Posts Tagged ‘Grace’

mtdThere is talk in some church circles about “moralistic therapeutic deism.” We may abbreviate this ungainly phrase as “MTD,” in allusion to the popular cable channel showing music videos. Many teenagers and young adults are familiar with MTV; however, few would recognize “moralistic therapeutic deism” as playing any role in their lives.

Yet the contention we hear is that MTD, rather than classic Christianity, is the predominant religion among today’s teenagers and young adults. They may not recognize the phrase, but it describes the belief system that they actually profess and practice. And what’s more: We, the parents and other adults around them, are the ones who taught them MTD. This is a serious charge and deserves serious consideration.

An Inarticulate Faith

The phrase “moralistic therapeutic deism,” you will not be surprised to learn, was coined by an academic: Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith. It has been disseminated more widely by Smith’s associates, including Princeton Seminary professor Kenda Creasy Dean. Based on her research with Smith, Dean published a book, Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers is Telling the American Church. Dean has become a popular speaker at church events. She delivered a challenging presentation at my local church on a snowy Saturday in February, and I was among the large crowd that came out to hear her.

Smith, Dean, and their colleagues did surveys and in-depth interviews in which they queried thousands of young people about their religious beliefs and practices. Very few, they found, were atheists or hostile toward religion. On the other hand, relatively few were able to articulate and consistently practice a faith that resembled classic Christianity.

The vast majority of the respondents found it difficult to articulate any kind of belief system. They mentioned God, but it was a vague and distant God. They didn’t have much to say about Jesus.

What the respondents did seem to believe, as Smith summarized it, was: God functions as an authority who gives us rules to guide our behavior (this is the “moralistic” part). The main point of these rules is to be a nice person who gets along with other people. If we obey the rules, God makes us feel good about ourselves (this is the “therapeutic” part). But God isn’t involved in a personal or direct way in our daily lives (this is the “deism” part). He may show up in a crisis, to make us feel better about ourselves.

Almost Christian

This set of half-conscious assumptions is what Smith, Dean, and associates call “moralistic therapeutic deism.” It’s not necessarily false. We should seek good relations with the people around us. If we obey God’s commands, we will usually end up happier. God is a refuge in times of trouble.

Yet the Good News of Jesus Christ is so much greater than any of this. Dean, in her talk, showed a side-by-side comparison of MTD and the Apostles’ Creed. The differences were stark. MTD is all about myself and my happiness. The Apostles’ Creed is about the Truine God–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–and God’s amazing works from the Creation to the Incarnation to the hope of life eternal.

So how did these teenagers and young adults come to settle for so much less than the Gospel? It wasn’t by rebelling against their parents’ religion. On the contrary, survey respondents by and large felt positively toward their parents and shared common values. Many of them reported that their parents had taken them regularly to church and youth group, and they had few complaints about the experience. It’s just that they didn’t emerge with a distinct Christian faith that they could articulate and practice.

Is This What We Teach Our Children?

Dean suggests a disturbing explanation: Perhaps these teenagers and young adults adopted MTD because that’s what they were taught. That’s basically the philosophy of life they have received from and observed in their parents. It’s what they learned in Sunday school and youth group: Be nice to other people and you’ll have a happy life, and God will be there when you need him. All that stuff about Jesus dying for our sins never really made an impression.

Dean’s presentation provoked some self-examination in me and others at my church: Is MTD what we are teaching our kids? When my wife and I lead Children’s Church, is the message the children are hearing the Gospel of God’s great mercy in Jesus Christ? Or is it something less? Are we preparing them to be nice people or disciples of Jesus Christ?

I must admit that some of the Sunday school curriculum we have used has been very moralistic and therapeutic. We read Bible stories, but the takeaway at the end of the lesson often seems to be that everyone is special to God and kids should be kind to their classmates. There isn’t much said about our being sinners to whom God sent a Savior. I have seen this failing not only in old line Protestant curricula, but also in curricula from publishers that have an evangelical reputation.

