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Join us in praying for the work of the Institute and for Dr. Mark Christian and his family.

Calling all Prayer Warriors

The Global Faith Institutes has come under fierce attack and we would ask you to join us in praying for the work of the Institute and for Dr. Mark Christian and his family.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:11, “Blessed are you when men cast insults at you, and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely, on account of Me.”

The greatest encouragement in that verse is the affirmation that we at Global Faith Institute are, indeed, doing God’s work, and for that reason, we are being persecuted. We stand strong and united in our resolve to continue being a witness to the Muslim of the life-changing redemption offered by Jesus Christ.

Over the recent weekend, our Facebook page came under a virulent attack in an organized effort from several individuals intent upon smearing our name and mission. Leaving one-star reviews and using rhetoric like “hateful bigots” and “intolerant liars” and “violent anti-Muslim group” caused many of our supporters to rally and reach out to the “reviewers.” By reaching out with Scripture and love, many of those posting hateful comments reacted in anger and revealed that they were Satanists, atheists, agnostics, and one young lady said she was putting a spell on a GFI supporter. Their admissions were revelatory and affirmed our belief that the assault had less to do with their supposed support of Islam and more to do with their hatred of Christianity.

Ephesians 6: 11-17 is our creed as we continue to bring light to a very dark world. “Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm, therefore, having girded your loins with Truth, and having put on the breastplate of Righteousness, and having shod your feet with the Preparation of the Gospel of Peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of Faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming missiles of the evil one. And take up the helmet of Salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”

God’s word tells us that where two or more are gathered in agreement in prayer, He will be among us. We humbly request that our supporters encircle this ministry with your prayers so that our work may continue unhindered.

DO THE RESEARCH!

Todd Starnes, writing for www.foxnews.com/opinion, says that a newspaper in Knoxville, TN did not publish an advertisement that contained the word “Christianity” because it was offensive. It is not clear why it was considered offensive nor was it explained clearly to the Cedar Springs Christian Store owner who wanted to run the ad or the reading public.

When it was revealed that this had taken place, people were up-in-arms about the slight that Christianity received. But why should this surprise us?  Jesus very clearly said in the gospel of John 15:18, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated Me before it hated you.” He told us well ahead of time that the world would hate His followers.

But why do they hate us? The answer can be found by simply turning to the Bible. In John 7:7 Jesus said, “The world cannot hate you, but it hates Me because I testify about it that its works are evil.” If we are His followers, we will be looked at as He was viewed by the world.

As we do the research about this troubling topic, we must read the immediate context of what Jesus is referring to in John 15:18-25. This also clears up what Jesus said in John 7:7. “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you.  Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.  If they kept my word, they will also keep yours.  But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know Him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin.  Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’”

Much could be written on this passage but what should stand out for Christians is that you will be looked down upon and hated because of Who you believe in. The Perfect Man came into the world and the imperfect world hated Him. A further conclusion is that those who follow Him will also be hated.

If you have followed the news, you will see that there are many Christians being displaced and killed simply because of their faith. In this part of the world it seems they are looked down upon or hated because of perceived “intolerance.” We are seen as bigoted and hateful instead of loving and accepting.

Jesus also said in the passage that they hated Him without a cause; there was no reason they should hate Him. Only truth was spoken by Jesus, but the truth hurts and that is why they hated Him.

In the John 7:7 verse Jesus points out the sin in the world and in mankind. People don’t like to have their sins pointed out and Jesus was crucified for speaking the truth.  John 15 points out that if they hated Jesus, it means that His Father is hated by the world too.

Jesus had a lot to say about how His followers were going to be received by a sinful world. It should be no surprise then that Christians take the brunt of the hatred of the world and are marginalized in our society. Then again, we are not being pursued and persecuted unto death because of our belief in Jesus. Many Christians throughout the world are being much more severely tested than we here in the United States.

We must do the research of the Scriptures to see what it says about Christians being persecuted and why they were persecuted. And we must research the Scriptures to see how we are to live and speak into the world in which our gracious Father has placed us.

