False gospels and preachers of false gospels are troublemakers. They promise something good and profitable. They promise peace and happiness, what they offer is that which leaves the soul in turmoil. They promise salvation and then require a person spend the rest of his life working for it. The Catholic church teaches that it is a sin to say you know you are going to heaven. The Catholic Encyclopedia defines this sin in this way, “It may be defined as the condition of a soul that, because of a badly regulated reliance on God’s mercy and power, hopes for salvation without doing anything to deserve it.” Relying on God’s mercy and power to save is bad? Thinking you can and should do nothing to deserve salvation is bad? Is that not troublesome to heart and soul? Is that not contrary to the plain and simple teachings of the Bible? Every false religion that promises salvation based upon something the person does is a troubler of men. Whether it be through the keeping of the ten commandments, the attendance at regular church gatherings, a certain amount of missionary work, doing more good than bad or being at peace with yourself and your world, all false gospels leave the ultimate fate of salvation in the hand of the individual. These frauds deny the comfort and assurance of salvation that belongs to the genuine child of God because of the completed work of Jesus. A changed gospel is not good news, but soul terrifying bad news.
Anything which adds to or takes away from the gospel message is a perversion of truth. It is not a slight adjustment. It is not an update for modern times. It is not a strategic change. Anything which says “this part of the gospel is not necessary to be a Christian” and anything which says “this part not in the gospel is necessary to be a Christian” is a turning away from God, a turning away from Jesus and a turning the gospel upside down.
The gospel is all about the glory of God. That is why the gospel cannot, must not, be changed. Any change to the gospel takes away from the glory of God. Any change to the gospel says that God got it wrong or that God did not do enough. The Judaizer’s addition of the law to the gospel was something which turned the gospel on its head. Their gospel denied the perfection of the grace of God. It taught that man’s obedience must be added to God’s grace for one to truly be a Christian. Any gospel which adds the least human effort to salvation denies the grace of God. The gospel that is all of grace is directly contrary to a gospel that is mostly of grace. One is saved by grace through faith alone or he is not. God alone is the author and completer of salvation or He is not. God deserves all glory for redemption, or He has to share that glory with another. One version is good news. The other leaves the soul in
“A valorous hand to hand struggle with inherent corruptions is distressingly rare in the widespread religious profession of the day. You read and pray, and worship in the assembly, and complain that, notwithstanding, your souls do not prosper; you have not comfort; you are not sensible of growth in grace. But all this is mere hypocrisy,if you be not “turning”, tearing yourself asunder from besetting sins, as from a right arm or a right eye. The evilspeaking, watch it, catch it on your lips, crush it as it swells and germinates in the seed-bed of your thoughts within. The equivocations, the half-untruths, down with them. Out with the very truth, although it should break off the nearly completed bargain although it should freeze the friendship that seems necessary to your success. Anger, malice, envy, seize these vipers, that twist and hiss in your bosom; strangle them outright there. Your religion is nothing better than a cheat, if you are not busy with the work of ceasing to do evil. “Herein do I exercise myself,” said Paul, “that I may have a conscience void of offence.” How can the feeblest learners of the truth attain, by an idle wish, that actual progressive purification which its greatest human teacher only strove after by incessant exercise.”
– William Arnot Laws from Heaven for Life on Earth
The gospel is not all about you. This is one place the gospel has been unwittingly compromised. The gospel is often presented as if it was all about the person. This is especially terrible when the gospel is presented as a means to life improvement. Jesus did not die on the cross to make your life better. Jesus did not redeem anyone so they can achieve their dreams. Jesus died on the cross to redeem a people to His everlasting praise. The eternal song of the saints is continual praise to the greatness and glory of God the Father and God the Son. The gospel is good news because the sinner is the great beneficiary of God’s plan of redemption, but God does not redeem from sin so men can go to heaven and have wonderful eternity. God redeems a people to exalt His praise forever. An eternity of perfect praise to God is so wonderful our minds cannot fathom it. A sin broken mind cannot discern the true wonders of eternal praise to God. Jesus died for His glory and the saved receive its rich benefits. The gospel is not all about you or all about the person you are witnessing to.
