23 January 2012

The Gospel: A Daily Need?

The gospel isn’t simply a set of truths that non-Christians must believe in order to become saved. It’s a reality that Christians must daily embrace in order to experience being saved. The gospel not only saves us from the penalty of sin (justification), but it also saves us from the power of sin (sanctification) day after day. Or, as John Piper has said, “The cross is not only a past place of objective substitution; it is a present place of subjective execution.” Our daily sin requires God’s daily grace—the grace that comes to us through the finished work of Jesus Christ.

Churches, for example, have for years debated whether their worship services ought to be geared toward Christians (to encourage and strengthen them) or non-Christians (to appeal to and win them). But this debate and the struggle over it are misguided. We’re asking the wrong questions and making the wrong assumptions. The truth is that our worship services should be geared to sinners in need of God’s rescue—and that includes both Christians and non-Christians. Since both groups need his deliverance, both need his gospel.

Christians need the gospel because our hearts are always prone to wander; we’re always tempted to run from God. It takes the power of the gospel to direct us back to our first love. Consciously going to the gospel ought to be a daily reality and experience for us all. It means, as Jerry Bridges reminds us, “preaching the gospel to yourself every day.” We have to allow God to remind us every day through his Word of Christ’s finished work on behalf of sinners in order to stay convinced that the gospel is relevant.
 Tullian Tchividjian

Why Do We Need to Develop Patience?

On any given day, we may encounter frustrating people and situations, such as the slow driver, mischievous child, or uncooperative co-worker. We may feel like lashing out, but God wants us to stay calm and be patient with everyone (1 Thessalonians 5:14).

Why should we want to develop patience?

Our calling. Though once alienated from the Lord, we have been made part of His family through Jesus’ shed blood. As God’s children, we’re called to live a life worthy of Him—one that is characterized by humility, gentleness, and patience (Ephesians 4:1–3).

Biblical teaching. Scripture tells us to be tolerant of one another, bearing each other’s burdens, and responding with kindness.

Jesus’ example. The Lord demonstrated patience toward Peter’s impetuous actions, the crowd’s demands, and the leaders’ false accusations. We are to cultivate an attitude of composure.

Healthy relationships. Our impatience can hurt others and close off dialogue. Responding calmly gives room for the other person to confess wrongdoing, explain his attitude, and make changes.

God’s approval. The apostle Paul wrote that we are to be joyful in hope and patient in affliction (Romans 12:12 niv). When we quietly endure our suffering, we find favor with the Lord (1 Peter 2:20).

The Holy Spirit is conforming us to Christ’s image. As we cooperate with Him, He will develop in us the ability to persevere—without becoming agitated—when waiting or provoked. A calm demeanor in times of delay or adversity can be a powerful witness to the transforming work of God.

Saint Augustine

"Faith is to believe what you do not see; the reward of this faith is to see what you believe."

19 January 2012

The Light of Christ

"There are all kinds of darkness in this world: darkness that comes from sin; darkness that comes from discouragement, disappointment, and despair; darkness that comes from loneliness and feelings of inadequacy....The light of Jesus Christ is stronger than any darkness we face in this life, if we have faith in Him, seek after Him, and obey Him."
Virginia U. Jensen

Why is Reading the Bible so Important?

Is it not remarkable how often Jesus settled great issues with a reference to reading? For example, in the issue of the Sabbath he said, “Have you not read what David did?” (Matthew 12:3). In the issue of divorce and remarriage he said, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female?” (Matthew 19:4). In the issue of true worship and praise he said, “Have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babes you have prepared praise for yourself’?” (Matthew 21:16). In the issue of the resurrection he said, “Did you never read in the Scriptures, ‘The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone’?” (Matthew 21:42). And to the lawyer who queried him about eternal life he said, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” (Luke 10:26).

The apostle Paul also gave reading a great place in the life of the church. For example, he said to the Corinthians, “We write nothing else to you than what you read and understand, and I hope you will understand until the end” (1 Corinthians 1:13). To the Ephesians he said, “When you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ” (Ephesians 3:3). To the Colossians he said, “When this letter is read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and you, for your part read my letter that is coming from Laodicea” (Colossians 4:16). Reading the letters of Paul was so important that he commands it with an oath: “I adjure you by the Lord to have this letter read to all the brethren” (1 Thessalonians 5:27).

The ability to read does not come intuitively. It must be taught. And learning to read with understanding is a life-long labor. The implications for Christians are immense. Education of the mind in the rigorous discipline of thoughtful reading is a primary goal of school. The church of Jesus is debilitated when his people are lulled into thinking that it is humble or democratic or relevant to give a merely practical education that does not involve the rigorous training of the mind to think hard and to construe meaning from difficult texts.

