Eternal Security

One of Satan’s favorite tactics is to make believers doubt their salvation. The issue of eternal security or “once saved – always saved” – as it’s often described — has been hotly debated throughout church history. Even today many religions teach that a person can be saved by faith in Jesus Christ, but they also teach that people can sin their way out of God’s grace. They believe that what is received from God has to be maintained by their own efforts. But this is totally wrong. The Bible does not teach that.

 

In Romans 5 — verses 1-2 — Paul said,

1 Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us.
2 Because of our faith, Christ has brought us into this place of undeserved privilege where we now stand, and we confidently and joyfully look forward to sharing God’s glory.

That means we are saved — and we will be in heaven forever – living the same existence that God lives.

Now, the word, “therefore”, in this passage, connects Paul’s present discussion with what he said in preceding chapters. In preceding chapters, he established that believers are saved by God.

So, it’s all done by God – human effort has nothing to do with it. And since we can’t be saved by our own efforts – we can’t keep our salvation by our own efforts either. Once again – it’s all done by God.

So, at the beginning of Chapter 5 Paul says — “therefore” – since we are saved by God — we have peace with God. His statement — “we have peace with God” – is a statement in the present tense. That means we have peace now. The war between God and the sinner is over – and it’s a not temporary truce – it’s a permanent peace. We have peace with God forever.

The problem that human beings have — is their sinful natures. Humans have a defect in character, and it makes them want to break God’s laws. And that upsets a holy and perfect God. Romans 8 — verses 7-8 confirm this.

7 For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will.
8 That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

However, Jesus solved the problem on the cross, when He paid for all the sins of the human race. That satisfies God, because His sense of justice is completely satisfied. All sin is paid for. So, He offers to forgive all sinners. And those who accept the offer are completely forgiven and have peace with God.

As we said this peace is permanent. Each believer becomes a PERMANENT child of God. Nothing can ever change that. Jesus confirmed this in John 6 – verses 37-40. He said,
37 However, those the Father has given me will come to me, and I will never reject them.
38 For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do my own will.
39 And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day.
40 For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.”

That’s assurance – from the Lord, Jesus Christ Himself.

But there’s more. We also have direct access to God. Now, it’s true we still commit sin, but this doesn’t break our connection to God. Our sin is not more powerful than God’s grace. God’s grace is constantly available. Jesus paid for ALL sins – those committed BEFORE we are saved and those committed AFTER we are saved. So, our position is a place of constant forgiveness.

OK, so what’s the conclusion of all this?

The conclusion is we are saved by God’s grace, and our salvation is permanent. Once we are saved – we are always saved. And the link of constant communication with God is permanently established. I say praise the Lord!

Let me close our discussion with prayer.

Lord, we thank You for our security. We know You saved us, and we know You are in our lives right now. You are changing us and making us like Yourself. You are preparing us for our future relationship with You in heaven which will last for all eternity. In Philippians 1:6 You promise to complete that work. Lord, we are so grateful. In Jesus name we pray. Amen

Telling The Truth Part 3

In our last two blogs we have been talking about telling the truth. Today I want to talk about lying. Everybody seems to do it. But why? Why do some people have a difficult time with the truth?

Psychologists tell us that there are different kinds of lies and they all have different motivations. They have come up 4 major categories of lies that they say are the most common. I would like to talk about each one.

The first category of lies is called the cruel lie. This kind of lie is intentionally malicious. Politicians often use this strategy. They come up with slanderous statements about their opponents and often spend huge amounts of money promoting them. This is what the religious leaders did to Jesus. They viewed Him as a political threat to their position as religious leaders of the people. They manufactured false charges against Him, which ultimately got Him convicted of crimes He never committed.

A second category of lies is called the cowardly lie. This kind of lie is used to escape consequences. We don’t want to own up to something we did wrong. So, we come up with excuses. When Adam sinned, he told God, “The woman YOU gave me made me do it.” Instead of owning up to what he did, he blamed his wife. The motive behind this kind of lie is fear. Take a look at Proverbs 29:25.

“Fearing people is a dangerous trap, but trusting the Lord means safety.”

