Does God Repent?

May 20, 2013  CommentaryHerald NewsTheologyNo comments

I was sharing my faith last week and was explaining the simple biblical narrative of how God 1-created a good world (Genesis 1:31) and that 2-he put us on the planet and 3- we have surely messed it up.

The gentleman's response was  ”boy I wish God would come down to the earth and fix it”! My simple reply was that God has already come in the person of Jesus.  God knew that we were going to mess with his stuff  (the earth) and ruin ourselves,and yet had a remedy already in place. The plan was in place to send a rescuer before the world was created.  (Ephesians 1:4).  The bible can be challenging and sometimes confusing. There are times when biblical words don't make sense. When that takes place God uses ways to clarify himself. There is a biblical term that is used to describe the person and work of God called accommodation.  

 Accommodation is simply God's appropriation of humanly intelligible means to communicate real knowledge of himself. John Calvin addressed the problem of how finite humans may obtain genuine knowledge of God by emphasizing condescension as the distinctive manner of God's revelation. God accommodates himself in creation, history and Scripture through and within the cultural and intellectual limits of humanity while effectively communicating truth and accomplishing his purposes. Some examples of God's accommodation include the images and anthropomorphic language describing God in Scripture and the way God relates to his creatures by making covenants and giving laws. The ultimate way God accommodates to humanity, however, is through the incarnation of Jesus Christ; in and through the Son's willing assumption of human weakness, God is able to accomplish our salvation.

Yesterday we spoke of this idea of God repenting.  We as humans are called to repent to God and others when we sin, BUT does God ever repent? In reality God never errors or nor repents for any sinful action but in Jonah 3:10 it describes God's response to the repenting faith of the Assyrian Ninevites of biblical Old Testament times. Nineveh was a ruthless and powerful nation that refused to allow the message of God to permeate their society UNTIL God sent Jonah. Jonah preached and the people responded. It says in (Jonah 3: 10 ESV) “When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it“. The King James version of the bible says  ”God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not” (Jon 3:10 KJV). See the confusion. Does God repent or relent of some action. The confusion lies in the fact that the bible also describes  God as immutable/never changing?  Well in reality the better translation of this verse is found here in the ESV version of the bible because God doesn't repent, but in this circumstance he relents of pouring out his wrath.

The Ninevites were to be overthrown in 40 days if they chose not to repent and turn from wicked ways. How could God forgive Nineveh? They were nororiously wicked and living in gross overt sin? Well,  how does God forgive you and I and the wicked things we think and say and do???

Here is where God accommodates himself using scripture to describe his actions in ways that might ordinarily be misconstrued. There are two words used for repentance in the Hebrew language. One is Shubh decribes the repentance of Nineveh, the turning from wicked to good. A different word is used for for the repentance/relenting of God. It is Nacham which speaks of inward suffering. Its best to say God was moved to pity.How can God forgive sin? It is found at the cross of Jesus Christ.  God literally suffers in repenting or relenting from judging our sins BY Jesus suffering at the cross. Yes God is just but he is also merciful. Jacques Ellulhas said “ He takes upon himself the evil which was the wages of man's sin, He suffers the very suffering which is HIS JUSTICE he should have laid on man. God causes the judgment to fall on himself; this is the meaning of his repenting”. What does God do? God places the evil of all those who turn to him at the cross of Christ SO THAT he might justly repent of his holy obligation to condemn us, all because of the merciful grace that calls us to believe and repent.

God has accommodated himself using anthropomorphic language here in the case of Jonah and Nineveh. The bible can be confusing and when we make assumptions about God that are not biblical.  We can  get frustrated when sin infects our lives and societies.  God is not asleep.  God is fully aware and because he is a righteous judge will some day judge the living and the dead (Acts 10:42). God will some day restore this world to a status and degree we are not familiar with but until then we must trust that God is always judging and doing what is just (Gen 18:25, Romans 8:28).

Until then I encourage you to know God, to love him, your neighbor and your community.  That is a formula worth pursuing!!!



Repenting Faith

May 20, 2013  CommentaryHerald NewsTheologyNo comments

I just taught today on repenting faith today at Redemption Fellowship of Fall River. We are teaching through the book of Jonah and saw the power of repentance in a powerful godless city.

Most people are familiar with the first part of the book of Jonah. They know Jonah was swallowed by a big fish and was regurgitated onto the shore, BUT most don't know what happened after.  Jonah the prophet, preached repentance to Nineveh and the whole city including their King repented.  The beauty of their repentance is that it was visible.  It was genuine and was done in humility.

It says in Kings 3:5-10- And the people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. The word reached the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.  And he issued a proclamation and published through Nineveh, “By the decree of the king and his nobles: Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste anything. Let them not feed or drink water,  but let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and let them call out mightily to God. Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands.  Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.” 1 When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.

