color-pencil-drawing-coloring-colored-pencils-159825

It can be an interesting thing to pastor a church.

On the one hand, you see amazing things. God is clearly at work in your congregation and He is showing His handiwork in ways that are unavoidably beautiful. On the other hand, there is consistent opposition to His work. It is certain that the devil has come to “steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10).

The truth is that, in Gospel ministry you will see amazing things, but it will come at a cost.  Yes, God is good. And yes, life is hard. The pain that come from a tough life coupled with the opposition from the “thief” can be difficult to overcome.

But, there is good news. Sometimes this kind of opposition can be a clear sign that God’s work is in fact taking place. And, Christ Himself told us to take heart, for he has “overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Here are three things that you can do during tough times to partner with God in His good work! So, the next time that you face opposition in your life or ministry, draw clearly, draw near, and draw close!
(1) Draw clearly the picture of God’s goodness and His work. Let us clearly declare and proclaim the good work of God when we see it. There is power in testimony and praising God for the work he is doing. May we be a people who spend more time talking about the good things that God does than the difficulty that we face.
(2) Draw near to the Lord. God is already the victor, may we bring his work against the opposition/difficulty in this life. Identify that God’s good work does meet opposition with the Enemy, who wants to steal, kill, and destroy. With this, we should not fear the opposition, but in awareness of the opposition, bring God’s work on the cross and in the Spirit against the attack/difficulty (e.g. “I pray the work of Christ in this particular situation by the power of the Spirit”). James says draw near to the Lord and he will draw near to you. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. May it be so with us His body!
(3) Draw close to one another.  2 Timothy 2:23-24 warns us about what can happen in a body that is divided in the midst of conflict. Paul writes to Timothy, “Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” By contrast, Hebrews 10:24 invites us not to give up meeting together and instead to encourage one another all the more!
Let us bind together and encourage one another in the Lord throughout the various circumstances of life. God’s good work will continue to be done! In times of opposition, may we draw a clear picture of God’s good work, draw near to the Lord, and draw close to one another.

 

food-salad-healthy-vegetables (1)

As Christians, we must decide if we will set a table as though the whole world is invited to feast. While there is no evidence that all will feast (though one can hope), the hopeful Christian must live as though the whole world is at minimum invited.

The parables of Jesus were one such place where large crowds were given a taste of what the Kingdom of God and its feast are like. These stories have a real place in the actual, crowded world. Jesus’ answers (often given in questions) have teeth that penetrate the hearts of mankind. Or, as Mike Erre puts it, “The Gospel Isn’t Just Something that exists somewhere in people’s hearts. It has edges and can actually impact the world.”

Sadly, today’s church can often feel like an exclusive dinner where only a few privileged souls have a place at the table. Often times, we leaders in the church can act more like gatekeepers than bridge-builders. If you are an invited guest (long time attender or member), you may be more interested in reserving your usual seat than making room for a visitor. If you are an outsider (first time visitor), you may be wondering if it is okay that you are even at church. 

Things would look a lot different if we as the church intended for people very different from us to have an invitation to the Table. D.A. Carson writes,

“Ideally the church itself is not made up of natural ‘friends.’ It is made up of natural enemies. What binds us together is not common education, common race, common income levels, common politics, common nationality, common accents, common jobs, or anything of the sort. Christians come together, not because they form a natural collocation, but because they have been saved by Jesus Christ and owe him a common allegiance. In the light of this common allegiance, in light of the fact that they have all been loved by Jesus himself, they commit themselves to doing what he says—and he commands them to love one another. In this light, they are a band of natural enemies who love one another for Jesus’ sake.”

The parable of the foolish rich man puts much of this conversation in extreme focus. The situation is that there is a crowd of people following Jesus and looking to see what He is all about. One of the people in the crowd fires a question at Jesus about how an inheritance should be divided between him and his brother. Jesus answers the question with another question and gives a stern warning about the effects of greed.

“Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” – Jesus

Then, Jesus launches into a story about the foolish rich man who didn’t quite know what to do with all of his wealth. (Talk about a “first world problem”: I just don’t know what to do with all this money I have!)