How would your congregation fare under this kind of self-examination? Maybe you intend to communicate the Gospel–as my wife and I do–but are you sure that’s what the children are hearing? It’s a question worth asking. The consequences go far into the future–indeed, into eternity.

Taken from “Theology Matters” http://www.theologymatters.com/

Written by: Alan F.H. Wisdom

Strategies

Communication Strategies In Ministry

I graduated from Crown College with a BS degree in Christian Ministry.  I have learned the essential skills necessary for the communication of the Gospel and biblical truths through a variety of available mediums (this one included). I am studying current mediums for communication, using the basic principles of exegesis and hermeneutics, strategies for effective communication, and preaching. I hope to be further equipped to formulate an effective communication philosophy and strategy for ministry.

Finding a mentor, to me, was like looking for the holy grail. I know what I was looking for, but the search was not uncovering my mentor. You see, I live 70 miles from the church I attend. My wife and I minister there. She plays piano for worship sometimes, teaches children’s church, and I have supplied the pulpit several times. Our pastor left to take another church, so I could not use him as my mentor resource. I had visited several churches in the town where I live. I got to know two of the pastors, and haven’t really been in communication with them for a while. I was afraid to ask them for their help. Who likes rejection? I did not even consider dropping this course on account of this hunt for my holy mentor. I prayed and agonized about what to do. So, I am sitting here in my office, and the Lord prompted me to send an email to both of the pastors. What have I got to lose? My grade, my GPA, all my effort! Thanks be to God! He does provide and He does supply all of our needs. I found the holy mentor! We had our meeting and he signed the agreement! So, onward and upward. Whew.

I believe like Luther and Calvin, that my salvation is totally monergistic. All God, and none of me! However, when I became a Christian, born again, regenerated, transformed by the Holy Spirit, my interaction with God became synergistic. God tells me what to do, and I am supposed to do it! However, even if that is the case, God’s Word tells me that “it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” Philippians 2:13 (NRSV) Even though my relationship with God is interactive, He still helps me. He doesn’t leave me without what I need to live in union and communion with Him. He enables me, He enables my will, and He enables my effort. Why? All for His good pleasure. Our wills and our actions are the very arenas where God’s own power is working. His grace still amazes me.

How does this relate to communication strategies? Well, did you get a picture while reading this story? Did you see me as one of Monty Python’s characters riding a stick pony along the wooded landscape? Did you picture me going along hill and dale until I finally came upon that glorious email sent from above saying, “sure I’d be glad to sit down and talk with you about this?” If you did, that’s awesome. If you didn’t, was my communication strategy working? Did you get another picture in your mind while reading this? Either way, the point is that there are many means to communicate – and this blog is one of the means that I use to present the Gospel to a lost and dying world. It works for me.

Application? Always trust in the Lord. Always trust Him for anything and everything. Jesus said that if we ask anything according to God’s will, our prayers will be answered. God will provide the means to accomplish the task He has assigned to you. That says a lot about the content of our prayer….but hey, that’s another sermon!

aboutgod

5CrucialQuestions

covenant-triangleMy New Covenant Relationship with God

I believe that entrance into the Kingdom of God is by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. My call to ministry is one based upon God’s faithfulness to fulfill His revealed purpose in my life. I had no ability to acquire salvation on my own. His loving grace granted me repentance and faith. God enabled me to make the choice of trusting in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord. He transformed me into a new creation in Christ Jesus, and now His sanctifying grace is making me holy in my daily life.

The Holy Spirit baptized me into the Body of Christ, the Church, of which I am a member. Now, I am a member of the Community of Jesus Christ. God created a community of worship, dedication, and faith in the time of the Old Covenant. Now, the community has changed with the coming of the new and better covenant. Within this community of the Kingdom, I am able to view my calling more clearly. It means that being a “covenant person” of a covenant people (the Church); Called to a mission along with many others, and equipped by God through the Holy Spirit as an apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher, I pursue the Missio Dei.

Therefore, I can speak with conviction along with the Apostle Paul when he said in 2 Corinthians 3:6, “ He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter but of the Spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” Therefore, I see that those members of the Community of Faith are ministers unto each other, the world, and unto God.

