Posted in grace

The incomparable riches of His grace

By Elizabeth Prata

Scroll to bottom after photo for mini-library suggestions of books on grace.

What are these incomparable riches of God’s grace?

First, Christ Jesus.

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:4-7).

As we are saved, we step from dead flesh to life eternal. From enemy sinner to forgiven friend. From object of wrath to recipient of grace.

He is GREAT!!

He manifested Himself as man, servant, no less, so that He could live a life full of the same temptations we experience, can you imagine that? “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.” (Hebrews 2:18)

GRACE!!

As our High Priest, when we confess to Him, He understands! Thoroughly, bodily, intimately. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet was without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15).

GRACE!!

Another example of the incomparable riches of His grace is “The Promise of the Holy Spirit” –“On the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried out, saying, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.” But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive; for the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” (John 7:37-39).

We are given the grace of Spirit within us and as a result have eternal security of our salvation all the days of our life. Incomparable grace!

He set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Corinthians 1:22)

What is to come is MORE GRACE!!

When you think of Jesus and what He has done for us and continues to do, don’t you just get weak in the knees? Doesn’t your heart faint with love? He saved us so that He could shower us with His grace. “But the God of all grace, who hath called us unto his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.” (1 Peter 5:10) He is the God of all grace, and He chose to shower us with the riches of that incomparable grace.

Don’t forget to remind each other of these things. Encourage one another. Repeat your testimonies. Share verses, laugh with joy at our Great Savior, who is of all Grace. All is well because Christ Jesus has risen and dwells in His heaven. All of us in Him are testimonies of His grace, and that is all joy.

EPrata photos

Some Suggestions for Books on Grace:

Fundamentals of the Faith: 13 Lessons to Grow in the Grace and Knowledge of Jesus Christ, foreword by John MacArthur

John Bunyan and the Grace of Fearing God, Joel R. Beeke

The Glory of Grace, Lewis Allen

Christian Freedom (Grace Essentials), Samuel Bolton

Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners: A Brief Relation of the Exceeding Mercy of God in Christ to His Poor Servant John Bunyan, John Bunyan

All of Grace: An Earnest Word with Those Who Are Seeking Salvation by the Lord Jesus Christ, C. H. Spurgeon

Dark Clouds, Deep Mercy: Discovering the Grace of Lament, Mark Vroegop

Grace Transforming, Philip Graham Ryken

The Grace of Repentance, Sinclair B. Ferguson

Grace Defined and Defended: What a 400-Year-Old Confession Teaches Us about Sin, Salvation, and the Sovereignty of God, Kevin DeYoung

Transforming Grace: Living Confidently in God’s Unfailing Love, Jerry Bridges

Posted in encouragement, grace, repentance, salvation, sin

The Most Terrifying Thing God Can Do: In which I testify to God’s grace in saving me

In the past, Tim Challies posted an article titled The Most Terrifying Thing God Can Do. It’s a terrifying article. It crushed me reading it and apparently it did for many others as well. I saw this article referred to and re-posted numerous times.

The most terrifying thing God can do is to turn an unsaved person over to his sin. Having just gone through Romans 1 in my Sunday School class, I was starkly reminded again of God giving them over to their sin. It’s stated three times at the end of the chapter. This again clutched my heart with terror and grief. Sin is such a powerful drug, a terrifying trap.

Continue reading “The Most Terrifying Thing God Can Do: In which I testify to God’s grace in saving me”
Posted in encouragement, Felix, grace, procrastination, salvation, thanksgiving

Thoughts on Felix

By Elizabeth Prata

After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.” (Acts 24:24-25)

It is stated earlier that Felix was thoroughly familiar with “The Way”. (v. 22). Whether it was because Felix had been governor in the area for almost a decade, or because his wife was Jewish, or both, Felix was familiar with the facts about Jesus and his “sect” as Paul’s accuser Tertullus put it. Felix was secure in his knowledge of Christianity in the intellectual realms, enough to feel confident to make a decision regarding the case.

But when the case got personal, really personal, Felix became alarmed. He told Paul to go away and when it was a more convenient time, Felix would think about it. The Greek word for time used in this verse means “a suitable time” or “the right moment”. But there will never be a more convenient right moment.

As James Montgomery Boice said of Felix’s procrastination, if you put it off, the same sinful nature that made you put it off today will make you put it off tomorrow. Nothing will be different. In addition, you’ve begun a habit of procrastination which will only deepen and entrench. Tomorrow it will be worse for you. Now is the acceptable time (2 Corinthians 6:2).

Notice Felix’s alarm at being told of sin and judgment. In the Greek the meaning of terror is ‘being in the grip of a great Godly terror’. The word is used 5 times in the New Testament.

