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Having therefore Boldness

September 3, 2015

Sinful man is a rebel and traitor against his righteous King. The King, in His boundless compassion, sent His Son among rebel man to bring about reconciliation between the rebels and their Ruler. Jesus has accomplished reconciliation between rebel and King by taking the punishment man’s rebellion deserves, substituting Himself in place of the renegades and satisfying the demands of justice. Jesus brought reconciliation between rebel and King, and He has done far more than that. Because of Jesus, the reconciled man has open and constant access to the throne of God. The work of Jesus to reconcile does still more than open wide the doors into the King’s courtroom.

When the reconciled rebel approaches the palace of the King, Jesus meets Him at the entrance and opens the way directly to the throne. As the requestant makes his way to the throne, Jesus escorts him all the way and brings him directly into holiest of all where dwells the presence of God. When the supplicant pleads in accordance with the nature and purpose of Christ, Jesus speaks for the petitioner, voicing the request to the Father as if it was His own. As the Father hears the request, Jesus the Son of the King, sits beside Him and pleads the cause of the inquirer. As he intercedes, Jesus does more than plead for the one making request. He pleads on behalf of His own will, and the will of the Father, knowing precisely how to best answer the request for the benefit of the suitor and the accomplishment of the eternal purposes of God.

When the believer bows before God in prayer, Jesus is the sum and substance of the Christian’s access and answer in prayer. Jesus is the only mediator who reconciles treasonous man with the Father. He is the only way to the Father. He is the believer’s advocate championing his cause. He is believer’s intercessor before the Father, pleading on behalf of the Christian for God to continue to do what is best for His child. Jesus is the believer’s boldness and entrance into the presence of the Father.

Not Most Miserable

August 24, 2015

background empty tombThe resurrection of Jesus is foundational to Christianity. Without the historical reality of Jesus’ death and restoration to life, there is no Christianity, there is no salvation and there is no eternal life. Without a personal belief that Jesus died and has been raised to life one cannot be saved. The resurrection is as important to Christianity as Jesus’ death.

Alexander MacLaren says on the significance of the resurrection. “‘He is risen.’ This crown of all miracles, which brings life and immortality to light, and changes the whole outlook of humanity, which changes the Cross into victory, and without which Christianity is a dream and a ruin, is announced in a single word. Brethren, let us lay this to heart, that unless we believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the saying ‘He was crucified’ is the saddest word that can be spoken about any of the great ones of the past. If Jesus Christ be lying in some nameless grave, then all the power of His death is gone, and He and it are nothing to me, or to you, or to any of our fellow-men, more than a thousand deaths of the mighty ones of old. But Easter day transfigures the gloom of the day of the Crucifixion, and the rising sun of its morning gilds and explains the Cross. Now it stands forth as the great redeeming power of the world, where my sins and yours and the whole world’s have been expiated and done away. And now, instead of being ignominy, it is glory, and instead of being defeat it is victory, and instead of looking upon that death as the lowest point of the Master’s humiliation, we may look upon it as He Himself did, as the highest point of His glorifying. For the Cross then becomes His great means of winning men to Himself, and the very throne of His power. On the historical fact of a Resurrection depend all the worth and meaning of the death of Christ.”

To the resurrection of the Lord, the Bible prescribes manifold responses. One response is to join one’s voice now to the great eternal song sung by all heaven, “And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth. And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” (Revelation 5:9-13)

August 20, 2015

The Pharisees found many reasons to find fault with Jesus’ teaching and ministry. One such instance is recorded in Matthew 15 and Mark 7. The Pharisees complained that Jesus’ disciples did not follow their tradition of washing hands before eating. In response, Jesus rebukes them for two related errors. The elevation of man’s traditions above God’s laws and the assumption that external impurities produce internal impurity. These two errors are directly related to one another, the first springing out of the second. The Pharisees imagined that a stringent set of laws and standards was going to protect their purity. The Pharisees completely missed the point. They concluded that purity was defined by what was going on externally. What they ate, drank, wore, said and did was what determined the extent of their purity. Christ says that none of those things make a man pure or impure. The Pharisees thought that changing the outside would make them clean. Instead, as Christ said elsewhere, changing the outside does nothing more than put a new coat of paint on the tomb. The inside would still be rotten. Cleaning up the outside will never cleanse the inside. Christ declares the inherent impurity of all men. “But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man.” (Matthew 15:18)