My call and the call of His Church (Matthew 25:35-45) is to minister unto a world that is lost. We are to be beacons of light to those who are blind in darkness. We are to be workers of justice and freedom for the oppressed and captive. We are to demonstrate to the poor the power of His greatness and His faithfulness from which we hope, and to proclaim the Gospel and His Kingdom!

the-gospel1

The Good News

We bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus…. – Acts 13:32-33

“Are You Saved?” Have you heard this message but not know what it means? What are you being saved from? From whom are you being saved?

1. Confess that you are a sinner and that you cannot save yourself.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23). This means that even though you try to do your best, you still fall short because you are a sinner. Romans 6:23 says that “the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Salvation is the gift of God to you. That’s the way He planned it.

2. Repent of and confess your sin to God.

And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:38-39)

2. Confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, He is the Son of God, and that He alone can save you.

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all men–the testimony given at its proper time” (1 Timothy 2:5-6). Isaiah 53:6 says that “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” Jesus took our sins upon Himself when He died on the cross. He paid the penalty for our sins so that we would not have to. He was raised from the dead, showing that He has victory of sin and death. Romans 10:9 says that “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.”

3. Acknowledge that salvation will be yours if you put your faith in Jesus Christ.

“The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the Gospel.” (Mark 1:15)

Ephesians 2:8 says that “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith–and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God–not by works, so that no one can boast.” This clearly indicates that God gives the gift of faith first. Then you take the faith He has given you and place it in Christ you will be saved by faith alone–there is nothing more for you to do.

4. Pray and receive Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord from this day forward, and forever.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says that “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” This is what is known as “new life in Christ,” or as John 3:3 puts it, being “born again.”

Receiving Christ is the beginning. As we learn in Colossians 2:6-7, “Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”

After receiving Him, be obedient by following Him in baptism and by uniting with the church. When you do, you will find that life truly does have new purpose and meaning.

Learn more about your new relationship with God here and click on Q1 (Question 1) to begin!

God bless you!

lawgracefreedom

Some recent observations about Law & Grace…

If we attend Christian instruction/Catechism before we are born again, what happens then is we are trained on the treadmill of merit (Law). Our orientation is backwards. Law comes before Grace. The same thing can happen when you become a Christian and are not instructed in the Christian faith — you end up on the treadmill running away from the fear of not “performing” up to what you think are God’s standards. The Law was given as a teacher – “this is how your relationship with God must be; this is how your relationship to others should be.” It teaches us that we are sinners, and there is no way that we can “keep” this Law on our own. Grace says, Here is God’s mercy. Here is God’s love for you, in that while you were yet sinners, My beloved Son died in your place, Jesus paid the price for your redemption from sin, sickness and death. He took upon Himself God’s wrath – our punishment was upon Him.

It is by means of God’s mercy do we perceive that the Law says I’m a sinner, and then in God’s mercy His Grace touches our hearts, He delivers us through “the bath of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit. (Titus 3:5)

“The one trusting in the Son has eternal life; but the one resisting the Son shall not see the life, but the anger of God remains upon him.” ~ John 3:36

Therefore, it is “…by grace you are saved, through faith, and this not of yourselves; it is the gift of God; not of works, that not anyone should boast; for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God before prepared that we should walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:8-10)

Now, we live the Law, because God has written it upon our hearts, and being empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are enabled to observe our relationship to God and others as the Law requires. We are made free from vain effort, but none the less do we put forth effort, because God is behind us encouraging us in our abundant life. And, if we fail, if we sin, God is faithful to forgive us, because He promised that to us in Christ. At the same time, God is righteous and holy. Therefore, He promised, because of the shed blood of Christ on Calvary to cleanse us from all our unrighteousness. This is conditional though, because we are told to confess our sin, and turn from it back toward God.

“If we should say that we do not have sin, we mislead ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we should acknowledge our sins, He is trustworthy and just that He should have forgiven us the sins and should have cleansed us from all iniquity.” ~ 1 John 1:8-9

Jesus Christ is our salvation, our redemption, our righteousness, our sanctification, and our glorification. He is our ALL in ALL. The life I live, is Christ Jesus my Lord.