–When the women who brought spices to the tomb after Jesus’ death saw the gleaming angels, they were terrified.
–When they were gathered and Jesus appeared to His disciples they became terrified.
–Cornelius’ terror at seeing a holy angel in a God-given vision.
–In Revelation when a great earthquake occurred and a tenth of Jerusalem fell, the people became terrified and gave God in heaven glory.
–Felix, upon hearing Paul speak of sin and judgment.

You see, in each of the four cases, apart from Felix, the people became terrified upon directly seeing a slice of heaven. Or in the case of the earthquake they knew it was a mighty work of God Himself. And just as seeing a holy angel of God or experiencing God’s hand directly, Felix was experiencing heaven. It wasn’t just Paul speaking some words articulately and Felix becoming annoyed or a bit worried. It was the Holy Spirit opening the depths of Felix’s soul to see his own sin compared to heaven. It was a deep, spiritual terror. Paul’s words and their effect should have brought about the same reaction from Felix as Peter seeing Jesus as Lord of creation with the heavy, full nets of fish in Luke 5:8. Peter fell at Jesus feet, saying “Go away from me, I am a sinful man!” Felix said, “Uh, come back later, this is inconvenient for me.”

When Felix was confronted with his sin and positionally saw how far he was from Jesus, he should have done the same as Peter. Yet though the Lord graciously offered Felix the opportunity to see his sin in light of God’s glory, and though Felix did see it and became abjectly afraid, he procrastinated.

This is a decision. Jesus said whoever is not with Him is against Him. (Matthew 12:30).

So don’t let anyone sway you from evangelizing this way, talking of sin, self-control, righteousness, and the coming judgment. “Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” doesn’t have the same potential spiritual terror to pierce the soul as “You’re dead in your sins and Jesus is coming to judge you.”

There is no record in the Bible as to whether Felix found “a more convenient time” and reconciled to God. Probably not, seeing as the next verse records that Felix kept Paul in prison to see if Paul would cough up some money for a bribe. In this case, it IS worse for Felix. All that intellectual knowledge will put him in a worse position at the judgment.

For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. (2 Peter 2:21)

It’s Thanksgiving soon. I can think of no better gift than salvation to be thankful for. A close second is the Holy Spirit as a gift and a deposit inside us, illuminating the wonders of the Holy Bible to our mind and growing us in sanctification. Or perhaps Jesus forgiving our sins after salvation, or maybe it’s His chastisement which refines us into sterling silver and gold. Or maybe seeing the world, on our walk after the meal, and giving God the glory for His beautiful earth. Or His eternal, boundless grace. There is so MUCH to be thankful for, if you are a Christian. Offer the Gospel to someone today, maybe by next year at this time they will be praising God in gratitude for their reconciliation, and blessedly, Thanksgiving will have taken on a whole new meaning for them.

————————————-

Further Reading

All Dressed Up and No One To Thank

Giving Thanks for Salvation

Posted in grace, jesus, mercy, watchman

Pray for mercy for each other

By Elizabeth Prata

Mercy. A beautiful quality of God. Here is CARM.org’s definition of mercy and how it differs from grace:

Mercy
Mercy is the act of not administering justice when that justice is punitive. Because of our sinfulness we deserve death and eternal separation from God (Rom. 6:23; Isaiah 59:2), but God provided an atonement for sin and through it shows us mercy. That is, He does not deliver to the Christian the natural consequence of his sin which is damnation. That is why Jesus became sin on our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21) and bore the punishment due to us (Isaiah 53:4-5). It was to deliver us from damnation. (Compare with justice and grace.)”

“God saved us according to His mercy (Titus 3:5) and we can practice mercy as a gift (Rom. 12:8). “Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16).

Mercy is not grace.

Grace
Biblically, grace is unmerited favor. It is God’s free action for the benefit of his people. It is different than justice and mercy. Justice is getting what we deserve. Mercy is not getting what we deserve. Grace is getting what we do not deserve. In grace we get eternal life, something that, quite obviously, we do not deserve. But because of God’s love and kindness manifested in Jesus on the Cross, we receive the great blessing of redemption.”

Sometimes we think to ask for mercy from God. The tax collector was commended for his humble appeal for mercy to Holy God. 

But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’” (Luke 18:13)

Here is something to think of even further. There are many people who say they are watchmen. As a matter of fact, we are all called to “watch.” In Mark 13 between verses 33 and 37 Jesus said to “watch” four times! He said to watch for His coming, and to pray. Watch for the householder. Stay awake and watch. And He finished by saying “what I say unto you I say unto all.” So we all are supposed to be watchmen.

So we watch.

But there is more to do than simply watch. What else are Christian watchmen supposed to do? Well, pray, as stated above.

We also share the good news of salvation.

“How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, “Your God reigns.” The voice of your watchmen—they lift up their voice; together they sing for joy; for eye to eye they seethe return of the Lord to Zion.(Isaiah 52:7-8).

