The Shepherd of Hope blog is here to serve you, to help you know Jesus better and to find hope in Him. This blog relies on the Spirit of God using the word of God to build people of God. All material has been prayerfully submitted for your encouragement and spiritual edification. Your questions and comments are welcome.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Practical Power of God

If we accumulate facts or knowledge about God and His word and never apply what is learned, it is useless. If you fill your car with four plus dollar a gallon gasoline, but never turn the ignition to start your vehicle and drive it, what good is it? None. If you plug your power tool into the electrical socket or put the charged battery into it, yet never use it for your home improvements or work, what good is it? If you empty the dirty clothes into the washing machine, arrange all the right settings for the load, yet never push the start button, what good is it? And if all you do is read the word of God and accumulate facts, yet it has no life changing impact in your life, what good is it? At some point what we accumulate in terms of knowledge of God and His word has to be applied to our lives.

We read about the power of God in His word and see the great things for the glory of God people were able to do in His power, but what about us? Where’s God’s power in us? Where’s the power of the outpoured Spirit in our lives? Where’s that New Testament world changing people influencing power of God? I look around and I don’t see it. I look at me, and a lot of times, I don’t see it. I look at you, I don’t see it. Where is it? What’s the problem? Why the power outage?

The problem is that we have drifted too far into theoretical abstractions and not been grounded in practical concrete solutions. Instead of applying the power of God we’ve lost it. And the sign of its loss in us and those around us is complaining, spiritual lethargy, and sinful living. God’s power is practical and we need to make the connection to it and turn on the ignition. Vance Havner once said, “We are not going to move this world by criticism of it, nor conformity to it, but only by the combustion within it of live ignited by the Spirit of God.” Light us up Lord!

On May 31st, 1792 William Carey preached a sermon on Isaiah 54:2-3 (“Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; do not spare; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your stakes. For you shall expand to the right and to the left, and your descendants will inherit the nations and make the desolate cities inhabited.”) It was this Spirit empowered sermon that led to a world mission movement that continues to this day. In this sermon Carey spoke the famous words, “Expect great things from God, attempt great things for God.” That’s the heart of the practical power of God. We need that today and always. How do we get it? How do we experience the practical power of God?

There are nine practical outlets for God’s power in our lives. This isn’t meant to be exhaustive. As we prayerfully study God’s word we may come up with additional practical outlets of His power in our lives. But these nine are a start to applying God’s power. Practically speaking God’s power is seen in the following ways.

First, God’s power is a provision for every need (Phil. 4:19). Paul writes the Philippians:

Philippians 4:19 - 19 And my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

The context of this verse is material provision from God but God is able to provide for us in all areas of need, e.g. finances, relationships, circumstantial needs, etc. There are various and numerous needs we have in life and God promises to powerfully provide for all our needs. If God is not providing in an area, you must go to Him in prayer and ask, “Lord, is this a want or a need?” Sometimes we confuse wants with needs. God’s powerful promise is to provide for our needs, not our wants. Seek His simplicity in life and His power will be released in you.

Secondly, God’s power is a pathway to avoid sin when tempted (1 Cor. 10:13). Sin does not have to dominate us (Rom. 6:14). And the way God helps us to win over sin is by providing an escape route. In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians He is inspired to write them:

1 Corinthians 10:13 -13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

Everyone is tempted. Even Jesus was tempted (Mat. 4:1-11). Temptation is not sin. Our decisions in the face of temptation are what determines if we sin. If we choose to disobey God and step outside the parameters of His word when tempted, we sin. The power goes off. But God promises to give us an escape route that we can “bear it” or avoid sinning. That is part of the power of God. Living a holy life based on holy scriptural guided decision when tempted releases God’s power in and through us.

Third, God’s power is an incarcerating power to control our thoughts (2 Cor. 10:4-5). Scripture states:

2 Corinthians 10:4-5 - 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, 5 casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ,

The spiritual war that rages is to a great extent in our minds and thought life. God provides the capability to the believer to “take every thought into captivity to obedience of Christ.” This requires walking in the Spirit on our part. We need to prayerfully listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit in order to identify wrong or sinful thoughts and once identified lean on God to help us take the thoughts into captivity. God helps us cast aside sinful or wrong thoughts and follow the truth of His word. A great part of this is using the word of God to discern truth from falsehood in our thought life (Ps. 119; Eph. 6:10-18; 2 Tim. 2:15; 3:16-17). Throw out the garbage thoughts of your mind and feed on Holy writ and God’s power will flow in and through you. (I suggest you go to Philippians 4:8-9 for a list of thoughts to cultivate. These will keep the power on in you.)

Fourth, God’s power is a providential care (Proverbs 3:5-6). As we trust in the Lord He promises to “direct our paths” according to the Psalmist (Prov. 3:5-6). In the New Testament we are told that God will direct us into His love and the patience of Christ (2 Thess. 3:5). God will direct us in life and when we follow His instructions we find His power unleashed in incredible ways.

Fifth, God’s power is protection from harm (Job 1-2). We might not think of Job as an example of God’s protection but he is. Satan had to get permission from God to afflict Job. God set limits on what the devil could do to him. God’s protection is contingent on His ultimate will and His ultimate plans. But He does protect us from our enemies and from harm in ways we are probably not even aware of. God defends us (Ps. 5:11). God is our hiding place (Ps. 32:7). He is our refuge and strength (Ps. 46:1-3). His right hand saves us (Ps. 138:7). He is always with us (Is. 43:1-2; Acts 18:9-11). He protects us from the evil one (John 17:15; 1 John 5:18-19). And we are kept by His power (1 Pet. 1:5).

Nothing happens in this world or to us that God does not give permission for. And God’s decision as to whether or not He allows certain things are all contingent on His Divine plans. His ways are not our ways and He knows what is best in the end (Is. 55:8-11). We may not understand what God allows to happen, but we do know He is holy, just and good and we need to trust Him and His decisions in faith. When we do, no matter what, His power is unleashed in us.

