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Archive for the ‘To the Christian’ Category

For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt (Hebrews 6:4-6 ESV).

Taken by itself, this seems to suggest that salvation can be revoked if we stop believing before we die. But if salvation couldn’t save us from our sin, then it would not be a salvation from sin. As we will hopefully see, the whole context of the book of Hebrews seems to preclude the interpretation that we are able to lose salvation. Is it really a warning to believers? Or to those who merely “taste tested” Christianity? We know the author’s readers include some that have neglected to believe the gospel, because he concludes the introduction to his book (really a sermon) with: Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it . . . how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard. . . (Heb 2:1-3)

Throughout the sermon, the author repeats this need to pay attention to testimony and thus endure in faith, not to make the point that one can lose their salvation, but to warn unbelievers who are within the church. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end (Heb 3:14. cf 3:18-19; 4:11). He defines faith as that which endures till death. Then, he comforts those who really do believe, saying, “Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. . . . And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises (Heb 6:9, 11-12; also 10:39).

The author argues that Jesus died on the cross “once for all” our sins, “thus securing an eternal salvation” (9:12, 26) rather than a potentially temporary one. “Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (7:25). “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy” (4:16) For he says to those who believe to the end, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” (13:5)

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It is a question posed largely to throw dust in the eyes rather than as a search for truth. How do I know that? I’ve looked at the myths of Osiris, the Egyptian “god” that is being compared favorably to Jesus, and saw for myself that the comparison is forced at best and even forged at worst.

A great way to answer a question like this is to do the side-by-side comparison yourself. Find an actual Egyptology website unconcerned about Jesus. Look at the differences and notice that similarities seem strangely absent.

A second, less painful way to answer it is to think for a moment: Osiris has no historical support for ever walking the earth, yet Jesus, John the Baptist (his cousin), and James (his brother) are clearly historical figures named by first century writers whether Christian, Jewish, Greek, or Roman. So already the differences should be enough to doubt the above question as a good reason to doubt.

Third, if a similarity like Osiris being murdered and then rebuilt to “live” in the world of the dead seems like a reason to doubt that Jesus was murdered and resurrected to live on earth, we haven’t come to terms with the evidence. If all we do is look at claims of other people being raised (or murdered), we still won’t know whether Jesus was. There could be 100 claims of other “gods” or people who were said to be raised (none whom demand our belief), but how do 100 liars, by lying, refute one honest man? They don’t. They simply cloud the issue.

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It is not a social club. It’s joyful worship and it is serious business, but, among other things, it’s really the people of God being rescued and on a rescue mission. The church is not commissioned to convince people of the love of God for a comfortable life or to develop clever marketing strategies that ask, “Are you ready to join God’s family?” The serious business is that this world is messy, dark, and deadly, and we’re mired in a body that will die. After which we will all be judged for evils which we are still not finished committing. God is not selling insurance or any other product. God is commanding that “all people everywhere repent” (Acts 17:30). Repent means to turn away from evil and turn to Him. The alternative, ready or not, is to face the consequences of our thoughts, addictions, and actions made against Him.

The reason the church worships a beautiful and gracious God is that He does not “take pleasure in punishing the wicked” (Ezek 33:11) but would rather celebrate when a person trusts in Him for forgiveness and a new heart (Luke 15:10). The Creator is so gracious that He became one of His creations, Jesus of Nazareth, and loved sinners by taking their place so they wouldn’t have to face God’s anger for their apathy and rebellion. That is Good News. And that’s the truth in love. That’s what Church is about: People who put their trust in Jesus for their rescue and thus truly becoming a worshipper of God from the heart. They are those being rescued now and having a sure hope for an ultimate rescue when they are resurrected, never to suffer or sin again.

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Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you,
and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice;
blessed are all those who wait for him.
(Isaiah 30:18, ESV)

There’s SO much wonderful theology packed densely into these words. Forgive me for talking over some heads because it takes some background knowledge of the Bible to get through this, but I pray that I’ll make accurate sense, doing justice to God’s Word and that the Spirit would help you make sense of it, giving you discernment as to where I might miss something. I hope I’ll get more time to expand this a bit later. This verse serves as a proof of prophesy and the wonderful coherence of the whole Bible.

Here are some of the big topics I see mentioned in passing in this verse (yet not mentioned insignificantly).
-God of mercy and grace
-God of Justice punishing sin (see the context and the “therefores”)
-God waits to have mercy and exalts himself because he is also just.
-God who is jealous for his glory in order to show mercy.
-Wait for God and trust in his ultimate salvation.

The ultimate way this was fulfilled was when Jesus came
(The Messiah and the Teacher mentioned in verse 20)
after Israel’s long wait (about 700 years later than Isaiah)
to exalt himself in glory on the cross (John 3:14; 8:28; 12:32; 17:1)
to show mercy to you.
For the Lord is a God of justice who does not let injustice be,
but punishes all sin, either on the cross or in hell, our choice.
Repent. Wait for him. He is coming again soon.