Peer pressure is a good example of fearing people. We want to be cool — we go along with the crowd — we want to be acceptable. We don’t have the courage to say, “no”, when we need to. So, we make up excuses and engage in cowardly lies.

A third category of lies is called the conceited lie. This is when we lie to impress other people. Here we are trying to create some kind of image to compensate for something else — like low self-esteem — or something else that we think is wrong with us. So, we lie about ourselves.

The main motivation behind this kind of lie is insecurity. People who cover up and present false images usually have very little confidence in themselves. They are often frightened and insecure. “I don’t think I’m good enough, so I have to puff myself up”. Studies show that 40% of people who prepare resumes do that. They enhance the truth because they are not satisfied where they are or who they are.

Sometimes we use this kind of lie to hide pain. Somebody hurts us and we say, “It doesn’t bother me”, but it really does. We are afraid to let our feelings out, because, when we do, we feel vulnerable and insecure. So, we resort to what is called the conceited lie.

A fourth category of lies is called the convenient lie. We use convenient lies when it is otherwise too hard to tell the truth. Let’s say your kids ask you to explain something. but you don’t want to answer them because it’s too hard or too uncomfortable or it will take too long. So, you tell them you don’t know. That’s a convenient lie.

Has anybody ever asked you to do something you didn’t want to do. And you say, “OK, I’ll do it”. Even though you have no intention of doing it. That’s a convenient lie.

Jesus said what’s in your heart is what’s going to come out of your mouth. If my heart is filled with resentment, I might find myself telling cruel lies. If my heart is filled with fear or worry, then I might tell cowardly lies. If my heart is filled with insecurity, then I might find myself telling conceited lies. And if my heart is filled with laziness, I might find myself telling convenient lies.

So, what’s the solution? The only way to stop lying is to get a new heart. Jesus specializes in heart transplants.
He says, “Let me fill your heart with love instead of selfishness — joy and peace instead of hate — confidence instead of insecurity — energy and power instead of laziness.”

Jesus said, “I am the truth.” The closer we get to Him, the more we will live in the truth.

So how do we break the habit of lying? The first thing we must do is confess our dishonesty. That’s always the starting point. We say, “I want to be a person of integrity. I want to break my habit of lying.” So, I confess, “God I’m a liar, and I admit it. I ask You to forgive me and give me the power to change, and I ask You to give me a new heart”. He will do that.

After you have made that confession, I encourage you to get some support. Get an accountability partner — someone you can trust. Tell them that you are recovering from being a liar. Ask them to hold you accountable for being honest. I realize this is a calculated risk, but it is one that is necessary. It will actually change your life.

Here’s a prayer you can use when you talk to God about your desire to be honest.

Lord, I desire to speak only the truth. I know that I cannot do it without You. So, Lord Jesus, I ask You to come into my life and forgive me and cleanse me. I know You paid for all of my sins by dying in my place on the cross. I accept your payment on my behalf. I ask You to send the Holy Spirit to permanently indwell me and change me. I know You have given me a new heart. I desire to follow it, rather than my old heart. Please empower me to do that. And as You do — please make me just like You. I thank You for all that You do. In Your name I pray. Amen

Telling The Truth Part 2

In last week’s blog we talked about telling the truth. We said the Bible gives us three requirements for doing that. We talked about the first two and today I want to talk about the third.

The third requirement is telling the truth lovingly.

We have already looked at the Ephesians 4:15 passage. However, let’s look at it again.

“Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.”

When we speak the truth to another person, we must never use it as a club. Let’s say somebody asks us for help.
We must respond lovingly and carefully. We must not find fault or “lord it over them”. And when we need to speak the truth, we must do it lovingly

So how do we do that? We start by asking ourselves some key questions.

1. What is the real issue?
2. Are they are missing something or are they are contributing to their problems – if so how do I tell them?

Here it’s essential to ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom and perception. He will provide it. And also ask Him for advice on the best way to approach the person with what He has revealed to us. He will always provide that information too. James 1:5-8 says,

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and He will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.”

That’s one of the greatest promises of God. I call it a universal promise because it applies to any situation.