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

A pair of thoughts about this parable in Luke 12:16-19: First, life as God intended it includes abundant harvest. The desire of God is that your labor results in rich harvest. Unfortunately, a fallen world means that this is not always the case. The result is that there are times for celebration and times for sorrow, times where sowing results in harvest and times when sowing does not result in harvest.

Second, in the times where the harvest is plenty, there are foolish solutions and wise solutions. As we see in the parable, the foolish rich man concludes that he should build a bigger place to store his wealth. That we he can take life easy and live off the fat of the land.

At this, Jesus puts God into the parable (this is rare!). God asks, “Who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” In other words, all the stuff in the world will do you no good the eternity that comes after this life. The stuff is only good in this life and can be used properly or not.

I know a man who is in the later years of his life and is trying to give away money as wisely as possible. This is a man who understands that he will not be able to see his stuff used for eternity after he has left this world (though his stuff may, in fact, continue to be used this way!).

When God asks, “Who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” he gets to the heart of the matter. Will we use our stuff for eternal purposes or not? And, who has access? Who is invited?

Jesus indicates that there is a better way, a properly wise solution to the issue of excess. And, there is a God (even a Father) who enters the situation to give direction to the “divided brothers.”

In God’s economy, He is to be remembered in the midst of all the stuff. Proverbs 30:8-9 says,

Keep falsehood and lies far from me;
    give me neither poverty nor riches,
    but give me only my daily bread.
Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you
    and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’
Or I may become poor and steal,
    and so dishonor the name of my God.

In other words, we must remember God whether we have much or have plenty (see Paul in Philippians 4:11-13). And it is actually better to have just what we need for the day (see Exodus 16 and Matthew 6:11). We must remember God in our stuff.

Also, we must be willing to share our stuff with all people. There is a reason that God instructed the people of Israel not to harvest the edges of their fields during the Festival of Weeks. Leviticus 23:22 reads,

“‘When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and for the foreigner residing among you. I am the Lord your God.’”

In other words, God desired that the outsider would have room at the table. God desired that those who see themselves as gatekeepers would actually become bridge-builders so that insiders would become room-makers and outsiders would belong. We are to share our stuff with people, as though the whole world is invited to the feast.

Lastly, we do this so that we can live in abundance together. It is no accident that Jesus makes mention of great feasts in Luke 14 and 22. And, it is not accident that Revelation 19 tells of the marriage supper of the Lamb. God intends for his people to feast together for all eternity. John 10:10 indicates that the devil sought to steal, kill, and destroy while Jesus came that we might have life in abundance. The abundant life may not necessarily include an abundance of things, but we are foolish to think that God’s abundant life doesn’t impact our things.

Scripture tells of an eternal feast with God. Our things on earth can be used to set a table for the whole world. Let’s remember God in our stuff, share our stuff with all people, and live in abundance together.

(This is a post in which I may stolen lines from or hopefully accurately paraphrased Mike Erre. Thankfully, Mike has publicly given permission for anyone to do this. My hope is that I have not altogether misquoted Mike or acted boorishly like a Wolverines or Spartans football fan.)

 

“However many years anyone may live, let them enjoy them all.” – Ecclesiastes 11:8

I enjoy John Eldredge’s awareness of the move of God.

johneldredge-2x

I have followed John Eldredge for a number years, after meeting him as a student at Biola University. Each year, Eldredge encourages people to consider what their word for the year might be. This is not a New Year’s Resolution. It’s not what do you want your year to be. It’s an opportunity for one to ask God to speak into and over the year what He would like to see in your life. I can honestly say that I tried multiple years to do this and never had what I believed to be a genuine word from the Lord over my year.

However, 2018 is the year. Liz and I have been more intentional about “Listening Prayer” over the past couple of years. We never wanted to manufacture something. We never wanted to manipulate. But, after quite a bit of study on the topic, we have practiced “Listening Prayer” more intentionally in the past couple of year. I guess it shouldn’t have been a surprise then when the Lord brought the word “Enjoy” to mind several times at the end of 2017 and leading into 2018. 2018 is the year of Enjoy.

I’m to enjoy the work that is before me.

I’m to enjoy the presence of God in my life.

I’m to enjoy the relationships that God has given me.

I’m to enjoy the world that is all around me.

So, 2018 is the Year of Enjoy. I plan to be intentional about enjoying God this year and all that He has for me. After all, it was John Piper who said that the purpose of life is to “Glorify God by enjoying Him forever.” I plan to.

