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Archive for the ‘To the Christian’ Category

This expression is usually stated as if it were an absolute promise, the result of God’s great love for His children. It does indeed come from a Bible verse, but it comes from a verse that speaks not about life’s hardships but specifically about temptation to sin.

The Apostle Paul wrote this very similar saying in a letter to the church in Corinth. It reads, “God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it” (1 Cor 10:13).

The promise then is not that we will have a not-too difficult life but rather that we should be encouraged that whatever sin we are tempted to commit, God offers a way out to escape from pursuing it.

As for hardships, he may actually give you much more than your ability to endure. If not for the cultural acceptance of this oft repeated expression, it would be immediately obvious to us that God the Father offered no such promise to the martyrs, nor to Jesus Himself. Instead He loved us so much that He sent His Son to suffer and die. If death is not something that is more than we can handle, I don’t know what is. But God also gives you a hope and walks through any and all suffering with you, if you are in Christ. God does promise that neither our work offered to Him nor our suffering is in vain. In Romans 8, God promises that all things work together for the good of those who love Him to the end that He “predestined [believers] to be conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom 8:28-29). This predestination becomes a stumbling block to so many, but it is intended in Romans 8 as an encouragement and a place to put your hope. 

Paul also wrote in another letter to the same church: “For we do not want you to be unaware, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself” (2 Cor 1:8). And the hope is quickly mentioned in verse nine: “But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.”

More important than this promise is the promise of salvation even from death itself. While death may be more than we can handle, it is certainly something that God, the maker of Life, is able to handle. Life is therefore stronger than death, but to endure it we must run to the one in whose hands is the power of Life, to repent of the sin which deserves death. If our suffering in this world causes us to rely on God who raises the dead, if we ask for ears to hear and hearts to understand, and if we depend on Jesus’s promises and his life, death, and resurrection, then God promises that we have attained forgiveness and life that will never end. God may give us more than we can handle now, but he never gives us more than He can handle.

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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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