Tuesday, December 06, 2005

New Testament Law-Keeping

John Piper, in a sermon on Romans 2:11-16, said these very convicting and passionate words:
The kind of obedience that is being spoken of in law-keeping in the mind of the apostle is the obedience of faith, which according to Romans 1:5 is the whole goal of his ministry. It's the whole goal of my ministry. You wonder, "why does Piper preach about these things? These are complicated things. I don't hear anybody talking like this." Well, you do. The reason is the whole book of Romans, Chapter 1 verse 5 (read it!) is designed to bring about the obedience of faith among the gentiles for the sake of the Name! That's my passion! I don't want a church filled with carnal, disobedient law-breakers that look just like the world in the way they live, and have this light, feathery confidence that they are going to heaven just because they prayed a prayer one time or signed a card or did something when they were six! What kind of a church is that? That's wicked for a pastor to cultivate such a people! It's heartless; it's cruel. How many people at the judgment will curse their pastors because he didn't tell them when the Lord says to them, "why do you call me Lord, Lord? Depart from me; I never knew you, you workers of iniquity." "Workers of iniquity? We didn't think it mattered that you worked iniquity! All you had to do was believe!" And the pastors will be cursed.
Wow! Piper really hammers home the idea that "carnal Christians" are no Christians at all! And what an incredible duty pastors have to tell people the TRUTH!

May we all be truth-seekers and law-keepers.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Nation of Israel

Many promises were made to the people God brought out of the land of Egypt roughly 3500 years ago, and many see biblical promises being fulfilled in the Holy Land in recent and current events. This morning, however, I read a passage of Scripture that causes me to at least revisit my understanding of the nation of Israel.

Charles Spurgeon often referred to the people of his church as the people of Israel; "Israel in the covenant of grace is not natural Israel, but all believers in all ages." (Quoted from here.) Romans 2:28-29 suggests that we should view the followers of Christ as part of the true Israel. "28For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God."

Who, then, does Revelation 7 refer to regarding the 144,000 of Israel? Just as circumcision was prescribed for the ethnic Israelites of the Old Testament, the Holy Spirit performs circumcision on the hearts of the spiritual Israelites of the New Testament. In Ezekiel 37:16-22, the Lord promises to join together again the tribes of Israel under one King, never to be divided again. Romans 11:11-24 depicts the nation of Israel as a olive tree with wild olive branches (representing non-Jews) being grafted in. Obviously, all these passages refer to a spiritual nationality vs. a physical ethnicity.

Thus, the Bible seems to teach that we, as believers in Jesus Christ, are part of the covenant community of the children of Israel.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Time Change...

This Sunday the time changes back to normal from Daylight Saving Time. This change of the system by which we order our lives causes me to think about an attribute of God's nature that we have studied recently in our Sunday morning Bible study class...

On the first Sunday in April every year we change our clocks. April changes to May, and spring changes to summer in June. By August our weather can change by 30 degrees when a thunderstorm rolls through, and my grass seems to change from freshly mown to overgrown in hours. Our clothes change from cool and dry to sweaty in minutes.

As summer fades, our days become shorter and our nights become cooler. Trees change from their common color to radiant hues of red and orange and gold and yellow.

We cannot fathom life without change. We live life as a succession of changing moments. We go from sleeping to awake; from lying to standing; from dirty to clean; from scruffy to shaven; from hungry to full; from busy to bored; from happy to sad; from apathetic to fanatic; from young to old; from healthy to ailing. We do not experience any portion of life without change. Every moment details change in our existence.

We, however, are reminded by the Bible of One who never changes:

"God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind." -- Numbers 23:19

"For I the LORD do not change" -- Malachi 3:6

"Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change." -- James 1:17

"Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever." -- Hebrews 13:8

God is our Rock; he never changes; he never fails. God never loves us more (or less) than he does right now. God is always wrathful against sin. God is eternally just and righteous and holy and beautiful and kind and merciful and gracious. God is never surprised; he is sovereign over the past, present, and future. He is consistent. He is faithful.

So when you wake up on October 30, 2005, remember that though our clocks may change, the One who created time will never change.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Sometimes Life Seems Too Busy!

I haven't posted in several days; between work, school, and family, we decided to add car shopping. Whew! We just purchased a 2000 Mazda MPV minivan, and I am glad the deal is done. I hope to start posting again more regularly soon. Thanks for visiting my site!

Friday, October 14, 2005

Comments? Questions?