I remain thankful for John Eldredge’s life and ministry. I remember breaking down crying within seconds of his Restoration of the Heart Conference in June of 2016. He hadn’t even begun to speak yet. But, the power and presence of God in that place (New Life Church, Colorado Springs) was palpable. I remember hearing him say later how much prayer had gone into the event, days and months leading up to the start. It’s no wonder that God was moving from the start!

So, here is the start to my Enjoy Year (2018). I enjoy John Eldredge, his awareness of the move of God, his compassionate heart for people, and the way that he walks with joy.

Perhaps you enjoy John Eldredge too?

pexels-photo-167444

 

In this age (and most of the others that came before this one), most of us are inclined to speak before we listen. In fact, we are often inclined to speak before we think!

The story of Zechariah in Luke 1 is a timely word for those of us that are incline this way, as Zechariah loses his voice and gets it back again with renewed humility and power!

Here are five things we learn from the story of Zechariah about having a powerful voice in this day and age!

(1) Being of God but missing the Good News. (Luke 1:5-18)

You can be of God and even considered righteous, but still miss the Good News of God. Zechariah was a religious leader, was considered righteous by the Lord, but still questioned the messenger when Gabriel told him of what God was doing. This, sadly, can often be the case for those of us who believe we are tracking with the Lord. We can be so sure of ourselves or what we have already learned that we are not open to the revelation of what God is doing in our lives currently. We miss the Good News of how the Gospel is currently applied to our circumstances, our surroundings, or even our own lives. Sometimes, the people who need the Gospel the most are those who have already heard the Good News. We can learn from Zechariah that even if we are already of God, we can miss how the Good News will affect our current situation, the world around us, and our own lives!

(2) Losing your voice. (Luke 1:19-20)

If our voice has become useless to the Lord, we shouldn’t be surprised if God takes away our voice. Such was the case with Zechariah! He stopped using his voice to proclaim the Word of the Lord and instead used it to question God’s Word. When we have lost our prophetic voice (for any host of reasons), God may see fit to take our voice away completely. This may especially be the case for those who claim to “speak for God.” We must be careful not to use their voice inappropriately or we may find that we have our voice taken away!

(3) Speaking more powerfully when you are silent (Luke 1:21-25; 57-63)

We may also find that we can speak more powerfully without words. Zechariah’s mere silence was enough for those around him to see that he had been given a word from God. Further, Zechariah was able to show an incredible sign of solidarity with his wife Elizabeth when she wanted to name her son, “John.” Without words, Zechariah communicated God’s word to those around him and was able to draw closer to God and his wife in the process. When we see a need for God’s word to enter in to a situation around us, there may be times when our first reaction should not be to speak, but rather to listen and act.

(4) Praising God when the barriers are removed (Luke 1:64-66)

God will often remove the barrier that exists when he knows that we will be ready to praise him for it! As soon as Zechariah was ready to believe the word of God and praise God for it, God removed the barrier to this praise, which was the block on Zechariah’s voice. It is helpful to ask what barriers exist to God being praised in our lives or the circumstances around us. Perhaps God would like to identify these barriers and remove them so that His praise can go forward!

(5) Getting your voice back (Luke 1:67-79)

The most prophetic utterance that Zechariah had came after this process, after he was filled with the Holy Spirit, and when he had an audience ready to listen. At that point, Zechariah gave a powerful testimony of the Lord’s authority, his ability to remove barriers, and his heart to save the world! The key to this new voice was Zechariah’s willingness to be moved by the Spirit, believe the Word of the Lord, and proclaim the salvation of the Lord to anyone who would listen.

The story of Zechariah is a good one for our time. In climate where some many voices are clamoring to be heard, let us hear the voice of the Lord, believe it to be true, and proclaim it with our own voice. May we faithfully apply the Good News to our lives in every situation, lest God take our voice away as well!

maryconsoleseve

(The Virgin Mary Consoles Eve by Sister Grace Remington)

When it comes to Mary, it often seems that Protestants have thrown out the proverbial baby with the bathwater. Due to a fear of idolizing Mary (which most Catholics and Orthodox DO NOT do) and in an effort to keep churchgoers locked in on the birth of Jesus (which is important during a season of waiting on Him), many Protestants just gloss over the very important traits found in Mary, the mother of Jesus.