What I love about the biblical story is that God's word after it was preached overwhelmed the hearts of the  whole city.  Can you imagine going on vacation to Nineveh, and then going back a year later AFTER revival took place!!! WOW!!! I pray for the day when Fall River resonates with the name of Jesus and it is accepted and rejoiced over more than anything or anyone else.  Until then I will cry out to the citizens to repent and come to the great King of the universe.

I also want our church and people to promote the love of God through kindly acts of love to those who don't yet know this Jesus, while we preach repenting faith to it's citizenry   While repentance is a hard word to accept , what is even more magnificent and amazing  is when the God of grace is received in spite of mocking and ridicule. Those who mock loudest are sometimes those who are closest to the Kingdom. The are drawn, or  ”dragged” in (John 6:44), because God's grace is more powerful than any man's word. So biblical repentance includes not only a changing of your mind BUT a whole lifestyle change.

D A Carson a well respected conservative scholar says this about repentance- “Repentance is not a merely intellectual change of mind or mere grief, still less doing penance, but a radical transformation of the entire person, a fundamental turnaround involving mind and action and including overtones of grief, which result in (spiritual) fruit“. Does your repentance have legs.  In other words is your life changing from your initial decision to repent and accept God's gift, Jesus as your Lord and Savior.    J I Packer- has stated that “Repentance is a change of mind issuing in a change of life”  Has your life changed at all.

The bible also declares that repentance is a gift from God.  Hew grants repentance. We don't work it up on our own. Acts 11:18 states ”When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” Can you imagine that.  Even to those who think they can resist the God of grace, God is able to overwhelm even the stubborn will of man.

Many in Fall River think that by doing more right than wrong (good deeds) that God will some day accept their minuscule good deeds.  This is surely not biblical and it is damning. The bible tells another story. A better story. A more amazing story of mercy and grace apart from good deeds (Ephesians 2:8-10). God not only calls us to initial repentance, BUT once you become a member of God's family, the lifestyle of repentance is daily and ongoing. Last in biblical repentance a person NOT ONLY turns from sin BUT turns TO God!!! The King called all the people to call “mightily to God” in verse 8.  Would you?  Will you humble yourself before God and tell him what he already knows.  Will you trust in Jesus perfect life (God's requirement of perfection Matthew 5:48) and his sacrificial death on your behalf.  Remember humility comes before honor!!! You'll never regret life with Jesus and the local church.  It's never easy it but always worth it.



Does God Heal Everyone that Suffers?

May 20, 2013  CommentaryTheologyNo comments

In 2 Corinthians 12:8+9 It says “Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this [thorn], that it should leave me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

God loved the apostle Paul. But he also was intimately  involved in affording him the painful thorn in his flesh, even though Paul valiantly prayed for it's removal.

We are not in a position like Paul to beg for it's removal. Yet, God loves for us is no different than it is for those in offices and those who hold titles.We don't know the nature of Paul's thorn, but each of us has undoubtedly suffered in a similar way, and some considerably worse.

We, often pray like Paul and yet don't see God move. Why? There could be more reasons than are listed here, but I thought the list  might be worth noting.  I thought these reasons be an encouragement to anyone who is currently sensing the absence of God in your prayers. While we may neglect God, he is still aware of our suffering.

1. FAITH

Occasionally healing does not occur because of the absence of that sort of faith that God delights to honor. This does not mean that every time a person isn't healed, it is because of a defective faith, as if healing inevitably follows a robust and doubt-free faith. But it does mean that faith is very important.

How can we conclude otherwise in view of the many texts that closely link healing to someone's faith? I hope you'll take the time to pause and read these passages: Matthew 9:2228–2915:28;Mark 2:5115:349:17–24Mark 10:52Luke 17:19Acts 3:16;14:8–10James 5:14–16.

2. Sin that is Not confessed

Sometimes healing does not occur because of the presence of sin for which there has been no confession or repentance. Confession is part of the life of a biblical Christian. James 5:15–16 clearly instructs us to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another that we may be healed. Do you?

Again, please do not conclude from this that each time a person isn't healed it is because he or she has committed but not repented of some specific sin. But in some cases (not necessarily all) this is undoubtedly true. Humility is important.

3. Apathy

Healing may not happen because the sick don't want it to happen. Jesus asked the paralyzed man in John 5:6, “Do you want to be healed?” What on the surface may appear to be a ridiculous question is, on further examination, found to be profoundly insightful.

Some people who suffer from a chronic affliction become accustomed to their illness and to the pattern of life it requires. Their identity is to a large extent wrapped up in their physical disability. It is important that we fight against living in the comfort of a title that we once owned.