If we do the research, our point of view and how we approach every situation will change. We must, as followers of Jesus, as Christians, take on the character of our Savior in all spheres of life. Yes, we must talk about sin and that it is against God, but do it with the attitude that Jesus had.

He came to this world out of love to reconcile mankind with His Father. And He did it at the cost of His own blood and body so that mankind might know that the Creator loves them and desires a deep, abiding relationship.

Everyone has sinned and fallen short of God’s glorious ideal. Yet, He did not and does not allow us to wallow in our sin but rather has supplied a remedy for the disease of sin. That remedy is belief in Jesus Christ for eternal salvation and a relationship with the Creator of the universe.

Research the Bible and see what God reveals to you. If you do not know Jesus as your Savior, you will struggle mightily with understanding the greatest Book of all time.  Come to Him humbly and receive Him as your Savior and then ask Him to teach you about Himself through His perfect word.

THE GOOD SHEPHERD

If you know anything about herding sheep, you’ll know it isn’t as easy as it looks!  The shepherd must work hard at keeping the sheep together and when it is time to lie down they must make sure that the conditions are just right regarding proper food and water.  Apparently sheep also have a tendency to wander away and get lost, leading to a vulnerability for predator’s such as coyotes or wolves.

Now this author is not a sheepherder but he knows the Shepherd.  After watching a lesson from a sheepherder via “youtube” an experienced herder simply leads the sheep and beckons them gently to follow him.  They follow him because they know his voice and if anyone else would call out to them they would not follow.

In first century Israel, there were shallow caves called sheepfolds where the shepherds would house the sheep at night.  The sheep were protected on all sides except for the entrance.  Most entrances did not actually have doors or gates but the sheepherder would lie down at the gate and sleep.

Within that sheepfold, the sheep feel the safety and security of having the shepherd at the door.

In the gospel of John, Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd in 10:14. The first 21 verses are comforting music to one’s ears and soul.  Jesus begins the story about Himself by saying if anyone comes into the holding area of sheep other than the door, they are thieves and robbers.  The one who enters by the gate or door is the shepherd.

The entire chapter 10 of the gospel of John is deep and meaningful but in the first 21 verses we see two major points.  The first is that Jesus is the Good Shepherd and He knows whose are His and the sheep know who He is.

Jesus says something in verse 16 that has been misunderstood for years but needn’t be.  He said; “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold.  I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.  So there will be one flock, one shepherd” (ESV).

Jesus is simply saying that not only will Jews believe in Him for salvation and be welcomed into eternal life but so will Gentiles.  He is not referring to Mormons or saying there is more than one way to heaven but that the Old Testament would be fulfilled hearing about Jesus and believing in Him for eternal salvation.

Jesus did not come only for the Jewish nation but the whole of creation.  Isaiah the prophet mentions that the Savior of the Jews would be a “light to the nations.”  This goes beyond the idea that Jesus is only a Jewish Savior, but actually the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham in the book of Genesis.  The idea of the Gentiles being included along with Israel, came long before Israel was settled.

And with Jesus being the door or gate to the sheepfold, He is saying that He is the only way into the “green pastures.” There is no other way to the Father except through Jesus and this is clear here and later in John 14:6 where Jesus tells His listeners that He is “the Way and the Truth and the Life and no one comes to the Father except through me.”

Peter tells the Jewish leaders as he stood before them: “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul the apostle writes that the wall that existing between Jews and Gentiles is now broken down.  There is one way for all to be saved and that is through what Jesus accomplished upon the cross.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd and He beckons all to come to Him, however, only those who hear and respond to His voice will be saved.   How does one know the voice of Jesus?  If you are thinking about Jesus right now as you read this, it is a very good indication that He is calling to you.

Four major religions claim to be the one true religion: Judaism, Islam, Hinduism and Christianity.  And of those, only one has God coming to man and not man going or trying to get to God.  Only Christianity offers grace and simply what that means is there is a great chasm between men and God that man cannot bridge.  God bridged it Himself by sending His Only Son so that whoever would believe in Him would have eternal life.

