Salvation

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December 14

Monday, December 14th, 2020

It seems like a subject that should not be one discussed during the Christmas season. “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing/handling (ESV) the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer/ gangrene (ESV).” (NKJV execept where noted)

Not much of that discernment goes on these days. Progressive or “woke” Christianity is a “gospel” of false doctrine with a big dose of self-reliance. One hears it in the modern TV guys- the “Your best life is now” being one of them, for example. We hear it in the self-help books (Hollis and Hatmaker are two). We hear it in the false gospel that spills out of Bethel, Hillsong and Jesus Culture. But the gospel of self-reliance is nothing new. That lie was told in the Garden and still continues today. We even have pagans and non-pagans telling us we are and can be gods and little gods.

Here’s something to think about: if I was so cock-sure of myself; if I had the ability to pull myself up by my own bootstraps; if I was so self-reliant that I needed no one else- why did Jesus come? Why did Jesus die?

Exactly! I can’t. It is an effort in futility. And THAT is exactly the reason why Jesus had to come. Because I couldn’t. Self-reliance is a lie. Self-help is a lie. Self-improvement (on a salvation scale) is impossible. Enter Jesus.

“Father, you saw my helplessness, even my self-deception. I am nothing without Jesus. I have nothing without Him. I am incapable of bettering myself to make myself acceptable. It is all about Jesus and what He has done.”

November 10

Tuesday, November 10th, 2020

When I have my Quiet Time in the morning I like to supplement it with devotional material. Some of it is pretty light but some of it really makes me think. For two years in a row I did New Morning Mercies (NMM) by Paul David Tripp. WOW!  What a goldmine it was.  I can’t even begin to tell you how many copies of that book I gave away to friends and colleagues.  One of my biggest joys is sharing books or providing books to others to read and think about and grow. NMM was one of them. I even had about 5 guys daily emailing their thoughts on their reading of NMM.  I brought it to an end because I realized that although they enjoyed reading the devotions it was hard with their daily schedules to write about it. It was beginning to bog them down so rather than sour them on NMM and having a Quiet Time, I called a halt.

Well…just last week I started a new devotional by Tripp. It is called 40 Days of Faith and I found out after buying it that it takes its cue from NMM and its material is gleaned from it. That’s okay though. My memory is not such that I could remember what I read a couple years ago anyway! 🙂

I recently read this and shared it with the folks during this past Sunday’s communion thought: 

Jesus paid it all! There are no bills due for your sin! You are now free to simply trust and obey.  Stop trying to earn something from God. Stop trying to gain more of his acceptance. Stop trying to earn his favor. Stop trying to win his allegiance. Stop trying to do something that would pay for his blessing. Stop trying to morally buy your way out of his anger. Stop trying to reach a level where you will know lasting peace with him. Just stop trying. Just stop.  (p.16)

Paul tells us that “no one is justified before God by the law.” (Gal.3:11)  I think that is talking about more than the OT Law. I believe Paul is also talking about the crazy notions we get that we can barter our way; buy our way; earn our way; “righteous” our way; and do enough good to get a “Get Out of Jail Free” card and make it into heaven. Just the opposite is true. We can’t do any of that. Salvation is not for sale in any way, shape or form.

Salvation is a free gift. Jesus is there, not just to welcome us, but also to sustain us.

“Father, thank you for your free gift of salvation. I am still blown away by that gift even after all these years of being with You. Help me to lead others to your freedom.”

November 4

Wednesday, November 4th, 2020

I originally posted this yesterday, November 3rd, the day of our election on my other blog. I include it here a day later still not knowing the outcome of the election.

At the risk of being taken as political, I’m going to make a statement that I firmly believe: God does not care about a person’s race; a person’s skin color; a person’s nationality; a person’s social status; a person’s religious upbringing; a person’s education; a person’s job; a person’s political persuasion; a person’s state of residence; a person’s 401K, or any other distinction man may make. In our world today it seems like unless you state publicly, “BLM,” you are a racist or some other ugly moniker. I personally believe ALM- All Lives Matter- and refuse to say any one race is more important than another.

