Saturday, March 31, 2012

I'm clean!

I've written quite a bit over the past several years but have never told you how I came to know the Lord.  I'd like to do that now.  Better late than never, I guess.

My testimony isn't as dramatic as some.  I didn't come out of the drug culture or any kind of self-destructing life style.  Nor did I go through a long period of searching for the true meaning of life before coming to Christ.  You see, I was raised in a Christian home and accepted Christ as my savior when I was about 6 years old.

After church one Sunday I had a lot of questions about becoming a Christian.  My father very patiently answered them by showing me verse after verse in the Bible.  He explained to me that I could become a Christian by placing my faith in what Jesus Christ did for me on the cross and not by doing good things.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life (Jn 3:16).

He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5).

Then my father prayed with me.  My faith was very simplistic because I was so young, but I still remember it very plainly.

Over the years I've had spiritual growth spurts as well as plateaus and valleys, just like every other believer, as I constantly battle this old nature of mine.  But how freeing to know that I stand justified ("just as if I'd never sinned") before God because — and only because! — of His Son's death on the cross and resurrection!

It took me a while to fully comprehend this fact, though.  Too many times I had been told in church that I must constantly confess my sins to God, that I must "keep short lists" of my sins with Him, so that I wouldn't forget to ask for forgiveness for each and every one.  Of course this made me worry that I might actually forget to confess some of them...and then what?  I wasn't sure.  So I got into the habit of not only constantly focusing on and confessing every sin I could think of, but also, just for good measure, of saying a "blanket" prayer asking forgiveness for any sins I happened to forget.  Whew, I was covered!  But what a tremendous burden I lived under.

I remember coming across a book sometime during my high school years in which a young married couple talked about how joyful their Christian walks had become since coming to realize what Christ's death and resurrection for them really meant.  They seemed so happy, so free.  I didn't understand what they were talking about, but I knew I wanted to.

It was still several years after that — during my college years — before I finally understood that God had forgiven me — not only for my past sins, but also for my present and future sins — from the moment I placed my faith in His Son's death and resurrection on my behalf.  And now, because I'm in Christ (Col 2:8-12), I stand before God just as if I'd never sinned.  Isn't that amazing?!

You've probably noticed that I frequently post this quote from Bob George based on Heb 10:1-14.  I like it because it explains so vividly where I was then and where I am now:

When the Israelite who hears that Christ's sacrifice has taken away his sin continues to go on the Day of Atonement to offer animal sacrifices, what is he saying about the blood of Christ? When the Catholic continues to rely on his priest for forgiveness, what is he saying about the Spirit of grace? When the Protestant continues to send up prayers of confession to bring about forgiveness, what is he saying about the blood of the covenant? The Christian world tells the Israelites, "You no longer have to offer animal sacrifices." The Protestants are saying to the Catholics, "You don't have to confess to a priest, you can go directly to God." And God in heaven is saying to all of us, "IT IS FINISHED."

I wasn't going to the confessional per se', but I might as well have been.

I still struggle with my old sin nature, of course, just like every other believer.  The Apostle Paul talked about these struggles:

So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man, but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. (Rom 7:17-8:2).

But now I know that in Christ I'm clean!

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Cor 5:21). 

I've also come to learn that it's in fully understanding God's grace towards me — not confession — that helps me to say no to sin.

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works (Titus 2:11-14).

I look forward to the day when I no longer have to struggle with my old sin nature and we are all together in heaven with our Savior.  What a wonderful day that will be — AND, it's going to be forever!

justme ("just as if I'd never sinned" me)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Seriously — Hermeneutics

Here's another piece that my husband wrote:

Hermeneutics is a Greek word meaning “I’m smarter than you.”

Seriously, it’s from the Greek word for “expert in interpretation,” which, in turn, is from the Greek word for “interpret.” It is primarily used to define different methods of interpreting Scripture.

There are two basic ways to interpret Scripture.

1. The wrong way
2. The right way

I have no idea how many ways there are to interpret Scripture, but the only way that makes sense to me is the literal, grammatical, historical hermeneutic.