The Pharisess failed to recognize that the point of the law was not to protect purity, but to reveal impurity. The human heart is already defiled, and no ceremonial restriction can ever make it clean. From the heart flows all the wickedness of the man. Your wicked behavior always, without exception, starts in your wicked heart. There are certainly temptations that come at you, the devil and all his demons are definitely opposed to every Christian and the world does it’s best to compel you to act in a certain way. However, sin is never the result of outside forces working against you to force you to do something you don’t want to do. Sin only occurs as you are drawn away by your own desires. The desires of the sinful heart are drawn away by the temptation and ensnared in sin. Every sin has its source in your own heart. None would sin without an internal longing to commit the sin. Do not deceive yourself into thinking otherwise. The source of all sin and idolatry is you, your own personal, private wicked heart and all its desires. Nothing you do to the outside of your body will change that heart. The only possibility for pure behavior is a pure heart. The only way for purity in life is Christ. Obedience will naturally flow from a changed heart, but obedience will never change the heart. What is necessary is a heart changed by Christ and out of that transformed heart will come profitable obedience to the commands of God.

Human Sexuality and Fundamentalism

August 13, 2015

With all the furor right now about homosexuality, it is clear the ones who would like to reshape American culture have made acceptance of homosexaulity a fundamental tenet of their faith. According to these ones to participate in American society one must affirm homosexual marriage and accept all sexual behavior as valid for it’s participants.

As a fundamentalist, I too want to know if homosexaulity is an issue that needs to be viewed as a fundamental of the faith. To determine the importance of human sexuality to the faith, two questions must be answered. Is a right understanding of the Bible’s instructions regarding homosexuality necessary for salvation? Should Christians enter into Christian fellowship- that is, partner together in ministry, fellowship together within the local church or enter together into the Christian ordinances- with those who affirm, promote or accept homosexuality?

Fundamentals of the faith are those things which must be affirmed to be saved. Jesus is God who died to pay the penalty of sin is a fundamental that must be affirmed. One cannot be saved without an active belief in Jesus’ deity and His atonement for sin. Fundamentals of the faith are those things which cannot be denied and one be saved. The virgin birth of Jesus is a fundamental that cannot be denied. One may know nothing of the virgin birth and be saved. One may be uncertain concerning the virgin birth and be saved. To deny the virgin birth has has such dire consequences that an active denial is a denial of who Jesus is. Fundamentals are those things which are so intrinsic to the gospel that to deny them is to deny all the gospel.

Fundamentals of the faith are also doctrines which do not affect salvation, but whose rejection has such sweeping impact on the doctrines taught in the Bible that it is impossible to treat one who rejects these fundamentals as a Christian brother. An error in these kinds of doctrines demands the Christian refuse to extend cooperation and fellowship to the erring one. Christian communion cannot be maintained with one whose doctrine is erroneous in these matters.

Does homosexuality fall in this scope of fundamentals? Most Christians would be reluctant to insist that believing homosexuality to be sinful is a prerequisite of salvation. The Bible never presents right opinions of sexuality as a part of the gospel, yet a life of homosexuality is contraindicative to the gospel. The practice of homosexuality is a behavior that explicitly denies the transformative work of the gospel. Homosexuality defames the profession of faith. In 1 Corinthians 6:9 Paul lists homosexuality as a lifestyle that precludes salvation. In other words, one can hold wrong philosophies about homosexuality and still be saved, but one cannot be a genuine Christian and an unrepentant homosexual.

Modern Christianity finds itself in the strange position of having many vocal promoters of a sinful behavior not practiced by its supporters. Ministry leaders wishing to appear relevant, inclusive or compassionate have begun to profess support of homosexuality. Surely the promotion of homosexuality fits the depictions of false teachers found in the New Testament. They are pagans who purvey perverse passions, promoting all profligacy for personal profit. The rejection of the clear statements of the Bible on homosexuality does such damage to the Biblical text that it undermines the entire message of the Bible. One who accepts homosexual behavior as right for others does such severe damage to the doctrines of the gospel that to extend any form of Christian cooperation to him would do severe harm to the name and cause of Christ. One who stubbornly supports homosexuality in the face of all Biblical evidence shows himself to be a denier of Scriptures, a false teacher and a despiser of the grace of God. Yes, the acceptance of Scripture’s parameters of human sexuality is fundamental to the faith.

