Saturday, July 28, 2018

"Not By the Will of Man"

Joh 1:11  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. Joh 1:12  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, Joh 1:13  who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

The Passage above is full of important truth and those that ignore it have developed all sorts of doctrinal errors that have caused damage for Christianity.  Primarily it tells us to whom we owe the new birth.  The first 18 verses of the Gospel of John are a prologue to the book in which John tells us that Jesus is the eternal Word of God, the Son of God, the second person of the Trinity.  He also is telling us of Jesus’s mission and that the Jews did not receive him.  In verses 12-13 it seems that thinking about the Jews not receiving him makes him think about how it is that anyone does receive Jesus as the Messiah.  And so under the inspiration of the Spirit he makes it crystal clear that Jew and Gentle alike will always reject Jesus unless God intervenes. 

In verse 12 he states that all who receive Jesus are given the right to become sons of God.  In Pauline vernacular we would say that one is saved through faith (receiving) and that one cannot believe until they are regenerated (born again)

And then in vs. 13 he gives us one of the most important truths in the Bible for understanding to whom we owe our salvation.  He goes on to explain that we don’t become born again when we believe, but we must be born from above so that we can believe.  Verse 12 alone sounds like our salvation is just a matter of whether we decide to believe or not, but the Bible never teaches this.  And so verse 13 removes any idea that one is saved by any manmade faith apart from the sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. 

He lists three things that have no part in our spiritual birth.  First of all blood; our ethnicity, genealogy or any family connection has no bearing on whether we get saved or not.  Just because my parents are Christians or being a Jew vs. a Gentile has no bearing on the election of grace.  God saves from all people groups, Rev 5:9  And they sang a new song, saying, "Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation.

Secondly, my will did not cause me to be born again.  It is amazing how many people refuse to accept the clear teaching from the Scriptures on this point.  Until God overrides our sinful nature and rebellious will and gives us a new heart, we will never choose him.  Even though Romans 3 says, "None is righteous, no, not one; Rom 3:11  no one understands; no one seeks for God. Rom 3:12  All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one”, so many must think that they are the exception; that they can understand and choose what is good.  One can never understand the necessity of the sovereignty of God in salvation until they realize that they are dead in sin and under sin’s dominion and so will never believe until enabled by the Holy Spirit.  What could be more clear than, Php 1:29  For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake.  So by now it should be clear that the new birth has to precede faith or this whole passage makes no sense.

Thirdly, John says not by the will of man.  At first glance this might seem redundant but experience has taught us that there are some that think they can force others into the Kingdom of God or they can bring someone into it without the other’s consent, so this is referring to someone else’s will.  Roman Catholic “missionaries” would be the first to come ashore when the conquistadors or some Catholic conquering force would overtake a new land.   The newly conquered people would be forced to pass before the priest and be “baptized” into the Catholic Church.  It clearly wasn’t the will of the “converted” but the will of the Church but this verse tells us that such forced conversions are still the will of man and does not bring anyone into the Kingdom. 

Another example of this is baptizing babies.  In this case it is obvious that the infant is not exercising faith because the infant has no ideas what is going on, so the adults are doing something to bypass true conversion and forcing salvation on them.  Never mind that there is no instance of this in the Bible, John 1:13 says that one cannot enter the Kingdom of God by the will of another person.  Only the will of God brings about the new birth and the resulting faith in Christ. 

Until the Lord comes back, the fact will always be that there will be different denominations and Christian groups who see things differently and therefore worship separately.  That is fine and no doubt one reason the Lord allows this is because it keeps us searching the Bible and defending the faith.  But I wonder how fewer false Christian sects and cults there would be if just these two verses were taken at face value?  If they would bow the knee to the sovereign God without whose work we would all be lost.  There would certainly be far fewer denominations, sects and cults than we have today.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Power of the Word of God

Isa 55:10  "For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, Isa 55:11  so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.
Rom 1:16  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.