In short, I believe the Bible means what it says. The writers sometimes use types, symbols and figures of speech, but it’s usually obvious when they’re doing this. To insist that these devises somehow open the door to a non-literal interpretation is ridiculous because every one of us uses symbols and figures of speech every day …

“My headache is so bad I think my skull is about to explode.”

“Their serving sizes are so large, they come on a plate the size of Kansas.”

“If he makes that noise again, I’m going to shoot him.”

… and yet we expect to be taken literally.

All the Bible prophecies that have already been fulfilled have been fulfilled literally.

Isaiah 7:14 prophesied that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. In Matthew 1:22-25, we read that the Messiah was born of a literal virgin.

Zechariah 9:9 prophesied that the King would enter Jerusalem riding on a donkey. In Luke 19:30-35, we read that the King entered Jerusalem riding on a literal donkey.

Psalm 22:18 prophesied that the Lord’s clothing would be divided by casting lots. In John 19:23-24, we read that literal soldiers cast literal lots for the Lord’s literal clothing.

So it only makes sense that prophecies that haven’t yet been fulfilled will also have a literal fulfillment — especially since, as I wrote in my previous post, the Lord wants us to understand Scripture.

I think the biggest issue I have with a symbolic, spiritualized (call it what you will) interpretation of Scripture is this: If it doesn’t mean what it says, who gets to decide what it does mean?

Take, for example, Paul’s clear statement in Romans 11:25-30 that Israel will be saved.

For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: "The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins." Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

If that doesn’t mean that God will keep all His Old Testament promises to Israel and restore the nation to His favor, what does it mean? If it doesn’t mean what it says, who gets to decide?

Each of us as individuals? What if we don’t all agree?

Theologians? Pastors? Which theologians and pastors?

There isn’t anything approaching a consensus out there. If we can’t find the truth by taking Scripture literally, then the only way to find truth is to pick which among the many voices has the correct answer. And we’re left with no basis for doing this because any support from Scripture for this view or that view, for this theologian or that theologian, can’t be taken literally.

Again, the Holy Spirit makes it clear that we are to study Scripture until we understand, so it only makes sense that the meaning of Scripture can be found. And that can only happen if Scripture means what it says.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

All We Like Sheep

Here's another piece we'll be doing in our Easter concerts.  The words and music were written by John Purifoy.  Such a beautiful piece, don't you think?  It has a similar feeling to a piece we performed during our Christmas concerts — Et In Terra Pax (And on Earth, Peace).  Good reason, too.  John Purifoy composed both of them. 

All we like sheep have gone astray.
We have turned, ev'ry one,to his own way.
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Surely, surely He has borne our griefs,
And carried our sorrows.
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God and afflicted.
He was wounded for our transgressions.
Surely, surely He has borne our griefs!

Like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
And a sheep that before its shearers is silent.
He opened not His mouth.
He opened not His mouth.

Surely, surely He has borne our griefs,
And carried our sorrows.
Yet we esteemed Him stricken,
Smitten by God and afflicted.
He was wounded for our transgressions.
Surely, surely He has borne our griefs!

All we like sheep have gone astray.
We have turned, ev'ry one,to his own way.
And the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Interesting tidbit - 15

Q:  Both Matthew 22:30 and Mark 12:25 say that we will be "like angels" at the resurrection.  Does this mean we will become angels after we die?

A:  No. This is a common misconception.  In these passages Jesus is dealing with the subject of marriage. Angels were never given the command to "be fruitful and multiply."  They have no marital relationships. They do not reproduce, and in heaven, neither will we. Our purpose to "be fruitful and multiply" will have passed. It is clear that our bodies will be different, but we will not become angels.

Angels are simply regarded as "messengers," in both the Old and New Testaments. They have no need of, and cannot experience, the redemption that Christ came to provide for the human race. First Peter 1:12 says that angels long to look into the Gospel. Had they been formerly humans, salvation wouldn't be a mystery to them because they would have experienced it themselves.

So what does happen when believers die?