Sixth, God’s power is seen in Christ’s propitiation for sin (Rom.3:23-26). The cross of Christ stands at the center of history as God’s propitiation of His just wrathful penalty for sin for the sins committed past, present and future. In Romans it states:

Romans 3:23-26 - 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, 26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Propitiation is the satisfying of God’s just sentence and penalty against sin. Jesus did this for us on the cross. When by His grace we in faith trust Jesus’ propitiating work, God’s powerful gospel effect is released in us (cf. Rom. 1:16).

Seventh, God’s power is a dynamic enabling boldness to serve Him and share the gospel with the lost (Acts 1:8). Through the baptism with the Holy Spirit we are empowered with a holy boldness to serve the Lord and share the gospel. This is the fulfillment of God’s promise (Acts 1:4-5, 8) and it is illustrated in the sermon of Peter at Pentecost. At Pentecost one who had previously cowardly denied Jesus three times now stood in the midst of the enemies of Christ and boldly preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. In Acts we see the church born and boldly sharing the gospel (Acts 4:31). This is God’s dynamic practical power that can change a world.

Eighth, God’s power is His presence in our lives (Psalm 16:11). Someone has said, “One with God is a majority.” With God on our side we need not fear. When God is with us there is nothing impossible. Where God guides God provides. Where God guides God empowers. God’s power is passed on to us by His own presence. We see this in particular in our joy.

In God’s presence is His powerful fullness of Joy. Joy is the presence of Jesus within assuring, guiding, and empowering us through the circumstances of life. This is illustrated in Paul’s letter to the Philippians where he speaks of God’s incredible joy to them, as he writes from a jail cell (cf. also Acts 16 where Paul and Silas are beaten and thrown in jail and still able to sing to the Lord.)

Nine, God’s power is in the resurrection (1 Cor. 15). Because of the resurrection we don’t have to face death in fear or darkness or despair. The great question mark that all humanity faces, death, can be faced with certainty and victory because of the resurrection.

In the book Jesus Freaks the account of Jack Vinson in Kiangsu Province, Mainland China in 1931 is given. When a bandit “told the missionary, ‘I’m going to kill you. Aren’t you afraid? Jack Vinson replied simply, ‘Kill me, if you wish. I will go straight to God.” A friend of Jack Vinson was inspired by his courage and wrote the following poem:

Afraid? Of What?
To feel the spirit’s glad release?
To pass from pain to perfect peace,
The strife and strain of life to cease?
Afraid – of that?
Afraid? Of What?
Afraid to see the Savior’s face
To hear His welcome, and to trace
The glory gleam from wounds of grace?
Afraid – of that?
Afraid? Of What?
A flash, a crash, a pierced heart;
Darkness, light, O Heaven’s art!
A wound of His a counterpart!
Afraid – of that?
Afraid? Of What?
To do by death what life could not –
Baptize with blood a stony plot,
Till souls shall blossom from the spot?
Afraid – of that?

Scripture states:

1 Corinthians 15:55-58 - “O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.

That is a great comfort to those facing death. For that victory we should forever worship Jesus. This is living hope (1 Pet. 1:3-4). This is the most practical manifestation of God’s power; the defeat of death and resurrection to eternal life. Praise Him!

God’s power is practical. God’s power is seen in many ways. You have to experience it to really know it. Paul prayed he and all Christians would experience the practical power of God (Eph. 1:15-22; Phil. 3:7-10). We should pray to know God’s power in our lives by the Holy Spirit. God's power is practical. Don't leave home without it!

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Persecution in America: Man Arrested for READING the Bible

Mark 13:11 - 11 But when they arrest you and deliver you up, do not worry beforehand, or premeditate what you will speak. But whatever is given you in that hour, speak that; for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Tenfold Crux of the Cross of Christ

The Cross of Christ stands at the center of history as the greatest expression of God’s holy justice and His holy love. It is the Cross of Christ that is at the center of the gospel. Why is it so important? Below are ten important truths which give us the crux of the Cross of Christ, the substance and profound meaning of the Cross of Christ.

First, The Cross of Christ is indispensable to the Gospel.

1 Corinthians 2:2 – “For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”

These words of Paul to the Corinthians demonstrate to us just how central and indispensable the Cross of Christ is to the gospel. Paul made the Cross of Christ is central focus and he explained why as we look at the verses that precede the above verse:

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 – “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.19 For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, And bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent.”20 Where is the wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the disputer of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of this world?21 For since, in the wisdom of God, the world through wisdom did not know God, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe.22 For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom;23 but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness,24 but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.25 Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

You see, in the Cross of Christ we have the embodiment of God’s wisdom and power. Wisdom is the ability to solve a problem. God solved the problem of sin powerfully in the Cross of Christ. How did He do this?

Second, The Cross of Christ is the means God uses to deliver us from sin.

Galatians 1:3-5 – “Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ,4 who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,5 to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”

The Cross of Christ is the means by which God provided a way for sinful humanity to be delivered from the evil world in which we live. Apart from God, sinful humanity is caught in the clutches of sin and in bondage to sin. Sin causes pain. Sin is like a narcotic that although the user knows it will kill them in the end, they can’t stop in their own strength the using and abusing of it. How does God deliver sinful humanity from this evil world and sin through the Cross of Christ?

Third, The Cross of Christ is where Jesus became a curse for us.

Galatians 3:10-14 – “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.”11 But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for “the just shall live by faith.”12 Yet the law is not of faith, but “the man who does them shall live by them.”13 Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us (for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree”),14 that the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles in Christ Jesus, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”

In our own strength, apart from God’s help, we are under His righteous law. Under this standard one offense, one misstep in regards to keeping God’s law is enough to put us under the cruse or penalty for the law. God is totally just and as a just Judge, He penalizes sin. The penalty for sin is death (Romans 6:23). God’s wrath is on sin (Romans 1:18). At the Cross of Christ, Jesus took our place on the cross and became a curse for us. Here we see the substitutionary nature of the Cross. What is the significance and meaning of Christ’s substitutionary cross-work?