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Someday we will celebrate a New Christmas: “God with us” at the second coming of Jesus—The day of all days to remember.

He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. (Hebrews 9:26-28, ESV)

And while they were gazing into heaven as [Jesus] went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:10-11)

“And then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” (Luke 21:27)

For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. (1 Thess 4:16)

The high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” (Mark 14:61-62)

Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen. (Rev 1:7)

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, ESV)

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. (James 5:7-8)

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‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’” Matthew 22:36-40 (ESV)

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Deuteronomy 6:5 (ESV)

“You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:18 (ESV)

A common question that people ask nowadays is if the God of the Old Testament and the God of the New Testament are the same.  Most people cite the mass exterminations of the Canaanites and other neighbouring tribes in the books of the Law, and elsewhere where God commands the people to (in the terms of Emperor Palpatine) “Wipe them out, all of them!” (This is a very important topic, for another time perhaps.) People say that this can’t possibly be the God of the new Testament because of his loving nature (often citing 1 Corinthians 13).  If we care to do our homework though, we can see that indeed the God of the OT Israelites is indeed the God of the NT Church.

Above I have quoted a passage in which Jesus is asked what the Greatest commandment is.  Jesus response is to quote scripture.  He flat out says that “The whole of Scripture can be summarized this way: Love God above all, and love others.”  What we have here is a charge to hold God first in our lives, and then to pour out that love on others.

I’ve been reading through Leviticus the past couple of weeks as part of my daily reading.  What I see here is a lot of rules about propriety in worship, and about loving one another.  So God commands us to love God first, then love our neighbours.  The thing here is, we see these rules in the Old Testament and some of us assume that God gave these rules for us to blindly obey for the reason that He’s God and we’re not, and we obey and like it  or we will be punished (to summarize Ezekiel loosely).  but when we start to ask why… Why were these rules given in the first place?  Why these rituals?  Why in this way?  We need to look at the first part of the commandment.  We must love our God first!  above all things.

The entirety of the laws of the old testament was about holding God up as ultimate in our lives.  One of the shocking things that I read was that the Sons of Aaron were offering incense in the presence of the Lord and they were consumed by fire.  They offered “strange fire.”  I’ve been pondering what this means.  It most likely means that they were not prepared at the heart level.  They didn’t love the Lord with all their heart and mind, they were high on their position as priests to enter into the Holy Place and offer incense to God.  They didn’t pay attention to the condition of their hearts.

The whole purpose of the washing, the cleansing, the sacrifices, the offerings, the blood, it’s about our hearts.  We don’t exactly need the external ritual to remind us of this, but we read about this and instead of reflecting on why these were instituted we think of it as blind obedience.

No, no, no!

This has everything to do with our hearts, souls and minds (and all of our might, as the words mind, heart and soul, and even might are often interchangeable terms in the Hebrew).

I’m expecting my first child in a little less than 3 months now and I’m expecting a lot of – Why – questions.  Now don’t you think a young child asked his father – why are we washing like this?  A father who is religious, and trying to earn the favour of God by obeying the rituals might suggest that this is what we do to please the Lord, because if we don’t he’ll be angry with us.  We call this approach legalism.

Another man, who wants to know God and is aware of the calling of his people might respond that we do these rituals because God chose us as a nation to Worship him, so we do all of this to respond to His love.  The washing, the sacrifice, the circumcision, all of it is an outward expression of an inward state.  We wash to symbolize how God cleanses us from our sins.  We sacrifice to show that our hearts are following God.  Without the heart it’s just empty.

Skip ahead to the New Testament.  Jesus sums up all of the law in this great commandment.  Love God, Love your neighbour.  Jesus shows us this love for our neighbour in this:  while I was still a sinner Christ Died for me!  But then he defeated death that I might live anew in him.

The command to Love the Lord above all appears more than any other in the OT, and Love your Neighbour is how we express our love for God.  We love our neighbour because we love the Lord.  We don’t love our neighbour to gain the favour of God.  We first Love God, and to show our love for God we love our neighbour.

The Law still applies in full!  It is the purpose for which all of creation was made – to love the Lord and to express worship.  Perhaps we need to pay more attention to the intent of the law than the letter of the law.  This was how Jesus lived, and what He calls us to.

This is true discipleship – Loving God by loving our neighbour.

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Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. – Ephesians 1:3-14 (ESV)

When we read storybooks, or watch movies, especially movies that deal with heroism, we often see a prophecy about the main character.  Often the main character will be the chosen one, or they will talk about the character’s destiny.  We see this in several movies in the past several years, in my generation it was Star Wars, Superman and the Matrix, where the main character was destined to be a savior.  In recent years we see the same theme in the Harry Potter movies and books where Harry is destined to face Voldemort in a final battle.  Most recently it is the movie Avatar that uses this theme of a hero coming from a distant world to save the local population, and Avatar even had a prophecy concerning the main Character.  I won’t say much more than that in case you haven’t seen it yet.  The idea we need to take here is that a part of many cultures around the world use this theme of the Hero, and this Hero has a specific destiny.