Their spirits go to be with Christ (2 Cor 5:8). In 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 Paul tells us that they are asleep in Jesus, meaning their bodies are dead, but their spirits are alive. This same passage goes on to say that when Christ returns, He will bring with Him those who are asleep in Him, and that their bodies will be raised — made new like Christ’s resurrected body — to be joined with their spirits which He brings with Him. All believers who are living at His return will also have their bodies changed to be like Christ, and they will no longer have old natures, only new natures. "And so we shall always be with the Lord," not as angels, but along with the angels. "Therefore comfort one another with these words."

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Hosanna to the King

Our church choir/orchestra/organ Easter concerts are just around the corner now — the weekend of March 30th. Again, we had been practicing separately from the orchestra and organ until very recently. We had a combined rehearsal last weekend and will have another one this evening. I love when we're all together. What a difference it makes in the sound!

This piece by Dan Forrest (below) is one of my favorites of the many pieces we're doing.  I chose to post this one first because it depicts John 12:12-15 — "On the next day the large crowd who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, took the branches of the palm trees and went out to meet Him, and began to shout, 'Hosanna! BLESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD, even the King of Israel.' Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written, 'FEAR NOT, DAUGHTER OF ZION; BEHOLD, YOUR KING IS COMING, SEATED ON A DONKEY’S COLT.'" 

Amazing that all this took place mere days before they turned on Him crying, "Crucify, crucify Him!"

Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna!
Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna!
Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna,
Hosanna!  Hosanna!  Hosanna!

Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna!
Hosanna to the King!
Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna!
Hosanna to the King!
Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna,
Hosanna!  Hosanna!  Hosanna!

Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.
Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.
In the name of the Lord.

Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna!
Hosanna to the King!
Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna!
Hosanna to the King!
Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna,
Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna!

Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna!
Hosanna to the King!
Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna!
Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna!
Hosanna, Hosanna!
Hosanna, Hosanna, Hosanna!

Hosanna, Hosanna!
Hosanna, Hosanna!
Hosanna!  Hosanna! 
Hosanna!  Hosanna! 
Hosanna!  Hosanna!  Hosanna!  Hosanna!


Friday, March 23, 2012


Over the next week or two I will be posting some articles that my husband has written. He's a better writer than I am and explains difficult subjects much more clearly than I do. But I guess that stands to reason, since editing/writing is his occupation. Anyway, here's the first one:

Few things bother me a lot. I’ve become much more patient as I’ve grown older.

But it really disturbs me to hear Christians say that we can’t know for sure about doctrinal issues and that it really doesn’t matter as long as we have the basics right. This has happened several times in the past few years.

“Even the theologians don’t agree, so there’s no way we can know for sure.”

“The Bible teaches both sides of the issue, so we can’t possibly take a stand.”

“I don’t care what somebody believes, as long as they believe the basics.”

I disagree. More than that — I disagree vehemently.

Why do I think we can know for sure? Because the Bible clearly tells us that we should.


When Paul preached in Thessalonica (Acts 17), the Jews gathered a mob and chased him out of the city. He traveled to Berea and preached the same message. Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so (Acts 17:11).

Notice that the Bereans listened to Paul eagerly. They wanted to hear what he had to say and they valued it. But also notice that they didn’t stop there. They examined the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was true — and for that they were called noble.

They were noble because they were eager to learn and examined the Scriptures to see if what they’d heard was true. They didn’t think it was impossible to know for sure.

And then there was Nicodemus. He was a Pharisee, a member of the Sanhedrin. He went to Jesus and asked Him questions about how to enter the Kingdom. Jesus answered his questions, but he also chided him for not already knowing the answers: "Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things?” (John 3:10). How was Nicodemus supposed to have known? From Scripture.

In 2 Timothy 2:15 Paul challenged Timothy to handle the Word carefully and not to deviate from the truth. Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

2 Timothy 3:16-17, he wrote: All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.

• Teaching — doctrine, information
• Rebuking — pointing out and correcting errors
• Correcting — from a word that means “straightening something that is crooked.”
• Training in righteousness — education and discipline of character

Paul explains that using Scripture in this fashion will create in a believer the foundation for being useful in ministry.

And finally, in 2 Timothy 4:2, Paul wrote: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.

I find it difficult to believe that the Lord expects us to know the truth and to teach it to others unless He also expects us to be able to understand it.

