Friday, November 24, 2017

Making Our Calling and Election Sure

2Pe 1:10  Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.

It is amazing how many Christians have been deluded into thinking that in order to make it to Heaven all one has to do is believe some facts about Jesus Christ.  It comes from a misunderstanding of being saved through faith.  Salvation is a process by which we are legally justified but also we are transformed within when the Holy Spirit gives us a new heart; we become new creations.  For many the transformation passages are ignored and the “by faith” passages are taken with little thought about what else is taught in the Bible.  This is called “Easy Beliefism”.  It is the idea that all I have to do in order to be saved is to trust in Jesus’s death for me.  The problem is that even lost people can believe facts about Jesus.  This is where the doctrine of Total Depravity comes in.  Only those regenerated by the Spirit can exercise faith that saves and once he does this the individual is never the same.

When God saves a person they become new creations and are being transformed into the image of Christ, Rom 8:8  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. Rom 8:9  You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. Rom 8:29  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers

We see in 2 Peter 1:10 that it is this transforming work that gives us evidence that we are indeed saved from our sins, not just in our sins.  To miss this point has caused many to presume that they are saved and has no doubt led many to Hell.   When I was younger I remember hearing preachers like Curtis Hudson say that if you want to have assurance you need to write down the date you were saved in the front of your Bible and you could look at that and know you are saved.

This is fundamentally absurd.  It is like saying that if you want to know if you are alive then you need to look at your birth certificate!  I think it is safe to say that if you have to look at your birth certificate to know if you are alive or not, you are probably dead.  How about looking to see if you are breathing or if your heart is pumping?  Notice that Peter says that if you are practicing these qualities you will never fall; you will prove your calling and election.  Therefore, if you don’t see evidence of these qualities in your life the assumption is that you are not called and elected. 

I recently heard of a church bragging that David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam murderer, had walked the aisle at their church when he was eight so they knew that he was saved.  A pet monkey can walk a church aisle!  Our spiritual birth certificate is being sealed with the Holy Spirit, and he doesn’t lead us to murder people.  Proof of life is doing living things.  If my life is dominated by sin and not by Christ, if there is no spiritual “wiggling and struggling” going on, no signs of spiritual warfare, no battle against sin, no driving love for Christ then I am much better off assuming I am lost than spiritual sleepwalking until I am cast into Hell.

Some tell us to look to the cross and not your life for assurance but Peter says look at both.  Election is what God did apart from us; calling is what God does in us.  Both are two sides of the same coin of assurance; one side is security and the other is evidence.  One alone is presumption and there is no hint in the Bible that it is okay for saints to presume they are saved without evidence.

Let us strive to hear the “Well done good and faithful servant”.  Christ is talking to saints, not to himself.  Jesus heard the well done while he was on earth, “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased”.  That is my security.  At the judgment true saints will be told that there was enough evidence in their lives that proves they are sheep and not goats.  That is my assurance.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

A Forgetful God

2Pe 1:5  For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, 2Pe 1:6  and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 2Pe 1:7  and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 2Pe 1:8  For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.2Pe 1:9 For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

In the above verse Peter is telling us that Christians who are not progressing in the Christian life, who are not making an effort to be conformed to the image of Christ by supplementing their lives with the qualities found in verses 5-7, have forgotten why they were saved.  They are acting like they have not been cleansed from their sins by the death of Jesus Christ.  This condition makes one ineffective and unfruitful as vs. 8 states. 

The Bible teaches that Christians must be able to forget the sins committed before we were saved and move forward.  Their guilt is covered by the blood of the cross so that we are free to enjoy and serve the Lord, Php 3:13  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, Php 3:14  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  How could Paul who had murdered Christians ever get over that and serve the Lord?  By understanding that those sins have been forgiven and are no longer being held against him.

So obviously at the same time we must never forget what the Lord did for us in saving us by grace.  Had God not stepped into his creation and provided righteousness and atonement for us, we would be lost.  This creates in us a humble heart of love and thankfulness that recognizes that all we are, have and will have is found in the cross work of Jesus.

The Bible also speaks of God forgetting and remembering things.  We know that God never forgets anything so therefore he never has to remember anything because all knowledge is ever present in his mind.  But this is worded in the Bible for us so that we can relate to how he thinks about us and cares for us.  Let me give a couple of examples.

We can forget our sins because God has forgiven them in the cross and sometimes this is referred to as God forgetting our sins, Isa 43:25  "I, I am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake, and I will not remember your sins.  Jer_31:34  And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."  This is quoted in Hebrews 10:17 so we know he is referring to the New Covenant.  Mic 7:19  He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.  In Micah the idea is that they are so far removed that they are no longer remembered by the Lord.  The idea in these verses is that God no longer holds them against us so that for all practical purposes they have been forgotten.