With that in mind, here are 7 Awesome Mary Traits (That All Christians Can Celebrate):

Trait 1 – She stands toe to toe with one who stands in the presence of God. (Luke 1:26-29)

Mary was awesome. Most cower in fear when an angel shows up (see Zechariah’s reaction to a similar visit from Gabriel). According to Luke, Mary was simply…perplexed. She moved straight past the shock factor of a visit from Gabriel and straight to trying to understand his message. While most men cower in the presence of an angel, Mary stood toe to toe with Gabriel.

Trait 2 – She has the Lord with her (in her) and receives His favor. (Luke 1:30-33)

Gabriel tells Mary that the Lord is with her. While Mary had not yet become pregnant with Jesus, the angel tells Mary that God is already with her. She receives favor from the Lord. This favor is unmerited and comes before Mary had done anything. God with us (Emmanuel) will soon literally be with her, as she becomes with child. But, before all of this, Mary is willing to receive and in Mary, God finds a willing vessel. This is an excellent example for the Christian. When God comes near, invite him in, and receive His favor.

Trait 3 – She doesn’t ask IF God’s Will will be done, but how. (Luke 1:34-37)

Most of us are caught still asking the question whether or not God is able to accomplish his will. Mary is not concerned whether or not God’s will is able to be done, but how it will be done. Again, contrast this with the way that Zechariah received his message from Gabriel. Mary believes already that God’s Will will be accomplished and asks not IF it will be accomplished, but how.

Trait 4 – She hears the word of the Lord and becomes obedient to it. (Luke 1:38)

Mary understands that it is not enough for the Christian to simply hear the word of the Lord. Instead, the Christian must hear the word, believe the word, and be willing to do the word (see James 1:22). The mark of the Christian is that the Christian becomes obedient to the word of God. Like Mary, we are to have Christ formed in us as we become obedient to the Word.

Trait 5 – She does not hesitate to share the word of the Lord and the work of the Spirit. (Luke 1:39-45)

If we believe in our hearts and confess with our mouths (see Romans 10:9), we will be saved. Mary wasted no time in sharing the word of the Lord and the work of the Spirit with those around her. Like Mary, we ought to boldly share the work of the Lord in our lives and be willing to give our hearts and our lips to the Lord.

Trait 6 – She proclaims God’s justice BEFORE it becomes a reality. (Luke 1:46-55)

The Magnificat (Mary’s Song) is a butt-kicking proclamation for oppression and injustice. In it, Mary proclaims that God has scattered the proud, brought down rulers, and sent away the rich empty-handed. At the same time, she proclaims that God has raised up the humble, filled the hungry with good things, and done great things for the bondslave. And, the original language uses a type of future tense as a declaration that God has already accomplished these things BEFORE they have come a reality in the world. Wow. Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection would literally upset the fallen order of things and restore salvation to humankind. Yes, in Christ’s birth, Mary consoles Eve. And like Mary, the Christian should console the world with God’s justice even in a world where it is severely lacking.

Trait 7 – She rests in God’s promised Word, knowing that it is God who accomplishes his purposes. (Luke 1:56)

The text in Luke 1:56 shows that Mary stayed for three months after this and THEN returned home. Most of us can’t wait three months for anything. Most of us would hear this word and frantically begin working towards the promises that God had just revealed. Rather, Mary rested in the promised Word that the Lord had given her, stayed three months with Elizabeth, and then returned home. After all, Isaiah 9 had prophesied in Isaiah 9 that “the zeal of the Lord” would accomplish all this. None of this is passive for Mary, but all of it rests in the promises of the Lord.

May each of us, today and this Advent season, follow Mary’s example of hearing the Word of the Lord, giving birth to Christ in our own lives, and proclaiming the work of His Spirit to a world in need of his justice!

pexels-photo-147634

Growing up, I believed that I had to answer every question asked of me as directly, honestly, and completely I possible. I believed that anything less than this was a lie. For example, if someone asked me how my day was and what I did that day, I would almost immediately swell with nervousness that I was going to leave part of my day out or mess up the order of how things happened. If I didn’t include all the details, was I really answering honestly? If I said my day was great and it was really just good, did I tell a lie?

