Archive for the ‘Gospel’ Category

Are You Lost?

What does it mean to be lost?

We all know what lost means. We were trying to get somewhere, maybe even trying to get home, and we missed a turn or made a wronAre you lost?g turn. Now we don’t recognize anything, see none of our usual landmarks. Maybe we can retrace our route, but everything is so unfamiliar, we again turn the wrong way. Now we must either get help or wander around aimlessly.

In wandering around we might find something to take the place of where we were going. We might even decide it is better than what we were originally looking for. But it isn’t what we were looking for. Regarding our original destination we are still lost, even if we have found another place to be, specially if our original destination was home.

The same is true when we spiritually use the term “lost.”

Each of us is traveling somewhere. When we get to the end of life’s journey we will be somewhere. It will only be the right somewhere if, first, we know where we want to go and, second, if we know how to get there. Traveling through life aimlessly is the condition God called “lost.”

“For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”
Jesus, Luke 19:10

Jesus spoke of life as a choice between two ways with two possible destinations (Matthew 7:13-14). One way is easy to find. Even the aimless can (and will) find it. The other way is specific. It requires finding the narrow gate. But directions to that gate are readily available. If you aren’t adept at reading the map (Bible), help is available. Or if you wish someone to share the journey with, we are available. Click here to contact me via email and I will help you get in contact with someone from your area.

 

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    For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. (1 Timothy 4:10)

    She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:21)

    But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:13)

    For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

    Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. (Romans 5:9)

    Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, (1 Peter 3:21)

    No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. (Luke 13:3)

    For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. (Romans 3:28)

    Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18 and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. (Romans 6:16-18)

    The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. (Luke 8:12)

    Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (James 1:21)

    For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. (1 Corinthians 1:21)

    But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:13)

    even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved— (Ephesians 2:5)

    he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, (Titus 3:5)

    For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? (Romans 8:24)

    [Scriptures quoted from English Standard Version]

Gary Greene

But…

(If you have not read “Case In Point” posted 3/19/2010, you need to scroll down and read it first; then this “But” will make sense)…

     But, yesterday, Sunday, March 21, I met for a talk with someone who has been attending our congregation now for a few months who displayed a different outlook than “cataractmoon.” My friend requested this meeting because she had a certain spiritual desire and wanted Biblical insight into how to proceed. So we opened the Bible.

     She had gotten the impression from her childhood time with the church that religion is something that should be important in her life. For a few reasons, she had gotten away from the fellowship of Christians but as an adult is now checking back in on those latent feelings.

     Hearing the Bible readings and sitting in on Bible study sessions these past few months, she heard about this idea of baptism, the same idea that “cataractmoon” was discussing last week. But where “moon” saw a misplaced belief in a magical charm, my new friend sees the beginning of a life of commitment to her Lord, to the one she needs to save her from sin and guide her spiritual journey.

     After she explained her understanding of baptism, I turned to a few verses about baptism in the Bible that supported statements she had already made:

  • that baptism is the point at which we die to sin (Romans 6:2, 6:6),
  • that it is the beginning of a new life (Romans 6:4, 6:8),
  • that it is connected with a trusting faith in the Lord (Galatians 3:26-27),
  • and that she would be following Jesus’ own instruction that disciples be baptized (Matthew 28:19).

     Only the last of those statements even comes close to being the arbitrary magical charm that some believe baptism to be. But even if one is motivated to be baptized solely by the fact that Jesus instructed it to be done, he would be participating in an act of submission to God’s request, a statement of trusting faith, not a meaningless rite. Then when you add in the understanding that is gained from the Romans passages already mentioned (and similar scriptures such as Colossians 2:12), then you truly see a meaningful exercise (rather than a meaningless rite) that begins your spiritual walk on the right path.


Here are the scripture references cited above:

Romans 6:1-8 (ESV)
1
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For one who has died has been set free from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.

Galatians 3:26-27 (ESV)
26
for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)
18
And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Colossians 2:11-14 (ESV)
11
In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12 having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13 And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, 14 by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross.

Gary Greene

Case in Point

     I’ve been suggesting that some Christians need “A Different Place” as their destination. Of course, we all know that heaven is our destination. But we need to be sure that we are truly aiming at heaven. Is it true that some who think they are heading toward heaven are heading the wrong way?

     A blog post Tuesday (3/16) on WordPress.com by “cataractmoon” illustrates what I’ve been trying to say. He described his parents who treated baptism as a miracle ritual that would change their child’s destiny from hell to heaven. The problem is probably best expressed by the line, “I entered the water without even thinking of God.” They were teaching their son that we can save ourselves with the right actions, God being secondary.

     If instead we teach a relationship with God based on trust, we will grow Christians who fill their lives with actions that are done with God and through his strength. The difference is that we will fill our lives with actions that truly submit to God rather than having a few rituals that have been chosen as magical charms.

 

Gary Greene

The Different Place, part 3

     I’ve been suggesting a different attitude for Christian living, one that leads us to a different place. Let’s describe that different place a little better. We will turn to Hebrews 12 and read the contrast between the Israelites at Mount Sinai (where they received the 10 Commandments) and Christians at Mount Zion:

     For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. For they could not endure the order that was given, "If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned." Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, "I tremble with fear."