HS

We are not saved by the law but we are convinced and convicted of our sin by the law. “For by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).

The law was sent “that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God” (Romans 3:19). “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24).

“The law is holy… and just, and good. Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceedingly sinful” (Romans 7:12-13).

Paul was saying, “I couldn’t really confess my sins until I knew they were sins. I couldn’t seek after the holiness of God until I saw how far from Him I was. The law hit home to me, destroying my nonchalance about sin. When I saw God’s holiness by His commandments, sin became utterly sinful to me.”

That is the conviction that drives you straight to the arms of Christ, crying, “Mercy, Lord! I can’t save myself, I can’t fulfill Your law. I’ve seen the sin of my heart!”

Faith has been defined as “the flight of a convicted, repentant sinner unto the mercy of God in Christ Jesus.” Only the person who has been convicted of his sins by the law of God will “flee to Christ” for refuge.

On the day of Pentecost Peter stood and offered the crowds the gospel of God’s grace. But first he put them under the blazing light of the law. He pointed his finger and said, “Ye have taken, and by
wicked hands have crucified and slain [Him]” (Acts 2:23). The people were pricked in their hearts, so utterly convicted by the Word of God they cried out, “What shall we do?” (verse 37).

Adam was given the gospel of grace-after his “eyes were opened” (see Genesis 3:7). It was only after he had seen his pitiful condition and the consequences of his sin that God brought to him the message of mercy and hope!

~ David Wilkerson

lawcup

I know someone, who claims they are a believer in Christ and that grace rendered the Old Testament Scriptures outdated and the Biblical moral law irrelevant. They believe a false teaching that is called “antinomianism” which is a doctrine of demons straight from the pit of Hades.

Antinomian means “anti = against + nomian = law” against law or in opposition to the law

“The Gospel proclaims liberty from the ceremonial law: but binds you still faster under the moral law. To be freed from the ceremonial law is the Gospel liberty; to pretend freedom from the moral law is Antinomianism.” ~ Adam Clarke

The contemporary evangelical theologian J. I. Packer defines five strains of antinomianism:

1. Dualistic Antinomianism (Gnostic): This view sees salvation as for the soul only and bodily behavior as irrelevant both to God’s interest and the soul’s health…

2. Spirit-centered Antinomianism: …puts such trust in the Holy Spirit’s inward prompting as to deny any need to be taught by the law how to live. Freedom from the law as a way of salvation is assumed to bring with it freedom from the law as a guide to conduct.

3. Christ-centered Antinomianism: …argues that God sees no sin in believers, because they are in Christ, who kept the law for them, and therefore what they actually do makes no difference, if they keep believing.

4. Dispensational Antinomianism: …denies that biblical law is God’s direct command and affirms that the Bible’s imperative statements trigger the Word of the Spirit, which when it comes may or may not correspond exactly to what is written.

5. Situationist Antinomianism: …says that a motive and intention of love is all that God now requires of Christians, and the commands of the Decalogue and other ethical parts of scripture, for all that they are ascribed to God directly, are rules of thumb for loving, rules that love may at times disregard. ~ J. I. Packer (from Concise Theology pp 178-180)

Here is a short list of the errors of antinomianism:

1. How the antinomians view justification:

a. That the justification of sinners is an imminent and eternal act of God, not only preceding all acts of sin, but the very existence of the sinner himself, and so perfectly abolishing sin in our persons, that we are as clean from sin as Christ himself.

b. That justification by faith is no more but a manifestation to us of what God did before we were created. That because God laid His iniquities upon Christ, God cannot charge one sin upon a man who believes this teaching.

2. That men ought not to doubt of their faith, or question, whether we believe, or not: That we ought no more to question our faith than to question Christ.

3. That believers are not bound to confess sin, mourn for it, or pray for the forgiveness of it; because it was pardoned before it was committed; and pardoned sin is no sin.