Fourth, The Cross of Christ is where Jesus satisfied God’s Holy Justice.

Romans 3:20-26 – “Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. 21 But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets,22 even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference;23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,24 being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,25 whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed,26 to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”

The law of God was given not to make one righteous, but to expose utterly the sinfulness of humanity (Romans 3:20). The law of God removes all excuses from sinful humanity because it shows that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:1-18,23). But God sent His Son Jesus Christ to the Cross to be a propitiation, or an atoning sacrifice that satisfies God’s holy justice. We cannot do anything that will satisfy God’s just standard; therefore, God sent His Son and in Him satisfied His own standard of holy justice. On the Cross of Christ Jesus took the sins of the world upon Him as well as God’s holy just wrathful penalty for sins upon Him and paid the price for all sin. God did this to demonstrate beyond doubt His righteousness. A Holy God does not simply dismiss sin without dealing with it, but justly made a way to deal with sin and remove it’s penalty. All sin is forgiven, past, present and future, on the basis of Jesus’ propitiation on the Cross. And what is even more incredible is that God is the, “just and justifier” BECAUSE GOD WAS IN CHRIST RECONCILING THE WORLD TO HIMSELF ON THE CROSS. As Paul was inspired to write:

2 Corinthians 5:19,21 – “that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation. . . 21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

We have seen God’s justice, but what about God’s love?

Fifth, The Cross of Christ is God’s greatest and clearest demonstration of His Holy Love.

Romans 5:8 – “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

The Cross of Christ is God’s greatest demonstration of “His own love.” God’s love held nothing back, not even His Son, not even Himself. Greater love has no one than this, that God laid down His life for sinful humanity.

But what about after we have been forgiven through faith in Christ, is the Cross of Christ useful in living life?

Sixth, The Cross of Christ is the means to live a life of death to sinful self.

Galatians 2:20 - “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”

Galatians 5:24 – “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”

When we accept Jesus as our Savior and exercise God’s gift of saving faith (Ephesians 2:8-9) it’s as though our old sinful self is crucified with Him. From that point we are in a righteous position before God, sins forgiven, slate of recorded sins wiped clean forever. But where do we go from there? The above verses tell us that by faith now in Jesus we put fleshly desires in the wastebasket of the cross. The apostle Paul was inspired to explain this in the following way:

Romans 6:4-14 – “Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.5 For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection,6 knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin.7 For he who has died has been freed from sin.8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him.10 For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.11 Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.13 And do not present your members as instruments of unrighteousness to sin, but present yourselves to God as being alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God.14 For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”

Practically speaking, after we have experienced the new birth (John 3:3,5; Titus 3:5) we will experience fleshly lusts from within us to sin which are connected with the “old man,” or old sinful way of living. This is because we have yet to receive glorified bodies (Romans 8:23), and there remains a struggle with the “old man” who still rears his head to seek control of us. But in the Cross of Christ there is a means of victory. When the old man attacks with his lusts, then by faith we need to “reckon” or put to the account of, lay, place, those lusts and temptations in the casket of the cross, close the lid, and stand in your right position by faith before God in Christ by the Spirit. This is the sanctifying process of the Spirit in the believer (Ephesians 5:18).

But what about the temptations from the world outside of us?

Seventh, The Cross of Christ is the means to gain victory over a sinful world.

Galatians 6:14 – “But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

Here we see that the same process is used when temptations come from the world. By faith we maintain our position before God and cast the temptations in the casket of the Cross and close the lid.

But how do those who are unsaved react to the Cross of Christ? Will they joyfully respect the Cross of Christ?

Eight, The Cross of Christ is a foolish concept to the unsaved, but the power of God to the saved.

1 Corinthians 1:18 – “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.”

The world views the Cross of Christ as foolish, a barbaric notion of an imaginary religious belief system. But to those who have experienced the power of the gospel in the Cross of Christ, there is no need to explain, but only receive by faith.
Ninth, The Cross of Christ will bring persecution from the religious and worldly (i.e. fleshly; self-centered; self-absorbed; self-serving).

Galatians 5:11 – “And I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why do I still suffer persecution? Then the offense of the cross has ceased.”

Galatians 6:12 – “As many as desire to make a good showing in the flesh, these would compel you to be circumcised, only that they may not suffer persecution for the cross of Christ.”

Philippians 3:17-19 – “Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern.18 For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ:19 whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame—who set their mind on earthly things.”

Those who depend on religious works (i.e. “circumcision” – Galatians 5:11), fleshly pursuits (Galatians 6:12), and “whose god is their belly” will all persecute those who live by faith in the Cross of Christ.

Tenth, The Cross of Christ eliminates prejudices and brings peace in the Spirit.

Ephesians 2:14-18 – “For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one [i.e. Jews and Gentiles], and has broken down the middle wall of separation,15 having abolished in His flesh the enmity, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, so as to create in Himself one new man from the two, thus making peace,16 and that He might reconcile them both to God in one body through the cross, thereby putting to death the enmity.17 And He came and preached peace to you who were afar off and to those who were near.18 For through Him we both have access by one Spirit to the Father.”

The Cross of Christ is the answer to the divisions in the world caused by the sinfulness of humanity. Sin divides and destroys; but the Cross of Christ unites and brings us into the presence of the Father by the Spirit. THE CROSS OF CHRIST IS THE BRIDGE THAT ALLOWS THE SINNER TO CROSS OVER THE CHASM OF SEPARATION FROM GOD CAUSED BY SIN (Isaiah 59:2), AND STEP INTO THE PRESENCE OF GOD AND HIS PEOPLE PERSONALLY FOR ETERNITY.

The Cross of Christ is an incredible provision by God and is offered by His grace to us. If you are alone in this sinful world, crushed under the weight and bondage of your sin, turn to the Cross of Christ and accept Him as your Savior by faith. The crux of the Cross is that we can come into the presence of God through the Cross of Christ.