This whole blogging thing is somewhat new for me. If it is new for you too, I just wanted to point out a couple of things. If you like, agree, dislike, disagree, or have any comments or questions, all these things are welcome! If you look at the bottom of this post, you will see a link that says something like "0 comments." Click this and you can post your comment or question. I hope you leave lots of comments.

Hope you have a great weekend!

Saved? Saved from what?

If you can't tell, I am regularly influenced by the ministry of John Piper, pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Recently I have been listening to his sermon series on Romans. In the message I listened to today (on Romans 1:16-17), Piper discussed "the gospel, ... the power of God for salvation." He asked of the text, "What are we saved from?"

This is a great question! I have heard many answers to this question, and they are all biblical. The gospel saves us from: sin, death, hell, bondage, etc. But in the CONTEXT (which is so terribly important for us to understand precisely what the author intended to convey), we see in the very next verse exactly what we need to be saved from. "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth." Piper went on to point out more verses that support this, but we don't need to dig much to understand Paul's argument. The gospel is the power of God for salvation from God's wrath against ungodliness and unrighteousness.

This also helps us see the difference in regeneration and salvation. (Regeneration is the point in time which God changes our hearts and we become believers.) It is biblical to say that I was saved at some point in time in the past, but it is also biblical to say that I will be saved on that great day when the cup of God's anger is full and he pours out his wrath on all unrighteousness. We have no hope at that time except for the shed blood of Jesus Christ! God may never say, "Why should I let you into my heaven?" He may say, "What will stay my hand from your eternal destruction?"

If we do not depend only on Christ's sacrifice to pay for our sin, and his righteousness to make us acceptable to God, whe have no hope. This is the power of the gospel.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Another Covenant of Grace

In 1 Corinthians 11 the apostle Paul records for the Corinthians (and for us) Christ's institution of the Lord's Supper. Christ institutes for his followers a replacement for the Passover; a commemoration of the events that brought about salvation for God's people in the new covenant to replace a commemoration of the events that brought about salvation for God's people in the old covenant. The symbolizm is incredible. The Israelites sacrificed a lamb, and the lamb's blood painted on the door frame of the house was the sign of their salvation. Likewise, the Lamb was slain, and his blood is the sign of our salvation.

What is this new covenant? The old covenant, or the Mosaic covenant, was the covenant God established with the people of Israel in the wilderness after he delivered them from slavery in Egypt. God did not force them into the covenant, and they did not deserve this covenant. It was a covenant of grace. It was, however, a covenant that God's people could not keep. God was not surprised, however, and he planned a second covenant to replace the Mosaic covenant.

In Jeremiah 31:31-40, we find God's promise of a new covenant: "But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 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 time around, God did not write the covenant on stone tablets or scrolls, but he wrote the covenant in the hearts of his people! As a matter of fact, in Ezekiel 36:26-27, God promises, "And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules."

So, what is this new covenant? This covenant is God providing salvation to people in bondange, changing sinners into saints, and accomplishing his purpose to glorify himself through the Suffering Servant/Man of Sorrows/Messiah/Jesus Christ/King of Kings! "This cup is the new covenant in my blood."

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Work on your faith, not your legalism...

As I was listening to a sermon by John Piper on Romans 1:1-5, I was struck by something he said. Piper was discussing "the obedience of faith" and he stated that we as Christians attempting to live a godly life should focus on improving our faith. This will, in turn, improve our obedience. He went on to point out that if we simply try to improve our obedience, we will only grow in legalism; precisely what the Pharisees did. Is it any wonder why, when we are not focusing on Christ, that we miss the point of Christian living? We cannot earn God's favor; Christ did that with his obedient life and sinless death. We ask God, like the father of the boy with an unclean spirit in Mark 9:14-29, "if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us." Note Jesus' response: "If you can! All things are possible for one who believes." May our response echo the father's: "I believe; help my unbelief!"

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Welcome to the Reformation!

Several years ago I began to struggle with passages of Scripture regarding God's sovereign rule over creation. Isaiah 46:9-10 says, "I am God and there is no other; I am God and there is none like me declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.'" Did these passages include my salvation? What implications did Acts 13:48 have: "as many as were appointed to eternal life believed."

As I worked through this issue I began to realize that the men who began the Protestant Reformation struggled with some of the same issues. Martin Luther, while studying Romans, realized that we could do nothing to help our relationship with God; justification (being righteous before God) is by grace alone.

Recognizing that only by the grace of God can one ever awaken from the spiritual dead, I invite you to join me in experiencing reformation.