus for sight! This shows again salvation is not finding God or knowing God but God finding us and knowing us (Gal 4:9)! You have not been looking for him because you have no eyes to see! How helpless people are without Christ! The Bible says they are “without strength” (Rom 5:6) to repent (Prov. 5:22), have faith (Mt. 13:58) and pray (Isa. 64:7),  it is like they are curled up in a fetal position unable even to help themselves! They cannot even purse their lips to whisper a prayer for what they really need! But Jesus saw him!  He sees you are the very person he has been looking for to put his forgiving love on display. Dr. Jesus only comes for the sick, not the healthy!  But just one look from Jesus, “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.” (Isa. 35:5).

 

We are clear that the context of the story is that this man or his family’s sin did not bring this blindness upon him, but this scripture is a case and point for those who are spiritually blind. “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart.” (Eph 4:18). This man was born into a world of darkness and those who do not know Christ are living in complete spiritual blindness.  Many of you have taken the life God has given you and live a life of blindly sinning against him. You cannot even find him because you have no eyes. But the Alpha and Omega, The beginning and the End, the First and the Last, he who is “Everything” has passed your way tonight, and he is looking for you. He has eyes that penetrate the thickest darkness and can restore sight in this simple place of prayer by the simple mud and water of the gospel.

 

The most brilliant light cannot be seen by a corpse. You cannot see the beautiful shadow of the Son of God if you are dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1). The Bible says that there is a darkness that is so dark it can be felt (Ex 10:21-23).  It is a gloomy thick darkness that chokes the atmosphere of your life. “A land of darkness, as darkness itself; and of the shadow of death, without any order, and where the light is as darkness.” (Job 10:22). Do you have a spiritual pulse? Oh it is the work of God to pass by you in this dead condition and he will say, “Live!” (Ezek 16:6). Even now if in your heart you are saying, “Let me live!” there is already a spiritual pulse in your life. Even now you are coming to life by the presence of Christ and the simple mud and water of the gospel!

 

Then it is amazing grace that God has shown you to hear Jesus whisper your name.  To hear the sweet voice of Jesus whisper in your ears as He says, “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world! I must work the works of him that sent me, night cometh when no man can work.”  Christ’s life and ministry were like the sunrise that blossoms into a noon time sun on the whole world and his death would be like the sunset and then night. The Father set a time for Jesus to come who arose like “the Sun of righteousness with healing in his wings” (Mal. 4:2).

 

Oh that is the mercy of God if you can hear his voice even now! I pray he will speak the word to your heart. You cannot run from his smiling face, His face full of pity and compassion for you. He can find you wherever you are at this very moment. The word of God, the Bible, is living and powerful and that is why God is talking this way to you at this moment. He can speak the word “Let there be light!” and that light can penetrate into the darkest life in less time than it takes to say those words! 

 

He whispers to you “Awake thou that sleepest and arise from the dead and Christ shall give thee light.” (Eph 5:14). The word that he speaks is like, “a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts!” (2 Peter 1:19).  That dark place means, “A parched, squalid, dirty, dark, neglected murky” place (Vincent)! Oh like the first star in the morning he will rise into the darkest night of your life- that is the beginning of what we call illumination (Heb 10:32). It is a special work of God that imbues (soaks and make a soul rich) in the light of salvation (Thayer). In a moment that midnight darkness will see at first the glimmer of the bright and morning star Jesus Christ and as he comes closer your soul will be turn into a noonday of mercy and grace. Only then can you really say, “I was blind but now I see!” It is all because of the Mud and Water of the Gospel! 

 

The text goes on to say, “When he had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam, (which is by interpretation, Sent.) He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing.”  There are many interpretations about the clay and spittle. He created eyes in him like when God created Adam from the dust of the ground (Gen 2:7). I especially like what ancient Christian father taught, “For he spat in a human fashion, yet his spittle was charged with deity, for therewith he caused the eyes of the man born blind…to receive sight” (Athanasius). 