     But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel (Hebrews 12:18-24).

     Notice the contrast. The time of the Old Covenant was one of physical experiences (“what may be touched”). The display of God’s presence was designed to inspire fear (fire, darkness, gloom, tempest, loud). This brought fear because the people knew they could not measure up to the perfection that a relationship with such a being required (“they could not endure the order given”). Even Moses was affected.

     But we relate to God in a heavenly way. Though we could fear God as the judge of all, we do not, for Jesus is our mediator. His blood has made us perfect so we are able to gather with the spirits of the righteous.

     I have known “Christians” that thought they related to God on the basis of following his commands. They did not even have the spiritual sense to fear that they could not keep the commands completely. The history of the Israelites shows that we must not rely on this method. Instead we rely on our spiritual relationship with God through Jesus. This still leads us to heed the commands of God! As the scripture in Hebrews goes on to say:

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:28-29).

    Due to our gratitude that God would grant us such a wonderfully assured place with him, we live our lives in reverence and awe. We make this choice, in part, because God is a consuming fire. But we know that the fire is reserved for the unrighteous. When we act in gratitude for what God has done for us, we know that we are not in that classification. Let us continue in that faithfulness without fear.

Gary Greene

Scripture quotations taken from the English Standard Version.

Going To a Different Place, part 2

     I left you yesterday (3/11/2010) after saying that a Christian has not been filling his true role if the focus of his Christianity is on involvement in the church’s meetings and rituals. Now you might ask, “How can one be a ‘good’ Christian if he doesn’t faithfully attend church meetings and participate in the singing, Lord’s Supper, etc.?” Well, I didn’t say you shouldn’t do these things. I said it is not our purpose or goal or focus.

     There are many things God has commanded as part of Christian living. It is human nature to look for a checklist of these commands and chime, “I’m done!” when we think we have done the list. It goes without saying, the most likely command to be put on such a list is the one that we know is easily checked up on by each other: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together…” (Hebrews 10:25a, KJV). But that idea of focusing on an easily seen “righteous act” reminds me of Jesus’ warning about the hypocrites: “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them…” (Matthew 6:1a, ESV). Yes, we are to practice righteousness, but the idea isn’t to have a list of items we can check off when we are done.

     It’s like hiring a cleaning person for your office. A professional once told me about the wisest boss she ever had. When she went for the interview, he asked her no questions. Instead he paid her to clean one of the offices. She hadn’t come prepared for this, so he gave her supplies. She asked what all he wanted done; he said, “Clean the office.” She was smart enough to look through the supplies he gave her before beginning the task to see if she had everything a good cleaning would require. She asked about an item that was missing. He was impressed. He was also impressed that she was disappointed in the quality of the cleaning products. Notice: he didn’t ask if she could fulfill his checklist. He wanted to know that she was dedicated to the idea of getting his office clean.

     God isn’t interested in whether we can keep a weekly appointment and carry out some routine actions as he listed them in scripture. He wants to know if we are dedicated to the idea of righteousness in our lives. The person that is dedicated to righteousness will recognize the need to follow the commands. After all, the commands are the description of a righteous life.

     But it cannot be emphasized enough: following the commands is not the goal. The Spirit wrote this many ways in scripture. For today, let’s look at this one:

Will any one of you who has a servant plowing or keeping sheep say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come at once and recline at table’? Will he not rather say to him, ‘Prepare supper for me, and dress properly, and serve me while I eat and drink, and afterward you will eat and drink’? Does he thank the servant because he did what was commanded? So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty’ (Luke 17:7-10).

     After we have done everything we think God has commanded, there is still more that he can rightfully demand of us. That puts our Christian walk in an entirely different light. There is no way we can think, “I’ve done it all.” Perhaps we can say, “I have been faithful today.” That sets us up to also be faithful tomorrow. That’s a different attitude from the one in which many “Christians” currently reside. When we live this way, God is leading us to an entirely different place.

 

More on Monday!

Gary Greene

Going To a Different Place, part 1

     I once lived where I would walk past the firehouse every time I went to the office. Nearly every time I went by, the firefighters would be washing one of their vehicles in the front driveway. It seemed that their job was to keep the equipment shiny. Of course, we know that wasn’t their job. But they needed to keep the equipment in top condition so they could fulfill their actual roles.

     I’ve also been impressed to see the trophy cases at some firehouses. They are rightfully proud of their victories against other squads in contests that test their speed, agility, and hose handling abilities. Once again, these firefighters know that winning contests is not the purpose of their training. Rather the contests are part of the training that helps them fulfill their true responsibilities.

     Sometimes we find Christians who think they fulfill their role, as Christians, when they “attend church” and partake in its rituals. But anyone thinking such has missed the essence of Christianity. We are active with our local church and participate in its activities because it supports our life with God. Knowing the right way to do these things is appropriate. But it’s not the doing of these things that make us right with God. God’s grace working through our faith accomplishes what we truly need.

     Tomorrow we’ll explore how this is accomplished, so be sure to check back!

 

Gary Greene