“According to the Scriptures”

August 10, 2015

carrying the crossCrucifixion is one of the cruelest forms of capital punishment ever invented. The crucified were not offered a quick death. They were sentenced to a long torture intended to bring the convict to the very threshold of passing out from pain, but not quite crossing the point where he would become unconscious and temporarily released from his agony. The crucified usually suffered days of constantly increasing torment that only ended with death.

When Jesus was crucified He endured all the horrors common to the cross. He endured more. He endured teh rejection and scorn of His own people. He endure the jealous malice of the priests. He endured the disregard of Pilate and the jeers of the Roman soldiers. He endured the reviling of the thieves hung on either side of Him. He endured the betrayal and abandonment of His friends. Though these sorrows do not compare to the sorrow of the crushing wrath of God on sin, each added its oppressive sorrow to the weight of woe borne by our Lord.

Many of the events of the cross were foretold in the Old Testament. Those things foreotld happened just as God had said. Mark 15:28 emphasizes this point. All these things happened just as the Bible foretold. He was condemned with criminals, just as Isaiah 53 prophesied. He was surrounded by scoffers just as Psalm 22 said. He was beaten and mocked just as Isaiah said. He was offered bitter drink, just as the Psalmist said. His clothes were gambled over, just like Zechariah said. Please don’t miss this, for it is an important part of the gospel. The Old Testament described many details of Jesus’ death. These descriptions are in the prophets because God knew exactly what was going to happen, down to the smallest detail. These descriptions are there because God planned exactly what was going to happen, down to the smallest detail. God orchestrated events so Jesus would be crucified with two unnamed thieves. God arranged even the clothes Jesus was wearing at the time of the crucifixion. All was accomplished just as God intended and just as God said.

The perfection of accomplishment of all that God had foretold confirms the truth of the gospel and the Word of God. Only God could accurately predict hundreds of years ahead of time the most insignificant details about the cross. God was right when He said Jesus’ clothes would be gambled over, and God is right when He says all are guilty before Him. God was right when He said Jesus would be condemned with the wicked, and He is right when He said Jesus took man’s guilt upon Him and paid the punishment of sin. God was right when He said Jesus would be offered bitter drinks and He is right when He says all will be forgiven and reconciled to Him who trust Jesus. The prophecies of the cross prove the message of the cross.

How should Christians respond to the legalization of same sex marriage?

August 6, 2015

ask the pastor

The following article is part of a series of responses to questions addressed part of the Everlasting Truths ministry.

The recent Supreme Court decision does not bode well for Christians who intend to remain true to the Bible. The implications are far reaching and have yet to be fully considered. Most conservative Christian observers recognize that churches and Christian institutions will have to accept homosexual marriage or face legal censure. The fact that America’s Supreme Court has even made such a decision speaks volumes about the spiritual and moral condition of this nation. If anyone was holding onto the notion that most Americans are Christian, the recent decision should banish such folly. The days ahead demand Christians think rightly. This right thinking will be careful to avoid several potential pitfalls.

Though many are deeply concerned, believers must not fear. Those who are students of history and Scripture rightly expect the folly of our day to end in chaos and wrath. The natural consequences of sin hint that the current linguistic and sexual anarchy will necessarily be brief. At the same time, the cultural climate seems poised for great hostility towards those who refuse to bow before the new sexual tyranny. Many warn that Christians are in danger of finding themselves “on the wrong side of history”. In response, the heart cry of the believer must be, “The LORD is on my side; I will not fear: what can man do unto me?” (Psalm 118:6)

Christians must never forget that God is in complete control of all things and is accomplishing all His purposes in the nations. Remember two crucial truths from the Old Testament. The judge of all the earth will do right, no matter how vile the wickedness and powerful the rebellion of man. God “doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What does thou?” (Daniel 4:35) No decision made by the Supreme Court, no law passed by Congress, no decree of the President and no conspiracies of nations will hinder or prevent the plan of God from being accomplished. “I am God, and there is none else; I am God and there is none like me. Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” (Isaiah 46:9-10)

Do not allow the present darkness to lead to despair for the progress of the gospel and the future of the church. The New Testament declares that things will get worse and worse. Wickedness will run riot, depravity will surround and saturate the church and if it were possible even the saved would be swept away by the immoral tsunami. When things reach their worst, Christ will return. Despite all that, the church will continue, the gospel will go forward, souls will be saved and God will be glorified. Remember, “Greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world.” and “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”

Beware of building, even unintentionally, a theology or sense of security based on the popular news outlets, talk show hosts or political experts. The news is never an accurate reflection of what is going on in the world. Besides the bias of every news station and the agenda of every talk show host the unsaved are never able to understand God’s sovereignty over every event, every political decision, every up and every down. Consequently, even the most expert investigative journalism will miss crucial facts of the story. The rest of the story is only glimpsed in the promises of the Bible. Let the Word of God define all belief about God, this world and things to come. Find all comfort and security in the God of the Bible. Learn from the Psalms to look through circumstances to the Almighty God who protects His children and accomplishes all His purposes.