I think if Jesus used some kind of medicine the religious people would have started selling it on their cable networks! But the simplicity of the spittle, clay and pool are found in the preaching of the gospel!  The gospel offers life from the dead and sight for those who will respond to his voice! All the motivational speaking, relevant preaching cannot give life like the ancient message of the Bible. It is never out of date.  Sometimes gospel spittle, smearing some gospel mud, and telling people to get to the gospel pool is what it takes! Because it shows that the power is not in the mud and the water but in Christ! God is the Savior not us! 

 

Jesus ordered that blind man to wash in the pool of Siloam, Shiloam or Shiloh. It was a mikvah or a ritual bath designed for the purpose of ritual immersion in Judaism. Isaiah reproaches the men of his time, that they despise the softly flowing waters of Siloam and preferred the rapid and impetuous streams of the world (Isaiah 8:6). They want loud entertaining religious shows not quiet cleansing pools. What is the sense of being religious if you are stained or defiled with sin! Christ wants to cleanse you from sin!

 

The mikvah also points to the bridal bath.  Paul refers to the bride of Christ the church and that Christ died for he “That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word.” (Eph 5:26). This is a type of going to that pool and washing yourself in the Word of God, you hear it and read it and it washes and cleanses you from sin (John 17:17). When Christ commanded him to go and wash when he washed he found out that, “The commandment of the Lord is pure enlightening the eyes!” (Ps 19:8). 

 

The meaning of Siloam is Sent. It refers not to a pool but the Sent One of which the Bible says, “The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be.” (Gen 49:10).  It is not where you are sent but who is sent to you. True Christian faith is not just being sent to something or somewhere but it is God sending Christ to us-it’s the theme of the entire Bible. At this moment, we pray that the Lord Jesus Christ would come and make your life a new creation. He is simply coming to you using the mud and water of the gospel to open your eyes!

Faith Has No Drawbacks

LoveNow the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.” (Hebrews 10:38). The writer of Hebrews tells us that the Christian life is marked by the quality of faith. The person who has faith in Christ will never be at a disadvantage or come short. This is not a white knuckled attitude of positive thinking, forced repetitious confessions, but a calm trust in God. Faith is unrelenting obedience that places its confidence in God despite circumstances.

 

But sadly there are those who draw back or shrink back. This “is a picture of lowering the sail on a sail boat (RWP). These people attempt to get where they’re going on their own power and start paddling. They will eventually take on water and sink. Scripture says that these people, “concerning faith have made shipwreck.” (1 Tim. 1:19). They end up in ruins and the wreckage of their lives is horrifying.

 

The Bible teaches us that we should be filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18 ) or unfurl the sails of our faith and let the wind of the Spirit of God guide us and supply us with his power to live for Jesus. We are saved by grace through faith (Eph 2:8 ) and we do not depend on anything to save us except what Jesus Christ did on the cross. We live by faith as Christians and we do not live our lives in reaction to gas prices, stock market indexes and global economy. Throw away the paddle of unbelief and live by faith in God and his promises. God says, “My soul shall have no pleasure in him.”  The person who does not have faith will be subject to God’s disapproval and wrath. No one likes a coward, especially God. Unbelief and spiritual cowardice are serious crimes against heaven (see Rev. 21:8). Faith has no drawbacks.

 

All I know is God calls us to act in faith not fear.People are easily moved and confused by the news, but who has believed the report of the Lord (Isaiah 53:1)? What concerns me is that it seems many professing Christians are unprepared for the hard times ahead. They are restless as they are faithless. Christians will go through difficult times. Preaching about people suffering and the necessity of going through trials requires that I have to give some Christians a spiritual Heimlich maneuver because they choke on the meat of the Word. But I have to speak about it.

 

We as Christians are told our faith will be tested by fire (1 Peter 1:7) and we will go though fiery trials (1 Peter 4:12). Nothing strange is happening to you. God’s purpose is to press your life into the mould or image of Jesus Christ (Rom 8:29). Being a child of God does not prevent trials, nor should it. God works through adverse circumstances to gradually change us into the image of his Son. Christ learned obedience by the things he suffered (Heb. 5:8). You are becoming identified with Christ and his sufferings in order to bring praise and glory to God. Faith has no drawbacks.