Well, I realize that this week’s blog is short and sweet. But that’s OK. I don’t really have anything more to add. And when that’s the case it’s best for me to shut up — or risk saying something improper or stupid.

Have a good week …

Telling The Truth Part 1

The ninth commandment is found in Exodus 20:16, and it says “You must not testify falsely against your neighbor.” A good paraphrase of this commandment is simply — don’t tell lies.

Dr. Leonard Keeler invented the lie detector machine. After conducting numerous tests, he concluded human beings are basically deceptive. Duh! I don’t think we don’t need a lie detector to figure that one out.

So, what’s lying? Well, the dictionary says lying is an intention to mislead — the dissemination of untruth. This includes falsifying information, as well as concealing information. When we deliberately hold back anything less than the truth, we’re being deceptive and we are lying. Even if we hold back one fact out of a hundred facts, that’s still lying.

In today’s blog I want to talk about developing the habit of telling the truth. The Bible says there three general requirements for telling the truth. They are (1) Tell the truth completely. (2) Tell the truth consistently. (3) Tell the truth lovingly.

Let’s start with the first one which is telling the truth completely.

Proverbs 10:10 says, “People who wink at wrong cause trouble, but a bold reproof promotes peace.”

People who wink at wrong are endorsing wrongdoing and thereby are causing trouble. The flip side is boldly confronting wrongdoing and thereby promoting peace.

When my wife and I were first married, I was reluctant to face certain issues with my son (I was a widower with three children). My son was getting in with the wrong crowd and was using drugs. I was blind to this. This was my sweet little baby boy, who could do no wrong. So, I wouldn’t acknowledge what was going on. I was winking at wrong — as the Proverb says. It wasn’t until my wife finally got me to see the truth, that I could honestly face the problem. She didn’t cover it up — she was bold — and she told me the truth completely and forthrightly. Thank the Lord she did, because we were able to do something about my son’s problems. And not only his problems, but the problem of resentment that was building up between us.

The second thing the Bible tells us to do is tell the truth consistently.

Being honest 60% or 70% or 80% of the time is not telling the truth consistently. It’s like the boy crying wolf. After a while people are not sure whether he’s telling the truth or not. He may be telling the truth 80% of the time and lying 20% of the time, but how would anyone know the difference?

Ephesians 4:15 says,

“Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church.”

Speaking the truth in love means we do it consistently, because our motivation is love. If I truly love you, I am going to tell you the truth — and I am going to do it consistently. I am not going to hold back, and I’m not going to cover up anything. Proverbs 11:3 says

“Honesty guides good people; dishonesty destroys treacherous people.”

Notice the word “destroys”. That’s what dishonesty does. Dishonesty is lying, and lying always destroys relationships. How? Well, relationships must be built on trust, but deception destroys trust. After a while people who are consistently dishonest have no relationships, because nobody can trust them. Proverbs 13:16 says,

“Wise people think before they act; fools don’t—and even brag about their foolishness.”

Sometimes couples come to me for counseling and say, “We’ve been married for a long time, and we have the same old problems.” I usually ask a few questions. Are you guys doing the same things over and over? That’s usually the first symptom. If people keep doing the same thing over and over, they will always get the same result.

And then I ask them as second question. “Do you think before you act?” In other words, do you ask yourself —
Will what I’m about to do or say produce the same results? Or do I need to do or say something else?

That may sound simple to do, but let me tell you, it’s not. Thinking before acting is a new habit for most people, and forming new habits is very hard. It takes work and effort, but it must be done.

Well that’s it for now. Next week we will talk about how to tell the truth lovingly, and then we will summarize what we need to do. See you then …

Good Friday

Good Friday is the holiest and most solemn day of the year. Approximately 2000 years ago on this day — our Lord Jesus Christ died on the cross.

Now why did He do that? Why did Jesus step out of heaven — where He had lived for all eternity — to come to our sinful world? Why would He agree to suffer and die a horrible death on the cross? Why would He leave an existence of perfect love and perfect harmony and perfect peace — which He had enjoyed with the Father and the Holy Spirit for all eternity. This was a relationship in which They were totally self-contained and had everything they needed. Why would Jesus do that?

