Posted in discernment, Uncategorized

Do believers need the Gospel?

Paul opens his massive and majestic letter to the Romans with effusive rhapsodies of his love for the Roman believers and his gratitude for their faith- which he said is known the world over. He speaks of his intense desire to come to them so that he can be encouraged by their faith. Paul mentions them all the time to everyone. And so on.

First, we note Paul’s ministerial desire for his flocks and his obedient submission to his ordained role as Christian, pastor, sufferer. He is surely a super-Christian, if one such designation existed.

In the iconic movie The Princess Bride, Inigo is sailing a boat with all due speed in attempt to get away with a kidnapping. He looks back at one point and sees a distant boat on the horizon. The breeze is gentle and the night is long, so he has no worries. When he looks up again, he sees the boat is now close. And after a while, closer, then closer… This perplexing phenomenon causes him to utter the well-known line,

I wonder if he's using the same wind we are using.

It’s like that with Paul. We might say, “I wonder if he is using the same Spirit we are using?” and the answer would be “Yes”. I am awed by Paul’s fervor, dedication, diligence and deep obedience never having wavered. He died poured out as a drink offering, a rushing torrent of obedience and love spilling across the altar of his beloved Savior.

Then in verse 15 of chapter 1, Paul says this-

So I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. (Romans 1:15).

Wait, what?

Hadn’t Paul confirmed the Roman believers’ solid faith, their well-known faith, their doctrinal and loving faith? Yes.

Some could interpret the verse as Paul being anxious to come minister to them, which is definitely true. But he didn’t say only that. He said he is eager to come preach the Gospel at Rome to Greeks and barbarians, to the wise and the foolish, “and also to you.” The Greek word for Gospel in this verse is euaggelizó which means bringing or preaching the full Gospel of Christ.

Some could interpret this as Paul’s eagerness to preach the Gospel indiscriminately to all, and that would also be true.

But do believers need the Gospel?

The answer would be “Yes.”

The Gospel is not a once-for-all mechanism that saves a person from the wrath of God and installs him into the kingdom as a child of God. Not only. It is the launching pad, and the eternal linchpin. It is the indispensable necessity for life eternal in the believer on earth and forever. The Good News is always Good News, and it continues being so, even for believers. Especially for believers.

The Good News is the fullness of Jesus, the encompassing message, the total plan of God, the victory of Jesus over sin, death, and hell. It is a message of resurrection, triumph, power, and abundant life. We all need this message, every day! Paul knew this. The Gospel is the mighty rushing wind of power and sustenance for every believer on earth who lives by the Spirit. We are reminded of the verse from 1 Thessalonians 1:5a

because our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction.

Paul said in the very next verse, Romans 1:16 these famous and everlastingly glorious words:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith,e as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

The faith we live by is that Gospel, Good News of the savior Jesus Christ. We needed it when we were foolish, wise, Greeks, and barbarians. Now that we are saved, it’s a message “And also to you.” The gospel necessity never ends.

gospel

Posted in prophecy, Uncategorized

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Romans 11 and the full number

Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. (Romans 11:25).

John MacArthur on that verse in the sermon Has God Cancelled His Promises to Israel? part 6

The fullness of the Gentiles, that is when the full number of Gentiles are redeemed, the fullness of the Gentiles will bring the salvation of Israel. Follow now; the fullness of Israel will bring the kingdom.  So you have the fullness of the Gentiles and then they’re raptured out, God redeems Israel and when the fullness of Israel is redeemed, the kingdom comes.  And so with great joy does Paul predict this tremendous event that will bring about what it says in verse 26, “And so all Israel shall be saved,” after the fullness of the Gentiles have entered in.

At a certain point in earth’s history to come, it is promised to us that Jesus will lift His church composed of Christians dead and alive, into heaven to be with Him. Then he will hurl His stored-up wrath upon earth to punish the unbelieving nation Israel, and the sinful Gentile world. Some people say there will be no rapture at all. Others say that it will happen at the end of or in the middle of the time of wrath (AKA the Tribulation, or Time of Jacob’s Trouble). Since the rapture is in the Bible, and since it is a single even that is promised to occur, it can’t happen both before the Tribulation and at the end. Therefore one of those positions is right and one of them is wrong.