4. That God sees no sin in believers, whatsoever sins they commit. That God can see no adultery, no lying, no blasphemy, and no deceit in believers for though believers do fall into such transgressions, yet all their sins being pardoned from eternity, they are no sins in them.

5. That God does not get angry with the elect, nor does he discipline them for their sins; and to say that he does so is an injurious reflection upon the justice of God.

6. That by God’s laying our iniquities upon Christ; he became as completely sinful as we, and we as completely righteous as Christ.

7. That believers need not fear either their own sins, or the sins of others for that neither their own, nor any other men’s sins can do them any harm, nor must they be concerned for their own salvation.

8. They will not allow the new covenant to be made properly with us, but with Christ for us; and that this covenant is all a promise, having no condition on our part. They do not absolutely deny that faith, repentance, and obedience are conditions in the new covenant; however, they say that the conditions are not on our part, but upon Christ; and that He repented, believed, and obeyed for us.

How the Word of God answers the antinomian:

Rom. 3.23-25

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.”

Rom. 8.3-4, 30

“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” “And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

2 Cor. 5.19-20

“That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”

Gal. 3.13-14

“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit[a] through faith.”

Eph. 1.17

“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him”

2 Cor. 13:5

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”

2 Peter 1:10

“Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall.”

Titus 1:16

“They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.”

1 Cor. 10:12

“Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”

1 John 1: 7-10

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. 8 If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

James 3:2

“For we all stumble in many ways. And if anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.”

Psalm 51:1-6

“Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your steadfast love;
according to your abundant mercy
blot out my transgressions.
Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
and cleanse me from my sin!
For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is ever before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you may be justified in your words
and blameless in your judgment.
Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being,
and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart.”

Romans 7:21

“So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.”

Ephesians 4:30

“And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.”
1 Timothy 1:13

St. Paul said, “though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.”

1 Cor. 11:32

“But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.”

Hebrews 12:8

“If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.”

2 Cor. 5:21

“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

Jeremiah 23:6

“In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.”

1 Cor. 5:12-13

For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

1 John 3:4

“Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.”

Romans 4:6, 22-23

“Just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: But the words “That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness. It was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone.”

Romans 2:8

“But for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.”

1 Peter 4:17

“For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the Gospel of God?”

Luke 13:3

Jesus says, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

Luke 29:47

“And that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”

Acts 3:19

“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out.”

John 3:36

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”

Hebrews 8:10-12

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.”

The covenant of redemption was made between the Holy Triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The covenant of grace, into which believers are taken, there is a Mediator, and this Mediator is Christ Himself.

In conclusion*,

Paul’s seventh argument against the Judaizers is this: If the law is kept as a way of salvation, it produces only death and destruction because of its curse. Thus, the Judaizers really destroy the law by misusing it. On the other hand, on the basis of grace we keep the law. Thus, the way to magnify the law is to use it properly, not as a way of salvation but as a guide to holy living. The Spirit, not the law, gives life, and life yields obedience to the law (Galatians 5:13ff.).

Paul begins by saying that we are free from the law as a slave-master, but not free to sin (5:13). True moral freedom means loving God and loving one’s neighbor as oneself. Those who do not love show that they are not free and are still slaves of sin (vv. 14–15).

Paul goes on to say that if we live by the Spirit, we will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. This sounds at first as if Paul is saying something mystical: Just yield to the Spirit and you will float along doing good and never sinning. This is not at all what he means. Being led by the Spirit means doing certain things and not doing other things, and it is the law that shows us what these are. It is the law that shows what loving our neighbor entails. Thus, the Spirit-led person is the person who studies the Bible and obeys it, not as a means of salvation but in a spirit of gratitude and out of a desire for holiness.

One of the major problems in Christianity has always been “antinomianism.” It is still a great problem today. We hear from some teachers that it is possible to have Christ as Savior but not as Lord, as if we could chop God in half and have a relationship with only half of Jesus. The outer fringe of this heresy teaches that it does not matter how you live so long as you claim the promise of salvation. This is not the teaching of the New Testament. Paul lists a whole catalogue of sins in Galatians 5:19–21, and then says, “Those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

A mere profession of faith does not get you into heaven. What is required is a continuing relationship with God, the sovereign Savior of men. That relationship means bowing the knee and serving Him because He has saved you.