4. Prayerlessness

We must also consider the principle articulated in James 4:2, where we are told, “You do not have, because you do not ask.” The simple fact is that some are not healed because they do not pray.  They have an expectation that God is at THEIR mercy. Perhaps they pray once or twice, and then allow discouragement to paralyze their petitions. Prayer for healing often must be prolonged, sustained, persevering, and combined with fasting.

5. Demonic Action

Some are not healed because the demonic cause of the affliction has not been addressed. Please do not jump to unwarranted conclusions. I am not suggesting that all physical disease is demonically induced. But there is activity that we are not privy to.

It is interesting, is it not, that in Paul's case God used “a messenger of Satan” to inflict the thorn? There is also the case of the woman in Luke 13, who had “a disabling spirit [or, a spirit of infirmity] for 18 years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself” (Luke 13:11). According to Jesus, “Satan” had “bound” her (Luke 13:16; see also Acts 10:38).

6. God's Providence

We must also consider the mystery of divine providence. There are undoubtedly times and seasons in the purposes of God during which his healing power is withdrawn or at least largely diminished. God may have any number of reasons for this to which we are not privy, whether to discipline a wayward and rebellious church or to create a greater desperation for his power or to wean us off excessive dependence on physical comfort and convenience or any number of other possibilities. If this leaves you confused, that's why it's called a mystery.

7. Something Better

Often times there are dimensions of spiritual growth and moral development and increase in the knowledge of God, in us, that he desires more than our physical health, experiences that in his wisdom God has determined can only be attained by means or in the midst of or in response to less-than-perfect physical health. In other words, healing the sick is good thing (and we should never cease to pray for it), but often there is a better thing that can be attained only by means of physical weakness.

WHAT DOES GOD CALL US TO?

Persevere in Prayer

We may never know why a person isn't healed. What, then, ought to be our response?

In the first place, PLEASE DON'T MOVE AWAY FROM PRAYER.. Many times I've been asked, why should Paul bother to pray for release from something that God wills to inflict? The answer is that Paul didn't know what God's will was in this particular case until such time as God chose to make it known. And neither do you or I with regard to any particular illness we may suffer.

If, like Paul, you are able to discern, through some prophetic disclosure or other legitimate biblical means, that it is not God's will now or ever to heal you, you may cease asking him to do so. Otherwise, short of death itself, you must persevere in prayer. It shows we are trusting  God to sovereignly move on his behalf for his glory.

I'm sure there are other ways to account for why God chooses not to heal, but I trust that these have proved helpful. I do not know everything about this matter, but of this I'm quite certain: God's grace is sufficient in all circumstances so that we, “for the sake of Christ” (2 Cor. 12:10), might learn that in our weakness his power is made perfect!

The last thing worth mentioning is that in prayer we show that Jesus is  Lord by obediently going to his throne of grace. In Psalm 23, the Psalmist speaks of walking THROUGH death.  Death is not the end all, but the beginning of a new state for those who are IN Christ. If you are suffering, don't give up.  While God always hears our prayers he knows what is best for us.  Trust him to work things together for good (Romnans 8:28).



Do you Have a New Identity in Christ?

May 20, 2013  Herald NewsTheologyNo comments

It's been 19 years since I walked down the street on an early Sunday morning in Fall River, MA fully committed to Jesus.  Since then it has been a challenge and even sometimes a struggle to appreciate.That day I went from sinner to saint who sins. I walked out of jail a new man. I was now a Christian.  I wasn't born a Christian but that day was born again!!!

By identity one would commonly define identity as “that which makes one the same with another”. When we speak of an identity, it is usually associated with how we line up with a way of thinking or a group of people.  I'm a___________ (construction worker, CEO, housewife).  When it comes to identifying with a group of people we are either” In Christ” or “of the world”. When I walked down the street that sunny morning 19 years ago, something transformative had taken place.  The light bulb had gone off and I was changing identities.

For all my life I had been concerned with what others thought and said about me, but today something was different.   Today I really desired and cared about what God thought and desired of me.  I had always wanted approval.  I wanted to be loved. I wanted personal recognition and applause for all I did, and so I identified with those who would accept me.

This day was different. All of a sudden I really wanted God to be Savior and Lord (Romans 10:9). There was a newly implanted desire that was actually lining up with the scriptures. I was most concerned with what God thought and said about me, and it was God and God alone I wanted to please. It was on this day in September of 1994 that God became my heavenly Father and Jesus was now my Lord and Savior.