Monday, April 18, 2011

His Own Love

What is God’s love like? That’s an interesting question. It presupposes that God loves. Some people would say that God is not a God of love. They look around at their lives and the world and see pain, suffering, tragedy, injustice, and they blame it all on God and say God is not loving! Such an assessment is based on a wrong perspective of the world and an earth-locked view of God. Solomon in the book of Ecclesiastes grappled with similar things and assessed the world “under the sun” as “vanity, vanity, all is vanity.” But at the end of that book he learned you have to look up, through the clouds of this world to find the answer to your questions and the meaning and purpose of life. Even the wisest man who ever lived, in his own strength, fell short of understanding such things. The only way to come to true understanding in anything and everything is for God to reach down to us, to condescend and reveal it to us. And that is true of Himself too. We know God because He has revealed Himself to us. And when He does that we discover, “God is love” (1 John 4:8, 16).

We know “God is love” because He has revealed that to us in His word. But what is God’s love like? That question is answered in His word and as we look at His answer about His love we will receive insight into some of those other questions about suffering in the world.

In Romans 5 verse 8 it states, “But God demonstrates His own love . . . .” The term “demonstrates” is a term used to describe how a merchant lays out his product before prospective buyers. The idea is the seller wants to present his product in the best possible light. In Romans 5 God lays out His love in the best possible light for us to see.

Notice too that the love God lays out for us to see is “His own love.” It’s not just any love. The New Testament was originally written in Greek. There are many words in the original Greek of the New Testament that are translated with our single English word love. The word “love” in Romans 5:8 is a translation of the Greek term agape. Agape is used to communicate affection, charity, benevolence, good will, love feast, and love. These words are all good words but they don’t touch the surface of “His own love.” To understand “His own love” we have to turn to His love letter to us. And we have to turn to a particular part of His love letter, Romans 5:6-11 which reads:

Romans 5:6-11 - 6 For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. 9 Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. 10 For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11 And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

When we turn to Romans 5:6-11 we see eleven aspects of God’s own love.

First, God’s own love loves us even when we are weak (Romans 5:6a). It says, “For when we were without strength . . .” God loves us even when we are feeble and weak. When we are at the end of ourselves and nothing left in the tank to move on, God still loves us. He doesn’t yell at us when we’re weak. He doesn’t shout at us and say “Come on, suck it up, get up and get going!” No, even in our inherent human weakness, God still loves us.

Second, God’s own love loves us even when we are ungodly (Romans 5:6b). It states, “. . . in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” The word “ungodly” means, destitute of reverential awe toward God or impiousness. If ever there was a word to describe people today, ungodly is it. People show little to no respect or reverence for the Creator of the universe. Almighty God, the Ancient of Days, the LORD, is viewed and addressed with little to no appropriate respect. Humanity disrespects God outright. An ungodly person is one who breaks the first four of the Ten Commandments which have to do with worshipping only God, not making idols or images of God, not taking God’s name in vain or using it inappropriately and observing a day of rest in the Lord. The ungodly break all of those laws of God. And yet He loves them.

Third, God’s own love loves in a way that is superior to the best love the world has to offer (Romans 5:7). People may heroically give their lives for those they view as righteous or good, but God’s love goes beyond anything people in this world have to offer. No matter how sentimental, sacrificial, or love based a person’s love is, it doesn’t measure up to “His own love.”

There’s something else here that needs to be mentioned. Romans 3 tells us as far as measuring up to God’s holy standard, “There is none righteous, no not one” (Romans 3:10). Unrighteousness can be defined as breaking the last six of the Ten Commandments: dishonoring parents; murdering or thinking hatefully toward others; committing adultery or having lustful thoughts; stealing; speaking untruthfully; and coveting. When you look at the problems in the world today, they shouldn’t be laid at the doorstep of God, humanity is the culprit. God, on the other hand, in His own love has made a way to overcome the sinful ills of this fallen world. When people shake a fist at God and blame Him for everything wrong with this world, they ought to look in the mirror and consider that all our problems and pains are due to the sinful decisions of humanity in rebellion toward God.

Fourth, God’s own love loves even sinners (Romans 5:8a). God loves the unlovable. God loves those who don’t deserve to be loved. Sinners are those who have broken the holy law of God. Sinners are those who cause pain to others. Sinners miss the mark of God. Sinners are stained with the tar of sin. They have an indelible black mark of rebellion against God. But God loves sinners and He demonstrates His own love to them. And His love does not rest on words alone.

Fifth, God’s own love is extreme (Romans 5:8b). God doesn’t love with pleasant platitudes. God’s own love acts and goes all the way. God demonstrates His own love to all through the death of His Son Jesus on the cross. A crueler more painful death would be hard to find. The spiritual aspect of Christ on the cross makes His death unmatched in severity. The perfect, sinless, blemishless Jesus, who had never experienced any sin or disconnect from the Father, went to the cross and experienced the full brunt and extent of the penalty of sin; separation from His Father (e.g. Mat. 27:46; Ps. 22). God did that because our sin had caused a separation between us and Him that we were helpless to cross (Is. 59:2). Out of love for us, He made a bridge from Him to us through the cross of Christ. God’s own love holds nothing back; it goes all the way. God’s own love never fails (1 Cor. 13:8). God’s own love always does what it takes to redeem the lost.

Sixth, God’s own love is substitutionary (Romans 5:8c). God demonstrates His own love in Christ on the cross “for us.” It is on the cross that in love God sent His only Son Jesus in our place, for us, to pay the just penalty for sin. God’s love does for us what we could not do for ourselves. He made Jesus sin for us that we could become righteous through faith in Him (2 Cor. 5:21).

Seventh, God’s own love is always “much more” (Romans 5:9a). No matter how deeply we come to understand God’s own love to be, no matter how experienced we get in His own love, it is always “much more” than we conceive it to be. You can’t exhaust God’s own love. You can pray to know the “width and length and depth and height” of God’s love but there will always be “much more” for you to experience and know about it (Eph. 3:18-19).