The gospel is all about God. It is declaration of what Jesus has done. As you think on the gospel remember the God who has orchestrated this entire plan of salvation. As you tell others the gospel point them to God. The problem of man is not a life that is frustrated, the problem is sin against a holy God. The answer is not that men are so special to God, but that God is so gracious and merciful. Salvation is not a means to being all you can be, salvation is God forgiving all that you are. Let the gospel shape your thinking to the glory of God.
Many Christians have watched the evening news and sighed, “Even so come quickly Lord Jesus.” Many Christians have received bad news and thought, “Even so come quickly Lord Jesus.” The apostle John concludes the book of Revelation with the words, “Even so, come Lord Jesus.” These words are John’s amen to the book of Revelation. Come Lord Jesus is the believing heart’s cry of agreement and longing. This longing for Jesus’ return must exceed the desire to escape the troubles of this life. The Christian must long to flee this life because he loves His Savior and His God more than life.
Jonathan Edwards said, “The enjoyment of (God) is our proper happiness, and is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasont accomodations here: better than fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or children, or the company of any or all earthly friends. These are but shadows; but God is the substance.”
Paul said, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.” (2 Corinthians 5:8) “For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with ahnds, eternal in the heavens. For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed upon with our house which is from heaven.” (2 Corinthians 5:1)
The return of Jesus will deliver Christians from the depravity of this world, the misery of sin, the corrupted physical body and the tragedies of life. These good things ought not be the believer’s prime motivation in longing for Jesus to come. A mind that thinks like the New Testament longs for the return of Christ because it loves Jesus far more than life itself. The disciple of Jesus should have long ago broken his attachment to the things of this life. The Christian’s affections should already be on things above. If your life is in Christ; if Jesus is your supreme, all-encompassing love; if you desire the glory of God above all else; if you long for the vindication of God’s righteousness then you will desire the return of Jesus for His sake. Going to heaven is very cool. Seeing Jesus is infinitely superior.
The supremacy of the glory of Jesus over any benefit the Christian gains at death is evidenced by the eternal praise found in Revelation. “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honor and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” (Revelation 4:11) “Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain and ahst redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation.” (Revelation 5:9) “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing.” (Revelation 5:12) “Blessing and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever.”(Revelation 5:13) “Salvation to our God which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.” (Revelation 6:10) “Blessing, and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honor, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever.”(Revelation 6:12) “Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name? for thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship beforethee; for thy judgments are made manifest.” (Revelation 15:3-4) “Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, unot the Lord our God: for true and righteous are his judgments.” (Revelation 19:1-2)
No where does the Bible describe the saints in heaven as praise God because their knees don’t hurt anymore or because they have had a wonderful reunion with their lvoed ones. The saints praise God because God is the only thing in heaven worth praising. Everything else is secondary. Look for the return of Jesus because He alone is worth looking for.
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
“O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?”
The letter to the Galatians was one of the first letters written by the apostle Paul and one of the earliest books of the New Testament. It is the first book of the New Testament to lay out the major doctrines of the gospel. The other early works, James and both letter to tis he Thessalonians, assume the gospel and refer to the gospel but do not give lengthy explanations of the gospel. Galatians is the first full orbed New Testament explanation of the gospel. Outside the book of Romans, Galatians is probably the most important defense of the doctrines of justification by grace through faith alone. What makes this letter so powerful is it is an apologetic against a very definite attack against the gospel. The letter to the Galatians has been called the Magna Carta of Christian liberty. Galatians is one of the most important books of the Bible for the understanding of the gospel throughout the world.