If you are working your way to God, do you know how many good works you have to do to be accepted?  If you want your good deeds to exceed your bad deeds to enter heaven or paradise; how do you know if the good has exceeded the bad?  What is the scale that is used to determine the good works or deeds verses the bad?

Honesty would confess that you do not know if you have done enough to gain God’s approval.  God knows this and this is why He came to earth so that “all” men would have opportunity to enter heaven or paradise.

The Good Shepherd is calling out to you, do you hear His voice?  If you do, will you follow?  God has made it simple – he who believes in Jesus has life.  Those who come to Him will never be cast out but drawn into His everlasting arms.

FUNDAMENTALS

The title of this piece is inescapable.  Whether in athletics (or writing articles!) there are fundamentals that must be followed to keep things from descending into a chaotic mess.  People inevitably try to forgo the fundamentals, and sometimes succeed, but normally these successes are short lived, requiring a return to the fundamentals to avoid turning triumph into failure.

Christianity also has fundamentals; principles to which we must adhere in order to make sense of, and stay true to, the Word of God.  It really doesn’t matter how a person “feels” about the truths of Scripture; what is important is that a person follows the fundamentals contained therein.

There are four such fundamental truths found in 1 Corinthians 15.  Truths that cannot be changed or ignored if one is to remain true to one’s self and to God.

Read the following inspired words of Scripture from 1 Corinthians 15:1-6.  “Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you – unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep” (ESV).

The four fundamental truths are “Christ died for our sins…, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day…, and that he appeared…”  These are what followers of Jesus must believe to be given the name or title of Christian.  If one of these four fundamentals are compromised, then the doubter’s claim to be Christian comes into serious question.

Let’s begin with the first of these fundamentals.  “Christ died for our sins.”  According to Paul, Jesus dying on the cross was based on the Old Testament teaching.  The most prominent passage he is referring to is Isaiah 53.  This chapter pinpoints a person who would die for the sins of the Jewish nation and for the entire population if they would believe the truth.

Isaiah 53:4-6 illuminates this truth clearly.  “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned – every one – to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

This one person, Jesus Christ, came to fulfill this age old promise, not only to Israel, but also to the Gentile.  Paul brings this to the memory of his audience when he states that Christ died for our sins.  Our sin made a separation between us and God and there was no human way for us to bridge that separation.  “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

The second and third fundamentals go together, “he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures…”  Here Paul again states that these truths also were stated many years before, in the books of the prophets or Old Testament.

We could go all the way to the first book of the Old Testament, Genesis to begin to find this but these next two verses serve us very well.  Psalm 16:10; “For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.”  And Isaiah 53:10 when the prophet writes; “He shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his day.”

Throughout the history of Israel and the Scriptures, there has always been the expectation of a Savior, an Anointed One who would save His people from their enemies and their sins.  Also in the history of Israel, the animal sacrifices performed as part of the Law were a pre-figuring of this truth; the truth that Jesus ultimately fulfilled.

Jesus Resurrection - FundamentalsThe final fundamental is “that he appeared.”  This references the resurrection of Jesus Christ after being placed dead in a tomb.  This is where the faith of Christians is far different from any other religion in the world or history.  God became man, to suffer and be tempted as a man, then proved Himself God, by rising from the dead, as no mere man could.

At the end of each Gospel (and the beginning of Acts) we see a resurrected Jesus speaking to His disciples and the people.  If Jesus had only appeared to Cephas or Peter and the twelve, we would be right in being suspect if he ever did rise from the dead.  But Jesus appeared to over 500 at one time!  And in 1 Corinthians 15:8 Paul humbly, yet joyfully writes: “Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.”