Eighth, God’s own love justifies us from sin by Christ’s blood (Romans 5:9b). Jesus paid the death penalty of sin for us to establish a just legal basis for forgiveness of our sins. The just penalty for sin is death and God’s wrath. But God in His own love provided a way to escape that wrath. The first 5 verses of Romans 5 indicate when we put our faith in Jesus Christ as Savior we are justified before God. That means through faith in Christ we receive a just legal status before God just-as-if-we-had-never-sinned. We are saved from the wrath of God through faith in Jesus. That incredible benefit is the product of God’s love toward us.

Ninth, God’s own love provides reconciliation (Romans 5:10a). We were enemies, literally actively hostile toward God and yet He made a way for us to be reconciled or change from an enemy to an ally of God. This is freely offered to us by God’s grace, but such reconciliation doesn’t come cheap. It is the result of God in love, sending His Son Jesus to die on the cross for us. This reconciliation is like a resurrection, like going from death to life in Christ.

Tenth, God’s own love provides us a new way of life (Romans 5:10b). Verse ten ends, “. . . much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” God’s own love and its impact on us leads to a new way of life. Here we need to pause and consider our response to God’s own love. The apostle John is often referred to as The Apostle of love or The Apostle who Jesus loved (cf. John 13:23; 20:2; 21:7, 20). In one of his inspired epistles he wrote the following:

1 John 4:7-12 - 7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God; and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. 8 He who does not love does not know God, for God is love. 9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. 12 No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us.

The only appropriate response to God’s own love is to love like God loves. Now on our own that would be impossible. But back in Romans 5 the apostle Paul was inspired to write:

Romans 5:5 - 5 Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Now read that verse again. It says the hope we have in God is reliable, it won’t disappoint us. Why is this so? “Because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” God’s love is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit who dwells in the believer. That’s incredible! By the power of the Spirit, we can love like God loves. We can love the weak and the ungodly. We can love in a way that is superior to the world’s brand of love. We can love even sinners and love sacrificially. We can love to the end. We can love in a way that brings reconciliation between enemies. We can love in action, in life. And all of that is reason to rejoice.

Eleventh, God’s own love is reason to rejoice (Romans 5:11). The incredible benefits of God’s love give us reason to rejoice in Him. We should sing the Hallelujah chorus with every breath of new life in Christ we take. Because of God’s own love we can enter into a personal eternal saving relationship with God Almighty! For that we should rejoice.

That is a small picture of God’s own love. Remember, it’s always “much more” than we think it is. We could spend a lifetime studying God’s own love and still not fully comprehend it. But that would not be a bad way to spend the rest of our existence; experiencing, enjoying and expounding on His own love.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Weeping for the Unready

Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, - Luke 19:41

The last week of Jesus ministry began with a triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Jesus was met with shouts of rejoicing, “Hosanna to the Son of David! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Hosanna in the highest!” (Mat. 21:9). But the scriptural account goes on to state, “Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, . . .” Jesus wept because He knew the fickleness of humanity and their dullness to the ways of God. He wept because He knew the sad truth that humanity misses out on God’s blessings because they are unready for them. Humanity misses out on God’s best because of disregard, spiritual dullness, and a degenerate set of priorities.

The nation of Israel missed her Messiah because she was unready for Him. To this day they are sadly still looking for the first coming of their Messiah when He has come and is due to come again. Despite hundreds of prophetic identifiers Israel was unready for her Messiah. This was the source of sorrow for Jesus.

We need to learn from history. Otherwise as George Santayana said, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Just as Israel missed the first coming of Messiah, Christians can miss the Second Coming of Messiah due to not being ready for it. This too would be a source of sorrow for Jesus. When we examine Luke 19 we find instructions on how to be ready for the coming of Jesus. If we heed the scripture, we’ll be ready when Jesus returns. Then we’ll be the cause of rejoicing not weeping in our Savior. What do we learn in Luke 19 about being ready for His coming?

First, don’t let anything keep you from the salvation Jesus offers (19:1-10). On His way to Jerusalem Jesus passed through Jericho (19:1). Jericho was known for its palm trees. It was a rich and flourishing town. It was at this point we are introduced to Zacchaeus, a rich chief tax collector (19:2). Tax collectors were despised and because his wealth came from collecting taxes he was likely resented by those around him. He was wealthy and had position in society and yet when he heard of Jesus nearby he sought Him out (19:3).

Zacchaeus had some obstacles to overcome in order to see Jesus. He was short. Even though he didn’t measure up physically, he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore tree so that he could see Jesus (19:3-4). For a wealthy man of status to climb a tree was an act of humiliation. Zacchaeus made seeking Jesus a priority by humbling himself to a position where he could see Him. When we come to the Lord we do so humbly, on His terms, not our own. Zacchaeus didn’t proudly push through the crowd for an audience with Jesus. He humbly and in a childlike way scampered up a tree to see Jesus. Jesus said to enter his kingdom you had to enter it as a child, humbly and open to learn (Luke 18:16-17).

As Jesus passed by He looked up and saw Zacchaeus and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house” (19:5). Zacchaeus immediately scampered down the tree and, "received Him joyfully” (19:6). Zacchaeus accepted the invitation of Jesus. He did so joyfully too. Something in the rich tax collector responded to the invitation of Jesus. He may have had all he needed materially, but he was missing something more important. He knew that too. Otherwise he wouldn’t have climbed that tree. When Jesus said He would stay at his house, Zacchaeus heart leaped for joy. He sensed his emptiness was about to be ended.

The bystanders complained about this. They resented Jesus going to stay with a “sinner” (19:7). But public opinion didn’t prevent Zacchaeus from receiving Jesus. Even though these were the people he had to work with and live amongst, Zacchaeus didn’t let their opinion and peer pressure deter him. Nothing could keep him from opening his home and heart to the Savior.