Galatians shows the supreme importance of the gospel message. It matters what we preach. It matters what others preach. This letter unveilings a powerful for the eternal necessity of an accurate gospel message. One reason the Judaizers changed the gospel was to avoid persecution by the Jews. (Galatians 6:12) The manner in which believers today are tempted to compromise the gospel is not the same as it was in Paul’s day, but the motivation is often the same. The temptation is to change the gospel message to avoid suffering the disfavor of men. The compromise of the gospel may have temporary benefits for the Christian but it will always result in eternal loss. Resist the temptation to spin the gospel towards a more appealing direction. Refuse the desire to soft pedal the hard parts of the gospel. A compromised gospel will never save a soul from hell. Only the gospel of Jesus will deliver the soul from its bondage to sin and death.
As a pretribulational premillennialist I find myself sharing a theological house with some very odd characters. End times teaching on the popular level is dominated by pretribulationalist who share with me the same basic view of the order of future events. I believe Jesus will rapture His church before a seven year period of intense judgment on the world. I believe Jesus will return to the earth at the end of the seven year tribulation and will then establish his kingdom on earth. Jesus will rule over a worldwide empire of peace and prosperity from the city of Jerusalem. After Jesus reigns for 1,000 years Satan will lead one final rebellion, fail spectacularly, be sentenced to the Lake of Fire along with every lost person who has ever lived. God will then destroy this current universe and build a new one, eternal and untainted by sin. Sometimes those men who share this same basic view of the end say some things I wish they wouldn’t. High on my list of things I wish pretribulational premillennialists would stop saying is that God commands us to know the times and seasons.
This particular statement is troublesome because it is used as justification for rampant speculation about how current events are setting the stage for prophecy to be fulfilled. While it is conceivable that the things we read about in our newspapers today are the precursors to the rise of the antichrist, it is equally conceivable that current events have nothing to do with the antichrist. A crucial tenet of the pre-tribulational view is that of imminence. Jesus could return at any moment, it is imminent. This doctrine is amply attested to in the New Testament in verses like, “For the coming of the Lord draweth nigh.” (James 5:9) If Jesus return is imminent then no amount of political speculation is going to clue the Christian into the proximity of Jesus’ return. Imminent can not become more imminent.
Those who teach that Christians should study the signs of the times often point to Matthew 24:32 and Matthew 16:1-3. In Matthew 16 Jesus rebukes the Pharisees because they refused to believe Jesus is the Messiah. The Pharisees could tell by looking at the sky what the weather was going to be like, but they refused to recognize the power of God on display in Jesus’ life. Jesus was not telling them they should have studied the signs of the times better. He rebukes them for demanding a sign. Jesus was telling them to stop ignoring the obvious. In Matthew 24 Jesus tells his disciples that when the fig tree starts putting out leaves then summer is near. Likewise, when they see certain events take place they will know Jesus’ return is near. When they see the abomination of desolation in the temple, intense persecution of the Jews, horrible worldwide catastrophes greater than anything the world has ever seen and the sun darkened then they will know His return is near. Since all the things Jesus describes will be obvious no studying the times is necessary. Since these things will occur during the tribulation pretribulationists are wasting their time looking for signs of things that are going to happen after they have departed the earth. There are exactly zero signs that the rapture is getting nearer. Why look for them?
The Christian is not commanded to know when the end is at hand, he is told the end is at hand. Peter declares, “But the end of all things is at hand.” (1 Peter 4:7) Paul says, “The night is far spent, the day is at hand.” (Romans 13:12) Basic Christian teaching insists that Christ will return soon. The Christian needs not wonder if Jesus’ return is near. We have been told it is. What exactly are you looking for? You should be looking for that blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior. Don’t look to the newspapers, pundits and commentators. Look to your own life that you will be living “soberly, righteously and godly in this present world” (Titus 2:12) ready for the return of the Lord.
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassioned stress
A thoroughfare of freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
God mend thine every flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!
O beautiful for heroes proved
In liberating strife.
Who more than self their country loved
And mercy more than life!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness
And every gain divine!