I believe God would say the same thing. How do I know that? The Bible says so. Here, check out Romans 10: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be save.” (v.9). Then notice the words in verse 11: “For the Scripture says, ‘Everyone who…'” See that word? E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E. Oh, but I love verse 12: “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing His riches on ALL who call on Him. For E.V.E.R.Y.O.N.E. who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” There’s that word again!! Twice everyone is used; once all is used. That shows God is not black or white; rich or poor; slave or free; American or Hispanic (take your pick); or interested in class, color, or creed. God is for EVERYONE, especially when it comes to salvation. Jesus died for all.

“Father, thank you that I’m included, along with all others who come to you and claim the Name of Jesus for salvation.”

November 2

Monday, November 2nd, 2020

I visited a dear lady this past week. Actually, twice.  She has COPD but her toughest battle has been cancer for the past four or so years. I went one day at her granddaughter’s request and could not stay. She was having a tough time.  She had hit a wall by the time I had gotten there. So I graciously offered to leave and come back another day. Another day was the very next day. This time I went a littler earlier and she was able to visit. It wasn’t long until she was wore out. They were getting ready to put her to bed and so I left.

Before I left I prayed with her. When I was done and stood up (I had knelt since she was sitting on the couch) she said, “You know. I listen to Charles Stanley and he said that God would never leave me.” I said he is absolutely right.

Those words were sweet to hear. Backstory: she had begun coming to church after I met her at the bank. She had then retired but worked part-time to help out. After she began coming it wasn’t long until she was diagnosed with cancer. She was given maybe 4-6 months. That was 4 years ago. She told me once that she was so grateful for the live stream and that she had found her faith again. I can’t even tell you how excited I was to hear that…and grateful for our team. Several months ago, after several attempts over the years to visit, she asked to see me. She to cancel twice due to medical reasons, but she finally made it. I was able to reassure her of her salvation and God’s love and about heaven. Romans 8 is what I used (my reading for today).

Now you see why her statement about what Charles Stanley said is so meaningful to me…but mostly to her. There is nothing like assurance of salvation to prepare someone to go. Are you sure? You can be. Read Romans 8.

“Father, thank you for the assurance of salvation you give in your Word. Let me live in that confidence and help others to as well.”

October 14

Wednesday, October 14th, 2020

Can something be a favorite and challenging at the same time? I think so. Let me show you what I mean. One of my favorite but most challenging Scriptures is found in 2 Corinthians 5.

Favorite: It is hard to find a verse or passage more inspiring, more hope-giving, and more enriching than 5:17: “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” There is no other way to look at that Scripture than to see the new birth and the new life Jesus gives to all.

But there is more following that.

Challenge: “…who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” I love that word-reconciliation. “Being made friends again.” A relationship gone awry patched up and put back together. Years ago I had a friend. He felt I didn’t believe or trust him in what he shared with me about the ministry of someone else. Guilty as charged. I chose to believe (what I found out to be) the lies of the other individual. Years later I went to that former friend and apologized, admitted I was wrong, and asked his forgiveness. It was granted and our friendship was restored. It has been years since I have seen him and I don’t even know where he lives now. (Pastors tend to move around some). But I know reconciliation took place.

That is what God wants for us all-a fractured relationship with Him to be mended. Jesus came to make that possible. The catch now, according to 2 Cor.5:19, is the message of reconciliation is left in my hands. I am/you are to take the message of Jesus and His death to others so they might be made friends with God.

Favorite and challenging: both in the same passage.

“Father, thank you that because of Jesus I am your friend. I have been reconciled with You. Help me to be an instrument in Your hand to show others that same reconciliation is available for them.”

September 8

Tuesday, September 8th, 2020

I recently had a visitor to my office who struggled with what is common among many followers of Christ: Assurance. She has struggled with cancer and COPD  for several years now and she is tired. I admire her spunk and determination though. The doctors told her years ago she only had maybe 6 months left. That was over 4 yars ago. She has gotten to see her two great granddaughters grow up, as well as the birth of her great grandson. She once thanked me for the live stream we are doing. She watches each week and what was especially meaningful to me was she said, “I have found my faith again.” She clarified it the day we talked when she said, “I didn’t lose my faith. I struggled with accepting the cancer. I wanted to say ‘Why me?’ “

Her biggest question though was not about cancer. As we sat and talked her biggest struggle was knowing for sure she was saved, that she was going to heaven. I showed her I Thess. 4: 13-18 but my strongest passage was Romans 8: 31-39. “If God is for us who can be against us?” “Nothing will be able to separate us from the love God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

She isn’t alone, you know? There are way too many people who live in un-assurance. Constantly wondering if they did one thing that would be the deciding factor and they would be lost forever. I don’t see that in the Bible. Unless someone was never truly saved or “deconstructs” their faith to put Jesus to an open shame, salvation is eternal. She walked out a different and much-relieved woman than when she came in.