What happened??  The bible calls this regeneration. God not only called me but gave me a desire to want him to be at the forefront of my life.  I can't explain it, but nothing has ever been the same.  Over time I would like to discuss this new identity.  This new identity is wrapped up in what God has done FOR me and how he sees me as a result of the work of Jesus and the Holy Spirit for me. I hope to share this new identity with you in upcoming posts. Please follow me along as I discuss this NEW identity in Jesus that comes from without!!!  Have a great day and we'll examine what God says about those IN CHRIST!!!



Atonement

April 26, 2013  CommentaryHerald NewsTheologyNo comments

One of the terms in the bible that has made me overwhelmingly appreciative and indebted to God is the term atonement. The dictionary definition pales in comparison to the rich description you'll find in a bible dictionary

I like how J I Packer describes atonement. He defines atonement as “making amends, blotting out the offense, and giving satisfaction for wrong done; thus reconciling to oneself the alienated other and restoring the disrupted relationship”.

The bible describes every human being as needing atonement for their sins but being incapabable of doing so. In fact Psalm 49:7 says  7 Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, 8 for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice. We all sin straight from the womb (Ps 58:3) and offend THE God  whose nature it is to hate sin (Jer. 44:4; Hab. 1:13) and MUST punish it (Ps. 5:4-6; Rom. 1:18; 2:5-9).

No acceptance by, or fellowship with, such a God can be expected unless some type of atonement is made. EVEN on our best days, we never fulfill all his commands.  We are insufficient in and of ourselves. Anything we do in hopes of making amends can only increase our guilt or worsen our situation. We either get proud or become guilty based upon performance.  This is why it is ridiculous to attempt to establish one's own righteousness before God (Job 15:14-16; Rom. 10:2-3). In fact it is impossible.

But there is hope. We have, pictured in God's word, his love, grace, mercy, pity, kindness, and compassion. In scripture, God steps out and does for us what we cannot do; he provides the atonement that our sin made necessary. This term is dropped into the whole New Testament story line.

Since the beginning God had a plan to share his atoning work with the nations, not just Israel. But he chose Israel to fulfill the task.  He had to choose someone!! When his chosen people Israel failed and sinned against God, he set up as part of the covenant relationship a system of sacrifices that had at its heart the shedding and offering of the blood of unflawed animals “to make atonement for yourselves” (Lev. 17:11). These sacrifices were typical (that is, as types,they pointed forward to something else).

What happened is that while sins were in fact “left unpunished” (Rom. 3:25) when sacrifices were faithfully offered, what actually blotted them out was not the animals' blood (Heb. 10:11) but the blood of the antitype, the sinless Son of God, Jesus Christ, whose death on the cross atoned for all sins that were remitted before the event as well as sins committed after it (Rom. 3:25-26; Heb. 9:11-15).

The Old Testament has all these types that point to a future fulfillment. This is what gives the Christian hope. This fulfilling action is fulfilled through an antitype. The type points forward to a future antitype. The antitype is a person. He was foretold all the way back in Genesis 3:15. Not only is God just to punish those who have refused to offer up this offering, but he goes way beyond and does for us what we can't do for ourselves by also being the justifier (Rom 3:26). WOW!!!! What a God!!!!

The blood poured out by Jesus is sacrificial for those who will repent and believe that his blood is sufficient and will blot out their sin. Christ's death was our redemption (i.e., our rescue by ransom: the paying of a price that freed us from the jeopardy of guilt, enslavement to sin, and expectation of wrath) Rom. 3:24; Gal. 4:4-5.

The death of Jesus was God's act of reconciling us to himself, overcoming his own hostility to us that our sins provoked (Rom. 5:10; 2 Cor. 5:18-19; Col. 1:20-22), AND making us his friend.

The Cross also propitiated God (i.e.,removed his wrath and anger  against us by forgiving our sins and choosing not to remember them – Psalm 103:12+13). The work of Jesus on the cross had this propitiatory effect because in his suffering Christ assumed our identity, as it were, and endured the retributive ( judgment due to us (“the curse of the law” Gal. 3:13) as our substitute, in our place, with the damning record of our transgressions nailed by God to his cross as the tally of crimes for which he was now dying (Col. 2:14; cf. Matt. 27:37; Isa. 53:4-6; Luke 22:37).

 

The bible is loaded with terminology like atonement, redemption, reconciliation, propitiation…. And when understood sets the stage for humility, brokenness, thankfulness and excessive love.  When these biblical terms come to life, it changes the hearts of those who are his. And as we fall in love with what he has done, it gives us a love for his creation and those created in his image.

 

 

 

Nowhere in the bible is there this idea that God cannot be angry. It is found neither in the OT nor the NT. It is neither Jewish nor Christian. It is an idea that comes from the Greek philosophers. These philosophers thought of their gods as distant, aloof, and uncaring, too far removed to be interested in the affairs of mankind. But the Bible states that God loves mankind with a special love. It says that because he loves his people so greatly he is not indifferent when they stain his creation with sin and bring destruction into the cosmos and into the lives of those he loves.