But there is something else we can do besides watch, pray, warn, and share the Good News. It’s mercy. The prophets of old often warns, often shared the good news, but one of their jobs was to plea for mercy before God on behalf of the people.Do we pray to God for mercy for our people?

The tax collector was praised for acknowledging his own hopeless state, and pled for mercy to God who dispenses mercy.

After we remove the log from our eye and repent of our daily sins, (so we are not prayerful hypocrites) when we pray, plea for mercy for your church family too. We should pray and plead for mercy for our brethren.

Paul asked the Lord to grant mercy on the house of Onesiphorus–

May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains,” (2 Timothy 1:16)

In his salutation,Paul often wrote that he asked the Lord to show mercy to his loved ones as in this example:

May mercy, peace, and love be multiplied to you.” (Jude 1:2)

I believe that when we pray for mercy for others by name or in groups, it is harder for us to be critical of them, and it makes it possible to love them even more. Because, He loves us and showed mercy…not dispensing our earned justice of His wrath but instead He mercifully reconciled us to Him through Jesus.

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; (2 Corinthians 5:17-18).

for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,” (Isaiah 61:10b)

Pray for mercy for the people you love.

Posted in encouragement, grace, Master, sheep

His sheep know His voice and they follow. Inspiring video

Youtube synopsis:

Published on Nov 17, 2013

A little compilation of a visit to my friend, Christopher Lange’s farm at Harestua, Norway. I have long wanted to film this test, where we call for his sheep in the same words as he uses, and then let him do it. A Biblical lesson to learn from this!

The verse that comes to mind is

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. (John 10:27)

It’s an inspiring video, especially when we think about Lazarus, who was dead when Jesus called him, and he responded to his Master’s voice by coming alive again! If we are alive when He calls for us in the rapture, we also will respond to His voice, and “come up here” to be with Him.

HT to reader Ruby who alerted me to this video and to Jacco who found it.

Posted in encouragement, Felix, grace, procrastination, salvation, thanksgiving

Thankful for salvation: thoughts on Felix

After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.” (Acts 24:24-25)

It is stated earlier that Felix was thoroughly familiar with “The Way”. (v. 22). Whether it was because Felix had been governor in the area for almost a decade, or because his wife was Jewish, or both, Felix was familiar with the facts about Jesus and his “sect” as Paul’s accuser Tertullus put it. Felix was secure in his knowledge of Christianity in the intellectual realms, enough to feel confident to make a decision regarding the case.

But when the case got personal, really personal, Felix became alarmed. He told Paul to go away and when it was a more convenient time, Felix would think about it. The Greek word for time used in this verse means “a suitable time” or “the right moment”. But there will never be a more convenient right moment.

As James Montgomery Boice said of Felix’s procrastination, if you put it off, the same sinful nature that made you put it off today will make you put it off tomorrow. Nothing will be different. In addition, you’ve begun a habit of procrastination which will only deepen and entrench. Tomorrow it will be worse for you. Now is the acceptable time (2 Corinthians 6:2).

Notice Felix’s alarm at being told of sin and judgment. In the Greek the meaning of terror is ‘being in the grip of a great Godly terror’. The word is used 5 times in the New Testament.

–When the women who brought spices to the tomb after Jesus’ death saw the gleaming angels, they were terrified.
–When they were gathered and Jesus appeared to His disciples they became terrified.
–Cornelius’ terror at seeing a holy angel in a God-given vision.
–In Revelation when a great earthquake occurred and a tenth of Jerusalem fell, the people became terrified and gave God in heaven glory.
–Felix, upon hearing Paul speak of sin and judgment.

You see, in each of the four cases, apart from Felix, the people became terrified upon directly seeing a slice of heaven. Or in the case of the earthquake they knew it was a mighty work of God Himself. And just as seeing a holy angel of God or experiencing God’s hand directly, Felix was experiencing heaven. It wasn’t just Paul speaking some words articulately and Felix becoming annoyed or a bit worried. It was the Holy Spirit opening the depths of Felix’s soul to see his own sin compared to heaven. It was a deep, spiritual terror. Paul’s words and their effect should have brought about the same reaction from Felix as Peter seeing Jesus as Lord of creation with the heavy, full nets of fish in Luke 5:8. Peter fell at Jesus feet, saying “Go away from me, I am a sinful man!” Felix said, “Uh, come back later, this is inconvenient for me.”

When Felix was confronted with his sin and positionally saw how far he was from Jesus, he should have done the same as Peter. Yet though the Lord graciously offered Felix the opportunity to see his sin in light of God’s glory, and though Felix did see it and became abjectly afraid, he procrastinated.

This is a decision. Jesus said whoever is not with Him is against Him. (Matthew 12:30).