Do you have that assurance or do you live in fear?

“Father, thank you for assurance. Thank you for all that comes from You in the way of assurance, peace, and confirmation of your love for me.”

August 31

Monday, August 31st, 2020

I love to hear a good story! I love to read and when I come across a good story I might laugh; I might cry; I might get choked up; I might see my faith grow; I might even wish I could meet that person.

For example, I read a story about a village on the hilly terrain of the Yunnan Province in China. Their main source of food was corn and rice but a severe drought in May of 2012 put all that in jeopardy. They tried everything, including all their superstitious practices. When that failed, they lashed out at the five Christians in the village for offending the spirits of their ancestors.

So those 5 believers gathered to pray. Soon the sky darkened and thunder was heard. A heavy downpour started and lasted the whole afternoon and night. The crops were saved and some of the villagers came to know Jesus.

Here’s another: In Acts 18 Paul and Timothy were opposed by those in Thessalonica (Macedonia) and went to the house of Titius Justus. His house was next to the synagogue. Sosthenes was the ruler of the synagogue and it was his responsibility to bring charges before Gallio about Paul and Timothy. In short: he lost. In verse 17 it says they seized him and beat him in plain sight of Gallio. Nothing was done.

But read ahead to I Cor. 1:1. Who is mentioned? Sosthenes. What is said? “Paul called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes. (Emphasis mine) Isn’t that an incredible three words? Isn’t that an incredible story? My imagination kicks in at this point. Did Paul take Sosthenes and care for his wounds, much like the jailer did for he and Silas in Acts 16? Did this kindness lead Sosthenes to question Paul about “the hope that lies within?” I’d sure like to believe so.

Don’t you just love a great story? Do you have one? What is it and could you tell it to someone?

“Father, I belong to you. There is no better story than that. May my story always include you.”

August 27

Thursday, August 27th, 2020

Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill has always been an interesting one to me. You can find it in Acts 17: 16-34. Paul is in Athens, the religious center of Greece. In fact, as you walk with Paul and listen to him, it is easy to come to the conclusion that Athens was the home of virtually every god known to man. In 17:16 it says, “Paul’s…spirit was provoked as he saw the city was full of idols.” In verse 22 it says he begins his sermon with “I perceive in every way you are very religious.” I’d say those are dead giveaways! 🙂

As Paul reasoned with the people, the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers were curious (they loved engaging with others for the purpose of learning and discourse), but some were hostile. Why? Because he preached Jesus and His resurrection.  He didn’t “preach” health and wealth. He didn’t “preach” a glory cloud will fall. He didn’t “preach” God wants to bring a miracle to your life. No. He preached Jesus and His resurrection.

They wanted to hear more, but it was more of a defense of what he believed. The Areopagus was a court named for the hill on which it once met. His defense is interesting.

  • He alludes to their multiple gods.  They were “very religious.”
  • He zeroes in on the altar To An Unknown God. They were “spiritual;” they believed in the supernatural. Sort of like many in our day. They believe in something; they just aren’t sure what or who.
  • He teaches with purpose.  Take note of it: The God who made the world (the one they classified as unknown); He doesn’t live in temples; He gives life, breath, and all things; He has made us all equal (one blood); He has put in all of us a need for Him and a desire to seek.
  • He presents the appeal. Now is the time. God has overlooked our rebellion but no more.

Such a far cry  from the mere pablum of our day. No hype. No promise of wealth. No “God wants His kingdom here now.” No “think better of yourself because you are worth it.” Just Jesus and our need for Him. Just Jesus and our need to repent. Just Jesus- and it was all cemented not by our agreement-but by His resurrection. And like today the response was mixed. Yes, as expected there was hostility. But that day Paul’s honesty in preaching brought some into the kingdom and raised the curiosity of others.   