The issue of earning a living is not nearly so important as whether the next generation has direct access to the meaning of the Word of God. We need an education that puts the highest premium under God on knowing the meaning of God’s Book, and growing in the abilities that will unlock its riches for a lifetime. It would be better to starve for lack of food than to fail to grasp the meaning of the book of Romans. Lord, let us not fail the next generation!
John Piper

Always Be Ready to Share the Gospel?

“And having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace” (Ephesians 6:15).

In the original Greek, the word preparation used in Ephesians 6:15 can be defined as “firm-footing; a strong foundation.” We need to have a firm foundation in God’s Word.

This word preparation could also be translated as “readiness.” The idea is to be ready at all times to share the gospel

Scripture tells us that we as believers “should be on duty at all times.” You never know when an opportunity will arise for you to share the gospel with someone.

Again, it’s the idea of being ready and willing to move at a moment’s notice, for those opportunities to share the gospel often come when we least expect them.

This is how we gain ground for the Kingdom of God.

When is the last time you looked for an opportunity to share the gospel? When is the last time you prayed for an unsaved person by name to come to Christ? When is the last time you personally brought a nonbeliever to church with you?

Remember, the primary way that God reaches people is through people—people like you and me.

Paul writes in Romans 10:13–15:

“‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’” How, then, can they call on the one they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them? And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!’” (NIV)

Ask the Lord for an opportunity to share the gospel with someone today!
Greg Laurie

The Value of Compassion

"It is lack of love for ourselves that inhibits our compassion toward others. If we make friends with ourselves, then there is no obstacle to opening our hearts and minds to others."
Author Unknown

"The value of compassion cannot be over-emphasized. Anyone can criticize. It takes a true believer to be compassionate. No greater burden can be borne by an individual than to know no one cares or understands."
Arthur H. Stainback

11 January 2012

Robert Green Ingersoll

"Happiness is the only good. The time to be happy is now. The place to be happy is here. The way to be happy is to make others so."

Benjamin Franklin

"Be always at War with your vices,
at peace with your neighbors,
and let each New Year find you
a better person."

10 January 2012

How Does the Death of Jesus Save?

One way to understand the meaning of the death of Jesus is to imagine a courtroom scene in which we are on trial for our sins and God is the judge. Our sins against God are capital crimes. God Himself is our judge, and according to divine law our crimes deserve the death penalty. Death, in a spiritual sense, means eternal separation from God in unending torment. That's a very serious judgment.

By shedding His blood on the cross, Jesus took the punishment we deserve and offered us His righteousness. When we trust Christ for our salvation, essentially we are making a trade. By faith, we trade our sin and its accompanying death penalty for His righteousness and life.

In theological terms, this is called "substitutionary atonement." Christ died on the cross as our substitute. Without Him, we would suffer the death penalty for our own sins....

The writer to the Hebrews puts it this way: "And according to the Law, one may almost say, all things are cleansed with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no forgiveness" (Hebrews 9:22). For God to forgive our sins, His judgment had to be satisfied and that required the shedding of blood.

Some object, "Shedding blood seems so barbaric. Is it really necessary? Why doesn't God simply forgive us?" Because God is holy, He must judge sin. Would a just and righteous judge let evil go unpunished? At the cross, God poured out His judgment on His Son, satisfying His wrath and making it possible for Him to forgive us. That's why Jesus shed His blood for your sins, my sins, and the sins of the whole world....

God unleashed His wrath on His Son so that we might be spared that awful fate. This is the central message of the cross and the reason for our hope: God forsook His Son so that He might never forsake us. God assures us, "'I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5). Isn't that a wonderful promise?

7 January 2012

Why Does God Delay in Answering Prayer?

Scripture makes it clear that our heavenly Father hears and answers prayer. Yet we all experience times when, though we pray for God to act right away, He does not. What are some reasons for the delay?

At times the Lord sees that our attention is misdirected. Our relationship with Him should have priority over any earthly matter (Mark 12:30). Yet minds and prayers can become so fixed upon a need that our gaze shifts away from Him. The Father may delay His answer until we refocus on Him. In other situations, God waits because the timing is not right for granting our request. Perhaps certain events must happen first, or people’s thinking needs to be changed.

There are also seasons when the Lord wants to stretch and grow our faith. One of the ways He accomplishes that is by having us watch for His response. The Holy Spirit will work in these times of waiting to mature us and bring forth righteous fruit (Galatians 5:22-23).

Other reasons are a wrong motive for our request (James 4:3) and the practice of habitual sin. We all fall short when it comes to God’s standard of holiness, but some of us persist in a lifestyle of disobedience. The Lord may delay His answer so He can prompt us to confess our sin and turn back to Him.