Some nominal “believers” are professors of faith only. All who claim to be in Christ must also be possessors of faith. Read slowly and carefully the two lists of Galatians 5:19–23. Where do you need help? Pray through each of the sins and blessings listed. Examine yourself, and ask God to grant His Spirit to transform your life.

*Concluding remarks taken from Ligonier Ministries devotional “Grace Fulfills the Law.”

byGraceFaith

“Salvation is like a house built beside a broad and busy highway. Like everyone else, I was born on that highway and was spending my life following it to its destination. At first the trip had been exciting and almost effortless, the constant flow of the crowd carrying me along. However, the farther down the road I got, the more difficult things became; my original joy had dissipated and I noticed that my fellow travelers rarely laughed anymore and their occasional smiles seemed forced. The backpack I had been issued at the beginning of my journey had grown heavier every day, and I was now permanently stooped from its weight. Worst of all, I had been overtaken lately by an unexplainable fear of reaching the end of the highway’.

‘One day my attention was drawn suddenly to the side of the highway to a magnificently constructed house. Over its narrow front doors a sign silently announced in bold red letters: ‘Whosoever Will May Enter and Find Rest’. I do not know how I knew it, but I realized that if I could reach the inside of this beautiful house I would be saved from the highway and its destination. Pushing my way through the mass of indifferent travelers, I broke clear of the crowd and ran up the steps to the front door. But, it was locked. Perhaps it’s only stuck, I thought, and tried again. It refused to open. I was confused. Why would someone put up a sign inviting people in and then lock the door to keep them out? Not knowing what else to do (I refused to return to the highway), I pounded on the door, and shouted for someone on the inside to open it, and tried to pick the lock – but it was useless’.

‘Suddenly a voice spoke my name, and I spun around. It was the Builder of the House. He placed in my hand a key with one word carved on it: FAITH. Turning back to the door, I inserted the key in the lock, twisted it, and heard a reassuring click. The door swung open, and I stepped across the threshold. Immediately the backpack fell from off my shoulders, my back began to straighten like a wilting flower reaching for the sunlight, and from deep within me my soul breathed a sigh of relief as an extraordinary sense of peace and well-being wrapped itself around me. The Builder of the House welcomed me to my new home, explaining that everything in the house was now mine to enjoy. This was the house that grace had built, and faith was the key’.

‘Surveying my new surroundings, I saw that the House of Salvation was a house with many rooms and I was only in the foyer. Across the way was a door marked Answered Prayer. Next to it was another Daily Victory, and next to it, Every Need Supplied. The row of doors, each promising some spiritual blessing, stretched endlessly throughout the house. The discovery of these other rooms puzzled me, for I failed to mention that the foyer in which I stood was jammed with people. It seemed that everyone who entered the house stopped in the foyer, never advancing beyond it, as though the foyer were the entire building’ – remember that as well.

‘This was little better than the highway. Couldn’t they see that there was more to the House of Salvation than the foyer? Surely, the Builder intended every room to be occupied. Hadn’t he said that everything in the house was ours to enjoy? I, for one, had no desire to spend my life standing in a foyer. This was my Father’s house; I was his child, and all he possessed was mine. I went to the door marked Answered Prayer, grabbed the knob, and twisted. It was locked. I went to the next door, the next, and the next. All were locked. Nevertheless, this time I didn’t try to pick the lock or knock the door down. I remembered my encounter with the front door and knew I had a key for that. Although I had been in the house only a short time, I had somehow managed to accumulate a large number of other keys. Rummaging through my collection, I selected one tagged Doing Your Best, and tried it. It did not fit. Nor did the one tagged Religious Activity. The key of Sincerity proved useless. Next I tried the key of Tithing (I was getting desperate); but it was as powerless as the others. I was beginning to understand why the foyer was so crowded’.