“Father, my mandate is to preach Jesus and Him crucified and resurrected. Help me not to waver from that mandate.”

August 14

Friday, August 14th, 2020

Yesterday on my other blog, Cycleguy’s Spin, I posted this thought. It was so important to me (and I wrote it yesterday morning) that I thought I would post it here.  Jo picked up Braden, our grandson, yesterday and we are taking him home tomorrow, so I thought I would post this just in case I failed to find the time to post a new devotion. 

There are a few things I simply can’t stand, the thought of eating them just curls my stomach. (Pun intended). When I say them some of you will say, “Seriously?” I can’t stomach to taste cinnamon, coconut and parmesan cheese (the kind that smells like dirty socks that people like to sprinkle on spaghetti and pizza. **gag**. Talk about ruining pizza!!). It is a joke around here for some to tell me they made chocolate muffins, but added coconut or cinnamon. They ruin chocolate. 

But as much as I can’t stand those ingredients (and probably a few more), there is one thing I hate. I despise with a passion. And that is legalism. Legalism by my definition is ordering the Christian life by a list of rules and regulations, of do’s and don’ts. For way too many years I was in that camp. Tithing (you have to).  Church attendance (no Christian skips). Bible reading (every day buddy). Baptism (by immersion only for the remission of sins). Communion (every week). Prayer (I let some slack on this one because I was sketchy myself). Alcohol consumption (tee-total it without exception). Tobacco use (seriously you would put cancer in your body?). You name it; I probably had a rule for it. Now, in all honesty, I wasn’t trying to be mean. I was trying to legislate the Christian life. Salvation was based on what I do; not based on what Christ has done.

Paul faced that. We see it was an issue in the early church (Acts 15). Paul squared off against it in Galatians 2. The issue was so encroaching and so powerful  it even took down Peter. But Paul was not about to back down from that challenge either! (You can see what he does in Galatians 2: 11-14).  The Judaizers were the culprits, men who said you had to abide by the Mosaic law, especially circumcision. But Paul is very clear in Galatians 2:16: “A person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ…by the works of the Law no one will be justified.”

Case closed. There would be no wavering for Paul. He didn’t care if you were Peter or not. Or Bill. I’m so glad I learned about grace and faith and freedom and God brought me out of that ugly jungle.

“Father, thank you for grace. Thank you for the rescue from legalism. Thank you for the introduction to and embrace of freedom. May I always be a messenger of grace.”

August 4

Tuesday, August 4th, 2020

In reading One Faithful Life, a harmony of the life of the Apostle Paul by John MacArthur, I read Acts 8. It is sort of the interlude between chapters 7 and 9. Chapter 7 ended with the mention of Saul at the stoning of Stephen and chapter 9 is the conversion of Saul on the road to Damascus. I see chapter 8 as a chapter of contrasts. It is the brief story of two men who make differing choices.

Philip takes the message of Jesus to Samaria. Pressure took him away from Jerusalem. As he preached in Samaria, people responded to the message and were saved. One individual specifically mentioned is Simon, a sorcerer. It says he believed and was baptized then continued following Philip.  Reading the rest of the account seems to tell us that Simon’s “decision” was not sincere but an effort to get close to Philip and to learn his secrets. Even when Philip rebuked him for his misguided heart, Simon didn’t repent. His reply (v.24) was not one of sincerity, but fear of the consequences. That’s like saying, “I want to go to heaven because I don’t want to go to hell.” That’s the wrong answer and the wrong motive.

The other man mentioned in Acts 8 has a different response. Philip meets an Ethiopian eunuch who is reading Isaiah 53 and doesn’t understand who it is about. Philip hops into his chariot and begins to teach him about Jesus and the eunuch responds to the message. No guile. No hidden agenda.

Two people. Two responses. It is no different today. People are presented the Gospel message. One responds with wrong or hidden motives; the other responds with an open heart in sincerity. The one is temporary; the other permanent. The one is outward; the other is inward. The one might be performance-based; the other is grace-based. The one has no change; the other has a lasting life-change.

Which one am I? Which one are you?

“Father, I want to be like the eunuch in my response to you. An honest seeker. One whose motives are pure and sincere and not for show. “