Scripture supports this stance that the rapture will happen before Jesus begins the last days punishments. Paul taught this in his treatment of the subject in 1 Thessalonians and 1 Corinthians 15:42-57, it’s in Revelation, as well as being taught implicitly throughout other books of the Bible.

The event is supposed to be a hope to believers, and an encouragement, said Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:18. When you look around the dark world with its sin and evil, take hope in the knowledge that Jesus has a plan. His plan includes filling a quota for His Church (Romans 11:25). When that occurs, He will remove His Bride from the wrath, because we are not appointed to it. (Revelation 3:10). We will appear before His Bema seat to receive rewards for our service to Him while we were on earth, (2 Corinthians 5:10), and then enjoy the Marriage Supper of the Lamb. (Revelation 19:7–10). Meanwhile on earth, the Tribulation will have begun.

It is a joy to understand that God has not cancelled His promises to Israel and will return His attention ot his chosen nation in due time. He will fulfill His promises, sadly, the wrath, then joyfully, the bliss.

Posted in bible reading plan, Uncategorized

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Setting our Minds

But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. (Romans 7:6).

Toshiba Exif JPEG

Hallelujah! He has made a way for us to be released from both the eternal convicting aspect of the Law (which does not save but only informs) and the bondage of sin through His Son and His Spirit.

For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. (Romans 8:5).

I notice the active facet of this verse. They have set their minds. Paul means that Christians purposely intend setting our minds on the things of the Spirit. It doesn’t happen by osmosis. In another epistle, Paul said:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8).

The phrase ‘set their minds’ comes from the Greek word phronousin, the meaning from Strong’s is defined,

5426 phronéō (from 5424 /phrḗn, “the midriff or diaphragm; the parts around the heart,” J. Thayer) – properly, regulate (moderate) from within, as inner-perspective (insight) shows itself in corresponding, outward behavior. 5426 (phronéō) essentially equates to personal opinion fleshing itself out in action (see J. Thayer). This idea is difficult to translate into English because it combines the visceral and cognitive aspects of thinking.

Again, I mention the intention. We have to purposely set our minds to know, then act. Christianity is a thinking religion. We are constantly transforming our mind into the mind of Christ, day by day, step by step, inch by inch…

To live by the Spirit we set our minds on the things of the Spirit.

John MacArthur on Romans 8:5, The Transforming Work of the Spirit, part 1

There is as clear a definition of the distinction between a believer and a non-believer as you will find anywhere. Believers set their minds on the things of the Spirit. Non-believers set their minds on the things of the flesh. That couldn’t be more clear. Again, I remind you that this is a matter of behavior. Listen carefully. Behavior based on the word “walk” in verse 4, but behavior is a product of what? The mind. Thinking.

What are the things of the Spirit that we set our minds on? From the same sermon,

These people are in the realm of the Spirit and are drawn by the truest impulses in their heart to the Spirit. They submit to His direction. They concentrate their attention, purpose, desire on whatever is precious to the Holy Spirit. They love what He loves. They… That’s what it means when it says, They…they seek the things of the Spirit.”

Think on these things…

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

Bible Reading Plan thoughts: Lavish Love

loveIn our Bible Reading plan today we are progressing through Romans. We are to read today chapters 5-6. Romans, a book that a famous pastor had said he thought is the greatest philosophical treatise of any kind ever written down anywhere. (Sorry, I forget which pastor said it). Romans certainly is demanding, and the thoughts I have about the first few chapters, especially the interplay between the Law & Grace, are immature and unformed. I dare not offer anything of my own because I don’t think it would be of value.

But except for this: Romans 5:5

and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

I love the visual picture here, God’s love is a liquid poured out, gushing, lavishly splashing into our hearts. And that love is the Holy Spirit Himself, who is God. He is said to be almost the forgotten member of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit is introduced in this epistle. And here he is shown to be a full member of the Triune God and a token of God’s love for His people lavishly given to us.

Before salvation: Enmity. War. Rebellion. Struggle. Uncertainty.
After salvation: PEACE

Preacher S. Lewis Johnson said of this passage

So the apostle’s argument is this. We were enemies. When we were enemies, when we hated God, when we did not want him to minister to us, he came to us, and through the alluring power of the Holy Spirit, he wrought within us, in his own mysterious way, a change of our wills, a change of our disposition, so that the thing that we did not want we ultimately came to want. We, who hated him, by the work of the Holy Spirit, were reconciled as the Holy Spirit brought to us the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ on the cross. As he says, “When we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son.”