The death of Jesus has inaugurated the new covenant, and we now have access to God through his Spirit. Jesus's work is not only sufficient but efficient for those who repent and trust alone in what he has done for them (Acts 4:12). Would you recognize that God is good, that he cares, that he has done something about our plight and calls us to respond to what Jesus has done? God's love not only saves, but constrains those who love him and it gives them a new status: “righteous” in HIS sight!!!



The Beatitudes

April 25, 2013  Herald NewsTheologyNo comments

Have you ever read the Sermon on the Mount?  It's found in the first New Testament book Matthew. In looking at the first twelve verses (the first portion of each verse)there is a tendency to moralize them, and when we moralize them the power of God's word is reduced and minimized. We have a tendency to look introspectively rather than objectively to the one who is the fulfillment and empowerment for daily living…..JESUS

R.W. Glenn, a Pastor, has stated, “Maybe you were taught that the Beatitudes were the highest form of morality that anyone could live by, and you know now how impossible they are. Or maybe you experienced the flannel graph version of the Beatitudes.” If that is the case, “maybe it is time to get unfamiliar. Maybe you need to read these verses with fresh eyes for the first time. Whatever your exposure to the Beatitudes has been, you probably think of them as less powerful and captivating and helpful than they are. Take a step back to see how breathtakingly radical their real message is.”

The fact is that the beatitudes are a picture of the gospel and this Kingdom blessing (blessing from God) is contrary to what we have been taught to believe. Kingdom living does not start with doing, BUT with being.  We have a tendency to make the beatitudes into a list of do's and don'ts. We think by doing enough of them we can gain God's favor, when in reality we can only have God's favor because of who and what Jesus is and has done. Rather than starting from a position of our own strength we need to start from a position of being strengthened IN CHRIST.

The beatitudes therefore can be described as qualities that begin to characterize sinners who experience God's grace in the gospel. We need to be careful not to read the Beatitudes as a series of commandments (dos and don'ts) because when we do that we empty the words of their true power.

The beatitudes are a description of what a child OF the kingdom LOOKS like. We can do these things because the work and empowerment for us has already been accomplished.  Jesus said “It is finished” in John 19:30.  All the work necessary for you and I to gain God's favor and power has already been done.  Upon repentance and faith alone in Jesus's finished work (his perfect life and substitutionary death) we not only gain God's favor but now have his power (the Holy Spirit's living presence) to live out these descriptives. We must work FROM favor, not FOR favor. In fact, it's impossible to gain God's favor.

When we look at these beatitudes we should see an inability to complete them perfectly, and then see Christ as that fulfillment for us!! Salvation IS of the Lord (Jonah 2:9) and so is the power to live the Christian life.

Would you look at these verses in a new light?  Would you see Jesus as the fulfillment of them?  Would you recognize that through him you can now find the strength to joyfully live them out?  That there is a whole new way to live if you'll cry out to the one who made you for his glory? That the descriptive in Matthew 5:1-12 can only be accomplished through the empowerment of God's Spirit that teaches us to deny ungodliness and live selfless – rather than selfish – lives? Would you take a moment and take a fresh look and observe the power of Jesus to fulfill these qualities for us? See him as the beatitudes and pray that his fulfillment of them would inspire you to pursue living them out joyfully because you ARE loved, rather than doing them to BE loved. Just look up at the cross.  The cross was not the ending BUT the beginning for despondent broken people who recognize I CAN'T DO IT….. But Jesus did!!!

1-Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

2 And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

3 ”Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 ”Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5 ”Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

6 ”Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

7 ”Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

8 ”Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

9 ”Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 ”Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 ”Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.

12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Mat 5:1-12)



Jesus Justice and Punishment

April 23, 2013  CommentaryHerald NewsTheologyNo comments

Today , tragedy hit our own back yard. At the least opportune time, during the 117th running of the Boston Marathon in Boston, MA, evil again reared its ugly head.  During the annual  celebratory running of the most famous marathon of them all, terrorism hit us in our back yard. Two bombs  exploded close to the finish line of the race, and has already resulted in three deaths and dozens of wounded.   The blogs have been loaded with all types of emotion. Anger, confusion, sadness and even apathy have come forth. And yet will justice be served?

It breaks my heart that there are no longer any safe places to relax and enjoy the beauty that comes forth from creation and it's created beings. Terrorism shows up in the theatre, workplace, classroom, church and now it's invited itself to sporting events.  Where do we go from here? Do we just accept this as the way things will always be or is there hope for those who will struggle tremendously today and in the days to come?

