Salvation

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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. “

July 8

Wednesday, July 8th, 2020

One of the truths of Scripture which is a non-negotiable is the physical resurrection of Christ from the dead. One of the heresies which has never seemed to go away is Jesus did not physically raise from the dead but his spirit did.

To believe the latter you must deny the former. This is not one of those either/or propositions. This truth came home to me as I read the accounts of that Sunday morning. The Sabbath was over and 3 ladies (Mary Magdalene; Mary, His mother; and Salome) made their way to the tomb. They discussed how they were going to move the stone but, of course, it was not an issue when they got there. “He is not here; He is risen.” James and John find an empty tomb. But the best exchange IMHO is His exchange with Mary Magdalene in John 20. Probably driven back to the tomb by her grief, she encountered Jesus. Thinking He was the gardener, Mary asked where they laid Him. You gotta wonder why she didn’t recognize Jesus. I mean, she had been a follower of His for much of His ministry.  She was one of the women who took care of His and the disciples physical needs (food and shelter).  But we aren’t told why she didn’t. Speculation: her tears clouded her eyes (that does happen you know? I’m married and have two daughters). 🙂  It could have been because the last time was ugly and He was beyond recognition. And maybe it was a supernatural thing (like the two on the road to Emmaus). That really isn’t important. But when she did recognize Him? WOW!! She hung onto Him. The word is clung to Him. The last thing she wanted to do is to let Him go again.  But keep in mind you don’t cling to ghosts or apparitions; figments of your imagination; or dreams. She clung to Jesus. But she had to let go.

I’d like to reference the holding on and letting go, but my point today is the physical resurrection of Jesus from the dead. It is unquestionable. It cannot be seen as unimportant. Christianity literally rises and falls on its surety. No bodily resurrection = no faith. Bodily resurrection = solid rock.

“Father, Jesus rose. He is alive. Not a ghost or a figment of the imagination. Without doubt one of, if not THE most essential truths of all. To this truth I cling.”

July 6

Monday, July 6th, 2020

My reading from John MacArthur’s book One Perfect Life covered Jesus’ time on the cross (6 hours). Several events stand out to be:

  • His first words were “Father, forgive them…” Not a complaint or a cry of agony or of unfairness. Words of forgiveness.
  • The soldiers unwittingly fulfilled prophecy by gambling for His robe. Check out Psalm 22:18.
  • The chief priests didn’t like what Pilate wrote on the inscription he put on the cross.  He wrote “This is”; they wanted “He said He was.”  Answer: “What I have written I have written.”  Pilate-1/ Priests-0
  • Two robbers were crucified with Jesus. I’ve always wondered about the one.  Did he originally join in the antagonism? Did he see and hear Jesus and come to his senses? Did Jesus talk to him as He hung there? (Remember John 21:25). Did he know at one time and return? Answers I will will never know until I see the thief or Jesus.
  • The utter agony of Jesus the last 3 hours on the cross seen in His words: Forsaken. Thirsty. Finished (task completed). Giving up (committal to His Father).

All for me. Undeserved.  Not asked for. Unmerited. All for me. And you. Sinners. To the core. Unlovely, yet loved.

“Father, how can I say thanks enough? How can I find the words? They fail me. Accept my heartfelt gratitude for your undeserved love and mercy and grace.”

June 26

Friday, June 26th, 2020

Sometimes I will make the statement to someone- “That’s not a hill I want to die on.” It could be about anything really, but it is especially true when speaking of Bible teaching.  I recently was reading a book by Gavin Ortlund called Finding the Right Hill to Die On. Long story short: it divides into 3 tiers the doctrines we find important. #1 is the essential where there can be no compromise. You must believe them. #2 are those which are important but allow for some differences (mode of baptism for example). #3 are those which really are of no consequence to our salvation (like your view of the 2nd Coming).

A #1 tier would be what I read today in John 14. Verse 6 says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life and no man comes to the Father but by me.” This statement cannot be sloughed off as non-incidental.  Non-essential. Look at that verse again. I am THE way; not A way. I am THE truth; not A truth; I am THE life; not A life. There is no mixing those up.