Waiting on the Lord isn’t easy—faith and trust are needed (Hebrews 11:1). If His answer is delayed, check that 1) your focus is on Him, 2) your motive for asking is God-honoring, and 3) you aren’t practicing habitual sin. Then believe that His response will be for your good and His glory.

Was Jesus Created?

In John 1:1 the writer states plainly that “the Word was God.” In verse three he provides backup support for this claim. John writes, “All things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.”

John says the same thing in two different ways for emphasis and clarity: Everything that ever came into being owes its existence to the Word, Who caused it all to happen. If the Word caused all created things to come into existence, then He must have existed before all created things came into existence. Therefore, the Word could not have been created. Jesus is the uncreated Creator, God.

Those who deny the deity of Christ offer this rebuttal, though. "Wait a minute, Greg. You didn’t read the verse carefully. You missed something in the text. Notice the phrase ‘apart from Him.’ The apostle excludes Jesus from the count. If you said, ‘Apart from Billy, the whole family is going to Disneyland’ you wouldn’t mean that Billy wasn’t part of the family, just that he wasn’t included in the count. Every member of the family is going to Disneyland with the exception of Billy. In the same way, every created thing was created by Jesus with the exception of Jesus Himself. Jehovah created Jesus first, then Jesus created everything else. Jesus is not God.”

Note that this rebuttal turns on the ability to replace “apart from Him” with the phrase “with the exception of Jesus.” Allegedly they’re synonymous. Okay, let’s try the replacement and see what happens. The verse then looks like this: “With the exception of Jesus, nothing came into being that has come into being.”

If your brow is furrowed trying to figure this out, I’m not surprised. The reconstructed phrase is nearly nonsense. Strictly speaking, it means that Jesus is the only created thing that exists. Read it again and see for yourself. Obviously, the phrase “apart from Jesus” can’t mean “with the exception of Jesus.” These phrases are not synonymous.

“Apart from Him” means something entirely different. It means “apart from His agency.” It’s the same as saying, “Apart from me you’ll never get to Disneyland. I’ve got the car.” Apart from Jesus’ agency nothing came into being that has come into being. Why? Because Jesus is the Creator. He is God. That makes perfect sense in the context

3 January 2012

How Can We Be Sure We’re Saved?

Many of the people who call In Touch have questions about their salvation. They are frustrated to feel uncertainty about such an important issue. [This article] is a three-part salvation assessment. Answer yes to every question, and you can be sure that you are in God’s family and destined for an eternity in His presence. Answer no, and you’ll know exactly what issue to talk over with your pastor or a spiritual mentor.

1. Do I trust Scripture? Salvation is a simple process: “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31). Either we trust that Jesus Christ died for the sins of the world (including ours), or we don’t (John 3:16).

2. Do I accept the witness of the Holy Spirit? Anyone who believes in Jesus has the witness dwelling within his or her being. That is, the Spirit testifies to our identity as God’s children (Romans 8:16). It’s not about whether we feel saved; God’s Spirit offers an abiding conviction that we are.

3. Do I walk like a follower of Jesus? Those who are in Christ are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). If we have been transformed, there are going to be changes in our life. Simply put, true believers are creatures who seek the things of God—they desire to read and understand His Word, they want to gather with His people, etc.

Confirmed Christ-followers still sin. Some even backslide for a time. No matter how crooked our walk of faith, the Holy Spirit continues to convict. He cannot allow us to be satisfied with wrongdoing. That tug of guilt over sin is yet another assurance that you have placed yourself in God’s grip.

How Should Christians Act in the Workplace?

One of the greatest hindrances to the gospel’s effectiveness is Christians who act one way at church and another way elsewhere. The way we live for God should permeate all areas of life. The workplace is no exception.

The way we act reflects our faith. So if we claim to be Christians, our coworkers, bosses, and employees will equate our attitudes and actions with Jesus. Do those around you at the office see a positive reflection of God in your work ethic?

Let’s look at a scriptural model for the believer to follow. For one thing, we should view ourselves as servants. Next, our true boss is Christ; therefore, we work diligently and with integrity, knowing that our reward is from Him. Then, since all authority on earth is God-given (John 19:11), we should obey our superiors gladly—unless, of course, our boss tells us to do something that goes against Scripture. And finally, all those we work with and for have worth from the Creator, and we should treat them with respect.

Think about how the golden rule—“Do unto others as you’d have others do unto you”—applies here. Putting it a different way, imagine yourself as the boss and ask, How would I like employees to work, even when I wasn’t watching them?

Even when jobs or coworkers are hard to like, we are to work as though God is our boss. That means doing tasks with joy, a servant attitude, respect for others, diligence, and obedience to those in authority. Imagine what the workplace could be if all believers approached their jobs this way.