Every praying Christian has experienced the disappointment of not having a request granted. As the Christian’s prayers multiply so to does the number of requests refused. The believer often concludes that God did not answer because He has something better in store or because “it was not the Lord’s will.” These answers are Biblical, but such truisms some times deflect from a deeper consideration of prayer and God’s promises.
Far too often Christians conclude something is not the Lord’s will as if in other circumstances God would have granted the request. The assumption when praying is that God wants to give all the Christian seeks but that He reluctantly has to deny a petition to teach a greater spiritual lesson. God does teach through unanswered prayer, but the unconsidered response that God did not answer because He had something better can sometimes cause the Christian to look past wrong assumptions about prayer. Some pray as if healing is to be expected, but Divine mysteriousness intervenes to turn it away. When one prays for safety and has an unexpected breakdown the comfort given is that the delay preserved the Christian from some worse fate. All these clicheic answer miss an important fact. No reason is needed to explain why God did not grant a request He never promised to give.
The New Testament is rich in promises of answered prayer. Jesus famously said, “If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:14) Praying in Jesus’ name is not attaching “in Jesus name” onto the end of the prayer. Praying in Jesus’ name is praying accordance with the character and purpose of Jesus. In Jesus name is not a Divine guarantee to heal the ailing house cat, provide Aunt Bertha with an easy trip from Montreal to Nome and give cousin Ralph a steady job. God never promised to do any of those things. The presumption is that because the Christian prayed the right words with the proper sincerity then God is almost obligated to give what was asked. Never mind that such requests are often just the regurgitation of another’s selfishness. Never mind that the Bible assures the Christian of difficulty, opposition, persecution and possible poverty, oppression or capital punishment. Never mind that such petitions rarely give thought to the glory of God, the spiritual benefit of the person or the spread of the gospel.
God graciously answers prayers. God often gives many things which He did not promise, but He only promises to answer according to certain criteria. That criteria does not include personal health, comfort, safety or wealth. Read and study again the promises of God to answer prayer. God’s promises are gracious and rich beyond consenting to every fleeting whim of we who “know not what we should pray for as we ought.” (Romans 8:26) God promises to answer prayer when the request rightly reflects the character of God, when the answer is according to His will and when the prayer is selflessly made. Many are disppointed to find God did not answer prayers that should never have been prayed. Many requests are legitimate to make but God has placed himself under no obligation to answer. God never promised to heal grandma, to give the job desired or to provide the dream home. In His grace God often gives these good gifts, (1 Timothy 6:17) but it is folly to become frustrated or disillusioned with God because He doesn’t give what He never promised. Expect God to keep His promises. Never stop praying for the good of others, the healing of others and the intervention of God in all matters of life. Pray remembering that God has clearly spelled out His promises in His Word. What God has promised He will do. Make the promises of God the confidence of your prayers. Rejoice in God’s rich grace which responds to the requests of His children and goes beyond His promises to give abundantly of earthly benefits.
The story of David shows the sinfulness of man and the forgiveness of God. To leave out one or the other would be strip the Biblical record of David of it’s soteriological (the doctrine of salvation) force. David is not an example of a good man who pleased God by his exceptional obedience. David was a fallen man, sinful like all others. Yet David was described as a man who would fulfill all the will of God (Acts 13:22) and who “did that which was right in the eyes of the Lord, and turned not aside from anything that He commanded him all the days of his life, save only in the matter of Uriah the Hittite.” (1 Kings 15:5) What made David such a remarkable Biblical character? What earned David such high praise from God? The grace of God. David himself recognized his guilt and Gods’ grace. He declared both in his final words of praise recorded in 2 Samuel 23:1-7
David the son of Jesse said, and the man who was raised up on high, the anointed of the God of Jacob, and the sweet psalmist of Israel, said, The Spirit of the LORD spake by me, and his word was in my tongue.