The Holy Spirit’s part in this is that He draws us to Jesus, and He dwells in our hearts to sanctify us, each one of us, throughout our post-salvation lives. What joy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Further reading

John MacArthur, article The Ministry of the Holy Spirit

GotQuestions: What does the Holy Spirit do?

Posted in discernment, Uncategorized

Homosexuality is still a sin, despite plaudits for the scene in #Victoria

I’ve been watching the TV series Victoria, a series about Queen Victoria and her monarchy. It’s fictionalized, but with episodes focusing on actual historical incidents. The reviews seem to render it historically accurate for the most part. There are a few minor things that aren’t exactly correct, and some things they collapsed in time or for effect. However, there is one scene which, well, isn’t accurate at all.

The homosexual community had heard that season 2 of the series was going to feature a gay sub-story. The LGBTQ’s were happy about this. As it happened, Lord Alfred Paget and Edward Drummond (Prime Minister Robert Peel’s private secretary) have been depicted all season as two men attracted to each other, with longing looks across drawing rooms, yearning among the manicured gardens, loaded innuendo, and sly smiles. The tension between the two men had been building until they exploded into a kiss while ambling along a pond shore.

Sadly, many tweets and messages along these lines emerged afterward:

Source Radio Times

The scene to which I refer today is the one afterward with the Lady in Waiting Duchess of Buccleuch, played by a historically inaccurate 79 year old Diana Rigg (the real Duchess was only 8 years older than the Queen, not 50-plus years.)

Spoiler…

In history, there was an assassination attempt on PM Peel’s life. Peel’s secretary Drummond really was shot by a bullet meant for Peel. He died five days later at home, not instantly as the show depicted. In the show, Drummond heroically leaped in front of the Peel, shoving him aside and saving his life. Creative license for dramatic tension, that’s OK. But Paget was left bereft that his blossoming love affair with Drummond was cut quite short. When the Duchess received the news of Drummond’s sacrificial death, she called for Paget and brought him into a private drawing room. She compassionately told him the news about Drummond’s death. Then she gave sage advice about hiding his grief from the mother and the fiance at the funeral. “They must be the chief mourners”, she said.

The Duchess said with care and concern in her eyes that she may be old but she is not blind, and had seen how the two looked at each other.

This is anachronistic. The British attitude toward homosexuality was that it was repulsive and reprehensible, and a threat to family life. It was immoral, as encapsulated in the various laws that were not eventually repealed in all corners of the United Kingdom until 1992. They even coined a term for it, “The Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name.”

Laws for society combatting same sex relations have dated back to the sixteenth century (Upchurch 14), and much of British society deemed homosexuality as ‘the worst of crimes’ (Upchurch 49). This unspeakable act threatened the stability of Victorian society (Brady 46) so much so that a homosexual identity did not exist in this era (Brady 17). This does not mean that British citizens did not know the characteristics of these types of men, and they had a great distaste for them (Brady 11) during the nineteenth century (Upchurch 13).
Many believed that one could not be moral and have these sexual relations (Upchurch 16), and for this reason homosexuality was the most problematic issue facing British society (Upchurch 16). For this fundamentally British society, it was embarrassing to speak of this sexual issue (O’Connor 112). If it was a wildly spoken of topic, the structure of society would ‘have been shaken at its foundations (Brady 1-2; Brady 24). Source

So a Duchess cooing and comforting a young man devastated at the loss of a homosexual lover would never have occurred, partly because such things were never discussed, and partly because such a co-ed discussion would be considered uncouth.

These modern-day attitudes inserted into historical dramas are a problem. They might make certain powerful lobbies happy, but they aren’t an accurate window of the general attitude of the times. Once we see these kind of anachronistic attitudes often enough, we might start to believe the propaganda.

Though homosexuality has been with us since after the Fall, it might be good to look at what the Bible says about it, rather than listening the constantly pressuring culture. Even though we reject the pressure, at some point it might be making inroads to our mind, which is supposed to be transformed to holiness in the likeness of Christ.

The Bible is clear that God created humans to enjoy sex only within the marriage between a man and a woman. (Genesis 1:27, 28; Leviticus 18:22; Proverbs 5:18, 19). The Bible condemns sexual activity that is not between a husband and wife, whether it is homosexual or heterosexual. (1 Corinthians 6:18).