Science will likely never prove that Jesus lived, or died, or rose again.  But our God is not science.  Science is always changing and God changes not.  History can teach us great truths such as the life, death and resurrection of Christ.  And if God is God (and He is) then why does it seem so unlikely that He could send His Son into a world that He created, to appear to His creation as a man, in order to redeem man from the mess he had made for himself?

God did all this and so much more.  He proved Himself over and over again with the next to last great thing; Jesus rising from the dead.  The last great action will be soon to come; the second coming of Jesus Christ for His church, to take His bride presenting her before His Father before entering into paradise for eternity.

This is great news and it is called the gospel.  The fundamental truths which one must believe to enter heaven are clear and simple.  Take a look at these truths again and then look closer at Jesus.  God has not lied to us, but rather came to us in the person of Jesus Christ so that we might be reconciled to Him.  Don’t put off what can be done today, believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved.

THE LAW CAN’T HELP YOU!

What good is the law if it cannot help a person? The law referenced here, are the 10 Commandments and in keeping them, one might enter heaven. It might help if we insert a text of Scripture here to clarify any possible confusion.

Paul the apostle wrote in Galatians 2:16, “…a person is not justified by work of the law…” He writes about the same thing to the church at Rome “For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20, ESV).

The law is unable to help us, the Ten Commandments are there to let us know when we sin. Sin is defined as missing the mark, as an archer would have their arrow fall short of their target. It can also be defined as rebellion toward God, which began in Genesis chapter three when Adam and Eve went against God and chose their demise.

Jesus, in talking with the rich young man who asked Him, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16, ESV) The rest of the conversation goes like this: “And He said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.’ He said to Him, ‘Which ones?’ And Jesus said, ‘You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ The young man said to Him, ‘All these I have kept. What do I still lack?’ Jesus said to him, ‘If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.’ When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matthew 19:17-22).

As you read this exchange between the rich young man and the Lord Jesus, it is apparent that the young man is “doing” things to keep the law that each Jewish man would keep. On the outside, by keeping the Jewish Law he was doing what he was taught and how he thought best to get to heaven.

Jesus’ response of selling all his goods and giving it to those in real need, did him in. The young man showed his true colors by showing that what he was counting on for eternal life was “doing” things to please God. It was as if he was attempting to do more good things than bad things to be accepted by God.

The bottom line is that you cannot earn eternal life by what you “do” but it is what you believe. John 3:16 shows us very clearly that “God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that, whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” But Jesus gets more specific in John 6:29 about what the work of God is, “Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God that you believe in Him whom He has sent.” (Emphasis mine)

Jesus says nothing about the law getting you in good with His Father and heaven but it is an issue of the heart. It is all about “belief” or “faith.”

Paul the apostle has one of the strongest statements to this issue of “doing” verses “being” and how one receives eternal life. In Romans 1:16-17 the apostle writes some of the most famous and important of the New Testament; “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith.’” (Emphasis mine)

To enter the kingdom of heaven or eternal life is not a result of works but of faith in what Jesus Christ did on the cross. And how that is done is clearly outlined in Romans 10:9-10: “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 saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.”

So those who “keep” the law or try to be good by good works apart from Christ cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. The law can’t help you in this case but only by trusting Christ or by faith in Him.

It comes down to one way to get to God and that is through faith in His Son, Jesus Christ. The shortest way from point A to point B is a straight line; Jesus is the straight line. Are you tired of trying to keep the law or “doing things” to earn God’s favor?

Let us make it easy, you cannot do enough to earn God’s favor but you can receive His favor through believing in His Son. Take the straight path through Jesus to enter heaven. Don’t delay do it today!

Perfect Timing

When I was young I loved to watch Figure 8 racing on Wide World of Sports every Saturday.  If you have never heard of this type of racing, it is a mixture of NASCAR and Demolition Derby.  The cars race on a track that is, of course, in the figure of the number eight.

If the driver of a car gets the timing right they will never be hit and have a great probability to win the race.  But if he does not time it right he will be T-boned by another driver where the track intersects at the middle of the eight.  However, another driver and many fans may say that perfect timing is when you get to hit someone in another car slowing them down so they are unable to either finish or win the race.