We don’t know what the entire conversation was between Jesus and Zacchaeus but what we do know is that it had an impact on the rich tax collector. He stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold” (19:8). These words indicate a life change based on an inward heart transformation. Zacchaeus was convicted of his sin. He wanted to make things right. What Jesus brought Him, he received. We know this because Jesus responded, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham” (19:9). A “son of Abraham” is another way of saying Zacchaeus had put his faith in God (see Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4). Zacchaeus was not saved by his works, his works were a product of being saved by the faith he put in Jesus.

The account of Zacchaeus salvation is an example of Jesus’ priority. Jesus said, “for the Son of Man has come to seek and save that which was lost” (19:10). That was Jesus’ priority and that should be our priority. If we are going to be ready for His coming we have to be saved ourselves. We have to receive Jesus into our hearts. Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20). That’s the first order of business, be saved yourself. Then once your salvation is secure, make evangelism a priority like Jesus did. This is the first step in getting ready for Jesus.

Second, be faithful to use what the Lord gives you (19:11-27). As Jesus spoke of His priority to seek and save the lost He shared the parable of the ten minas. He spoke of a nobleman who went away on a journey to receive a kingdom. As he left he entrusted ten of his servant’s with a mina each with the command, “Do business till I come” (19:11-13). Despite some resistance the nobleman received his kingdom (19:14). Upon his return he called the servants to give an account of what they had done with the ten minas (19:15). The first two servants that gave account had differing achievements but the nobleman complimented both and gave each even greater responsibility (19:16-19). But the third servant came and returned the mina with no profit reasoning that he was fearful and implied the nobleman was harsh, unjust, and unreasonable (19:20-21). The nobleman assessed this one as a “wicked servant,” and took his mina from him and gave it to the servant who had invested the mina wisely (19:22-26). Then the nobleman called for his enemies to be brought before him to be slain before him (19:27). The message here is faithfulness means wisely using and investing what the Lord entrusts to you. If we are going to be ready for Jesus coming we need to invest what He has entrusted to us in a way that will yield a profit. Our talents, material resources, spiritual gifting, everything He has entrusted to us should be invested in the priority of seeking and saving the lost.

Third, understand Jesus will be praised (19:28-40).As Jesus drew near Jerusalem He instructed His disciples to go ahead of Him to secure His mode of transportation, a colt (19:28-31). In Matthew’s account it mentions a donkey and a colt (Mat. 21:1-7). This is not a contradiction only a typological insight added by Matthew. Typologically the donkey and colt refer to the Old Testament and New Testament. In Matthew it states Jesus “sat on them” (Mat. 19:7). But in Luke it shows that while Jesus may have begun sitting on both, He made the transition to sitting only on the colt. Typologically this refers to the transition from Old to New Testaments.

As Jesus rides the colt His “disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works they had seen saying: ‘Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (19:32-38). When some Pharisees heard this, they immediately knew Jesus was being hailed as Messiah. They called for Jesus to rebuke His disciples (19:39). To this Jesus said, “I tell you that if these should keep silent, the stones would immediately cry out” (19:40). Jesus is going to be praised. A day is coming when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (Phil. 2:9-11). This is going to happen. Nothing people say or do can prevent it. Will you be one of the disciples praising Jesus or will you be a religious Pharisee trying to prevent it? Will you be ready when Jesus comes?

Fourth, don’t neglect prophecy (19:41-44). Jesus coming as Messiah should not have met with resistance or rejection. The Messiah was clearly identified in prophetic scriptures. Jesus laments, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes” (19:41-42). Because they neglected God’s prophetic word and rejected Jesus as Messiah, blindness came upon them that prevented them from seeing Messiah Jesus for who He was. Rejecting God’s word always leads to a hardening, a dulling, and desensitization to the truth of God. The apostle Paul spoke of a blindness that has come upon many Jews that will last until the end times (Rom. 11). Then through a series of events that blindness will be lifted. It will be lifted when they see Jesus return (Zech. 12:10). And Paul says, “And so all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:26). That will be a great day!

But before that day comes Jesus prophesied there would be great trial and hardship for Israel. He predicted the enemies of Israel would surround Jerusalem and literally bring it down stone by stone (19:43-44). This was literally fulfilled in 70AD when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. You can trust the word of Jesus.

That God’s word predicted clearly what the coming of Messiah would be like is seen in such passages as Zechariah 9:9 that states:

Zechariah 9:9 - “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.

This is how Jesus entered Jerusalem. But if that isn’t enough, the book of Daniel contains a more incredible prophetic word identifying to the day when Messiah would make His triumphal entry into Jerusalem:

Daniel 9:25 - “Know therefore and understand, That from the going forth of the command To restore and build Jerusalem Until Messiah the Prince, There shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; The street shall be built again, and the wall, Even in troublesome times.”

This is an incredible prophecy! What it means is that from the time that the people are permitted to return to the Holy Land to rebuild Jerusalem, there will be “seven weeks and sixty-two weeks” or 69 weeks of seven years each, 483 years (69x7 = 483). We need to keep in mind too that the Hebrew year consisted of 360 days, not 365 like our calendar.

In the book of Nehemiah we are told of the “command” made by King Artaxerxes to allow the Jews to return to their land from captivity and to rebuild Jerusalem, (not just the Temple but the city of Jerusalem):

Nehemiah 2:1,5,8 – “And it came to pass in the month of Nisan, in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes, when wine was before him, that I took the wine and gave it to the king. Now I had never been sad in his presence before.5 . . .And I said to the king, “If it pleases the king, and if your servant has found favor in your sight, I ask that you send me to Judah, to the city of my fathers’ tombs, that I may rebuild it.” . . . 8 “and a letter to Asaph the keeper of the king’s forest, that he must give me timber to make beams for the gates of the citadel which pertains to the temple, for the city wall, and for the house that I will occupy.” And the king granted them to me according to the good hand of my God upon me.”