I quickly learned that I had a moderate case of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and specifically one that is termed Religious Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Religion became a trigger for my OCD to the point that telling a lie was the bulk percentage of the pie chart and telling the truth was something that happened only in the rarest of cases when I made sure to give all of the details of all of the facts in the exact correct order. I soon felt like I was lying when I talked most of the time.

You can imagine my relief when I encountered the Jesus of the Bible. You see, most of us have a picture of Jesus in our heads that we learn from parents, friends, youth group events, or poorly made Hollywood movies. Often times, this image doesn’t match up to the Beautiful Person that we see in the pages of the Word of God.

In Jesus, I found a Person who was God and man. At the same time. We was fully divine, yet spent more time in the dirt than I ever have. He was fully man, yet without sin. And, when He was asked a question, sometimes He gave an answered. But, more often, Jesus answered a question with another question.

You see, Jesus was able to discern the motives of the questioner in an instant. I ordered a book today called, “Jesus is the Question: The 307 Questions Jesus Asked and the 3 He Answered,” by Martin Copenhaver. Did you read that? 307 questions that Jesus asked and 3 that he answered. Most of the time, it turns out, Jesus was content to let questions go unanswered. This was especially the case when He knew that the answer to the asked question was not the Answer that the questioner needed.

More often than not, Jesus redirected the conversation immediately to one that would be more fruitful. One example of this was in Matthew 9:14-15. The text reads:

14 Then John’s disciples came and asked him, “How is it that we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”

15 Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them? The time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; then they will fast.

Do you see what Jesus did there? The questioners wanted to trap Jesus in a question about religious observances and Jesus redirected the question to one of His identity. “How can the guests of the bridegroom mourn while he is with them?” Jesus asks. The questioners are left with the decision to engage or not in Jesus’ question and wrestle with what Jesus asked them. In an instant, Jesus gets to the heart of the matter at hand and forces the questioner to wrestle with his own question.

Questions, rather than answers, have the unique and profound impact of forcing the hearer to wrestle, seek out, and discover Truth. Jesus understood that He could spoon-feed Truth all day long if He wanted, but it wouldn’t have same effect as if He invited those around him to wrestle with the questions ask. He Himself was the Answer, and He asked questions to empower people to wrestle with that Truth.

I have become fascinated with this approach to education, as mentors like John Mark Reynolds and friends like Adam Johnson have worked tirelessly to question people into Truth. The goal of education, after all, is not to teach people what to think, but how to think.

We serve a God who is Himself the Answer and all of life’s questions rest on His identity. What question is on your heart today? What do you ask of Jesus? Don’t be surprised if He asks you something back. And don’t be surprised if, when you find yourself confronted with your question, it reveals that Jesus is the Answer. May we wrestle with the questions on our hearts today, knowing that the Truth, in fact, is out there!

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8, NIV)

pexels-photo-267748

It was never “just” a prayer.

I received this question from an attender and wanted to address the important question what it actually means to give your life to Jesus.

I think the heart of your concern rests in the following questions that you asked:

Why did the people who accepted Jesus as their Lord and savior go to hell? If all you have to do is say that Jesus is Lord and repent for your sin once, then why do we need to strive to be more like Jesus? It seems like you should but don’t have to. Why does the Bible tell us to always be aware, to not drift away? Why would it say it if once we say the sinner prayer, we are saved for good?

Let me respond as best I can here by email, understanding that conversation in person will usually be more helpful and thorough. As you have heard me say before, I do not believe that people can lose their salvation.

Ephesians 1:13-14 says

“you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, 14 who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory.”

If you believe in Christ and become a follower of Christ, you are given the Holy Spirit, who is a “deposit guaranteeing our inheritance.” In other words, the Holy Spirit in you is a sign to you that you have saved, you are being saved, and you will be saved.

In John 10:28, Jesus indicates that none that He has been given can be snatched from his hand.

Romans 8:33-39 says

33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

This means that we don’t have to be fearful of losing our salvation or of someone taking it from us. If we are chosen by God and have chosen to follow Him, we do not need to live in fear of being taken away from His promise. In this way, I do not believe that anyone who accepts Christ as Savior is sent to hell.