Today I hope to discuss the theme of destiny, or the idea that God has chosen us.  I hope to go through the text and examine the key words and expressions that we see in today’s passage and discuss what it means more in depth.  Finally I hope to examine what this means specifically for us here and now, and to look at what this text means by destiny.

There are several key terms repeated several times in this passage.  The first is the word Chosen.  Now if you have studied English grammar then you will see that Chosen is the past participle form of the verb to choose.  Now I understand that grammar is very difficult and it is the part of English teaching that I dislike the most but here because we are using an English version of the Bible we can see that this is used intentionally by the people who translated this version from the original languages.  We can see then, that instead of using the more immediate – chose, or choosing, we see that “God has chosen.”   It means that an action – God’s choosing has finished in the past – Let me repeat that – God has chosen!  God has chosen you, and He has chosen me to be in Him.  Let me expand this thought for a moment.  What this says is that before the universe began God knew about you and made a plan for you to know Him.  God planned for you to know Him!  Isn’t that an exciting thought?  God planned for you to know Him!  He chose you!  We can see this in the Book of Joshua.  Joshua 1: 5 says, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born  I consecrated you;”  God knew you and planned for you before you were born!  But in the passage in Ephesians we see that God planned for you since before time began.  God chose you in Christ before the beginning of creation!  God chose you in Christ.  Let’s give thanks to God for his grace and his knowledge!  He loves you so much that he planned for you since before the world was created!  There are several questions that we can ask about this idea.  What were we planned for?  Another way of asking this is – What purpose does God have for us?  The text makes it very clear.  In verse 4 it says that God planned us to be blameless and Holy in Him.  We have been chosen to be blameless before Him.  We, you and I were chosen to be saved!  There’s a Korean praise song that says – you were a person made to be loved!   You were made with purpose!  He Chose us in Him!  And our purpose is to be blameless in Him!

This is another theme that is repeated in this passage.  In Him, or In Christ.  Both are used to mean the same thing.  That means that Christ has chosen us.  It means that we are in Christ.  It means that we are holy and righteous in Him!  We have gone from being outside of Him and outside of his grace to being included in Him and we are within his grace.  Let me expand this idea a little bit.  What this means is that we have gone from being separated from God by Sin to being in Christ – and that means being accepted by God.  In Verse 6 we see the word Adopted.  God has adopted us as sons and daughters in Him.  It means that God has made us a part of His family, and that we are granted an inheritance – an inheritance is a promise that we will receive good things when we go to be with Jesus.  Again verse 1 says that we were chosen to receive a blessing.  This blessing is Jesus himself, but not just Jesus himself, but eternal life in Him and through Him.  Not just eternal life, but eternal life experiencing God’s Glory, God’s presence, and true and complete knowledge of God.  This is what we have been chosen for!  This is what you have been chosen for!  This is what you are destined for!  God’s Glory!  In Christ.  This is such a small expression, but it is so full of so much meaning!  To be In Christ means that we are counted righteous before God because of Jesus.  It means that we are no longer seen as sinful because of Jesus (we still struggle but Jesus has won the ultimate victory over Sin on our behalf.)  It means that we do not, and cannot, earn our place in heaven.  It means that we receive God’s grace because of everything Jesus did for us.  What did Jesus do?  Jesus died on the cross – so that my Sin and your Sin would no longer be counted against us.  He died so that we can be adopted by God as Children.  He died so that we could receive an Inheritance in Him!  This is Also a wonderful thought.  We are chosen in Him!

The last expression I want to examine is the idea of the blessing that we have been promised in Christ.  A lot of people will say that the blessing in Christ is material possessions – the things of the world that we desire.  But as I explained before, that would be considered Idolatry if we are seeking those things above Christ.  No, the blessing we are promised is both very simple and very complex.  We are blessed – In Christ and Through Christ to receive Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit – We are given the Holy Spirit who lives in us and changes our lives from the inside out.

Because of the Holy Spirit living within us we receive Jesus Himself as our reward.  Jesus himself is our blessing!  We get to live with Jesus in our lives who is working within us to renew us and transform us.  No matter what happens to us in this life, for richer or poorer, sickness, health, good things and bad we are assured in this passage that God has a purpose for everything that happens to us.  Indeed I heard a testimony this past week about a man whose father recently became a Christian.  This father told his son that the reason he came to trust in Christ is not because of the good things that he has received in life, or because of the riches that Christ has given him, no, it is because when that son lost his own child in an accident his father saw how Christ brought him through the tragedy with peace and purpose.  In Christ we have purpose, in Christ we have assurance that all things will work together for His glory.

This is the final thing – we can ask why God chose us.  What purpose does God have for choosing us when we, sinful people though we are, are undeserving of His grace, and in fact we deserve the opposite of His grace.  Once more in the text we can see this purpose.  God saved us to show his love for His creation!  He saved us to show us His love for us, and finally he saved us to show us His glory.  Not just to show us his glory but that because of His love we can partake in His glory, and live lives that show the Glory of God to all.

Amen!  To the Praise of His Glory!

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