It is well documented in history that the first day of Nisan “in the twentieth year of King Artaxerxes” is equivalent to March 14, 445 B.C. That is the starting point for this prophecy. You might think, “Wait a minute teacher, how do you know what day of the month in Nisan it was?” In his great book entitled, The Search for Messiah, Mark Eastman explains the following:

“By Hebrew tradition, when the day of the month is not specifically stated, it is given to be the first day of that month. So, the day of the decree by Artaxerxes was the first day of the Hebrew month Nisan 445 B.C.E. The first day of Nisan 445 B.C.E. corresponds to the 14th day of March. This was verified by the astronomical calculations at the British Royal Observatory and reported by Sir Robert Anderson.”

Now if we multiply 69 x 7 year units (360 day years) the result is 173,880 days. When we mark off 173,880 days from March 14, 445 B.C. it brings us to April 6th, 32 A.D. In Luke 3:1 it states that Jesus’ ministry began “in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar.” The date at which Tiberius’ reign began is calculated with certainty to be 14 A.D. If we add 15 years starting from 14 A.D. it brings us to 29 A.D. We then need to add an additional 3 years due to the three years of ministry depicted chronologically in the gospels. That therefore brings us to 32 A.D. In his pamphlet Jesus Historical Facts, Ralph O Muncaster notes that:

“The Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England confirms the Sunday [Palm Sunday – Triumphal Entry] before Passover [in 32 A.D.] to be APRIL 6TH, 32 A.D.’

Therefore, what we have in Daniel 9 is an exact calculation to the day when Messiah Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem! This not only attests to the supernatural Divine authorship of this prophecy, but it also identifies and bears testimony that Jesus is the Messiah!

The prophecy of Daniel goes on to predict what would happen to Messiah at the end of that week that began with the triumphal entry:

Daniel 9:26a - “And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;. . .

Here we have a direct reference to the crucifixion of Jesus one week after His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. “Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;” is referring to the substitutionary atonement of Jesus as the Scripture attests:

Isaiah 53:4-6 – “Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.5 But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.6 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.”

In the New Testament it speaks of the substitutionary work of Jesus in the following way:

2 Corinthians 5:21 – “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”

1 Peter 2:24 – “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed.”

1 Peter 3:18 – “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,”

The Jews had been looking for a political Messiah who would free them from the oppression of the Romans. But had they checked the word of God more closely and not relied so heavily on the tradition of men, they would have understood that Messiah would first give His life as a substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of all humankind.

We need to pay attention to prophecy in scripture. Otherwise when Jesus returns, we may not be ready. Learn from those who missed His first coming so that you won’t miss His second coming!

Fifth, clean house (19:45-48). Upon entering Jerusalem Jesus went straight to the Temple. As soon as He got there He cleaned house. He drove out those who had reduced the holy Temple grounds to a place of manipulative monetary profit. The money changers preyed on pilgrims who came to the Temple to bring offerings to the Lord. The pilgrims would bring their own sacrifices but they would be rejected and told they needed to buy the acceptable sacrificial animals from the priests. To do this they had to convert their secular money to Temple money. When people would go to the money changers to convert their money, they would be charged exorbitant conversion charges. Since the pilgrims had travelled far from home, they had no recourse but to pay the extortionist expense. Jesus threw those involved in such unjust practices out of the Temple. He then reemphasized that God’s house was to be a house of prayer not a den of thieves (19:45-46). And He taught daily in the Temple. The religious Pharisees resisted and objected to this. They began plotting how to kill Jesus. But the people were hungry for God’s word and there was nothing that could prevent them from receiving the word Jesus taught.

The final thing we need to do to be ready for Jesus’ coming is to clean our house. Christians are likened to being temples of the Holy Spirit who are not their own but are now owned by God (1 Cor. 6:19-20). We need to invite Jesus into our house and ask Him what needs to go. We need to reestablish prayer and the teaching of God’s word in our house, in our hearts.

Jesus is coming again. Many missed Him the first time He came despite hundreds of prophetic indicators. When He comes back next time He will return in two phases. He will come secretly to rapture true believers (1 Thess. 4:13-5:9) before the Tribulation. Then He will come in power and great glory for all to see at His Second Coming at the end of the Tribulation (Luke 21:25-28; Mat. 24:27-31; Mark 13:24-27). Will you be ready? Are you ready? Will Jesus weep over you?

Monday, April 4, 2011

The Prime Essential of Salvation

There is one prime essential of salvation. A person can be religious, relatively good, and even believe there is a God and that Jesus is the Christ, and still be lost! The Pharisees were amongst the most religious people that ever lived and yet Jesus denounced them for their hypocrisy (Mat. 23). The Rich Young Ruler had apparently kept the commandments of God and yet “one thing” (Mark 10:21). Demons believe there is a God and that Jesus is the Christ, “the Holy One of God!” and are still destined for hell (Mat. 8:29; Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34; James 2:19). What is the one prime essential which separates these examples from eternal life and a place in God’s Kingdom? It is the Holy Spirit within.

Jesus told Nicodemus the religious Pharisee, “You must be born again” and explained that to be a spiritual birth (John 3:1-21). Just as a person is physical born, they need a second birth, a spiritual birth. They need to be born again. Until that happens a person is spiritually dead. Until the Holy Spirit comes to reside or indwell a person they are incomplete. God created humanity to have fellowship with Him. We are dependent on fellowship with God. We are created with an inherent design for fellowship with God. No matter what success or partial fulfillment we acquire in this life without God there will remain emptiness in us.

The apostle Paul wrote, “Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ he is not His” (Rom. 8:9). The context is speaking of the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit in the genuinely saved Christian. There are people who frequent churches, wear Christian paraphernalia, who do “good” deeds but still do not belong to God. Why is this so? Because they lack the indwelling Holy Spirit. Jesus referred to such people as “tares.” A tare is husk of wheat with no kernel inside. On the outside it looks like any other full husk of wheat. But on the inside it is empty. Jesus said there are tares among the healthy wheat (Mat. 13:24-30). This raises two questions.