(Please don’t take this to mean that I think I understand it perfectly. My understanding is very much a work in process. But it’s also my goal.)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

ALL will be judged

The fact that there will be a final judgment for all men, both believers and unbelievers, is clearly stated in many passages of Scripture. Every person will one day stand before Christ and be judged for his or her deeds.

But, there will be several judgments.

The first judgment is a judgment of believers’ works and will take place at the rapture or very shortly thereafter, when we've been caught up into the air. This judgment is often referred to as the "judgment seat [bema] of Christ." Paul uses the Greek word bema to describe the place where this judgment will take place. Bema was the name for the platform on which the chief judge of the Grecian games in Athens presided, which was associated with honor, authority and reward, not punishment. 

In 2 Corinthians 5:10 we are told that "...we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad." Romans 14:10-12 also says, "...we will all stand before God’s judgment seat..."  In context, it is clear that both scriptures are referring to believers, not unbelievers.  Therefore, the judgment seat of Christ will not determine our salvation, which is by faith alone (Eph 2:8-9), nor question our sin. Because all our sins have been forgiven past, present and future, we will never be condemned for them (Rom 8:1-2).

Our position in Christ is the "foundation" spoken of in 1 Corinthians 3:11-15. What we build upon that foundation can be of "gold, silver, and precious stones" or of "wood, hay and stubble." The judgment seat of Christ will separate the bad from the good; those things we have done with wrong motives will be removed and only the things of true value will remain and be rewarded. Therefore, we should not look at the judgment seat of Christ as God judging our sins, but rather as God rewarding us for our lives, based on how faithfully we served Christ (1 Cor 9:4-27; 2 Tim 2:5).

There is another aspect to this judgment.  Most, if not all, of us have unresolved issues with other believers (not with God!), things that have lain hidden beneath the surface — jealousy, bitterness, cruelty, abuse, etc.  We won't drag these reminders of our sinfulness into heaven with us. The Lord will bring all these things into the open and resolve them (1 Cor 4:5).

After the rapture and the judgment seat of Christ, we will then reign with Christ (2 Tim 2:12).

The second judgment is the judgment of the sheep and the goats or the judgment of the nations (Matt 25:31-36). This takes place after the tribulation period but before the millennium. Its purpose is to determine who will enter the millennial kingdom.

Reading Scripture literally and progressively, we see that God has a plan for His chosen people, Israel. When our Lord returns to earth at the end of the tribulation, He will set up His millennial kingdom. But, "...not all who are descended from Israel are Israel..." (Rom 9:6). So just as Ezekiel prophesied, "I will make you pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant; and I will purge from you the rebels and those who transgress against Me; I will bring them out of the land where they sojourn, but they will not enter the land of Israel. Thus you will know that I am the LORD" (Ezek 20:37-38).

Because our Lord will be on earth at this time, this judgment will occur on earth. Those who have believed will enter the Kingdom. Those who have not believed will be thrown into the outer darkness...where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 25:30). 

The unsaved Gentiles who are alive at our Lord's second coming will also be judged at this time (Matt 13:47-50). They will be judged in the Valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3:2). The name Jehoshaphat means "Jehovah judges." Although the millennial kingdom centers on Israel, many Old Testament prophecies show that people from other nations will be blessed through God's chosen people (Dan 7:14).

The third judgment is the great white throne judgment at the end of the millennium (Rev 20:11-15). This judgment does not determine salvation either because everyone at this judgment is an unbeliever and is therefore already doomed to the lake of fire (Rev 20:4-5). These are all the unbelievers who have died from every age, plus any still living at the end of the 1000 years...if there are any, that is.

Revelation 20:12 says that unbelievers will be judged from the things which are written in the books, according to their deeds. Those who have refused to believe will be judged based on their works alone, and because the Bible tells us that "by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified" (Gal 2:16), they will be condemned. No amount of good works and/or keeping God’s laws is sufficient to atone for sin, so all their thoughts, words and actions will be judged against God’s perfect standard and found wanting. There will be no reward for them, only eternal condemnation and punishment. Maybe you think this is all a bit harsh, but don't forget the step God took to save us from His own justice:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life (Jn 3:16).