The Bible tells us He did it because He loves us, and He wanted to free us from our bondage to sin. He wanted to have an eternal relationship with us in Heaven, but sin was in the way. So He paid the penalty for all sin — so it could be removed.

But – you might ask — how did this problem originate in the first place? How did human beings come into existence, and how did sin become a problem? Well, to get the answer we need to understand God’s motivation.
You see God decided to share His existence. In other words, He decided to have a family — so, He created the heavens and the earth. And He created the first human beings — Adam and Eve to be the progenitors of family He desired.

God created them in His own image – which means He gave them a free will and an intellect. However, God gave them a test to be sure they were completely committed to Him. He asked them not to eat the fruit of a certain tree in the Garden of Eden. God told them if they did — they would know the difference between good and evil. That’s a description of what is commonly called the sin nature.

Well, we know Adam and Eve failed the test, and they did acquire the sin nature. They came to know the difference between good and evil, and since they had free wills – they had the capability of choosing evil. Since we are direct descendants of Adam and Eve — we have inherited their sin nature as well. Consequently, we periodically choose evil — which is called sin — and sin separates us from God.

God anticipated this might happen, so He developed a plan to deal with it. You see each sin that is committed carries a penalty that has to be paid. That’s not an unusual idea. You break a law – there’s a penalty. For example – if you ran a red light – you could get a ticket and have to pay a fine.

Romans 6:23 says the penalty for sin is death. Now there’s two kinds of death. The first is physical death – which we will all experience at some point. And then there’s what the Bible calls the “second death”. The “second death” is defined as spending eternity in hell — after we leave this world. That’s the penalty for sin that Romans 6:23 is talking about.

The problem is human beings can’t stop sinning. The sin nature is constantly at work, so, the penalties for sin keep piling up, and if nothing is done about this problem — all human beings will end up in hell.

But God doesn’t want anybody to go to hell. He loves us – and in spite of our sinfulness — He still wants to spend eternity with us in heaven. So, God decided to pay everybody’s death penalty for them. God is perfectly just, and He can’t overlook any sin, but He is also perfectly merciful. So, He decided to satisfy the punishment that all human beings deserve in hell. That’s why Jesus died on the cross. Jesus took our death penalty for us. He died in our place.

But this raises a question. Jesus is God — He’s eternal – which means He can’t die. So how could He pay our death penalty in our place? Well, the answer is He took on human form, so He could die in our place.
And since He has infinite value – His death satisfied all the death penalties that all human beings deserve. That puts God’s scale of justice into perfect balance.

Now, when Jesus became a human being, He retained His deity. He couldn’t stop being God, so He just took on an additional nature. John 1:14 says Jesus became flesh. And while on earth He lived a morally perfect life. And then at the right time, He satisfied the penalty for every sin committed by every human being – past, present and future. He did it by dying on the cross.

In the ninth hour of His crucifixion Jesus said, “It is finished”, meaning the penalties for all sin were paid in full. And then He bowed His head and died. At that moment, the huge tapestry in the Jewish temple was torn in half from top to bottom. This tapestry separated the Holy of Holies (where God dwelt) from the rest of the temple. It symbolized the separation between God and man due to sin. And since the penalty for all sin was paid by Jesus – there was no longer any reason for separation. So, this huge tapestry — weighing tons — was torn in half from top to bottom — like a piece of paper.

So, what should be our response to this? Our response is to accept Jesus’ payment for our sins and ask God to forgive us. We can do that through prayer.

Dear God, I accept Jesus payment for my sins. I ask You to forgive me and cleanse me of all my wrongdoing – past – present – future. I also ask You to come into my life and change me. Lord, I do not deserve any of this, but You have done it anyway. I am so thankful. In Jesus name, I pray.

Amen

The Promises of God: Becoming An Overcomer- Part 3

Becoming an Overcomer- The Promises of GodLast year before the holidays we started a blog series on becoming an overcomer. We focused on the promises of God. We talked about several of them and we left off with God’s promise of providing power through the Holy Spirit. (To refresh your memory, read The Promises of God: Becoming An Overcomer Part 1 and The Promises of God: Becoming An Overcomer Part 2.)