So don’t let anyone sway you from evangelizing this way, talking of sin, self-control, righteousness, and the coming judgment. “Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” doesn’t have the same potential spiritual terror to pierce the soul as “You’re dead in your sins and Jesus is coming to judge you.”

There is no record in the Bible as to whether Felix found “a more convenient time” and reconciled to God. Probably not, seeing as the next verse records that Felix kept Paul in prison to see if Paul would cough up some money for a bribe. In this case, it IS worse for Felix. All that intellectual knowledge will put him in a worse position at the judgment.

For it would have been better for them never to have known the way of righteousness than after knowing it to turn back from the holy commandment delivered to them. (2 Peter 2:21)

It’s Thanksgiving. I can think of no better gift than salvation to be thankful for. A close second is the Holy Spirit as a gift and a deposit inside us, illuminating the wonders of the Holy Bible to our mind and growing us in sanctification. Or perhaps Jesus forgiving our sins after salvation, or maybe it’s His chastisement which refines us into sterling silver and gold. Or maybe seeing the world, on our walk after the meal, and giving God the glory for His beautiful earth. Or His eternal, boundless grace. There is so MUCH to be thankful for, if you are a Christian. Offer the Gospel to someone today, maybe by next year at this time they will be praising God in gratitude for their reconciliation, and blessedly, Thanksgiving will have taken on a whole new meaning for them.

EPrata photo

————————————-

Further Reading

All Dressed Up and No One To Thank

Giving Thanks for Salvation

Posted in encouragement, grace, repentance, salvation, sin

The Most Terrifying Thing God Can Do: In which I testify to God’s grace in giving me over to my sin

Last week Tim Challies posted an article titled The Most Terrifying Thing God Can Do. It’s a terrifying article. It crushed me reading it and apparently it did for many others as well. I saw this article referred to and re-posted numerous times.

The most terrifying thing God can do is to turn an unsaved person over to his sin. Here is a sample of the scriptural truths the article contains:

We speak often of hell and eternal consequences for sin, but perhaps we give too little attention to God’s action against sin in this world and this life. God’s punishment for sin is sin. His punishment is allowing people to experience the life-stealing, soul-rotting consequences of their sin. He expresses his wrath by allowing them the very thing they want. He does this because when they get the thing they want, it only deepens their destruction. 

In this way, sin is its own punishment. And in all the world I see nothing more terrifying than this: the prospect of God allowing people to experience the full impact and weight of their sinfulness. Nothing is more terrifying than God determining that he will no longer restrain the evil within them.

This is a terrifying thought.

This would be a terrifying event.

For me, the event was not hypothetical. It actually happened. Just before I came to salvation, God turned me over to my sin.

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:31)

I’d lived for 43 years as a sinner, but I had one particular besetting sin that consumed me. After so many decades, the Lord turned me over to it and released restraint. He turned me over to my sin so that I’d choke on it, and by virtue of contrast, thirst for His purity and holiness. After a few mercifully short years, I cried for mercy to the God that I would finally acknowledge and my sin that I would finally admit.

I remember the day when I realized that the sin wasn’t so fun anymore. I realized that my sin had me, I didn’t have it. Like a rabbit in a snare, I tried to shake loose of it, and could not. This perplexed me, because I had always been able to do anything I’d set my mind to. This was different. I was trapped. (Romans 7:14)

Now I know that we are slaves to sin, in bondage to it and to the god of this world, satan. But like quicksand, the more I tried to get out of my sin on my own terms and in my own effort, the more I foundered. I truly felt like I was sinking, forever to be engulfed in a toxic brew of my own making, sinking under the weight of it. My lips were only inches above the water and I felt I had only moments to go, relatively speaking, before I’d sink below the surface to rise no more. And it was cold.

Just prior to salvation, I was attempting to chronicle my experience in art, trying to puzzle out in visuals what words could not express. A spiritual process was happening to me, but I did not understand that it was spiritual. I only knew it was something. I was in a 1 Corinthians 2:14 situation. So I thought that whatever was happening to me I could try and figure it out by making visuals instead of words.

I wrote a little book called “Story of a Fly”. I look back on it now and I see clearly that it is a record of my coming to faith. It contains images and groanings my soul was expressing that words could not convey. As for the title, I think flies are disgusting, and I had no idea why I chose a fly to represent me, the main character in my little book. In retrospect, it was because I was under bondage to satan, also mentioned in the bible as the Lord of the Flies (Baal-zebub or Beelzebul).

In my book, I ‘knew’ there existed a secret kingdom, existing in the midst of and alongside the world I could see. I wanted to go there.

I’d traveled a good deal out in the American West. One of the native mythologies was a trickster god called Kokopelli. He plays the flute and is seen as a spirit of music. He’s also a fertility god and god of agriculture. In my deepest recesses I ‘felt’ that a trickster god was preventing me from obtaining the kingdom, represented below. I called him the ‘fly-wrangler’.

