Christians: Predestination is not an Excuse to be Comfortable and Lazy (and Two Things to be Thankful for)


Apostle Paul Preaching on the Ruins

Yesterday we, in the United Sates, celebrated Thanksgiving. It is traditionally a time of year to gather with family and friends over a large meal and create and share memories together. I usually describe it as a “warm” time of year. A time to think (hopefully) and reflect on all that we have to be thankful for.

As believers we have a lot to be thankful for, in addition to all of the material comfort we have here in the States. I would like to take a few moments to reflect on two items in particular and leave you (and me) with a challenge.

1. Be Thankful That You are One of the Elect

Scripture is quite clear: “So then…[God] has mercy on whomever he wills, and he hardens whomever he wills” (Romans 9:18). Prior to that, Paul writes in chapter 8: “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified” (vv. 29-30). So, while God loved the world so much that he sent his Son (John 3:16), Christ’s mission was not to save the entire world from their sin. No, Christ’s mission was to redeem those whom he predestined to redeem through his death on the cross.

Those who are saved, those who have put their faith in Jesus and have accepted the gift of Salvation, are commonly referred to as the “Elect.” The elect are his Church, and his Church is who he died for (Eph. 5:25; John 10:15; 15:13; 11:52; Acts 20:28). I encourage you to be thankful for this. Be thankful that it is “not on human will or exertion, but on God who has mercy” (Rom. 9:16) that you are saved from eternal separation from him. If it were left up to you, no matter how good you think you are (righteousness based on works, see Rom. 9:30-33), you would ultimately fail, for “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (10:4, see also v. 9). It is by faith that you have been saved. Remember: those who he predestined he also called, and those he called he also justified (8:29). Take time today to reflect on this truth and pour your heart of thankfulness out to God because he saw fit choose you “before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph. 1:4).

2. Be Thankful for the Freedom of Religion Enjoyed in the U.S. (but beware of the challenge you face)

Here in the States we enjoy an extremely safe place to practice our faith. We are not persecuted openly for attending church, nor are we told that we cannot practice our faith. Christians in the U.S. ought to be thankful for this freedom of religion that we have. Although it was not the only reason for the early settlers to come to the New World, freedom from the Religion of the Crown in Great Britain was one of the reasons. They sought to settle in a land that was open to many different religions, a land where there was little to no persecution for one’s beliefs. While there are obvious downsides to this, it has allowed Christianity to spread from coast to coast in America and also in other places of the world. So while we recognize that accepting every religion may have consequences, we are thankful for the freedom we have to worship our Lord and God and to spread his Gospel to every person that we are able to without physical harm.

Do not take the above paragraph for granted. I implore you to not become comfortable and lazy in the freedom you have. Also, because of the doctrine of predestination and the Sovereignty of the Gospel spoken of in the section above, you are not allowed to ignore and disobey the command given to us by Jesus in Matthew 28:19-20: “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, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

Yes, God has predestined a certain number of his creation to be justified by the blood of Jesus. He has also predestined that those he justified would also preach and evangelize. Take a moment and look with me at Romans 10:14, “But how are they to call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?”

Divine sovereignty does not give an excuse to not be a faithful witness. “How are they to hear without someone preaching?” Understand the human responsibility in that. God’s predestination does not negate our responsibility. Please heed this warning and take your election seriously.

As Christians we are thankful for the justification we have through Christ and for the responsibility we are given to “make disciples of all nations…baptize…[and] teach” (Matt. 28:19-20).

A Lamp to my Feet: John 3:16


This week we are looking at a verse that is familiar to anyone who owns a Bible or has ever set foot in a church building or attending a revival of some kind: John 3:16.

John 3:16 (ESV)

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

The reason I chose this verse for this week is because we (in the United States) celebrate Thanksgiving this week. While we have a lot of things to be thankful for, especially in this country, the one thing that all Christians should reflect on this week is the Love that God demonstrated towards us by putting his Son on the cross. Even this exercise, of thinking of what God did for us in that moment, is overdone in churches today. It has become an exercise that is meaningless, unfortunately.

I encourage you to take advantage of the short verse this week, and one that you probably already have memorized, and do an in-depth study of it. You will be surprised at how much meaning is packed into those twenty-four words. Through your study of the verse I hope that it’s truth becomes even more real to you today and will begin to show you just how amazing God’s Love is.

I look forward to reading your findings as you share them later in the week.

Have fun!!

Jesus Did not Come in a UFO – Who is Christmas part 2


Last week I wrote about how human Christ was and how GOD He was and is. He had a family, brothers who mocked him, a sense of humor, became frustrated, ate, slept, cried, sweat, etc. He was human through and through during His time here on earth. How did he get here? How did He leave? Through these two questions one will discover just how much He was like you and I and just how much He is the GOD of you and I.

Not an Alien Invasion

Read Luke 1:26-38. Gabriel doesn’t tell Mary to look for a rope ladder to drop down from a UFO (this would not be a method our Humble Savior would have used), or that a stork is going to bring her a child since she is a virgin. No. He does the opposite. He says that she is going to give birth to Son. Give birth. Which meant that she would carry to term, as the saying goes, and a child would be born from her. She then asks a great question, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (v. 34). Gabriel’s answer:  “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” (v. 35). Wow. Christ’s literal father, through conception, is God. “Son of God” is not just a title that sounds cool, or does not apply just because the genealogy of Christ goes back to God (Luke 3:38). No, His literal father IS God. Crazy. So then in Chapter 2:1-7 Jesus is born. Merry Christmas, and Happy Birthday, Jesus. Human through and through. Human in His birth, but also God in His birth.