But there is an interesting passage in Isaiah that connects the Lord’s forgetting with his remembering.  The context of Isaiah 49 is looking forward to the Gospel Age when the Lord sets up his kingdom through Gospel preaching.  But in Isaiah’s day things look rather bleak and they wondered if God would ever send the Messiah and set up the kingdom.  We see this in vs. 14, But Zion said, "The LORD has forsaken me; my Lord has forgotten me."  But Yahweh answers in an interesting way, Isa 49:15  "Can a woman forget her nursing child, that she should have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, yet I will not forget you. Isa 49:16  Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.

How is it that we can be assured that God will never forget his children, that he will always love us and keep us with him forever?  Because he has something to look at for all eternity that will not allow him to forget.  Jesus will always bear the marks of the cross in his hands as a reminder to God and to us that our sins have been paid for and can no longer separate us from the love of God!  Of course, the Father doesn’t need a reminder but he is illustrating how there is no way he will forget the sacrifice his Son made for us.

Rom 8:34  Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.  Rev 5:6  And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain, with seven horns and with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. 

Jesus will always bear the marks of the cross as a reminder to us and to the Father of his perfect sacrifice.  They have been engraved in his hands as an eternal reminder.  What a God we serve!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Spiritual Random Access Memory

Rev 3:3  Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you.
2Pe 1:9  For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.

Both of the verses above speak to the fact that sometimes we have a memory problem.  We have forgotten where we came from and what Christ had to do to save us from our sins.  The effect was that it led to failure in everyday living where Christ wasn’t the focus of their lives and they could not be fruitful in the Kingdom of God.  There are things that we must always be aware of in order to live a God-honoring life.

I kind of liken this to the RAM or random access memory in a computer.  A computer can have a massive storage drive full of information but it is only the information available at any given time that is beneficial.  Likewise, we may know a lot of truth but it is only as we can access that truth in the moment we need it that will keep us from falling into sin during times of testing. 

For example, it is important that when we get up in the morning that we are fully aware of our sinfulness, that the Devil is out there trying to tempt us to dishonor the Lord, that we must maintain an attitude of prayer and dependence on the Word, etc. and these things need to be in the forefront of our thinking.  What we cannot do is get up each day only thinking of our job and money or having fun or only thinking about our problems or what chores need to be done that day.  It isn’t that those things aren’t legitimate parts of our life but if we don’t keep the Word of God in our minds and if we don’t constantly remember that this life is one of spiritual warfare and we must get our marching orders from the Lord and not this world or our flesh, then we will misinterpret life and fail to deal with each new thing in a God-honoring way.

It is amazing how difficult it can be to always keep in our minds that God gave his life for us so that we might escape the wrath of God and instead live our lives in fellowship with him and find true fulfillment.  When we forget what the gospel did for us we become full of ourselves and put ourselves first instead of the Lord and others.  I heard the story of a newlywed man who after getting off work his first day back from his honeymoon drove back to his mother’s house.  He had forgotten that he had a new wife to go back to!  There are some things that we just can’t forget and expect there will be no ramifications.  Is Christ your bridegroom that forgettable?  Surely not, and it is deplorable when we forget him so easily during the day.

If I get up in the morning and I don’t remember that I am a husband and a pastor then I will soon find myself in all sorts of trouble and needless problems.  If I forget I am a man and walk to her closet to find something to wear I will fail to live up to the standards for which I was created.  Sometimes our spiritual memory is just as bad.  It seems James has this in mind in Jas 1:23  For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. Jas 1:24  For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.  Our sin keeps accessing the faulty facts and leads us into sin.

In my mind, stored away in my subconscious, my hard drive as it were, are the facts that I am a human being with needs and desires that must be met to exist on earth and get along with people.  But there is also the reality the Bible has taught me; that I have been redeemed by the Lord to serve him and that there is great reward in making Christ the focus of my life and to love as he has loved me even if it means my physical life might suffer.  The problem we as sinners have to some degree is that it is the first set of facts that tend to be stored in our RAM and not the Gospel facts.  So instead of living each day soaked in Gospel thinking our default reality is putting our physical needs before anything else.

We are married to Christ but we tend to wake up as if we are bachelors and live our days as if we are the only person we love or be concerned for.  We are amazed that a newlywed can so easily forget he is married but we do the same thing throughout our lives when we give our love to things that dishonor the Lord.  We go out and pursue fleshly things instead of being in church where our Spouse is so we can get to know him better.  We give ourselves to temporal pleasures and securities when Christ is to be the love of our life.  We know better; the facts are stored away in our hard drives, but we must get into the habit of loading the gospel into the forefront of our minds so we can live in God’s reality and function properly.

For this to happen we must know much of the Bible to begin with and we must saturate ourselves with the Word and prayer so that it is readily available.  Too often we know so little of the Bible that we are unable to access it in the daily routines of life and we fall into destructive patterns with one another because of it.  Most problematic is that we have such a shallow relationship with Christ and are so full of ourselves that the love we should have for him has little effect on our words and actions.  When we get up in the morning fully aware that we are the children of God more than anything else we are starting to get the point. 

This is one reason why it is good to start each day with the Lord so we don’t forget who we are married to.  Let us keep the Gospel where it can be readily accessed and so it can permeate all that we do each day.