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Macaroni salad

For years while our daughters were growing up, it was my habit to make macaroni salad for lunch upon returning home from church Sunday noons.  It was all that was needed because this salad includes something from each food group — pasta, meat, cheese and vegetables. It's a whole meal in a bowl.  Because it also has black olives in it, our daughters would invariably ask if they could have one to eat separately from the salad. So, I also got into the habit of setting aside two black olives every time I made it.  (Perhaps you remember that our daughters love black olives so much that they always get a can of them in their Christmas stockings?)  They're now ages 25 and 18 and I still set aside black olives for them...if they're home.  It's expected, don't you know. :)

This salad is one I basically made up myself.  People seem to like it well enough whenever I serve it so I keep on making it. Occasionally someone even asks me for the recipe, but since I never measure anything, it's difficult to pass on.  Well, here's my guess at what goes into it.  Keep in mind that all measurements are just approximate.

1 c mayo
2 tbsp vinegar
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp dried mustard
1 tsp dill weed
1 tbsp dried parsley
1/4 c finely chopped onion
1 c chopped tomato
1 c sliced black olives
1/2 c cheddar cheese, cut into small cubes
1/2 c ham, cut into small bite size (I often just use ham lunch meat.)
16 oz pasta (any kind), cooked, drained, and rinsed with cool water

Mix together first 8 ingredients, then add next 4 and stir in, all while cooking pasta.  Drain and rinse pasta and add to mixture.  I think it tastes best when you serve it immediately.  Of course you can refrigerate leftovers and serve it later as well.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Pithy sayings - 6

A friend is one who knows us, but loves us anyway.

The only love worthy of a name is unconditional.

Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.

Talk sense to a fool and he calls you foolish.

Whenever you are confronted with an opponent, conquer him with love.

According to the latest official figures, 43% of all statistics are totally worthless.

Never deprive someone of hope -- it may be all they have.

If you judge people, you have no time to love them.

Why, they couldn't hit a barn at this dist

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude to me is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company...a church...a home. The remarkable thing is you have a choice every day regarding the attitude you will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past...we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is ten percent what happens to me and ninety percent how I react to it. And so it is with you. You are in charge of your attitude. (Charles R. Swindoll)

Monday, March 19, 2012

St Patty's Day

It's been a while since I've blogged.  Lots going on at the moment, both at church and at home.  Seems like this time of year is every bit as busy as Christmas; sometimes I think it's even more so.

Despite this, we found time to have a few friends from work over for dinner this past weekend.  When we set the date several weeks ago, I didn't realize it was also St. Patrick's Day.  But when it did finally dawn on me, I decided to go with it and made corn beef and cabbage, Shepperd's pie, and two kinds of soda bread.  One of our guests brought the dessert, which saved me a lot of work.  So kind.  Another guest brought a pretty Gerbera daisy in a pot, which served as a centerpiece.  Also so kind.  And our final guests brought drinks.  So very kind.

Thing is, since my husband never was a big fan of corn beef and hates cooked cabbage, I had never made it before.  Nor had I ever made soda bread.  But thanks to the internet I was able to find some great recipes.  I paid close attention to what others said after making them, whether or not they liked them or found them easy or difficult to make, so it was quite easy to narrow it down to a few good ones. 

One thing I learned about soda bread, though, is that the bread we commonly see in the stores, with the raisins and such, is not traditional soda bread, but rather Americanized soda bread.  American-Irish soda bread is sweeter and contains extra ingredients, like sugar, raisins, and sometimes an egg, caraway seeds, and sour cream or yogurt.  But traditional Irish soda bread contains only four ingredients — flour, soda, salt, and buttermilk.  It's not a festive "cake" but rather a daily bread, which doesn't keep long and has to be baked every few days.

Surprisingly (but perhaps not) corned beef and cabbage isn't an Irish tradition either. It too has been Americanized. Corned pork and cabbage is more common in Ireland, but Irish immigrants to the US found beef more plentiful in lower Manhattan, where the butchers were mostly kosher and pork was forbidden.