The above passages are familiar to all of us but it is amazing how often we all need to be reminded not only of the power of the Word of God but because of this power we don’t need to interact with the world with their reason and logic.  Instead we can rely on speaking the Word to them whether they believe it or not.

I was recently reminded of this when I heard that the ProLife leaders in America who for the most part claim to be Christians also openly state that they refuse to use the Bible or religion as the basis for their arguments against abortion.  The thinking comes down to that since abortionists don’t believe in the truth of the Bible why argue from it because it won’t hold any weight with them.  It is no wonder this society doesn’t take Christianity seriously anymore.

I have to assume that a lot of this type of thinking comes from bad theology that doesn’t realize that God is sovereign and can overcome all resistance to his will and revelation.  But what should be strikingly obvious is that this approach to any issue of sinful behavior fails for at least a couple of reasons.

First of all it reduces the abortion issue and all sin to merely behavior modification.  It says that we don’t care if you repent before God and are saved and we don’t care why you quit sinning and we don’t care if God gets any glory in this or even whether he is involved in this at all; we just want you to change your behavior.  But any action not done for the glory of God is still sin.  It is tempting to say, “Well, who cares as long as they stop murdering babies”.  While that is a good thing, it basically says that God has no part in this, just stop for the babies’ sake but who cares how God fits into all of this.  I believe it is a flawed approach. Because of the second reason such argumentations fail.

The Bible is very clear that when dealing with sin and sinners the only reason we are to demand change is because it is all men’s duty to obey God and live for his glory.  Just because they refuse to acknowledge this doesn’t mean we are to argue from other world views other than the one God sets forth in his Word.  Let me give you three different examples from Scriptures that should prove this.

First of all the OT prophets.  They were sent to a people who did not want to hear God’s Word nor did they accept that they had a duty to obey it.  Because of this the prophets were laughed at, persecuted and killed but God told them to speak exactly what he said anyway and not change a word.  Can you image a prophet saying that because the people wouldn’t listen to the word from God that he would try to reason with them as to why it might be better to turn back to the Lord and quit all their sinning which included at times murdering children.  No, because the Lord wasn’t just interested in the people stopping their sinful actions but the whole point was to return to the Lord and start serving him from their hearts.  In fact he several times makes the point that he would not accept the good deeds they did because their hearts were far from him.  There is no hint that the prophets were to change their approach just because the people were offended and scorned the Word of God.

Secondly we have Paul and all the Apostles.  They didn’t go into a city, even pagan ones like Athens and start trying to get people to change their behavior.  When Paul went into Athens, he spoke to men in the epicenter of human reason, logic and wisdom that still influence the way the world thinks.  Yet he plainly told them that there was a God that had claims on them and it was their responsibility to know and serve him.  Act 17:30  The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, Act 17:31  because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead."  Many laughed at him but he didn’t change the message.

Finally, we look at Jesus who is the supreme example to the Christian in how to serve God.  The Jewish leaders in his day wouldn’t listen to anything he said but he never changed tactics.  It wasn’t that the Jews weren’t living moral lives on the outside but that is never enough for God.  Jesus told them until they get right with the Lord nothing they did on the outside mattered.  This is why he called them “whitewashed tombs”, Mat_23:27  "Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness.  The reason people sin is important to him.

The ultimate example was when Jesus was tempted by Satan.  If there was ever anyone who did not accept the authority of God’s Word it is Satan.  But the only way Jesus would deal with him was by quoting the Scriptures, not by trying to get him to quit doing evil things.  Even Satan only has one option which is to do right because God demands it; any other reason won’t do. 

Understand that I want abortion to be illegal as much as anyone.  But leave it the ProLife people who are lost to use human reasons to argue their case.  Christians are here to change people hearts through the gospel.  That in turn will change behavior.  In the days of the Prophets society was every bit as evil as it is today and the only thing God told his people to do was to lay the claims of their Creator on them that they might repent and believe. 