Many of us today will cry out for justice, but will it ever be truly afforded in time? In a country and society that continues to remove biblical and constitutional rights is there any true voice for those who are unjustly treated?  Because there are no longer any true standards offered as authoritative, we are left to a judicial system that has no authority above itself. It has become the final arbiter.  It scares me to think that nine people can choose however they wish and there is nothing we can do about this…… UNLESS

While justice is often denied individuals, groups and nations, I believe the bible gives hope to  the hopeless.  When heinous crimes are committed, the perpetrator can sometimes escape a human judge who does not know all things . But there is a promise that some day a divine judge will give forth perfect justice through a perfect judgment.

While we pray that justice is served we must never forget that we too as humans are all under the judgment of God. The scriptures tell us that some day one will return who will judge the living  and the dead perfectly (Acts 10:42, 2 Timothy 4:1,1 Peter 4:5). His name is Jesus. And not only is he to judge the living and dead, but he also will justify (put in right standing) all those who come to see him not only as perfect in judgment of evil , but perfect as rescuer (Romans 3:26). Just declaring I'm sorry is not enough.  We need not only forgiveness, but perfection. Jesus offers BOTH.

We need Jesus because we too will some day be judged and ALL OF US have fallen short of God's standard; perfection.  We need an alien righteousness (Jesus perfect life for us) that can give us right standing with God. While we may not have committed this mass murder we too will face God's judgment. The book of James says that anyone who sins one time is just as guilty as someone who has committed mass murder 10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. (Jam 2:10).

Martyn Llyod-Jones has stated- “the gospel is open to all,the most respectable sinner has no more claim on it than the worst”. This is hard for us to swallow in a very emotional time, but if we are to minister well we must never forget who has rescued us and what he has rescued us from. 

Now is a time to mourn and care exceedingly for those who are hurting. Yet we too are messes who need intervention on our own behalf.  The bible tells us to be angry at sin without sinning (Ephesians 4:26).  This is hard but possible  when we come to see our sin as great and our Savior as greater. We want to respond in a Christ like manner. Without God's Spirit we tend to respond angrily or with apathy. God alone can perfectly comfort those who are hurting exceedingly (2 Corinthians 1:3-4). My prayer for believers is that we respond biblically and that the gospel goes forth and comforts those who are afflicted.

Jesus is significant in a moment like this because only he can fix the mess we have made. David  Wells noted theologian states ““Christian hope rests upon the fact not that evil can be ignored, or that it will simply fade away, but that it has been judged at the cross”.  Jesus was judged so that we might find hope in a senseless mess. We all need hope.  Jesus came to conquer death and sin.

In the interim we are called to 1-pray, 2- listen with compassion, 3-bear the burdens of those who are hurting,  and 4-proclaim hope to those who feel hopeless. When Jesus rose from the grave he not only conquered the penalty of sin (separation from God forever), but the power of sin ( it's ability to keep us in bondage from pleasing God). Therefore let us look to Jesus from where we find salvation and solace and an ever present help in a time of need.

No one can hide from God-13 And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. (Heb 4:13).

A day is coming when the presence of sin will no longer be a part of our existence. Jesus promised when he returns the remnants of sin will fade away- 4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Rev 21:4).

If you have this living hope in Jesus will you proclaim him?  If you have no hope, would you consider him? May God bless all those who are suffering today.



Freedom and the Law

 

For the past three months at Redemption Fellowship we have been studying the book of Galatians.  Early on in my pastorate, I am enjoying preaching through books of the bible for a couple of reasons.  First, because there is tremendous power in Gods word.  The bible can be picked up and read or heard through proclamation and change a man's destiny. Second it forces our church to deal with the difficult issues in the bible. The key theme in Galatians is a theological term called justification.  Justification has been defined by the Westminster Shorter Catechism as “ an act of God's grace wherein He pardons all our sins and accepts us as righteous in His sight only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us and received by faith alone”.

It deals with the issue of ones status before God. In other words how can someone be in right standing with God.  Not just for today, BUT for all eternity. The book of Galatians deals with this issue in six chapters.  The book is broken down into three sub sections dealing with three mini themes.

In chapters 1-2 Paul deals with the significance of the gospel in justification. One is justified how? In Galatians 2:16 it says  “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Gal 2:16).

In chapters 3-4 a contrasting view is brought into the play. Its called the law. While the Galatians were saved by faith, they were pondering a return to their old way of living by rules and regulations as a mean of right standing with God.  Paul warns them not to return but stay in the gospel because the law has now power to save, only condemn. The law is a system loaded with rules and regulations that give the appearance of godliness. This system can be very attractive  to the religious person. Both the religious person and the Christian can default to this way of living.  If there are three ways to live, one being for self , the second according to rules and regulations (the law) and the third through the power of the gospel, the system most people are attracted to in one way shape or form is the law.