Personally, not getting hit seems the wisest of the two possibilities.  Perfect timing in any area of life allows for reduction of stress and more efficient completion of an activity or chore.

In Scripture, God is always on time, still is today, and will be tomorrow.  In three different time periods God has been and will be perfect in His timing.  That is what we will see from only three passages from the Bible.

The first time period is the birth of Jesus Christ upon the earth.  In Galatians 4:4-5 Paul teaches the church of his day and ours that God’s timing is the beauty of perfection.  “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

What Paul the apostle and author of this letter is telling his readers and us is that at just the right time is history God shows up in the person of Jesus Christ.  And He came to deliver mankind out of sin and misery.  He did not come too early or too late but at just the right time!

God knew from before the earth was ever created that Jesus would come humbly on the world scene in the stable and be born to a couple of teenagers who were of no worldly account.  He did this exactly as He had planned in eternity past and as He proved all of this true throughout the Old Testament.  And at just the right time Jesus comes to fulfill all of the promises that God made to Israel from Genesis to Malachi.

The second time period where God shows His perfect timing is the crucifixion of His beloved Son upon a cruel cross.  Sin has devastating effects and nothing shows it more grotesquely than that of a Roman crucifixion.

Acts 2:22-24 Peter the apostle describes the perfection of timing according to God’s standards and time-table.  “Men of Israel, heart these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know – this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.  God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”

Jesus’ death was pre-planned by God to take place a just the right time in history for the good of the world.  The Father sent the Son into the world because of His love for the people of the world because He knew that they could not and would not pay the penalty for their own sins.  Sin is incurable apart from Jesus and the perfect remedy for the fatal disease of sin is the person of Jesus being born at the perfect time in history and then dying at the perfect time in history.

Finally, the future time is planned perfect in God’s ultimate wisdom and foresight.  “The Lord is not slow to fulfill His promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.  But the Day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Peter 3:9-10).

The reason, according to these verses, that Jesus has not come back yet is that the time is not quite right.  When the perfect time arises God the Father will send the Son to the earth a second time to claim the church.  Not everyone that is to become a follower of Jesus or Christian has become one yet.  God is so very patient with humankind.  He still desires for people to come and believe in His Son and His death, burial, resurrection, ascension and eventual return.

Now it’s in your ball court and the timing is perfect.  It is the perfect time for you to believe in Jesus and receive Him as your Savior and King.  Do it today for there is no time like the present and its perfect timing.

 

Merry Christmas from the Founding Fathers!

Many modern commentators routinely declare that the Founders of our nation were not particularly religious, going so far as to describe them as “deists,” if they had any spiritual inclinations at all.

Like most of the Left’s shibboleths, this one is based on entirely cherry-picked phrases and in some cases, invented statements.  In the spirit of this glorious season, I thought it appropriate to let you hear from the Founding Fathers themselves, just what they thought about God, Christ and Christianity.

Merry Christmas!

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John Adams –

“The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity. I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God. … The Christian religion is, above all the religions that ever prevailed or existed in ancient or modern times, the religion of wisdom, virtue, equity and humanity.”

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Samuel Adams –   

“I [rely] upon the merits of Jesus Christ for a pardon of all my sins. … I conceive we cannot better express ourselves than by humbly supplicating the Supreme Ruler of the world … bringing in the holy and happy period when the kingdoms of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ may be everywhere established, and the people willingly bow to the scepter of Him who is the Prince of Peace. … We may with one heart and voice humbly implore His gracious and free pardon through Jesus Christ, supplicating His Divine aid … [and] above all to cause the religion of Jesus Christ, in its true spirit, to spread far and wide till the whole earth shall be filled with His glory.”

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John Hancock –  

“That the spiritual kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ may be continually increasing until the whole earth shall be filled with His glory.”