What I would do is say that we need to broaden our understanding of what it means to be a Christian. You asked, “If all we have to do” is say a prayer once and repent, then why do we need to become more like Jesus. I believe the Bible teaches our growth and includes warnings about falling away because the Christian life was never just about one prayer. The prayer is an outpouring of the heart of the believer towards God, it is not a one time transactional contract. We have instead a covenant with God that lasts a lifetime. God didn’t intend for the Christian life to be a one time magic set of words that got us out of hell and into heaven. The Christian life is indeed about a relationship with God and working out our salvation with fear and trembling (says Paul in Philippians 2). This does not mean that we can earn our salvation or save ourselves, it is a gift of God (Romans 6:23). What it does mean is that it is much more than a one time prior. Giving our life to Jesus means just that; that we give our lives to Jesus. Not just our words. Not just our prayers. We become more than believers in Christ. We become followers of Christ that walk in relationship to and with him.

The Holy Spirit is given as a seal to be able to accomplish the work of God in our lives and apply to us the work of Christ on the cross. It is a relationship. Think of the relationships in your life. None of them are just a one time meeting or a one time set of words. They are on going. Gordon Fee says it this way

“For Paul, life in the Spirit begins at conversion; at the same time that experience is both dynamic and renewable.” – Gordon Fee

Fee is saying that while we are given the seal of the Holy Spirit at conversion, the relationship is one that grows, is renewed, and expands. That is what we look for in our relationship with God, and if we indeed have the Holy Spirit in us, we do not need to worry about salvation being taken from us. In the end, the prize that we get is God himself!!

Denominations have many different takes on these issues and I think it is helpful to learn from the denominations and the truth that they present. There is no one denomination that has the corner market on who the Holy Spirit is and what He does in our lives. And so, we learn and discern what the denominations have to say. Much of that is a lifelong process as well. We discern what the traditions say, compare them with the Scripture, discuss them with others, and ask the Spirit to guide us into all truth, as Jesus said he would. I agree with your assessment by the way, that Orthodox churches seem to have a lot of traditions and protestant churches seem to have none. It may be helpful for both sides (and there are many more) to center upon Jesus and submit their rules (or lack thereof) to His Spirit as we work out our salvation together.

I’ll conclude with a story about a man who once came up to the world famous violinist Itzhak Perlman and said, I would give my whole life to play the violin the way that you do. Perlman grinned and said, “I did give my whole life.” What showed that Perlman was a violinist: saying the words that he was a violinist or spending a lifetime playing? (See James’ talk about faith and deeds!) It’s a fantastic reminder to see that we have an opportunity as followers of Christ to give our whole lives (selves) to him, not just a one time prayer. And the good news is that our being save doesn’t rest on us, but on the Savior who will not lose one that the Father has given (John 6:39). You can’t earn your salvation, but you can give him your life. And that is a lot more than a prayer!

 

Friends, I received another question that I wanted to respond to on here. On power and authority.

pexels-photo-118118

Jesus said he has all power and authority in Earth and Heaven, yet I’ve also heard Satan the “The Prince of this world” or is in control of Earth.  When Jesus was in the wilderness for 40 days fasting, Satan told him he would give Jesus the Earth if Jesus would kneel to Satan, reinforcing that Satan has control over Earth.  I’ve also read that we humans were given Earth to have domain over.  It seems confusing.  If Earth’s domain is our gift from God, why can’t we cast out Satan.  If Jesus has all power over Earth, what is stopping him from booting the devil out now?  I’m not sure if there is an answer or not but would love to hear your thoughts.

God, as Creator of the universe has authority over all of the universe. We learn that all things were made through Jesus in John 1:3. As such, He is Lord over Creation. God (meaning the Father, Son, and Spirit: one God, three Persons) has supreme authority over all Creation and all creatures. By nature, Creation worships (obeys) the Creature. Psalm 19:1 says “the heavens declare the glory of God.” But, creation does not worship/obey (the words are often connected) by God controlling or dictating. He is not a tyrant. There is choice involved and Satan chose against the Lord. In doing so, Satan removed himself from participating in the authority of God and instead simply became under his authority. When Adam and Eve sinned against God (and chose against his authority), the human race also removed themselves from participating in the authority of God and simply became under His authority. God did not lose authority over Creation, over Satan, or over humanity. But, Satan, a third of the demons, and humanity chose to operate outside the authority of God. God, being a good and loving God, gave the option for this choice.