I was searching, seeking, making a long and winding road…but not obtaining this kingdom I wanted to enter so badly.

I felt I was so close and was about to triumphantly enter the kingdom! But there was a barrier. It was insurmountable.

It felt like I was a fly in a jar, captured. I was free to fly around in the jar but not free to get out and go into the kingdom. It was very frustrating. Of course, this feeling I’d had I now know was the weight of sin. Psalm 38:4 is so true! Without repenting no one can ever enter the kingdom of God. I had to deal with my sin.

I could not figure out why I was not enjoying the peace I’d so longed for. I was trying so hard! Yet now I know-

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8-9)

All the while, God had given me over to my sin, which I still pursued, though I did not want to anymore. The law of diminishing returns was clearly demonstrating that it was not a worthwhile pursuit.

And that is the last page of the little book. The last page depicts a woman who was well and truly locked in sin. Being given over to sin is truly terrifying. There is a soul-numbing effect that God’s release to sin as punishment has on a person. At least it did to me. The grief is violent, desperate, physical, all-consuming. Spiritual torment! And yet I didn’t know what I was grieving over!

I left many more subsequent pages in the book because I ‘knew’ the story was not going to end there. I did not know what to do next or what would happen next, but the girl was not going to be left in the jar. It just couldn’t end this way…could it? But the grief was an agony.

Not too long after I decided that my sin was the hindrance. I repudiated it. I sought God, who was holy and I repented. Of course the Lord enlivened my spirit and drew me to that point. I had not a clue what to do except wallow in my sin and cry. It was the Lord who was the catalyst.

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved… (Ephesians 2:1-5)

Being given over to sin is terrifying. That feeling never left me. It fuels me, it haunts me. Sin is a terrible thing. Even more terrifying is God allowing us to bask in it, wallow in it, then sink in it. Obey the Lord. Be grateful for His grace. He saved us from a ghastly fate.

Posted in grace, poem, sin

The winds of sin: A Poem

The winds of sin blow strong
The hearts of stone weigh heavy
The minds of shadow love darkness
The evil day His will prolongs.

The wicked will not prosper
They answer for their deeds
Their names not found on the roster
They stand before Him, these weeds

The winds of grace blow strong
Sin, death and hell cast out
All is fresh and new in beauty
Jesus reigns in glory over the throng

By EPrata

Posted in grace, lovers of self, perilous times shall come, prophecy

Prophecy: ‘For men (and women) will be lovers of self…’

A clip making the rounds on Facebook from Fox “120 Sports” shows the self-absorption of people consistent (in my opinion) of the prophetic verse from 2 Timothy 3:2, “men will be lovers of self”. Here is a still shot-

I snapped this photo that is below 8 years ago when cell phones with cameras were just coming into the fore. I was shocked and surprised at the amount of time the gals were taking to gaze upon themselves. Of course, 8 years ago, the word ‘selfie’ hadn’t been invented yet. ‘Selfie’ was Oxford Dictionary’s word of the year in 2013. They note that the use of the word selfie increased 17,000 percent from 2012 to 2013.

I do not own a cellphone so being on ‘the outside’, I see cell phone mania all the more.

In one of his letters to Timothy, Paul strongly warned about the behavior of humans in the last days. The last days/end time/last times has been occurring since Jesus ascended and will conclude when He returns. (Acts 2:16-17, cf Joel 2:28). Because of the deteriorating nature of man individually and of society, the times will worsen as the last days progress. (2 Timothy 3:13, 2 Timothy 2:16).

Paul’s specific warning to Timothy about the perilous times that were ahead for the young pastor included a lengthy list of behaviors that will be evidence of the times and which will be contributing to the deterioration of society. Here is Paul’s warning.

Godlessness in the Last Days

1But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 6For among them are those who creep into households and capture weak women, burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, 7always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth. 8Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith. 9But they will not get very far, for their folly will be plain to all, as was that of those two men. (2 Timothy 3:1-9).

These perilous times will be more and more frequent and intense, whereas the intervening periods of relative tranquility will become less and less frequent and peaceful, as the return of Christ nears. ~John MacArthur
Let’s look at the warning about being lovers of self in the last days. Paul’s warnings regarded the difficult times in the church. He was giving Timothy warnings about spiritual impostors and urging him to oppose them and expose them. We know that the world is difficult, godless, and selfish. What will be the difficulty is that the church will become infested with and overrun by people who are the world but pretend to be godly.

In John Warwick Montgomery’s book Damned Through the Church, Montgomery outlines 7 epochs in church history where times have been especially difficult. These have been movements of certain theological orientations which have negatively impacted the church. One of them was that the self has become God, and this movement is still affecting the Church at large in this day and age. As the MacArthur Commentary on 2 Timothy states,

It would be appropriate to add to Montgomery’s list the current emphases on mysticism, which seeks to determine truth about God by intuition and feeling, and pragmatism, which attempts to determine what is true by what produces desired effects. These movements do not come and go but come to stay, so that as the years go on, the church accumulates them, and the battles continue.