Today we are going to pick up where we left off:

The main way the Holy Spirit provides power is by providing guidance. What kind of guidance? Guidance to avoid sin and to live the Christian life. We are not capable of doing it consistently, so we need His guidance, i.e. His power.

This is confirmed in Galatians 5:16.

“So, I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves (that’s sin).”

Let’s also look at Galatians 5:22-25.

“But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus (Christians) have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.

The Holy Spirit will lead us – BUT WE MUST LET HIM. He doesn’t just come in and take over. He’s very gracious. Paul says when we let Him lead us —- He produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Paul says there is no law against these things. That means — nothing has the power to do what the Holy Spirit can do – not even the Law of Moses.

Paul concludes by giving us a command. He says – follow the Spirit’s leading in EVERY part of our lives.

OK, so how do we do that?

Specifically, how do we let Him produce fruit? Well, let me give you an example. Let’s say we are lacking in joy. Let’s say we are going through some serious trials, and we are overwhelmed, and we are close to depression – if not there already. We know James 1:2 says:

“Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.”

But — if we are leaning on our own understanding — which Proverbs 3:5-6 tells us NOT to do –We are listening to our reason, our emotions and our wills. Our reason says, “How can I be joyful when I am struggling? That’s no fun!” And our emotions say, “This really hurts. How can I be joyful when I have so much pain?” And our will – says — “I need relief. So, I will distract myself with something that’s pleasurable — like food, or drugs, or alcohol or whatever”.

Now, we know that Proverbs 3:5-6 also tells us to acknowledge God in all our ways. So, we decide to do that by using God’s promise of the Holy Spirit. We decide to let Him guide our lives. We know when we do that He will produce fruit in us, and one of those fruits is joy – which is what we need. So, we pray and ask Him to do that.

Here’s an example of such a prayer.

Dear Holy Spirit. I am struggling. Here’s what’s happening —-. James 1:2 says I must be joyful about this, but I am having a hard time doing that. However, You promise to produce Your joy in me — if I let You. So, I ask You to do that. Thank You that You are here in me, and thank You for giving me Your joy. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen

That’s it! That’s all we need to do. It’s a simple prayer. However, it takes faith to do it. Faith is believing what God says is true and then acting on it, and that’s exactly what we are doing here.

Let me give you another example. Let’s say there is somebody in our lives that we are having a difficult time relating to, but we know we must love them anyway. In John 15:12 Jesus said,

“This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you.”

However, if we are leaning on our own understanding we are listening to our reason, emotions and wills. Our reason says, “This person is treating me horribly. How can I love them?” Our emotions say, “I really don’t like this person. In fact, I hate them” Our wills say, “I need to treat this person just like they’re treating me”

However, we know that Proverbs 3:5-6 also tells us to acknowledge God in all our ways. So, once again, we decide to rely on the promise of the Holy Spirit and let Him guide our lives. Once again, we know He will produce fruit and one of His fruits is love. So, we pray and ask Him to do that. Here’s an example of such a prayer.

Dear Holy Spirit. I am struggling. Here’s what’s happening —-. Jesus commanded us to love each other, but I am having a hard time doing that. However, You promise to produce love in me — if I let You. So, I ask You to do that. I ask You to help me love this person like You do. Thank You for answering my prayer. In Jesus name, I pray. Amen

Once again, that’s all we need to do. And, once again, we must pray in faith – expecting God to do what He promises.

Let me close by summarizing what we have said.

We can either lean on our own understanding — or we can lean on God. We lean on God by using His promises.
The greatest of all God’s promises is the promise of the Holy Spirit. He promises to guide us by producing His fruit in our lives. When He does — we will not follow the cravings of our sinful natures. Instead we do what God wants us to do.

That’s how to become an overcomer.

Well, that’s it for now. See you next week …

The Greatest Gift Part 3

In today’s blog we will finish our discussion of God’s Christmas gifts to us. In our first blog we said God’s greatest gift is eternal life. When we receive that gift, God gives us four additional gifts. Last week we talked about the first two – a new identity and power. Today we will finish our discussion and talk about the last two gifts.