Sunday, March 11, 2012


What does the word "confess" mean? Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words lists three Greek words which mean "confess" or "confession." The first is homologeo, which literally means "to speak the same thing, to assent, accord, agree with"; the second is exomolegeo, with the same meaning of the first but adds "out" and "intensive", making it stronger than the first word; and the third is homologia, which is akin to the first two words but adds "denotes confession by acknowledgment of the truth." In other words — "to agree with."

Yet most believers seem to think it means to ask for forgiveness; to say they're sorry — and really feel it deep down inside — so that God will forgive them again, thereby restoring fellowship with Him (all erroneously based on 1 John 1:3-9). On top of this, there's usually an added inferred promise that they'll try harder next time round, too. Just like the foolish Galatians, they came to Christ by faith, but soon their old religious flesh insisted on getting in on the action, doing something for God and trying to please Him through self-effort.

But it isn't about trying harder, it's about putting off the old man (stop focusing on ourselves) and putting on the new man (putting the focus back on Christ), and that can be done at a moment's notice. We do get better at this over time, if we're in the Word, talking with the Lord, fellow-shipping with other believers, etc. But there will always be that struggle within us while we're on this earth.

It seems to me, however, that too many of us are trying to discipline our old natures, when what we should be doing is putting them off (Rom 13:12; Eph 4:20-24; Col 3:8-10). Besides, it can't be done. Scripture has shown us that over and over again. Scripture also tells us that focusing on what we have failed to do, doesn't keep us from sinning, it just keeps us focused on our failures (our old natures) instead of on Christ and what He's done for us (Phil 3:12-14). Moreover, it's grace that teaches us to say no to sin, not confession (Titus 2:11-12). God's provision for our sin isn't in confessing them one by one. Rather, it's through the renewal of our minds (Rom 12:1-2; Gal 5:16, 22).

The fact that we are already forgiven doesn't mean we don't agree with God when we have acted or thought in a way inconsistent with our new identity in Christ. We are told to talk to God about everything, and that would include sins we're battling, but not for forgiveness because we've already been eternally forgiven. Of course God is quite aware of our continuing struggles with our old natures and Satan; He just wants us to depend on Him.

Also, being forgiven doesn't mean we shouldn't speak to our brothers and sisters in Christ if they've gone astray (1 Thes 5:14; 2 Thes 3:11-15; 2 Cor 2:4-8; Gal 6:1). Sometimes I don't think we even realize we've let our old natures take control; other times we're quite aware and don't care, don't want to change, or don't seem to know what to do about it. The Holy Spirit and Scripture, first and foremost (Rom 15:4-5), encourage us to keep putting off the old and putting on the new, but fellow believers (1 Thes 5:11-14), and prayer, etc. can also encourage us to do so (Phil 4:6-8; Rom 12:12). And when other people have been hurt by our actions, we need to go to them and confess our wrong-doing to them and make it right (James 5:16), but this issue is between brothers and sisters in Christ; God's forgiveness is not in question here.

Confession, then, is to agree with God, not only concerning sin, but also that we are eternally forgiven. It even goes a step further and agrees with God concerning what attitudes and actions are consistent with our new natures. You see, true confession doesn't focus our minds on our failures, but back to what Christ accomplished for us on the cross, which leads to a thankful heart. It is when we agree with God concerning forgiveness that our minds begin to see the vastness of His grace that He has for us in Christ Jesus. And understanding God's grace is what changes the way we live by enabling us to see people, circumstances, and things from His perspective and to respond out of love for Him.

*I have reposted the last two posts to refute what Alan Redpath used to say to believers, “God has not promised to forgive one sin that you will not forsake.”  (See also these posts, 1 John 1:9 and 1 John 1:9 cont.)  From the standpoint of logic, if this is truly the way it is, none of us would even make it into heaven.  But more importantly — I know of no Scripture in context to support such a statement.  Do you?  

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Once for all

In Romans 3 Paul declares that God has presented Christ as payment for man’s sin, and that we are made righteous in God’s sight by faith in His blood, entirely apart from works (Rom 3:21-26). However, in this same passage he also says that this forgiveness concerns the sins previously committed (v 25). What does Paul mean by this?