When Jesus smote Sodom and Gomorrah for homosexuality it was actually an example of judgment that will come upon all those who indulge “unnatural desires.” As Jude 1:7 states,

just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desire, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

Romans 1:28-32 shows the progression of sin in an individual heart or a nation’s heart. Homosexuality is nearly last in the progression into darkness, demonstrating how far a society has sunk when they finally begin to engage in the sin of homosexuality.

Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:26-27)

Homosexuality according to the Bible is detestable, shameful, contrary to sound doctrine, and people practicing it are wrongdoers. (Leviticus 20:13, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:10, Romans 1:27)

God never accepts homosexuality as normal. It isn’t.

However, if you repent, He will forgive you and He sends the Holy Spirit to help resist ungodly lusts.

If you or someone you know are struggling with a loved one who indulges homosexual desires, here are a couple of excellent resources. Though we do not condone any sinful behavior, including homosexuality, we must

Show proper respect to everyone, (2 Peter 2:17a, NIV)

What Letter Would You Write to A Gay Son?

David Murray explains,

Five years ago, Redditor RegBarc “came out” to his father. Shortly afterwards, his dad disowned him in a handwritten letter which RegBarc shared with the world on Tuesday, adding the comment: “This is how hate sounds.”

He’s right, it was a hateful letter. Murray continues,

As I find it hard to believe that a true Christian would ever write such a letter, I’ve drafted a letter that I hope a Christian father would write (although I’m sure we all hope we’ll never have to write it).

The second, hypothetical letter is beautiful. It’s what love sounds like.

The 9Marks Mailbag is the best thing I read online on a consistent basis. Their answers are grace filled and practical, firmly based on a biblical worldview. It’s very helpful. This answer by ex-homosexual Rosaria Butterfield is the most helpful I’ve seen on this subject.

How should parents treat their 18-year-old daughter’s relationship with her girlfriend? How do we love them without condoning their sin?

Posted in encouragement, Uncategorized

The ever-present peril of God’s wrath, removed

I mentioned the other day that I’ve started Professor Grant Horner’s Bible Reading Plan. You read ten chapters a day from books in the OT and the NT. One thing I enjoy about this approach is that I go through such a variety of books at the same time. Historical narrative, poetry, wisdom, philosophy etc. I am getting a feel for the “voice” of each writer. Which is doubly amazing because the uniform voice is God’s, through the Holy Spirit, But He washed His words through man’s brain and out his pen and so the distinctive style of each man come through.

Paul’s warm regards in Thessalonians is so different from his clinical lawyerly philosophy in Romans. Below is one verse from Romans that caught my attention yesterday, and the Commenter’s note about it. Sometimes the shortest verse gives the most opportunity to meditate on His word.

Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him. (Romans 5:9)

Barnes’ Notes:

Much more, then – It is much more reasonable to expect it. There are fewer obstacles in the way. If, when we were enemies, he overcame all that was in the way of our salvation; much more have we reason to expect that he will afford us protection now that we are his friends. This is one ground of the hope expressed in Romans 5:5.

As I grow by His grace in sanctification, the feeling of escape from wrath of God becomes more present. The wrath of God abides on all the lost. (Romans 1:18, Ephesians 5:6, Colossians 3:6…) This is something the lost feel, whether that admit it or not or whether they suppress it or not. Post-salvation, the relief one feels from having escaped the wrath transforms into wonder and gratitude. That terrible feeling of ever-present peril is removed.

I am reminded of the story about the Sword of Damocles, from Wiktionary.

Damocles was an obsequious courtier in the court of Dionysius II of Syracuse, a fourth century BC tyrant of Syracuse. Damocles exclaimed that, as a great man of power and authority, Dionysius was truly fortunate. Dionysius offered to switch places with him for a day, so he could taste first hand that fortune. In the evening a banquet was held where Damocles very much enjoyed being waited upon like a king. Only at the end of the meal did he look up and notice a sharpened sword hanging directly above his head by a single horse-hair. Immediately, he lost all taste for the amenities and asked leave of the tyrant, saying he no longer wanted to be so fortunate. Dionysius had successfully conveyed a sense of the constant fear in which the great man lives.

In Jesus, we have the ever-present hope, instead of the ever-present wrath. Such a simple fact, but profound. It’s one upon which we should be thankful every day. Never let this get old.