The third gift God gives us when we receive eternal life is a new community.

God calls this community His family. Let’s look at Ephesians 1:5.

“God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure (meaning He was super excited to do it).”

So, what happens after we are adopted? Well, God unites us and makes us like Jesus. Let’s look at Galatians 3:27-28.

“And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on the character of Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

God’s family is not based on heredity or ethnicity or affinity or nationality. It’s not based on religious background. People can be Jewish or Muslim or Mormon or Buddhist or Baptist or whatever. They can even be atheist or agnostic. It doesn’t matter. Everybody is adopted into God’s family and becomes one when they receive the gift of eternal life. Everybody becomes a child of God.

The fourth gift that God gives us is a new destiny.

Earthly gifts don’t last, but God says, “My gift to you will last forever”. God says “I’m giving you a new destiny, and it’s permanent”. Let’s look at 1 Peter 1:3-4.

“All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay.”

Notice God calls our new destiny “an inheritance that is kept in Heaven”. That means it’s impervious to change and decay. Now, I know for the past several weeks many parents have been searching for the perfect gifts for their kids. Let’s look at Matthew 7:9-11 where Jesus used this as an illustration.

“You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.”

Jesus says in spite of being “sinful people” — we know how to give good gifts to our kids. And then He says how much more will our Father in Heaven — who is perfect — give us good gifts? But notice there is a condition for receiving God’s gifts – we have to ask Him. Well, you might ask, “Why doesn’t God just give them to us?” The answer is God never forces anything on us. He makes His gifts available, but He wants willing recipients.

OK, let’s summarize what we have said.

God says, “I sent my Son to die for you so that you could go to heaven. That’s my big Christmas gift to you.” And then God says, “When you accept that gift, I’m going to give you more gifts. I’m going to give you a new identity – in other words I am going to change who you are. I’m going to give you power to live the Christian life. I’m going to give you a new community to support you as you live your new life. And I’m going to change your destiny.”

Let me ask you. Where else can we get these things? Nowhere. They are not available anywhere else. But remember we have to accept God’s big gift first – eternal life through Jesus Christ.

So, if you have never prayed the prayer of acceptance that we talked about in our last blog, you can do it now. I have copied it here for your convenience.

Dear Lord — I realize that you love me. I know my sins form a barrier between us, but I know You want to have a relationship with me anyway. I know Lord Jesus that You removed that barrier by taking my punishment for my sins on the cross. I know You are offering to forgive me right now and remove the barrier. I accept your offer. I ask you to forgive all my sins. I ask you to come into my life and make me a new person. Please help me to follow You in all that I do. In your wonderful name I pray. Amen.

By praying that prayer, you have absolutely nothing to lose, and everything to gain.

Can you imagine if somebody offered you a million dollars, and said “I don’t want it? I’m happy with the way things are”. You might say, “Nobody would do that”. But — a lot of people have done just that — by refusing God’s priceless gift of eternal life….

See you next week.

The Greatest Gift Part 2

Last week we said God’s greatest gift to us is eternal life — made possible by Jesus. We said everybody needs to receive this gift. It can be received by praying a prayer of acceptance. Following is an example of this prayer.

Dear Lord — I realize that you love me. I know my sins form a barrier between us, but I know You want to have a relationship with me anyway. I know Lord Jesus that You removed that barrier by taking my punishment for my sins on the cross. I know You are offering to forgive me right now and remove the barrier. I accept your offer. I ask you to forgive all my sins. I ask you to come into my life and make me a new person. Please help me to follow You in all that I do. In your wonderful name I pray. Amen.

When we sincerely pray this prayer, God forgives all of our sins. This allows us to go to heaven where we will spend eternity with God. In addition, it opens the door for God to give us other gifts. Let’s look at Romans 8:32.

“Since he did not spare even His own Son but gave Him for us all, won’t He also give us everything else?”

OK, so what else does God want to give us? God has many gifts that He would like to give those who have received eternal life. I would like to talk about a few.

The first gift that God wants to give us is a new identity.

I recently read a letter that someone wrote to their pastor, and I have included a portion of it.