Some believe this verse means that God forgave us up to the point when we trusted Him in faith and thereafter we must ask for forgiveness in order to have a "fresh sprinkling" of His blood to cover our sins. This is not true, however. Our sins have been forgiven past, present and future (Heb 10:10, 14), and when God looks at us now, He sees Christ's righteousness (1 Cor 1:30; Rom 5:17; Phil 3:9).

In Romans 3:25 Paul is not saying that only our past sins have been forgiven, he is looking back to past ages, saying that people who lived under the Law (like Noah, Abraham, Moses, and David, etc…) were actually saved by the redemption Christ brought, although His death was still future in their day. In other words, Christ died, not only for the sins we commit, but also for those “previously committed.” The believers of past ages simply believed what God told them then, and He counted them righteous (Gen 15:6) on the basis of Christ’s coming payment of sin. Hebrews 9:15 says the same thing; Christ’s death redeemed the sins committed under the first covenant.

The fact is, when we don't believe we're eternally forgiven, we become sin-focused instead of Christ-focused, and the more we think about sin, the more we sin (Rom 7:7-13). If only all believers could have the assurance that we are forever forgiven, what tremendous freedom we would experience from unnecessary guilt...

The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming — not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said: "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased. Then I said, 'Here I am — it is written about me in the scroll — I have come to do your will, O God.'" First he said, "Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them" (although the law required them to be made). Then he said, "Here I am, I have come to do your will." He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy (Heb 10:1-14).

...and from sin itself, for grace teaches us to say no to sin:

For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men. It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age (Titus 2:11-12).

Some time ago I came upon a publication that included this quote. I think it states rather well our standing in Christ today:

When the Israelite who hears that Christ's sacrifice has taken away his sin continues to go on the Day of Atonement to offer animal sacrifices, what is he saying about the blood of Christ? When the Catholic continues to rely on his priest for forgiveness, what is he saying about the Spirit of grace? When the Protestant continues to send up prayers of confession to bring about forgiveness, what is he saying about the blood of the covenant? The Christian world tells the Israelites, "You no longer have to offer animal sacrifices." The Protestants are saying to the Catholics, "You don't have to confess to a priest, you can go directly to God." And God in heaven is saying to all of us, "IT IS FINISHED."

Monday, March 5, 2012

Israel and the Church

"... the main teachings of the Bible are to be taken literally, but they [covenant theologians] make an exception with Bible prophecy. This is to be spiritualized or taken in a non-literal way. There is no room for a literal rebirth of Israel in their system. All the prophecies about the blessings of regathered Israel in the Promised Land are “spiritualized” into the Church’s blessings and their ultimate entering into Heaven ... Covenant theology is also known as “replacement theology” since they seek to replace Israel with the Church. Actually, if the distinctive Pauline doctrines of the Mystery and Dispensation of Grace had been better understood, the covenant theologians would not have had to resort to this kind of replacement idea. The Church is the result of the Dispensation of the Grace of God which is a divine, temporary, interruption of Israel’s prophesied program. Therefore, the Church is distinct and separate from Israel. Perhaps we should not be too hard on the early covenant theologians. In the history of the church, the early reformers brought the Church out of the dark ages by re-emphasizing the Word of God and striving to make it available to the masses. They stood for the key teachings of the Scriptures but Israel was kind of a riddle. The old land of Israel had no Jews and everywhere the Gospel of Christ was preached, it was resisted by them. Surely God did not mean that literal Israel would be restored to their literal land. History and experience were against it. Israel, in the Bible, was God’s people, and now God’s people are the Church. Therefore, the Church must be spiritual Israel. It seemed a reasonable conclusion for them. Fortunately, the past one hundred years has seen an unparalleled interest in the study of Bible prophecy and the distinctive truths of the Mystery through Paul’s writings. These two together form a powerful and illuminating system of dispensationalism that explains why Israel is spiritually dead today, and how we can take the prophecies of the Bible literally. Unfortunately, for the “replacement” Christians, covenant theology had been deeply ingrained for centuries before the new light of understanding came. It is now a part of their religious tradition and has been codified in many confessions of their churches. This has caused many to either misrepresent dispensational truth or to denounce it as a recent heresy. The debate continues to this day.”

K. Lawson