 

From my studies of the scriptures I find that the true followers of Christ can thrive in times of affliction, hardship and pain. The Bible says of the children of Israel, “But the more they afflicted them, the more they multiplied and grew.” (Exodus 1:12). Trials are not unfortunate circumstances-they test the mettle of our lives by training and discipline. A black smith is gets his title due to the fact he uses black metals like iron. The word “smith” comes from the word smite or hit. He heats the metal and works in a low lighted area so he can see the color of the metal as he tempers it. He heats that metal to a bright glowing orange and hammers it, then plunges it into a cold bucket of water. He will discover after just a couple of attempts at tempering the metal whether it will last or end up as scrap.

It says Joseph “was sold for a servant: Whose feet they hurt with fetters: he was laid in iron: Until the time that his word came: the word of the LORD tried him.” (Psalm 105:17-19). In the Hebrew it says, “His soul came into iron” or “iron entered his soul!” In his hardship he glowed with the heat of heaven’s blacksmith and when the process was over he saved the world of that day. His chosen ones will do exploits (Dan 11:32) because they have been tempered by the Heavenly blacksmith in the iron furnace of affliction (Deut 4:20). He learned that faith has no drawbacks.

For some of you the worst part is that you are in the dark about what is going on. Like the blacksmith shop, you world is dark around you.  But without his work you will never make it.  God asks you today, “Who is among you that feareth the LORD, that obeyeth the voice of his servant, that walketh in darkness, and hath no light? Let him trust in the name of the LORD, and stay upon his God.” (Isaiah 50:11). The dark times are the times we are confused, aimless and feeling useless. God seems to put dense fog in front of us and slows us down. We ask, “What do you want me to do Lord?” God says, “Nothing…only believe…all things are possible to him that believes.” People here right now are in a place where they can do nothing but trust. Be confident that God is at work in your life despite the darkness and that true faith expects that He is true to his promises and “performeth all things for you.” (Psalm 57:2). One old sage says, “There are blessings which we cannot obtain if we cannot accept and endure suffering. There are joys that can come to us only through sorrow. There are revelations of Divine truth which we can get only when earth’s lights have gone out. There are harvests which can grow only after the plow has done its work.” Without tribulation we have no ability to endure, we will be weak and unusable.

I hear preachers today talk about abstract faith not concrete faith. Abstract faith is a shortened version and theoretical version of faith. They don’t tell you the whole story. Concrete faith is a solid tangible faith. Churches cheer-lead people about how God will save them from all their trials. But we can rejoice “when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.” (Romans 5:3-4NLT). It is the same faith that sees deliverance from trial and the same faith that sees deliverance in trial. Faith has no drawbacks.

“Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me.” (Psalm 138:7). The Hebrew wording there is “As I go on in the middle of trouble he will revive me.” When you decide to go through it is then he will revive you!  In your trouble you must decide that if you cannot be delivered from it you will go on despite it. That is when he refreshes you and gives you new strength. God’s people have many problems and are not immune to trials because they are Christians. Most of us know that when God did not save us from hardship, pain and trouble he saved us in it, “He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him.” (Ps. 91:15)! No matter how hard, no matter how long it takes I know that faith has no drawbacks!

Tried and true Christians are like oak trees, “lofty, strong, and magnificent, distinguished for uprightness, justice, and right standing with God, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” (Isaiah 61:3AMP). God equips us by the storms. Some storms are sudden, unexpected crushing defeats, bitter disappointments. Others storms start slow and then overwhelm us. His tree will make history. God may shake your branches and let the rain beat down on you but by the time he is done your roots will be deep and you will stand stronger and more powerful by his grace. While those who refuse to believe are like windblown dust the person of faith, “shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.” (Ps. 1:3).

People need to return to the simple, concrete faith that says. “Lord I believe you!” If it means my death I do not care for I have sworn an allegiance to the King of Kings! As you resolve to go on, as you decide no matter what comes and say, “Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid!” (Isaiah 12:2) as you declare, “I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD.” (Psalm 71:16) it is then he will refresh your spirit, invigorate your mind and regenerate your body by the same spirit that raised Christ from the dead and dwells in you (Rom 8:11).