The last two chapters 5-6  speak of the application of  being justified.  In Christ, being justified by faith alone, what now should a person do with this status ? How should we live on a daily basis?

In  John Bunyan's famous book Pilgrim's Progress, there is a section that speaks of Christian's long spiritual journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. Similar in ways to Augustine's City of God, this story begins with Christian weighed down by the great burden of his sin and fearful of the judgment to come. We all bear this mark without Jesus.But a man by the name of  Evangelist comes to tell him how to enter the narrow way of salvation, where his burden/sin can be taken away.

Soon after Christian began his pilgrimage, he met a man who informed him of a more prudent way to get rid of his burden. All Christian needed to do was go and see a gentleman named Legality, who lived in the village of Morality. To put this in spiritual terms, he could get rid of his sins simply by keeping God's laws. Christian was captured by this possibility. Obviously he didn't want to make his journey any more difficult than necessary. We too often look for the easiest approach to life, even as Christians. Could Mr. Legality help him get rid of his burden? Isn't that the question we often ponder.  Is there any other way than Jesus to save ourselves?

When Christian went ahead and asked the way to Morality, the man answered by pointing to  a high mountain and saying, “By that hill you must go.” Christian followed the man's directions.

[He] turned out of his way to go to Mr. Legality's house for help; but behold, when he started his ascent up the hill, it seemed so high, and also that side of it that was next the wayside did hang so much over that Christian was afraid to venture further, lest the hill should fall on his head. Wherefore there he stood still, and [knew] not what to do. Also his burden, now, seemed heavier to him than while he was in his way. There came also flashes of fire out of the hill that made Christian afraid that he should be burned; here therefore he sweat, and did quake for fear.1

John Bunyan did not mention this hill by name, but it is not hard to guess which one he was referencing. It was a hill of fire and smoke—Mt Sinai, the mountain of God's law. Far from removing Christian's burden, that great hill only made him more fearful. This is because the law does not have the power to save but only to threaten us with judgment, and thus to show us our need of salvation. Galatians three deals with this issue of going back.

We who are Christians are also recovering Pharisees, recovering from the death blow of sin and judgment. While our status is justified, we can daily live contrary to our new identity in either licentiousness (being our own law makers and keepers) or legalistically. While we have been radically rescued from sin and death by the same gospel that saved the Apostle Paul,  we are prone to drift from the gospel. We too can act in ways that reveal the struggle between the flesh and the Spirit.

How do we change? The call is to go back to the gospel (the work of Jesus on our behalf) over and over again reminding ourselves of what Jesus has done for us.  Because of Jesus WE ARE   a new creation, justified, redeemed, reconciled, adopted, and glorified. The Spirit of God, the third person of the Spirit gives us strength and the expereince of truly being loved by God the Father, in our  cry Abba Father? So what should we focus on as we move forward in faith?

Sinclair Ferguson writes in his book The Christian Life: “True faith takes its character and quality from its object and not from itself. Faith gets a man out of himself and into Christ.Its strength therefore depends on the character of Christ. Even those of us who have weak faith have the same strong Christ as others!Not only does grace save us, but it also sanctifies us (Titus 2:12). It is in forgetting who we are that we tend to live like who we were, prior to Christ. In looking up to God and what he has accomplished through Jesus, and crying within for the Spirit of God to magnify his love to us,  we can find the power to live OUT our faith in Christ like fashion

God is good.  He can change us in ways we can't change ourselves. We can either look to God and draw strength from him or look in to our own inner resources for continuing transformation. What will you choose?

As a result of being justified by faith,I also ask you Christian  to live out your faith to the glory of God in all spheres of life. within the church and out in your local community. Jerry Bridges reminds us  “God's ultimate goal for us, however, is that we be truly conformed to the likeness of His Son in our person as well as in our standing… Jesus did not die just to save us from the penalty of sin, nor even just to make us holy in our standing before God. He died to purify for Himself a people eager to obey Him, a people eager to be transformed into His likeness… This process of gradually conforming us to the likeness of Christ begins at the very moment of our salvation when the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us and to actually give us a new life in Christ. We call this gradual process progressive sanctification, or growing in holiness, because it truly is a growth process.

How can we possibly attain this.  I suggest three ways to start. One is stay in the word, because it too is the power of God to transform you.  Someone has said “The book will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the book”.  When you stay in God's word, you will be drawn back to the grace and mercy of God over and over again. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. (2Co 3:18).

 Second, I plead with you to continue your pursuit of God through the local church. God has called us INTO community.  And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25 not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Heb 10:24-25) Lone ranger Christians have the tendency to pick apart the church rather than hold it together.  Ed Stetzer recently said at a conference I attended “you are either rowing the boat or rocking the boat”. It's always easy to find fault with the local church. We are recovering Pharisees, proud and unwilling to change naturally, blind to our faults and idolatrous ideals and lifestyles. That is who I am apart from word and local church, much worse than you could ever imagine.