‘And then I heard a familiar voice. It was the Builder of the House. ‘Child’, he said, ‘do you remember the key I gave you to enter my house?’. ‘Yes, I remember’. ‘What was it?’. ‘Why, it was the key of Faith’, I answered’. Now listen, the Builder said: ‘The key of Faith is the master key that unlocks every door in the house’. Faith is the master key of the Christian life. From start to finish, salvation is ‘by grace through faith’. Everything we get in the Christian life we get by grace through faith. Grace makes it available and faith accepts it. Grace is God’s hand giving; faith is man’s hand receiving. Faith possesses what grace provides. Grace is God’s part; faith is man’s part. It is our positive response to God’s gracious offer. Everything God demands of man can be summed up in one word: faith.”

~ by Ronald Dunn

Do you, like me, have family members who do not believe in Jesus? If so, we are in good company. So did Jesus. And I think this is meant to give us hope.

According to the Apostle John, “not even his brothers believed in him” (John 7:5). That’s incredible. Those who had lived with Jesus for 30 years really did not know him. Not one of Jesus’ brothers is mentioned as a disciple during his pre-crucifixion ministry. But after his resurrection and ascension, there they are in the upper room worshiping him as God (Acts 1:14).

Why didn’t they believe? And what made them change?

The Bible doesn’t answer the first question. But I’ll bet it was difficult to have Jesus for a brother.

First, Jesus would have been without peer in intellect and wisdom. He was astounding temple rabbis by age 12 (Luke 2:4247). A sinful, fallen, gifted sibling can be a hard act to follow. Imagine a perfect, gifted sibling.

Second, Jesus’ consistent and extraordinary moral character must have made him odd and unnerving to be around. His siblings would have grown increasingly self-conscious around him, aware of their own sinful, self-obsessed motives and behavior, while noting that Jesus didn’t seem to exhibit any himself. For sinners, that could be hard to live with.

Third, Jesus was deeply and uniquely loved by Mary and Joseph. How could they not have treated him differently? They knew he was the Lord. Imagine their extraordinary trust in and deference to Jesus as he grew older. No doubt the siblings would have perceived a dimension to the relationship between the oldest child and their parents that was different from what they experienced.

And when swapping family stories it would have been hard to match a star appearing at your brother’s birth.

Jesus out-classed his siblings in every category. How could anyone with an active sin nature not resent being eclipsed by such a phenom-brother? Familiarity breeds contempt when pride rules the heart.

More pain than we know must have been behind Jesus’ words, “a prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household” (Matthew 13:57).

So as we assess the role our weak, stumbling witness plays in our family members’ unbelief, let’s remember Jesus — not even a perfect witness guarantees that loved ones will see and embrace the gospel. We must humble ourselves and repent when we sin. But let’s remember that the god of this world and indwelling sin is what blinds the minds of unbelievers (2 Corinthians 4:4).

The story of Jesus’ brothers can actually give us hope for our loved ones. At the time his brothers claimed that Jesus was “out of his mind” (Mark 3:21), it must have appeared very unlikely that they would ever become his disciples. But eventually they did! And not only followers, but leaders and martyrs in the early church.

The God who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” shone in their hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of their brother, Jesus (2 Corinthians 4:6).

So take heart! Don’t give up praying for unbelieving family members. Don’t take their resistance as the final word. They may yet believe, and be used significantly in the kingdom!

And while they resist, or if they have died apparently unbelieving, we can trust them to the Judge of all the earth who will be perfectly just (Genesis 18:25). Jesus does not promise that every parent, sibling, or child of a Christian will believe, but does painfully promise that some families will divide over him (Matthew 10:34-39). We can trust him when it happens.

It is moving to hear James refer to his brother as “our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory” (James 2:1). Can you imagine what this phrase meant for James? The Lord of glory had once slept beside him, ate at his dinner table, played with his friends, spoke to him like a brother, endured his unbelief, paid the debt of his sin, and then brought him to faith.

It may have taken 20-30 years of faithful, prayerful witness by the Son of God, but the miracle occurred: his brothers believed. May the Lord of glory grant the same grace to our beloved unbelievers.

~ John Bloom