If you have ever heard a teacher like Beth Moore or Priscilla Shirer or any of the younger female teachers such as from the Propel Movement or the IF:Gathering, they often speak of how we feel as the determiner of truth. Here is an example of that mysticism:

What Moore is saying here is that if we have certain feelings inside of us, it brings us closer to God. But the truth is, it’s about Who we worship, not how we feel. And what if I don’t feel romanced by a sunset (what does that even mean?), then am I apart from God? And how long is this romance feeling supposed to last? How can I sustain this romantic feeling or increase it to feel even closer to Him? What if I “can’t” feel romanced by the sun, when then? You see the issue with constantly teaching about our feelings.

As for the pragmatism, here is an example. If you ever hear anyone say something like, “We packed the church tonight, it must have really been a big move of God!” They look at the numbers of attendees for evidence that the Spirit is working, not whether truth was proclaimed. No one ever thinks that the large numbers attending the program, event, or speaker may have been because satan was planting tares. (Matthew 13:35).

The original sin was pride. It was first found in satan in heaven and he imported it to earth and deceived Adam and Eve. Their rebellion was based on a foundation of loving self more than loving God, thus violating the first commandment. (Exodus 20:3, Matthew 22:37-39).

This notion of self-love and self-esteem infiltrated the church early last century and only grew from there. I remember as a teacher of young children in the 1980s when the self-esteem movement came in full force. The secular world had grabbed it and would not let go. All children were winners in the game, teaching reading was (nearly) out, but we were supposed to spend time in the first segment of the day teaching self-esteem and affirming everything the children did or said. It was only a matter of time before the secular world’s self-love which had coalesced into psychology, esteem movements, personality cults. and affirmation with no companion concepts of discipline or boundaries came into the church. The tares brought it in. They still are.

Another memory is the 1972 book “I’m OK, You’re OK” by Thomas Anthony Harris. It is one of the best selling self-help books ever published. It is a practical guide to Transactional Analysis as a method for solving problems in life. (source). Satan constantly attempts to shift our eyes from God to the self, and once gazing at the self, to believe that we are really just all right and do not need anything from God. We are our own gods.

When we see such fascination with one’s self like in the video or photos above, you can be sure that the same attitudes are also present in the church, just as Paul warned. At the root of the self-esteem problem is one that is really pride. The attitude is ‘I’m OK, I am not a depraved sinner in need of the cleansing blood of Jesus, I need nothing from God, I am my own god’ which is exactly what satan believes. (Isaiah 14:14).

Gill commented on the 2 Timothy perilous times/lovers of self verse:

For men shall be lovers of their own selves,…. Not in a good sense, as men may be, and as such are who love their neighbours as themselves, and do that to others they would have done to themselves; and who take all prudent and lawful care to preserve the life and health of their bodies, and seek in a right way the salvation of their immortal souls:

but in a bad sense, as such may be said to be, who only love themselves; their love to God, and Christ, and to the saints, being only in pretence, not in reality; and who do all they do in a religious way, from a principle of self-love, and to selfish and mercenary ends…

How can one avoid the pitfall of self-love? It IS our natural inclination after all. Let’s look at what scripture says.

First, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27).

If we are filled with loving God utmost, it doesn’t leave much room to love ourselves. We do fail at this, no one loves God totally all the time, completely. As a matter of fact, the world’s pull is going in the opposite direction, where the times are like the days of Noah when men thought of evil all the time. (Genesis 6:5). So we rely on the Holy Spirit in us more and more to weed out the attachment to the world and the hate in our own hearts so that we may love God all the more. Further, that love of Him and then our neighbor more than ourselves is expressed not just in feelings, but in actions.

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. . (Philippians 2:3-4).

We’re not out to please ourselves but to look after the interests of others. (Philippians 2:21, Romans 15:1).

Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. (Galatians 6:2)

Love, do, look, carry… If we are looking unto God and caring for and doing good to our neighbor, we won’t have time for selfies.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. (Titus 2:11-14)

Posted in grace, hope, prophecy, revelation, sin, wrath

"Be saved today"…what are we actually saved from?

I love it when preachers, teachers, theologians talk about the Wrath of God. I do love the wrath of God because it is part of Him and His holy and perfect attributes. I do not love that people will undergo the suffering of His wrath due to the penalty of their sins. The wrath is a serious, serious thing.

I love it when preachers, teachers and theologians speak of the wrath because many others of them who are supposed to teach the full counsel of God do not. I know of churches where a pastor might go into a long, involved altar call, pleading with folks to come forward as music softly plays, and yet never mention wrath, sin, death, or hell. This is not the full counsel of God. Here, Bob DeWaay explains what the full counsel of God actually is.