Our culture would have us believe there are many ways to God; there are many truths to believe; and life can be found in temporal things. W.R.O.N.G!!! Jesus is the only way to God because He is the truth of God (Jn.1:14) and the life of God (Jn.1:4). This verse shows the exclusiveness of Jesus. Let me repeat that: this verse shows the exclusiveness of Jesus. He is not one of many; He is the only One. And even though it may sound narrow, get this wrong and you get it wrong. All cults (JW, Mormons, Bethel included) all mess up here. He is fully God and fully man. He was God in the flesh from birth to death. There is no one like Him. No question. No hesitation. No equivocation. No fudging. No part way.

CHOOSE!

“Father, I choose Jesus. I choose to worship Him as the one and only way, truth and life. That is a hill I will die on.”

June 9

Tuesday, June 9th, 2020

Have you ever noticed (I’m sure you have) how we spend a lot of time, effort, and money pursuing what doesn’t last?

  • That new car/truck. Gotta have it. Until it gets a scratch or a year or two old or shock-of-all-shocks we see a shinier, newer model.
  • That job promotion. Climbing the corporate ladder. It doesn’t matter who we step on. Sometimes it doesn’t even matter if we lose our family in the process. Then loneliness and dissatisfaction set in. Time for another rung.  Or go elsewhere.
  • MVP stats. 24/7 dedication. Gain the status of GOAT (Greatest Of All Time).
  • Tour de France winner. 7 times. Gotta get to the top. It doesn’t matter who we destroy along the way. Whose lives, careers, or livelihood we ruin. What compromises we make along the way morally, ethically, or athletically. It all comes crashing down.

Many spend their lives pursuing that which doesn’t last. Never has. Never will. I read an interesting quote which came from an unexpected source:

From the cradle to the grave man’s greatest objective is to obtain peace of mind and spiritual security. This is found only in Jesus Christ.

Who said it? An evangelist? A pastor? A theologian? A writer of religious books? A Bible translator? Nope. Wrong on all counts.  Are you ready for this?  Mark Twain. I don’t know when he said it; what prompted him to say it; or to whom he said it. But it most definitely is true. Search the world over. Pursue one adventure after another.  Investigate all philosophies. And the answer comes down to one: Jesus Christ. The one and only way to the Father, and the one and only way to complete satisfaction.

“Father, may I find my satisfaction in You. May the song be true: ‘Turn your eyes upon Jesus/ Look full in His wonderful face/And the things of earth will grow strangely dim/In the light of His glory and grace.’ ”

June 8

Monday, June 8th, 2020

I wrote this for my Communion Thought/Mediation for this past Sunday (yesterday).  As I laid my head on the pillow last night I was thinking ahead to this morning’s Quiet Time.  This came rumbling back into my mind and when I woke up this morning it was still there. I decided I would share it with you today.

Events of the past week/week and a half have probably both sickened us and angered us. The death of someone should sicken and sadden us. The wanton destruction of lives and property is despicable and should anger us.  What I am about to say is not a political statement as you will see at the end:

Black lives matter.

White lives matter.

Chinese lives matter.

Russian lives matter.

American lives matter.

African lives matter.

Homosexual lives matter.

Straight lives matter.

Unborn babies’ lives matter.

Birth defected babies’ lives matter.

Young lives matter.

Old lives matter.

Rich lives matter.

Poor lives matter.

American lives matter.

Muslim lives matter.

The list is endless. Nowhere in the Scripture does it say anyone’s life doesn’t matter. Nor does it say anyone’s life is worth more than another.

How do I know that?  Romans 3:23 tells me “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”  We are all infected with the same disease. It is called SIN. 

As a result…WE ALL NEED A SAVIOR.

And again, how do I know that? Because John 3:16 hasn’t changed. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (ESV)  There is a saying which says, “The ground is level at the foot of the cross.”  It does not matter who we are. It does not matter what color, race, nationality, status in life we are. We all have to come to the cross on the same level-sinners in need of a Savior.  No one group of people is singled out as being more important or more deserving of God’s love than any other.  (End of devotion)

We all must recognize our sad, sorry state of the inability to meet God’s standards and realize we are all the same. No life matters more than any other.