Do not bow before the cultural mandate and support or promote immoral behavior. Do not fall into the trap of confusing immoral cohabitation with the God created institution desigend to reflect His love for His church. The pressure to forsake the Biblical truth will increase, but no matter what the cost or consequences, Christians must refuse to accede to the depraved demands of the new sexual rebellion.

In the end, refuse base confidence, joy, peace, security or comfort on the circumstances. Learn to say with Paul, “We are troubled on every side, but not distressed.” Keep focused on “the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary: but the things which are not seen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4)

The Deceitfulness of Sin

July 30, 2015

“One point only remains to be considered on the subject of sin, which I dare not pass over. That point is its deceitfulness. It is a point of most serious importance, and I venture to think it does not receive the attention which it deserves. You may see this deceitfulness in the wonderful proneness of men to regard sin as less sinful and dangerous than it is in the sight of God; and in their readiness to extenuate it, make excuses for it, and minimize its guilt.-“It is but a little one! God is merciful! God is not extreme to mark what is done amiss! We mean well! One cannot be so particular! Where is the mighty harm? We only do as others!” Who is not familiar with this kind of language?

You may see it in the long string of smooth words and phrases which men have coined in order to designate things which God calls downright wicked and ruinous to the soul. What do such expressions as “fast,” “gay,” “wild,” “unsteady,” “thoughtless,” “loose” mean? They show that men try to cheat themselves into the belief that sin is not quite so sinful as God says it is, and that they are not so bad as they really are.

You may see it in the tendency even of believers to indulge their children in questionable practices, and to bind their own eyes to the inevitable result of the love of money, of tampering with temptation, and sanctioning a low standard of family religion.

I fear we do not sufficiently realize the extreme subtlety of our soul’s disease. We are too apt to forget that temptation to sin will rarely present itself to us in its true colours, saying, “I am your deadly enemy, and I want to ruin you for ever in hell.” Oh, no! sin comes to us, like Judas, with a kiss; and like Joab, with an outstretched hand and flattering words. The forbidden fruit seemed good and desirable to Eve; yet it cast her out of Eden.

The walking idly on his palace roof seemed harmless enough to David; yet it ended in adultery and murder. Sin rarely seems sin at first beginnings. Let us then watch and pray, lest we fall into temptation. We may give wickedness smooth names, but we cannot alter its nature and character in the sight of God.”

– Spurgeon

Help?

July 23, 2015

If it makes a man happy to imagine he is a grilled cheese sandwich, is it compassionate to support and encourage his delusion? Is it more loving to seek to persuade him of his error or to find him a companion who thinks he’s a bag of potato chips?

If a man has experienced such childhood trauma that he can only find comfort and refuge in life by dreaming he is a piece of toast, is he best understood and happiness in life found for him by agreeing that, for him, life is better as a piece toast? Does compassion try to lead him into healthy, normal relationships with others or just spread jelly on him?

If a daughter decides she is really a unicorn trapped in a girl’s body, what is the loving parental response? Do the parents go all out to build her the best stable possible and give full support to her lovely new unicorn lifestyle? Do loving parents cover her with horse hide and strap a horn onto her forehead? Is it healthiest for her life if her parents buy her horseshoes or put her in front of a mirror and show her she is not a unicorn, no matter what she may feel?

If identity is really a state of mind and of personal feelings, why is any expression of personal identity off limits? If a boy is a girl because he feels like it, if a girl has no gender because she identifies with none and if a white person is black because she feels like it, why can a boy not be a wolverine because he feels like it? If biological construction is not a sufficient parameter for identifying personal identity, what is?