As I have had people explain it to me: “people don’t go to church to feel worse about themselves.” So, it is deemed irrelevant to discuss the sin nature, and relevant to help people feel better about themselves. What about the glory of God? Are we to hear a powerful, Biblical presentation of God’s glory, His holy nature, our fallen condition, and the necessity of a blood atonement to appease the wrath of God (Romans 3:25)? Again, these matters are not likely to be deemed relevant to many.

Before my own conversion, I heard people say things like ‘the lost need to be saved’. I did not understand what “lost” meant. I joked that those dumb Christians were always going on about being lost but I knew exactly where I was. Har har har. And as for “saved? I had no clue what the threat was that we needed saving from. Yet this is exactly the reason why we should not dilute or on any way water down the message Jesus gave to us, His ambassadors. Ambassadors in real political jobs must convey the message from their superiors exactly as stated. It is not up to the Ambassador to change the message. (2 Corinthians 5:20). We are only witnesses and messengers, and the message has been set. It includes the “unpalatable” doctrines of sin, death, hell, and wrath. There is nothing that keeps wicked men, at any one moment, out of hell, but the mere pleasure of God. ~Jonathan Edwards, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God”.

The fact is, God’s wrath is the threat. And it is very real. Here are some theological thoughts from J.A. Milliken, and E.E. Carpenter, on what God’s wrath is and why we need saving from it.

WRATH, WRATH OF GOD

Used to express several emotions, including anger, indignation, vexation, grief, bitterness, and fury. It is the emotional response to perceived wrong and injustice. Both humans and God express wrath. When used of God, wrath refers to His absolute opposition to sin and evil. When used of humans, however, wrath is one of those evils that is to be avoided.

The OT speaks very frequently of both God’s wrath and human wrath, but the wrath or anger of God is mentioned three times more often than human wrath. There are some 20 different Hebrew words, used approximately 580 times, that refer to God’s wrath in the OT.

the wrath or anger of God is mentioned three times more often than human wrath.

… These anthropopathic terms must not be construed in such a way as to attribute to God the irrational passion we find so frequently in man and which is ascribed to pagan deities. They do, on the other hand, point to the reality and severity of God’s wrath in the OT (Isa. 63:1–6). God’s wrath is not capricious but is always a moral and ethical reaction to sin. Sometimes that sin may be spoken of in general terms (Job 21:20; Jer. 21:12; Ezek. 24:13) and at other times specified as the shedding of blood (Ezek. 8:18; 24:8), adultery (Ezek. 23:25), violence (Ezek. 8:18), covetousness (Jer. 6:11), revenge (Ezek. 25:17), affliction of widows and orphans (Exod. 22:22), taking brethren captive (2 Chron. 28:11–27), and especially idolatry (Ps. 78:56–66). The means by which God expressed His wrath was always some created agency: His angels, His people the Israelites, Gentile nations, and the forces of nature.

God’s wrath is not capricious but is always a moral and ethical reaction to sin. 

In the prophetic books the wrath of God is commonly presented as a future judgment. It is usually associated with the concept of “the day of the LORD” (Zeph. 1:14–15), or simply “that day.” That day will be a great and terrible day, a day of darkness and gloominess, day of the vengeance of God (Joel 2:2, 11; Isa. 63:4). While some of these prophetic utterances may have referred to the judgment of God in history, their ultimate fulfillment will come in a final act by which the world and its inhabitants will give account to God (cp. the NT use of the “day of the Lord,” 1 Thess. 5:1–9; 2 Pet. 3:10).

The wrath of God is not mentioned as frequently in the New Testament nor is there the richness of vocabulary that is found in the OT. There are only two primary NT terms for wrath: thumos and orge. Both are used to express a human passion and a divine attribute or action. When used of human passion, wrath is repeatedly named in lists of sins that are to be avoided, and if not, may incite God’s wrath (Eph. 4:31; 5:6; Col. 3:8; Titus 1:7).

Some have seen a distinction in meaning in these synonyms, the difference being that thumos expresses a sudden outburst of anger whereas orge emphasizes more deliberateness. There may be an intentional difference in occasional uses of the terms, but this does not prevent both terms from being condemned as vices when applied to human passion. In addition, both terms are used to describe the character of God, particularly in the book of Revelation.