We are “to build up our most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep ourselves in the love of God, and wait anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Jude 20, 21). We are to build our faith by praying according to the Holy Spirits wishes. Notice how prayer and the experience of God’s love are vitally linked. We should constantly think of the love of God and firmly believe. We should be waiting with eager anticipation of Christ’s mercy. God loves whom he wants to love. “We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). In trial some people are like Israel that said “the Lord hated us.” (Deut 1:27). That is unbelief in its worst form. You must know he loves you!

Arthur Pink says, “God did not love us because we loved Him, but He loved us before we had a particle of love for Him. Had God loved us in return for ours, then it would not be spontaneous on His part; but because He loved us when we were loveless, it is clear that His love was uninfluenced…God’s love for me, and for each of “His own,” was entirely unmoved by anything in them. What was there in me to attract the heart of God? Absolutely nothing. But, to the contrary, everything to repel Him, everything calculated to make Him loathe me—sinful, depraved, a mass of corruption, with “no good thing” in me.” No human standard of love can measure the breadth, length, depth and height of God’s love. I believe that he loves his own.

But now because of the Holy Spirit I believe that he loves me. Despite my trials I must believe he loves me. Despite the glowing iron of my soul where I feel I cannot bear my hardships anymore, I believe he loves me. Despite the storms and my soul swaying back and forth where my strength seems tested beyond its ability to endure, I believe that he loves me. When there dark all around me and I cannot see him who my soul loves, I will not lose hope because the sun of righteousness will arise with healing in his wings and I believe that he loves me. I must keep myself in the love of God and build up my faith by spirit empowered prayer because faith has no drawbacks.

You Have Been Warned!

Paul Before FelixThe Bible records that the Apostle Paul stood before and earthly king and preached the gospel. It says, “And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, “Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.” (Acts 24:25).  Where is the bold witness for Christ in this day of compromise and syncretism who will warn men of their coming encounter with the thrice holy God? Where are men like Paul who will not hold back speaking of God’s justice before the most powerful men in the earth?  His life was in the balance and his future uncertain as he stood before these men detained in their judicial system for two years. But he remained a witness to the fact that the King of the Universe, God Almighty would judge them. Paul was more afraid of God than some earthly sovereign. They shook in the presence of this man of God as the Holy Spirit reproved them (John 16:8 ) through the man who called himself the Lord’s prisoner (2 Tim 1:8). Where are the people who know their God and do exploits such as this?  Where are those who are unafraid to say that God will judge this nation because of its’ evil? How long will the preachers of God who would warn the elect of God (Ps. 19:11) be sidelined by a worldly church until they make up their minds?  “To whom shall I speak, and give warning, that they may hear? behold, their ear is uncircumcised, and they cannot hearken: behold, the word of the LORD is unto them a reproach; they have no delight in it.” (Jer 6:10). 

 

While it is true there have been and always will be people who are condemning and vituperative in the use of scripture (Rom 2:1) and you will always find bitter and hateful people who act in line with their twisted, hardened hearts, the kindness of God is seen in leading us to repentance ( Rom. 2:4) through men who love the church and would suffer all things for the elects sake.

 

The justice and mercy of God do not cancel out each other. How can that be determined? It is because Christ is Judge and Savior. The concept of judgment is not the unpredictable anger of God, but when God in his justice sentences people to physical and spiritual penalties who continue in unrepentant sin. All people are eternally obligated to love and serve God and he is infinitely offended when they break his laws. It is not an option to serve God, it is a responsibility through grace. But how sad when people bristle and become twisted any time that someone addresses them concerning the God who cannot tolerate unrepentant sin or stomach lukewarmness (Rev. 3:16). People in their well oiled theological machine see God as so “merciful” that he will not penalize anyone for sin and evil. We are more at ease blaming the forces of “mother nature” because the thought of God acting against sin and the creation being revolted by sin is unthinkable!While they will say that people only punish themselves they cannot see God dealing with sin in his justice. They could not be more wrong. It should be reiterated here that the most basic understanding of God anyone could have is that justice is what we deserve; mercy is something we do not deserve. When God acts in mercy and saves us we experience it as undeserving lawbreakers.