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Patrick Henry –  

“Being a Christian … is a character which I prize far above all this world has or can boast. … The Bible is a book worth more than all the other books that were ever printed. … This is all the inheritance I can give to my dear family. The religion of Christ can give them one, which will make them rich indeed.”

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John Jay –  

“Condescend, merciful Father! to grant as far as proper these imperfect petitions, to accept these inadequate thanksgivings, and to pardon whatever of sin hath mingled in them for the sake of Jesus Christ, our blessed Lord and Savior; unto Whom, with Thee, and the blessed Spirit, ever one God, be rendered all honor and glory, now and forever. … The Bible is the best of all books, for it is the word of God and teaches us the way to be happy in this world and in the next. Continue therefore to read it and to regulate your life by its precepts. … Providence has given to our people the choice of their rulers, and it is the duty as well as the privilege and interest of our Christian nation, to select and prefer Christians for their rulers.”

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Thomas Jefferson –  

“I am a Christian in the only sense in which He wished anyone to be: sincerely attached to His doctrines in preference to all others. … I am a real Christian — that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus Christ.”

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James Madison –  

“I have sometimes thought there could not be a stronger testimony in favor of religion or against temporal enjoyments, even the most rational and manly, than for men who occupy the most honorable and gainful departments and [who] are rising in reputation and wealth, publicly to declare their unsatisfactoriness by becoming fervent advocates in the cause of Christ.”

And these closing words from perhaps our most accomplished and brilliant Founding Father…

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Benjamin Franklin –  

“How many observe Christ’s birth-day! How few, his precepts! O! ’tis easier to keep Holidays than Commandments.”

May God bless you and keep you!

A CALL TO REPENTANCE!

This week’s essay is not a call from this Pastor to repentance but rather an examination of three very famous people from history who called on their people to turn to God.  The first is from a man dressed in camel’s hair and a leather belt who ate food quite foreign to this Midwesterner’s palate; locusts and wild honey.  Were the locusts eaten raw, roasted, fried or sautéed?  Whatever or however, this Pastor doesn’t plan to entertain that delicacy any time soon.

We first encounter John the Baptist in Matthew 3:1-2; “In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (ESV).  His audience intuitively understood his call and responded with curiosity, and most likely obedience, to his prophetic call.

During John the Baptist’s calling for repentance his cousin comes on the scene and preaches this message: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17, ESV).  His name was Jesus and it was said of Him by John after being asked by many; “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even He who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie” (John 1:27-28, ESV).

In our day the word “repent” is viewed negatively, and worse yet, many do not even know what the word means.  It is time to excise the cancer of ignorance about repentance and apply the healing balm of understanding.

The basic meaning of “Repent” is to turn or turn around.  In the American College Dictionary of 1968 defines it this way: “1. To feel self-reproach, compunction, or contrition for past conduct; change one’s mind with regard to past action in consequence of dissatisfaction with it or its results.  2. To feel such sorrow for sin or fault as to be disposed to change one’s life  for the better; be penitent.”

In the English Standard Version Study Bible we read this definition on page 1824; “To repent, or ‘change one’s mind’ in the OT called for a change in a person’s attitude toward God that impacted one’s actions and life choices; it involved the idea of ‘turning,’ that is, from one way of thinking and living to a different way.  Common external signs of repentance included prayers of remorse and confession and renouncing sin.”

Feeling remorse leads to turning away from our sin and toward God; as the apostle John wrote “I must decrease and He must increase.”  That two of the greatest men who ever lived implored us to do the same thing indicates how important they believe repentance to be in a Christian’s life.

God is holy and entirely without sin, while we on the other hand, are full of sin and distant from God.  We must be reconciled to Him; and the first step is to “repent.”  We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God and thus are in need of a Savior and repentance.

God provided the Savior in Jesus and we are to come to repentance and receive Jesus before we can appear clean before a sinless and perfect God.  Jesus provides that perfection; for though He was tempted in every way we are, yet remained without sin, He can stand between us and God and be our mediator or attorney to make His case on our behalf that we are innocent.  This is nothing we have done but it is through what Jesus accomplished upon the cross.