The God of Israel said, the Rock of Israel spake to me, He that ruleth over men must be just, ruling in the fear of God. And he shall be as the light of the morning, when the sun riseth, even a morning without clouds; as the tender grass springing out of the earth by clear shining after rain.
The king of Israel was held to a high standard. He was to be just. His rule was to be that which blessed, refreshed and delighted the people. Like a bright sunrise or the fresh grass springing up after rain the king was to be a great joy to the people he ruled. David failed to do this. His sin brought suffering on his family, his faithful servants and the entire nation. David failed, but God was gracious.
Although my house be not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things, and sure: for this is all my salvation, and all my desire, although he make it not to grow.
Though David failed, yet God in His grace made an everlasting covenant with David. David declared his guilt. David repented of his sin. David threw Himself on the mercy of God and learned that God’s mercies are unfailing. God made a remarkable covenant with David. God promised David his descendant would reign forever in Jerusalem. Implicit in this promise, and clearly understood by David (Acts 2:30), was that the eternal king would also be God and Savior. David’s trust in the everlasting covenant of God was his salvation. Like Abraham before him, David was a righteous man because he believed God.
But the sons of Belial shall be all of them as thorns thrust away, because they cannot be taken with hands: But the man that shall touch them must be fenced with iron and the staff of a spear; and they shall be utterly burned with fire in the same place.
Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit David looked down the millennia to the time when the Messiah would destroy the wicked. David’s hope, delight and desire was the covenant of God. That covenant will find its full fulfillment when the Son of David returns to earth to judge wicked men and establish His eternal, righteous kingdom. David’s life shows the marvelous grace of God that brings eternal salvation to any sinner who will cast himself on the Divine mercy.
The preaching of the Old Testament seems to be dominated by two methodologies. The Historical-Redemptive method of interpretation sees every passage in the Old Testament as ultimately being about Jesus. The Moralistic method views the Old Testament stories as lessons to teach the Christian learns how to behave. Both incorporate that which is commendable but their narrow focus misses other significant benefits of the Old Testament.
One benefit of the Old Testament is its vivid depiction of the doctrines of God. Through the histories, commands, psalms and proverbs the reader is given a picture of the character and activity of God, particularly of God the Father. The theology of the Old Testament is taught through proposition and experience. The reader of the Old Testament sees the character of God as He works in the world and with His people. The proposition that the Lord is holy becomes plain when God destroys Nadab and Abihu for offering strange fire. The proposition that God is merciful becomes real when He repeatedly delivers rebellious Israel from her captors. The Old Testament is a practical theology that teaches through illustration. In the Old Testament the doctrine of God is developed through the experiences of the saints.
The experiential theology of the Old Testament helps to shape a worldview. The reader of the Old Testament is given a sense of how things should be and of how to think about world events. Reading the records of how God has worked in the past, how God responded to the nations of the world and how God has dealt with His people molds a person’s thinking about how to live in this world. Though not every account can be boiled down to a simple moral the weight of the narratives gives the reader understanding of what is right and wrong. The New Testament teaches through principle. The epistles are filled with doctrines and the application of those doctrines to the Christian’s way of life. The historical narratives of the Old Testament show doctrines and commands worked out in the affairs of this world.
Some warnings need to be remembered when reading the Old Testament. Israel is not the church and Israel is not America. One cannot immediately apply the Old Testament commands to the New Testament Christian. Old Testament commands must be read through the lens of the New Testament and Jesus’ completion of the Mosaic law (Ephesians 2:15). The Old Testament reader cannot claim the promises given to the Jews as if they are promises to the church. One cannot view the judgments and blessings of the nation Israel as if God is going to do the same to America. Read the Old Testament looking for the major principles of how God dealt with His people, the standard of obedience which is acceptable to Him, the sovereign providence of God in the world, God’s judgment of all the wicked nations of the world and the Divine promises to bring redemption to Jew and Gentile through the Messiah. The Old Testament is a vast horde of treasure that molds the believers understanding of God and this world.