The Judges will be Judged

July 20, 2015

JudgeWhen Jesus stood trial before the ruling body of Israel, the High Priest demanded Jesus answer, “Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” The High Priest knew the Messiah, the promised deliverer and coming king, would also be the Son of God. The leaders of Israel were familiar with Jesus’ claim.Though they did not believe His claims, no one doubted that Jesus professed to be the Messiah and the Son of God. To that question Jesus gives a powerful answer.

For Jesus to have remained silent would have been viewed as a denial of His Deity. Jesus did not remain silent. To the priest’s question Jesus first said, “I am.” I am exactly who I claimed to be. I am the Messiah. I am the Son of God. I am the promised One sent to deliver you from sin. Those who say Jesus never claimed to be God have no foundation in the Bible. Here Jesus declares, under solemn oath before God, on trial for His life, before the leaders of Israel and in no uncertain terms that He is the Messiah and the Son of God. “I am” exactly who you have accused me of being.

That answer is sufficient to declare Jesus’ deity, but it is not the fulness of the answer. Jesus went further and applied to Himself two passages from the Old Testament that foretold of the Messiah and declared His Deity. In Psalm 110:1 it says, “The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit Thou at my right hand, until I make thy enemies thy footstool.” This verse is in fact the most often quoted Messianic prophecy in the New Testament. Jesus applies it to Himself. Peter applies it to Jesus on the day of Pentecost. The books of Ephesians and Hebrews both allude to this as fulfilled in Jesus after His resurrection. Jesus claimed to be the God of David, the God of the Old Testament.

He also claimed to be the Son of Man who will return in judgment and victory. Daniel 7:13-14 says, I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.” Did Jesus ever claim to be God? Yes! A resounding, powerful yes. He claimed it repeatedly throughout His ministry and He declares it again at the most solemn of moments. He announces He is God though He knows it will bring on Him the wrath and judgment of the Sanhedrin.

Jesus does more than just declare He is God. He declares He is the One who will hold these judges under judgment. They will stand accused and condemned by the one they now accuse and condemn. Though Jesus is the defendant on trial before these unjust judges, He binds them over to a higher court where they will receive eternal condemnation. He tells them there is coming a time when the judges would be judged and the condemners be condemned. Jesus is God, the God who reigns eternally and the God who will judge all men.

An Addendum

July 16, 2015

american_tattered_tattoo_by_bjohansen2-d3g8e0nI want to add some clarifying remarks to an article from a couple weeks ago about how America arrived at the moral position it now holds. In no way do I think or intend to suggest that America has reached it’s current position because of the malicious efforts of a small group of people. The immoral movement in America has not been one of a few people forcing the many to accept something contrary to their will. Instead, the majority have accepted ungodly behaviors and ideas because those ideaologies matched the longing of the individual’s heart.

For example when Alfred Kinsey published his spurious studies on human sexuality, those studies were eagerly accepted across the nation. Though the irregularities of the testing procedures were revealed a few years later, most people did not care. Kinsey’s surveys supported a view of sexuality that gave people the freedom to do what they wanted to do anyway. When Elvis surged on the scene his stardom had little to do with skillful marketing. He was quickly accepted because he offered something in a style that appealed to the heart’s of his listeners. Each moral step downward has been taken because it appealed to the desires of the heart’s.

The decline of America has not followed a revolutionary path. Her downfall follows the course described in Romans 1. Those who have rejected God, suppress the truth of God with wickedness. Marriage cannot only be between one man and one woman because to admit that truth is to admit an objective truth greater than the desires of the individual. Right and wrong must be subjective to the person and the situation. A right and wrong that do not change means the individual is not the standard and determiner of morality and righteousness. The process by which America has reached this appalling moral sewer has been long and included a wide range of external factors. Nevertheless, the process by which America has reached this dismal place of depravity has been a simple one. The wicked heart of man has continued to rebel against his Creator. As a result of that rebellion, God has given the individual and the nation over to the desires it worships. We are here because when Americans knew God they refused to acknowledge Him as God.

This bleak assessment leads to the only hope available to America. The wicked heart can be transformed. The promises of the Bible are still true. “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isaiah 1:18) Though we find ourselves in a nation languishing under the judgment of God, there is great hope. God’s condemnation and judgment is an act of mercy. He mercifully brings suffering on men now that they may see the wages of their sin and repent. He condemns men in unbelief that He might have mercy upon those who will forsake their folly and trust in Him. “For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.” (Romans 11:32) The condemnation of this nation undeniable, and the mercy of God is still abundantly available.

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