Jesus became sin on our behalf so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.  Wow, what a deal, Jesus did what we could never do, get us right before God.

However we must first repent or as Romans 10:9 states, “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead you will be saved.”  As the saying goes; there’s no time like the present.

Oh yeah, the third sermon on repentance; after his first sermon in the book of Acts Peter states after the crowd questions him: “Brothers, what shall we do?  And Peter said to them, ‘Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:37-38).

In our day and age the plea remains; “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”  It is right here, right now; recognize the sin you have committed against God and your fellow man and repent and be saved.  If you are already a Christian then repent and return to the fellowship of your Father.

God is crazy about you and desires to have that relationship restored through His Son.  He loves you and is calling to you in love at this very moment.  Respond!  Repent! Be restored!

God’s Righteousness Article Series (Part Three)

The prophet Jeremiah makes it crystal clear; “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and He shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.  In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely.  And this is the name by which He will be called: The LORD is our righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:5-6, ESV).

And these words from the New Testament: “And because you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord’” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31, ESV).

And then again from the passage we have been delving into in parts 1 & 2: “For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written ‘The righteous shall live by faith”’ (Romans 1:17, ESV).

Paul writes this just prior to our main verse about the dynamic gospel of Christ; “For I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16, ESV).

Donald Grey Barnhouse gives a great summary of the gospel in the first volume of his multi-volume set on Romans – “The gospel is the story of man’s complete ruin in sin and God’s perfect remedy in Christ” (Volume 1, p. 189).

Apart from Christ, or before you became a follower of Jesus you were not righteous and your acts of righteousness were considered as polluted or filthy garments.  In other words there was nothing you could do to gain acceptance before a Holy and perfect God no matter how hard you tried or how many so-called good works you performed.

In last week’s newsletter, God’s righteousness was defined as His righteousness alone; there is none of ours to be found.  God’s bottom line is that His righteousness is found in none other than Jesus Christ Himself coming to earth to reconcile us to His Father.

The gospel shows God’s righteousness very clearly, as Barnhouse wrote: “When the Savior was manifested, the righteousness of God was manifested with Him.  When the historical facts of His death, burial, and resurrection were set forth, the good news concerning the theological meaning of those historical facts revealed the righteousness in hating sin.  It was shown that God was righteous in loving sinners.  It was shown that God could pardon a sinner without condoning his sin.  It was shown that He could draw a sinful, human being to His own bosom without abandoning His holiness.  It is the gospel that reveals the righteousness of God.” (Volume 1, pp. 183-184).

This righteousness of God is possessed by God alone, but He grants us access to it through His eternal covenant with Abraham or Israel, and perfects that path with the coming of Jesus.  God promised Abraham that his “seed” singular, which points to Jesus throughout the Old Testament and New Testament, would bless all the nations of the earth.  This must have been mind-blowing to Abraham.  Years later God would promise David, the King of Israel, that he would have someone of his lineage sitting on his throne forever, and based upon the history of Scripture it all points to Jesus.

The gospel reveals that all this comes to fruition through the birth and life of Jesus Christ, completing all the work the Father had sent Him to accomplish.  The gospel is the good news of Jesus bringing the love of God for the salvation of all who would believe in Him.  And the righteousness of God is manifested also in Jesus Christs’ appearance on earth as a man, as shared by the earlier quote by Barnhouse.

Now we get a little deeper into the theology.  Historical Protestant teaching is that God’s righteousness in “imputed” to us.  “Impute” (in the study of Scripture) means “To attribute (righteousness, guilt, etc.) vicariously; ascribe as derived from another” (American College Dictionary, 1968, p. 610, 4).

In other words we had no righteousness of our own, so God had to give us His righteousness so that we could be found blameless in His sight.  I think this becomes a little clearer when we look at verse 18 and what it says about the natural man; that he is ungodly and unrighteous.