Christ commissioned the church to go into all the world and preach the gospel and teach them all that he commands us.  He didn’t say that when the world becomes so secular that it pretends that I don’t exists and doesn’t want to hear the gospel then go ahead and try to get them to just be good people by any line of reasoning that works.  God’s Word will do the job or it won’t get done.  Let me remind all of us of Paul’s words above, “The gospel is the power of God”, not clever arguments.  And Isaiah’s, “It will not return unto me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose”.  We aren’t living by faith if we don’t have confidence in the very thing we are to have faith in.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Arming Ourselves for Battle

1Pe 4:1  Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin,
1Pe 4:2  so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.

We live in a fallen world of sin and resulting dangers.  Because of this it is necessary to guard ourselves and families against such things as hunger, thirst, poverty, slander, those who would harm us, disease, etc.  While all these things can be harmful the Bible is clear that our worst danger is sin both within us and without. 

One of the evidences of how sin can destroy us is seen in how we tend to think of physical harm as more dangerous than spiritual dangers.  How many parents will work long hours to make sure that their family has enough to eat and wear and adequate shelter but leave themselves and their children completely open to spiritual attack by not having them under the ministry of the Word of God.  How much money has been spent on alarm systems or guns or some such things in the effort to protect their physical lives and property but little time was spent teaching them of the Gospel with the hope of saving their souls from eternal damnation?  How much effort is spent on encouraging our children that they must go to college and be indoctrinated by the world in order to have a career but not near as much time and energy was spent to indoctrinate them in the Word so that they would be able to defend themselves from the lies of this world?

It is easy for us to live like the most important things are temporal and that all we need is a casual understanding of the Bible, an arm’s distance relationship with the Lord as long as we are “saved”. We assume that is good enough.  At the same time we think that no amount of money and energy is enough to keeping our children “safe” from not having everything they want.  It is the danger of living in affluence that causes us to see poverty as a worse evil then living a nominal, powerless Christian life.

Peter in the text above tells us to arm ourselves with a new way of thinking found only in the Bible.  It is to think as Christ did in which he only cared about doing what pleased the Father and if that brought suffering and death then that was okay.  He understood that the worst thing that could happen to him was to not please the Father in everything he did even if it meant he had no place to call his own and lay his head down at night or no bank account, etc. 

Peter then says that if we come to think like this we will cease from sin.  The idea is that sin will no longer dominate us and we will be able to not fall under its power as easily because we no longer see our temporal life as more important than serving the Lord.  We are crucifying ourselves daily, which means we get up in the morning with the understanding that we are here for the Lord, not for ourselves and so we can say no to those things our bodies might want for greater, eternal rewards.  It isn’t that we will no longer sin at all but we will never be able to have victory over sin until we start thinking like this.

It is a little like the guy who is going to be executed at daybreak; he isn’t worrying about the kind of car he is going to buy because there are more pressing matters.  The father who really cares for his children is by far more concerned for their salvation and relationship with God than he is for their physical wellbeing even though that has its place.  The godly father understands that God and his truth are our protection.  One controls the battlefield or the circumstances of our lives and the other controls our mind so that we know how to fight the good fight.

I will close with an example of understanding how our relationship with Christ must be given precedent over our physical well-being.  John Paton was a missionary to the New Hybrids which was a cannibal infested area in the South Pacific.  The first couple of missionaries there were killed and eaten within a few minutes of landing on shore.  When a Mr. Dickson warned him that he would be eaten by cannibals if he went there he said, Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now, and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by Cannibals or by worms; and in the Great Day my Resurrection body will rise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer.  He understood that nothing he could have in this life could compare to having Christ in the next life! I read where they packed their belongings in ready-made caskets as their suitcases for the trip to the New Hybrids!  When told he would die if he went ashore, he said, “We died before we ever left England.”  This is arming yourself for great reward.  The world says such thinking is foolish but Jesus said what does it profit a man to gain the world but lose his soul in the process.

To work for safety and possessions in this life for yourself and families with little effort for securing the next life is the most irresponsible thing you can do for those you say you love.