Dear Pastor,

I feel like for my entire life I have been defined by other people. First my mom constantly berated me to be something or someone she wanted me to be, but I had no interest in being. Sometimes my dad would join in. And the pressure to perform and to please and to gain their approval was overwhelming. I never felt validated growing up for who I really was. Then in school I always felt pressured by my friends to fit in and to be cool and to do things I didn’t want to do or didn’t like to do. I wore a mask and pretended a lot, most of my time through school. Then when I started dating and later when I married my spouse, I felt constant pressure to please and to stuff my own feelings and my needs and to be who they wanted me to be. I’ve worried so much my entire life about gaining the approval of others, I don’t know who I am or what I’m supposed to be.”

And the letter continues on from there. This person is confused about their identity. But the truth is most of us have the same problem – perhaps in different degrees.

Typically, when people are asked who they are — they answer in one of three ways. The first way is by identifying their work. They will say, “I’m an accountant… I’m a plumber… I’m a truck driver… I’m a homemaker…” whatever. But that’s not our identity. That’s what we do.

Another way people identify themselves is by their relationships. In this case people will say: “I’m a mom…a dad… a husband… a boss.” But once again that’s not our identity. That’s the people we interact with.

A third way people commonly identify themselves is by what they own. They will say I am a business owner – I’m a landlord — I have lots of money. But once again that’s not our identity. That’s what we have accumulated.

Our identity doesn’t come from any of these things, because when we lose them, we lose our identity. True identity can only be based on things that are true and immutable — things that are absolute and don’t change. And God is the only One Who can provide them. Take a look at 2 Corinthians 5:17.

“This means that anyone who belongs to Christ (someone who has accepted God’s big gift) has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!” 2 Corinthians 5:17 NLT

Notice the two expressions — “a new person” and “a new life has begun”. These expressions are talking about our new identity in Christ. Our old identity is gone. I’ve heard people say, “I wish I could start over”. Well, let me tell you — you can. When we accept God’s big gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ we are transformed. We are no longer who we were – we are now children of God. And God begins the work of changing us.

That leads to God’s second gift which is power.

God wants to give us power when we receive eternal life through Jesus Christ.

This is power that we didn’t have before. Actually, we get a new power source — which gives new energy, new strength, new capacity, new insight, new knowledge. We don’t have to depend on our own power any longer.
This a big change.

For years we have attempted to manage our own lives — using on own power. We set goals. We made plans. We implemented them. But most of the time we fell short. Why? Because when we rely on our own power, it’s never enough. We ultimately get tired and overwhelmed and fall short and give up.

What we need is extra power – beyond what we have. And God says “I will give it to you”. God says, “When you accept my gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ — I will give you the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God – just like the Father and the Son are God. Each One is a separate Person — but They are equal – and They are all God. And it’s God — the Holy Spirit — Who comes to live within us. Imagine that! The God of the universe – almighty and powerful and eternal God – living in us!

Well, that covers two gifts that God wants to give us after we have received eternal life. Next week we will talk about two more. See you then …

The Greatest Christmas Gift

The Greatest Gift Of All

The Christmas season is here! Wow, that was fast! Every year it happens in the blink of an eye. It comes and goes so fast that we barely have time to think about its true meaning or its purpose. There’s so much “hub-bub” – so much to do – so much distraction. In the next two blogs I want to take a little time out and focus on the purpose of Christmas. So, let’s begin.

I believe the whole purpose of Christmas can be summed up in one of the most famous verses in the Bible — John 3:16.

“God SO LOVED the world that HE GAVE his only Son that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life!”

I believe this verse summarizes the whole purpose of Christmas. From this passage we can see that love is a starting point. It says “God so loved the world” that He gave His Son.

You know we can give without loving, but we can’t love without giving. So, God first loved us, and that inspired Him to give us the first Christmas gift. And that gift is eternal life made possible only by the Lord Jesus Christ. God was the first Giver, and He started the tradition of giving gifts at Christmas time. And not only that — God’s first gift is the greatest and most expensive gift ever given. Nothing since can ever match it.

Let’s look at Romans 8:32.