So God’s promise to Abraham and His covenant people Israel is fulfilled in the person of Christ.  Not only is Israel promised this, but people from all nations that God had chosen in eternity past.  We cannot fully examine all that in this limited space, but it is deep and extremely rich theology that God willingly reveals to us throughout Scripture.  All we need do is spend time in study and prayer on the Word to expand our understanding; to see as God wishes us to see – through righteous eyes.

Have you received God’s righteousness through believing in Jesus as your Savior?  Receive Him today, for today is the day of salvation.

God’s Righteousness (Continued)

Two weeks ago we looked at God’s righteousness through the lens of Romans 1:16-17.  “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, ‘The righteous shall live by faith’” (ESV).

These verses are rich with history, and have literally changed the world.  The gospel of Jesus Christ altered the world initially, then again, in the 12th – 15th Centuries – most significantly in 1517 (the beginning of the Reformation) when the written Word of God was applied to the heart of a man through the Holy Spirit.

This is not a new message at all.  The New Testament is not a contingency plan for God because the Israelites did not listen to Him in the Old Testament.  Two verses stand out as to this truth.  The first is Jeremiah 23:6 where we find these words; “The LORD is our righteousness.”  The second is Habakkuk 2:4 where we find these words; “The righteous shall live by his faith.”

Or we could squeeze in the famous words of the prophet Zechariah; “Not by might, nor by power, but My Spirit says the LORD.”  These verses make clear that salvation is accomplished when God comes to man and not by man working his way to God.

Look back for a moment to the first few words of verse 17.  “For in it,” what is the “it” this verse refers to?  The gospel!  In the gospel is the “righteousness of God” revealed.  It is His righteousness, as it His power and as it is His gospel.  The bottom line is that the whole of the Christian life is bound up in God – as John Piper has written and preached, “God is the gospel.”

Now peer more deeply into the term that so often blows the human mind to bits – God’s righteousness.  Donald Grey Barnhouse reminds us when he writes: “The gospel is the good news from God about the spiritual significance of the historical facts centering in the work of the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  ‘Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures…He was buried…He rose again…according to the Scriptures’ (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).”  (Donald Grey Barnhouse, Romans vol. 1, p. 180).

Man, from religions other than Christianity, attempts to work his way to a god by works of his own righteousness.  However, this is fruitless and eternally short-sighted.  Unfortunately many professed Christians yet think in a similar way; if I can just do enough good, then God will accept me by my righteousness.

This is not what the Bible teaches.  Read these words from Titus 3:5; “he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.”

We are taught from Ephesians 2:8-9; “For by grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”  Answer these questions: how were you saved according to these verses?  What was it a result of?  So can we boast at all that we were saved by other than God through Jesus Christ?

Romans 4:5 teaches, “And to the one who does not work but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness.”  Jesus something very similar in John 6:29; “Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.”

Jesus said this because the people were asking how to work to get to God and His response is that God does the work because a few verses later Jesus tells those listening and us, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.  And I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44).

So the pattern here is that it is solely God’s righteousness that makes us right with Him, not some earned worthiness within ourselves.  Here in these first few words of Romans 1:17 we see that we have no righteousness that would make us right in the least bit before God, it is all Him!

If our righteousness were a part of the equation, then this verse would read very differently.  It would read that in the gospel, our righteousness and God’s righteousness combine together to make us acceptable to God.  But it doesn’t.

Romans 1:17 gives us peace of mind that we don’t have to wonder constantly if we’re doing enough on our part to gain God’s grace, mercy or righteousness.  It is all on Him.  Look at these words from 1 Thessalonians 3:13; “So that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.”

Now on our side is this one over-arching statement we find a little later in Romans 3:23; “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  According to this statement how many humans have sinned?  Remember it is not righteousness on our part but solely on God’s part.  And if we were to rely upon our works for our entrance into heaven how many good works are we supposed to do and how do we know when we’ve done enough?

So this righteousness of God is very good news for you and me and for humankind.  The gospel means that God gives us His righteousness so we can measure up to eternity.