 

It is damnable to think God Almighty will not act in his justice against sin just because a person sends up religious smoke screens talking about grace and forgiveness. That does not blind the eyes of an all seeing God and stop him from taking punitive action against sin. Church people beware. Unrepentant, habitual sin especially on the behalf of the backslider carries more serious consequences than those who have never known the Lord (Heb 2:1-3; 2 Pet 2:20-22). The church growth movement with its focus on fleshly unity sees anyone addressing the biblical concept of the judgment of God as divisive, legalistic and unteachable. Do people who feel this way think they will escape the judgment of God (Rom. 2:3)?

 

It is wonderfully true that the New Covenant brought mercy and grace (John 3:16-21). Thank God! But that is only partially true. Christ’s first coming brought a light the darkness could not extinguish (John 1:5) and exposed demons, death and disobedience in unyielding exposure. Those who hide their sins are already condemned because they love darkness. Jesus said he came for the purpose of judgment as well (John 9:39). God the Son has authority to judge (Mt. 5:22, 27). Christ taught that people place themselves in danger of judgment (Mt. 5:21-22) and based on their actions their sentence could be more severe (Luke 10:14).  Even every idle, careless word will be examined on judgment day (Mt. 12:36). You have been warned.

 

This United States has defied God and deified sin and God’s anger is not seen so much in traumatic weather or economic recession. In the middle of it all is a backslidden, lukewarm church. Then these so called ministers who no longer preach the gospel message are powerless though they shake themsleves like at other times not knowing the Lord has departed from them (Jud. 16:20).  But what is worse is that the awful price we are being forced to pay is not being on talking terms with Almighty God as he snubs the disobedient and will not speak his Word to them  through ministers who are a flame of fire (Amos 8:11-13)! In his mercy God has left us men in the past who have written about the doctrines of grace for us to read. We can at least warm our shivering souls in solid biblical exposition and feed upon the grain in these storehouses of Joseph despite the wet blanket of snow fallen upon the evangelical church. One can only weep in hope, to break up the hard clods of ground upon the our hearts, so we plant the seed of the scripture in fertile soil. We wait for the Sovereign mighty God to come and raise up men in our day to minister the words of his mouth.  At last  the saint of God will say, “I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly.” (Psalm 85:8). 

 

God is commanding men and women everywhere to repent because he has appointed a day in which he will judge the world. Christ made it clear after Pilate had brutally executed some men and a tower fell upon another group that they were no greater sinners than other people in fact, “Except ye repent ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:1-15).  The Bible is clear: “Some people get caught in their sins right away, even before the time of judgment. But other people’s sins don’t show up until later.” (1 Tim. 5:24).  God’s judgment is revealed from heaven now against those who suppress the truth by their breaking of God’s law (Rom 1:18 ) and if they do not see it now eventually they will know the wrath of the Lamb (Rev. 6:16). You have been warned.

 

But the one who holds the gavel of eternal justice will have nailed scarred hands. Christ himself will be our judge in this life and after we die (2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Tim 4:1). We know Christ came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10) and that he did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them (Luke 9:56). How does he save them?  Jesus death on the cross demonstrated God’s justice (Rom. 3:25) and his punishment upon sin. It fell upon the sinless son of God. No he rules with a sceptre of righteousness and justice (Ps. 45:6; Heb 1:8).  The Lord has spoken to those in Christ his “not guilty” verdict and offers peace to those who will put their faith in Christ’s blood poured out in an atoning sacrifice and propitiation for sin! The Phillips translation of Romans 8:34 says, “Who is in a position to condemn? Only Christ and Christ died for us, Christ rose for us, Christ reigns in power for us, Christ prays for us!”  He who could condemn -saves! Oh Blessed Jesus! People are saved from God the Judge by God the Savior.  Who has warned you to run away from the coming wrath (Mat. 3:7; Luke 3:7) and run to Jesus for your refuge (Heb 6:18)?!  Your only safety is in Christ the Judge and Savior. You have been warned.