I hope you are seeing the picture here: you can operate in the authority of God (as part of His authority) or you can operate outside (against) His authority. Either way, He does not lose His authority, but He allows for choice to operate in His authority or not. So, Satan is cast out of heaven and allowed to roam the Earth. Again, God does this lovingly, knowing that He will give humans the same choice. Ultimately, this is to display not only His power and His authority, but also his love.

When Jesus comes, we are told in Philippians 2 and John 17 that he had the glory as God prior to being born as human. He was fully God already, which means that He fully had authority as God. But, He didn’t consider it something to be grasped. Or, in other words, He didn’t see being God as something to be used for His own benefit, but for ours. And so, He placed Himself under the authority of the Father and submitted to His authority throughout His life. He said, I only do what I see the Father doing. He said, not my will but yours be done. He was the perfect example of acting in the authority of God. And so, it makes perfect sense that He says, I have been given all authority on heaven and earth. Yes, Satan has been given the option to operate outside (against) the authority of God on this earth. As such, any authority that Satan has comes from what God has allowed in His lovingkindness to give people choice. When Satan temped Jesus, the actual temptation was for Jesus to operate outside (against) the authority of God and join Satan. This is why Jesus responds that you should only worship (obey – remember the words are connected) the Lord your God. Jesus chose to continue to participate in the authority of God, rather than operate outside the authority. Now, we have the same choice. God gave the Adam and Eve authority over the earth, but it is only rooted in participation with God’s authority. As soon as we act outside (against) that authority, we are no longer participating with God. In reality, we are now participating with Satan. This is why Jesus says you are with me or you are against me.

If we choose to operate in God’s authority, following in the footsteps of Jesus, we participate with him. We reign with Christ (see 2 Timothy 2:12)! That is why Jesus says that all authority has been given to Him (in Matthew 28) and why the disciples were told they would receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on them (Acts 1:8). It is by the power of the Spirit that we are able to operate in the authority of God continually. So, Jesus saves from the effect of sin but also from the power of sin. We are not under the power (authority) of sin, but rather under the power (authority) of God. 1 Peter 5, John 16, and Hebrews 10 note that this situation on the Earth and its battle regarding authority will only go on for “a little while.” This is because God has not lost any of His authority in the process. He is instead “patience toward you not wanting any to perish (2 Peter 3:9).

Hi friends! I received this question today and wanted to spend some time to give an answer. On Salvation and Overcoming Sin.

black-and-white-sport-fight-boxer

The question that has been bothering me for a while is whether or not people can loose their salvation? If not, then who does 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 (and other verses like that) refer to? What does it mean that Jesus gives us the power to overcome sin (since I know that we all keep sinning)?

(1) Some hold that you can lose your salvation if you are not faithful.
(2) Some hold that you cannot lose your salvation, but that you can choose to no longer follow Christ.
(3) Some hold that once you are saved you are always saved.
I am in the third camp, personally. I believe that once you have been saved, God will not allow you to be unsaved! See John 6:39 – “I shall not lose one that the Father has given me, but shall raise them up at the last day.” Also, John 10:28 – “I give them eternal life…No one can snatch them out of my hand.” The emphasis is that Jesus does the saving, that salvation is a gift, and that giving the gift, he will not take the gift back. That is my view based on what I see in the Bible.
The most important verse in 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 is verse 11, which says: “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”
Paul is describing what life WAS like without Jesus. Fornication, idolatry, adultery, homosexuality, thievery, etc. These are some of the sins and lifestyles that carry with them consequences of separation from God, death, and eternity in Hell. (There are many more, lest we think that these are the only ones). Romans 6:23, the “wages of sin is death.” Apart from Jesus, these things keep you from inheriting the Kingdom of God. But, Paul says, such WERE some of you. You were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and in the Spirit of our God. In other words, Jesus has done the saving and has kept you from the penalty of the sin. In the next post, I’ll respond more about the power of sin. Because, God saves us also from the power of sin. When we talk about going on sinning and overcoming sin, we need to be saved from the power of sin. And so, we turn to the Spirit. Stay tuned.