“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all — how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

Notice the logic here:

• God loves us so much that He sent Jesus Christ to earth to die on the cross for us.
• And here’s the amazing part — Jesus willingly agreed to do that!!!
• He agreed to step out of Heaven to come to earth and die a horrible death to pay for our sins.
• Now, if God loves that much, surly He will take care of all our other needs too.

That’s what the passage says. And that includes everything — bills, health, relationships, family, work — every aspect of life. God wouldn’t save us at such a huge cost just to leave us alone to fend for ourselves. That wouldn’t make any sense.

In this passage I want you to notice the phrase “along with him.” It’s already underlined. That’s the assurance that God is giving us everything else – ALONG WITH JESUS. God is not holding anything back. That’s a powerful truth that we need to let sink in.

Let me ask you — have you ever received a gift inside of a gift? I’m sure some of you have. You get a box — you open it up — and there’s another box inside. You open that one and there’s another box inside of that one. And you keep going until you finally reach the gift. Romans 8:32 is like that.

God’s gift to us is Jesus. Jesus represents the “big box”. But inside this box are many smaller boxes, and they represent other gifts. But they are all WRAPPED IN JESUS. So, when we get Jesus, we get all the other gifts that God wants to give us as well.

The New Testament talks about these gifts. If fact the words “gift” and “gifts” are used 66 times in the New Testament. It’s one of the major themes.

In next week’s blog I am going to open some of those gifts and take a look. We are not going to look at all 66 gifts that are mentioned in the New Testament — but we are going to look at several, which I call the major gifts.

OK, I can’t wait. Until then – happy Christmas!

The Promises of God: Becoming An Overcomer Part 2

Becoming an Overcomer- The Promises of GodA few weeks ago we started a series on the promises of God. However, the series was interrupted by our Thanks giving blog. We are now ready to return to the promises of God.

Let’s start by talking about why God gave us His promises. We can find the reason in Proverbs 3:5-6.

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

God wants us to trust Him with all our heart, so, what does that mean? Well, the Bible says the heart consist of three components – which are — our reason – our emotions – and our wills. Let’s talk about each component.
First, our reason. Our reason is our ability to think. God thinks, so He’s given us same ability. Obviously not at the same level He does, but nonetheless we do have the ability to think.

Second, our emotions This is our ability to feel things like love, anger, grief, happiness and so on. God feels emotions, and He gave us this ability as well.

And finally — our wills. This is our ability to make decisions. God makes decisions, and He has given us this ability too. Proverbs 3:5-6 says that God wants us to trust Him using these three components of our humanity.

However, God doesn’t want us to depend on them exclusively. Why would God say that? Because we are not infinite — we have limitations, so, God says seek His will in ALL THAT WE DO. That’s an all-inclusive command which covers everything. God says when we do that, He will show us the right way to go.

Now people often say, “I don’t know what God’s will is, so, how can I seek it?” Well, God’s will is knowable through His promises. All of God’s promises all use the same expression. God says, “I WILL” do something. That’s a clear expression of His will. It couldn’t be any clearer than that, and since there’s over 8000 promises, we have over 8000 expressions of His will.

Let’s look at one of His promises – the promise of the Holy Spirit in John 14:16-19.

“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. Soon the world will no longer see me, but you will see me. Since I live, you also will live.”

This is one of God’s greatest promises. Why? Because first of all – The Holy Spirit is God. When Jesus said He was sending another advocate to take His place, the word, “another” means “another One just like me.” So, the Holy Spirit is an exact replacement of Jesus, and since Jesus is God, the Holy Spirit is also God.

Secondly, Jesus told the disciples that the Holy Spirit would reside within each one of them. That was a significant change, because Jesus was outside of them, but His replacement would be in them. And by the way — that promise was not only for the disciples, but for everybody who is a Christian. Paul confirmed that in Romans 8:11.

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.”

Thirdly, the Holy Spirit provides power. That’s what Jesus promised just before He ascended into heaven. Let’s look at Luke 24:49.

“And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.”

OK, so that raises a question. What kind of power does the Holy Spirit provide?

We answer that question next week. See you then …