Third once you find a home,  be willing to consider a new way of living your faith, that which includes   service to others and not as one needing only to  be served. When the Apostle Paul spoke of true freedom and it's expression in Galatians 5, he spoke of what the gospel promotes… Godly freedom–  For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. (Gal 5:13). True freedom expresses itself in lovingly serving others. One of Jesus roles on the earth was to serve his fellow man  the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mat 20:28 ESV).

Those who are truly free learn to give because they have been given much.  We can momentarily return to Pharisee mode and when we do the church becomes  a den of thieves rather than the household of faith, the result is found two verses down 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. (Gal 5:15).  The need therefore is found in Galatians  5: 16-26, walking in the Spirit.  This is a sermon topic for the near future!!

Let us be that city on a hill that promotes the glory of God, a new community, that lives a new way, through a new means, the power of God!!!


 

1 John Bunyan, The Pilgrim's Progress (New York: New American Library, 1964), pp. 26, 27.



1-8-2013 Are You Ready

 

 

 



10-23-2012 Outreach in the City of Fall River

Im so thankful for those in our church who are excited to share the gospel. On Wednesday I had my friend Dave carrying the cross with me on the corner of Rodman and Plymouth, sharing the good news of Jesus to others who are provoked by the cross. Wednesday night our young zealous friend Nicole brought her friend to church. My wife Deb served all 10 of us who showed up for bible study.Last night we had Jenn and Ryan going to the shopping stores and pouring out coffee for those who were waiting to get a great Christmas deal. Little did the people in line know  that beyond the coffee was the best deal they could ever get. When people turn from their sinful lives and put their faith in Jesus, Jesus gets their sins and they get his righteousness (his perfection), which is imperative to stand before God and be in right standing.

We also were able to share the love of Jesus corporately last Saturday, November 17th in our fall outreach ” Hayride in the Hood” on 227 Morgan Street. Our people cared for others in our community in various ways. Serving, singing, fellow shipping and making new friends. We have two ladies, Sue and Lisette who show up for every event and love Jesus and express him to others.  Where would the lcoal church be without committed women????? The beauty  is that there are multiple ways God uses our giftedness in presenting gospel opportunities. We are privileged to step out and operate in our giftedness and  enjoy the presence and  joy of the Lord.

Last night Thanksgiving night, visiting our friends Tony and Wendy, we were able to share the gospel with their family members. There has been  a passion in each circumstance . Each scenario people wanting share and live out the good news. People are understanding what God has done, sensing  that there are two types of people in this world, lost and saved, and have the burden  to share Jesus with others (AMEN). This passion is what is at the forefront of Redemption Fellowship. We value the gospel (what Jesus has done for us) and are willing to share it boldly if necessary with humility (always the challenge). We also are amissional people who love what God has done and are on mission  sharing the power of God (the gospel) with others individually,  and corporately as a church. Last we are buildingcommunity with like minded people who are all looking for ways to fulfill the great commission and commandment. The great commission (Matthew 28:18-20)has Jesus at the center, and the great commandment (Matthew 22:37-39) extends itself into the community. May this passion result in reaching a city lost and without hope.  Jesus gives us purpose and direction and radically changes our lives.

I am praying daily that God would send more with a pioneer spirit.  Maybe your plan and giftedness may be used in a   great way to reach the lost in our city. We all know it starts with desire and prayer. Tim Keller in his work “Center Church” mentions 3 basic traits of frontline prayer, 1-A request for grace to confess sins and to humble ourselves 2-A compassion and zeal for the flourishing of the church and the reaching of the lost 3-A yearning to know God, to see his face to glimpse his glory.   Would you join me in praying in this fashion to our great God who says NOTHING is too difficult (Jer 32:17)!!!  We need people praying daily for God to raise up leaders in our church and to also send some to us who are desirous to reach the lost.

Our church because of God's favor  is being noticed. The city of Fall River has sent someone to meet and hear what is going on in the Corky Row community.  God's is magnifying himself in multiple ways as we extend his name everywhere.  I'm thankful for our small mighty band of faithful who have this selfless attitude. I'll also be sharing the limelight with Gene Giguiere the Lead Pastor at Harvest Community Church in Woonsocket, RI  on WARV in the next couple of weeks (dates to be determined) as we share the rigors and joy of church planting in the city. His segment usually shows from 4:00 PM to 4:15 PM Monday through Friday. Be praying that God touches the hearts of more who want to be missional minded.  Have a great Thanksgiving weekend!!