He Does Not Disintegrate

So after His birth He lives a life just like you and I. Goes through the fun years as a child, probably spending time with his earthly father, Joseph, in his wood shop, and even had to go through those awkward years as a teenager. He went through his twenties and got his ministry here on earth started at age 30. Three years later he is hanging on a cross.

As humans, our bodies can only endure so much before it is over. As a human, Jesus was only physically able to endure so much torture before he, too, died (Luke 23:46), and was buried (Luke 23:50-56). He is so human in his death that he actually dies. And once he is dead his body hangs limp on that cross until it is removed. Then when it was removed it was buried. He did not disappear once dead, or disintegrate off of the cross. Angels didn’t come down and grab him from the cross, or anything awesome like that. He died, like I will and like you will. And then was buried.

He was fully human in his birth from a woman, in his life as a child, teenager, and twenty-something, and ultimately, He was fully human in his death.

Only God can Beat Death

Three days after being placed in that tomb Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and a few other women go to the tomb to finish preparing His body. Once they get there they are met with the stone rolled away and Jesus’ body missing. Then to make it even more crazy, two men, in “dazzling apparel” (Luke 24:4 – A.K.A. angles) ask them why they would be so crazy to look for the living among the dead (Luke 24:5-8).

“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”

He is risen. He is risen, indeed. Amen.

He died like we will but could not possibly stay dead. He is God. God does not die. God doesn’t have a beginning so how could He have an end? In verse 51 He is “carried up” into heaven and leaves the earth with the promise that He will return; a return that we eagerly await!

Give Him Your Life

This Saturday is the Birthday of our Savior, Jesus Christ. He did not die, so he is still living. Since, then, that is the case, shouldn’t we all give him a gift? He has given us the gift of salvation, a free gift to all who will receive it and make Him Lord of their life, so shouldn’t we return the favor? Maybe you are not a Christian. Maybe you have never given your life to Christ. Do that this Christmas. He died for you. Loves you no matter what you have done or how terrible you think you are. He wants to save you from eternal death and give you eternal life.

If you have already given Him your life, what’s next? Give Him more. Give him your time, your talents, and your money. Live your life entirely for Him and constantly worship and glorify Him through your actions, words, and thoughts. This is the best gift you can give Him for His Birthday this Christmas.

Moses, the Old Testament Jesus


Exodus 32:7-14 (New King James Version)

Calf 7 And the LORD said to Moses, “Go, get down! For your people whom you brought out of the land of Egypt have corrupted themselves. 8 They have turned aside quickly out of the way which I commanded them. They have made themselves a molded calf, and worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, ‘This is your god, O Israel, that brought you out of the land of Egypt!’” 9 And the LORD said to Moses, “I have seen this people, and indeed it is a stiff-necked people! 10 Now therefore, let Me alone, that My wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them. And I will make of you a great nation.”
11 Then Moses pleaded with the LORD his God, and said: “LORD, why does Your wrath burn hot against Your people whom You have brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? 12 Why should the Egyptians speak, and say, ‘He brought them out to harm them, to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth’? Turn from Your fierce wrath, and relent from this harm to Your people. 13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’”[a] 14 So the LORD relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.

The more I read about the Israelites, the more I see me and everyone else I know.  We have been blessed by God and we still turn our backs on him and worship other things; idols.  This is something that I drilled into the youth group kids last year: anything that distracts you from the presence of God is an idol.  It does not have to be a golden calf or a wooden man statue from a tribe in Africa, it can be another person, a class at school, a dream to do something, a movie, cd, an ipod (technology)…you get the point.  Even after God, the God of the universe, brought them out of Egypt, the Israelites couldn’t worship Him alone at all times!  They doubted Him so many times that they just got to the point where they needed something else to worship. 

God sees this and calls them what they are: “still-necked people” (v. 9).  God’s wrath is burning and seems to get to the boiling point until Moses intervenes on behalf of the Israelites.  He pleads with the Lord not to harm His people!  In this light, Moses is to the Israelites what Jesus (and His blood on the cross) is to us.  Moses continually had to plead for mercy on the Israelites as they continued to sin, just as Jesus’ blood does for us! His death and resurrection on our behalf protect us from what we deserve: the wrath of God.

Be thankful for what Jesus did. His crucifixion has been so watered down that I do not believe that it has the affect that it should.  Same goes for his resurrection!  He died, and three days later came back to life…and then he rose up into the sky and joined His father in Heaven.  Think about that and realize that it actually happened! 

Just as we deserve the wrath of God, He deserves our devotion and worship.  GIVE IT TO HIM! Spend time with Him on a daily basis and trust in Him always!

Audience Of One


ist2_2231611_go_team.jpgPsalm 27:1 (New International Version)

1 The LORD is my light and my salvation—
whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life—
of whom shall I be afraid?

The Answer? No one.

Just God, and God alone.

If i made this a priority in my life I’m sure it would be a lot better. Actually, i know it would. If i only every worried about pleasing God imagine all of the pressure that is taken off of living life. Instead of performing for, or pleasing, a group of people (the world), I just need to be worried about pleasing God because he is my “light and salvation… [and] the stronghold of my life.” No one else in the world gives me these things, just God.

Make God your only audience and you will notice a ripple affect through every area of your life.