First, how can I be born again and indwelled by the Holy Spirit? This spiritual second birth takes place when a person responds to the gracious reasoning and call of God (Is. 1:18). No one can come to God unless He draws them (John 6:44). Sin separates humanity from God (Ps. 66:18; Is. 59:2; Rom. 3:9-23), who is Holy (Ps. 5:4; Hab. 1:13). God will not simply dismiss or turn a blind eye to our sin; that would go against the foundations of who He is (Ps. 89:14). The Holy Spirit convicts the sinner of their sinfulness, that in their own strength they cannot attain God’s required level of righteousness for salvation, and that they are therefore destined for God’s just and righteous judgment (John 16:8-11). The consequence of sin is death; not annihilation but eternal separation from God in a place called hell (Ps. 9:17; Mat. 25:46; Rom. 6:23).

But God who is Love made a way for humanity to be justified, redeemed and forgiven their sin through faith in Jesus Christ (John 3:16; Rom. 5:1f.; 8:1f.). Jesus the just paid the death penalty on the cross for the unjust (1 Pet. 3:18). He “was made sin for us” that we might receive His righteousness put to our account (2 Cor. 5:21). That transaction takes place when a person puts their faith in Jesus as Savior (Eph. 2:8-9). This is not mere assent like demons. Saving faith by nature is repentant; a person turns from their sin to God. It also means they ask God’s forgiveness based on the atoning work of Jesus on the cross not their own efforts to be right with God.

When a person receives this salvation offered by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ God forgives their sin and gives them spiritual life (i.e. regeneration) by indwelling them with the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19). The work of the Holy Spirit is described as, “the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5). He washes away our sins and gives us spiritual life.

Second, how do I know if I have been born again and indwelled by the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity (one God; Three distinct Persons); He is God (Acts 5:3-4). Jesus described the Holy Spirit as “another Helper” which literally means, another just like Me (“another” = ἄλλος - allŏs, al´-los – another of the same of the same sort - John 14:16). Peter conveys this by using the words, “the Spirit of Christ” in reference to the Holy Spirit (1 Pet. 1:11). When we see references to Christ being in us it is referring to the indwelling Holy Spirit who is making the presence of Jesus known (e.g. Rom. 8:10; Col. 1:27). Therefore, when the Holy Spirit indwells a person there will be evidence of His holy work in that person and that holy work is conforming the indwelled person to Christlikeness (Rom. 8:29).

There are ten evidences of the indwelling Holy Spirit. These are the things associated with the regenerated life of the Spirit in scripture. They may be in degrees. They should be ongoing and growing. These evidence are:

1. A desire to be led by the Spirit of God not the flesh (i.e. self-will; self-reliance; self-promotion) – Rom. 8:1-14; Gal. 5:16, 25; 1 Pet. 1:22.

2. A personal relationship with Jesus via the indwelling Spirit – Rom. 8:10; John 15:26

3. A warm familial rather than harsh slave/Master relationship with God – Rom. 8:15

4. An assurance of salvation – Rom. 8:16; 1 John 3:24

5. A power of the Spirit to help overcome weaknesses – Rom. 8:26a; Acts 1:8; Zech. 4:6

6. A Spirit led prayer life – Rom. 8:26b-27; Eph. 6:18

7. A Spirit led insight – John 14:26; 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:9-14; 1 Tim. 4:1f.; Rev. 2:7, 11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22.

8. A hunger for and submission to the God-breathed/inspired word of God which is the language of the Spirit - 2 Tim. 3:16-17; Eph. 6:17.

9. A holy love for God and people – Rom. 5:5; Gal. 5:22-24; 2 Cor. 5:14

10. A unity with other Spirit filled believers – Eph. 4:3

Do you see these evidences in your life? Paul was inspired to question his readers with the words, “. . . if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you” (Rom. 8:9). Have you been born again? Does the Spirit indwell you? Is there evidence of the Spirit’s indwelling in your life? The indwelling Holy Spirit is the prime essential of salvation. “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? – unless indeed you are disqualified” (2 Cor. 13:5). Do you not know . . . ?

Baby Samuel

A friend sent me the following photo which began circulating in November. It's interesting how this didn'nt make the front page news. With all the rebellion, natural disasters and chaos in the world, this photo would have been a glimmer of truth and hope. A glimmer of truth because we can see the reality of life in the womb. Hope because of the blessing of medical technology used for good instead of evil.

The caption explanation that accompanied the photo is as follows:

The photo is of a 21-week-old unborn baby named Samuel Alexander Armas, who is being operated on by surgeon named Joseph Bruner. The baby was diagnosed with spina bifida and would not survive if removed from his mother's womb. Little Samuel's mother, Julie Armas, is an obstetrics nurse in Atlanta . She knew of Dr. Bruner's remarkable surgical procedure. Practicing at Vanderbilt University Medical! Center in Nashville, he performs these special operations while the baby is still in the womb.

During the procedure, the doctor removes the uterus via C-section and makes a small incision to operate on the baby. As Dr. Bruner completed the surgery on Samuel, the little guy reached his tiny, but fully developed hand through the incision and firmly grasped the surgeon's finger.

Dr. Bruner was reported as saying that when his finger was grasped, it was the most emotional moment of his life, and that for an instant during the procedure he was just frozen, totally immobile.

The photograph captures this amazing event with perfect clarity. The editors titled the picture, 'Hand of Hope.' The text explaining the picture begins, 'The tiny hand of 21-week- old fetus Samuel Alexander Armas emerges from the mother's uterus to grasp the finger of Dr. Joseph Bruner as if thanking the doctor for the gift of life.'

Little Samuel's mother said they 'wept for days' when they saw the picture. She said, 'The photo reminds us pregnancy isn't about disability or an illness, it's about a little person.' Samuel was born in perfect health, the operation 100 percent successful.

Now see the actual picture, and it is awesome...incredible....and hey, pass it on. The world needs to see this one!