There is great emphasis in the NT placed on the wrath of God as a future judgment. John the Baptist began his ministry by announcing the wrath of God that is to come, from which men should flee (Matt. 3:8). Jesus, likewise, pronounced a wrath that is to come upon Israel and produce great distress (Luke 21:23). Paul speaks of a day of wrath to come that awaits some, but from which believers are to be delivered (Rom. 2:5; Eph. 2:3; 1 Thess. 2:10). The idea of a future wrath of God is unfolded on a large scale in Revelation. It is described in very graphic terms, as cataclysmic upheavals in the universe (Rev. 6:12–17), “the winepress of the fierce anger of God, the Almighty” (Rev. 19:15 HCSB), and “the cup of His anger” (Rev. 14:10).

John the Baptist began his ministry by announcing the wrath of God that is to come, from which men should flee

In the NT the wrath of God is not only a future judgment, it is a present reality. It does not merely await people at the future judgment. Jesus stated that the wrath of God abides on unbelievers, and consequently they stand presently condemned (John 3:18, 36). For Paul, God’s wrath is revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (Rom. 1:18), all people in their natural state are “children under wrath” (Eph. 2:3 HCSB).

Theological Considerations: The doctrine of the wrath of God is unpopular in much modern theological discourse. Some deny that there is ever anger with God. Others think of God’s wrath as an impersonal moral cause-and-effect process that results in unpleasant consequences for evil acts. Still others view God’s wrath as His anger against sin but not the sinner.

God’s wrath is real, severe, and personal. The idea that God is not angry with sinners belongs neither to the OT nor to the NT. God is a personal moral being who is unalterably opposed to evil and takes personal actions against it. Wrath is the punitive righteousness of God by which He maintains His moral order, which demands justice and retribution for injustice.

God’s wrath is real, severe, and personal.

Moreover, God’s wrath is inextricably related to the doctrine of salvation. If there is no wrath, there is no salvation. If God does not take action against sinners, there is no danger from which sinners are to be saved. The good news of the gospel is that sinners who justly deserve the wrath of God may be delivered from it. Through the atoning death of Christ, God is propitiated and His anger is turned away from all those who receive Christ (Rom. 3:24–25). Therefore, those who have faith in Christ’s blood are no longer appointed to wrath but are delivered from it and appointed “to obtain salvation” (1 Thess. 1:10; 5:9).

SOURCE: Millikin, J. A. (2003). Wrath, Wrath of God. In C. Brand, C. Draper, A. England, S. Bond, E. R. Clendenen, & T. C. Butler (Eds.), Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (pp. 1688–1689). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

What do the wrath and salvation have to do with each other?

“Wrath” is a strong term, reserved in the English language almost exclusively for describing “God’s anger” with human beings and their sinful actions. The Greek word orgē expresses the idea of “justifiable anger for unjust actions.” It is used throughout the New Testament to describe God’s anger toward the sins and unbelief of humanity.

The Old Testament and the New Testament both teach that God is storing up His anger for the great and final day of judgment. This day is frequently called the Day of the Lord. The concept of the Day of the Lord was developed by the prophets to warn Israel and the nations that no one can escape the righteous outpouring of God’s wrath (Amos 5:18–20). This day was still spoken about by the New Testament prophets, John the Baptist and John the visionary (Matt. 3:7; Rev. 6:16–17).

Those who do not profess faith in the risen Christ remain in their sins and will be subject to God’s wrath, whereas those who believe in Him are delivered (Eph. 2:3; 1 Thess. 1:10). The good news of the New Testament is that Jesus has come to deliver us from the wrath of God (Rom. 5:9). Those who have been delivered are reconciled with God because they are no longer under condemnation (Rom. 5:10; 8:1).

Those who do not profess faith in the risen Christ remain in their sins and will be subject to God’s wrath, whereas those who believe in Him are delivered

God’s wrath will be poured out on the devil, his angels, and all who rebel against Him. This is graphically portrayed in the book of Revelation, as we see scene after scene of God executing judgment on the ungodly. God’s stored-up wrath will be unleashed in awful ways, as He brings destruction on: the earth, those dwelling on the earth, the merchants of the earth, false religions, the antichrist, and all the enemies of the gospel. Ultimately, God’s wrath will be satisfied when He has put the devil, his angels, and all unbelievers in the lake of fire, to be tormented for eternity in eternal separation from God (Rev. 14:10; 20:10–15).

SOURCE: Carpenter, E. E., & Comfort, P. W. (2000). In Holman treasury of key Bible words: 200 Greek and 200 Hebrew words defined and explained (p. 427). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Do we have hope to escape the wrath, then?

Here is how Jonathan Edwards concluded his masterpiece sermon “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

And now you have an extraordinary opportunity, a day wherein Christ has flung the door of mercy wide open, and stands in the door calling and crying with a loud voice to poor sinners; a day wherein many are flocking to him, and pressing into the kingdom of God; many are daily coming from the east, west, north and south; many that were very lately in the same miserable condition that you are in, are in now an happy state, with their hearts filled with love to him that has loved them and washed them from their sins in his own blood, and rejoicing in hope of the glory of God.

BE SAVED TODAY