June 30, 2008

How Does Jesus Comfort?

"Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life." (See Revelation 2:8-11).

These are words Jesus spoke to a church that was undergoing extreme pressure. The Lord foretold the imprisonment of some of these believers. He comforted them greatly. Here is His promise to them, "You be faithful, even to the death, because then I will give you the crown of LIFE." Amazing! They die, and Christ gives them life. That is His promise.

The next verse continues:

"He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says unto the churches; he that overcomes shall not be hurt of the second death." (2:11). Even though Christ's people may die in poverty, torment, pain, perhaps executed for their faith, the promise is that "he who overcomes will not be hurt of the second death." Why not? Because Christ "was dead, and is alive" (2:8), and He holds the keys to death and hell (Rev. 1:18). No one who remains faithfully believing, trusting, relying on Him will suffer the second death, since Jesus already tasted it and overcame on their behalf when He suffered on the cross and rose the third day.

These Christians were dirt poor. They were not liked by their neighbors. People in the world did not look at them as just "nice people," they hated them and rejected their faith. But these Christians were rich beyond measure. They had eternal life, because they had the love of God in His Son, Jesus Christ. Do you have this wealth of grace and love? What is your heart set on, this world, or the promise of Life?

Thinking on these things is stirring me up to talk a little on evangelism. By God's grace, maybe next time. But for now, does the love of Christ cause you to pity those who do not have these promises? If so, please join me in prayer that God would raise up laborers to go into the harvest.

Grace, peace and love be with all who love our great God and King.

June 27, 2008

Hell and Grace

One of the essential truths that must be understood by all grace believers, is hell. Hell is the place of punishment for all who suffer the righteous judgment of God without forgiveness of their sins. Grace is God's free and undeserved favor toward some, sparing them from His wrath in hell by setting forward Jesus Christ as a propitiation instead. Without hell, grace would not be amazing, it would not even be necessary. But grace is necessary, because hell is real.

"And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28 ESV).

"For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; if he did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a herald of righteousness, with seven others, when he brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; if by turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to ashes he condemned them to extinction, making them an example of what is going to happen to the ungodly; and if he rescued righteous Lot, greatly distressed by the sensual conduct of the wicked (for as that righteous man lived among them day after day, he was tormenting his righteous soul over their lawless deeds that he saw and heard); then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment, and especially those who indulge in the lust of defiling passion and despise authority." (2 Peter 2:4-10 ESV).

Understanding hell is important, because it has to do with the righteous judgment of God, which is what makes salvation necessary. So it had significant meaning when Paul wrote: "among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved..." (Ephesians 2:3-5). Grace is amazing, because the justice of God is terrible. For all who have truly repented and have cast themselves completely on the mercy of God in Christ Jesus, the judgment and wrath they deserved has already been poured out upon the Lord on the cross.

"But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him." (Hebrews 9:26-28 ESV).

May our praise of God be a combination of both healthy fear and joy with thankfulness. And let all saints who fear Him continually praise the Lord for His steadfast love and grace!

June 25, 2008

Is God's Grace Sufficient?

My life is hard. (Actually it isn't mine, but God's who bought me by the precious blood of His dear Son). My life is His, I am in His hands, He works all things together for my good in Christ. That doesn't mean it's easy. I'm 24 years old, single, working full time, driving two hours a day in traffic, still adjusting to being back at home with my growing family. My life isn't getting easier. Neither are the lives of those closest to me. Without going into detail, I'll just say, it is hard also for my nearest and dearest. In fact, the hard times I was having a few years ago, when I was 20, 21, 22, 23, seem light and momentary to me now.

Should I be complaining though? If trials were difficult back then, but seem to be almost nothing now, what then will they be like tomorrow? Or a year from now? Or possibly 40 years from now? God purposes such things ultimately for our joy and His glory. Paul was told His weaknesses were all about grace. Listen to what Jesus told him at one of his weakest points in life:

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 ESV).

Only grace can sustain a weakened soul. Christ is sufficient. Don't lose heart, but rather rejoice, because "this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal." (2 Corinthians 4:17-18 ESV).

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ's sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too." (2 Corinthians 1:3-5 ESV).

Our trials, difficulties and hardships are all for the mighty power of God's grace to be manifested in us through Christ. If you are not resting in Christ as your all in all, your trials may be to move you toward Him. If you reject Christ, all I can say is that you reject the only source of comfort and salvation. Christ is glorified in us, when we are satisfied in Him. May His grace extend to you, and may grace and peace and mercy be multiplied to all those resting in His steadfast love forever.

June 24, 2008

To the Praise of His Grace... What do you say?

"According as he has chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: having predestined us to the adoption of [sons] by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he has made us accepted in the Beloved." (Ephesians 1:5-6).

I would like to ask for some feedback from any readers of this post: How does a verse like this shape your understanding of God? How do words like, holy, without blame, predestined, chosen, adoption, accepted, in the Beloved help you understand grace? Is this a passage you would stop and think about, or one you might skip over because it is hard to comprehend? For me, this passage helped to transform the way I believe and trust in God. What do you say?

June 23, 2008

Have you studied Romans?

The book of Romans was called "the greatest letter ever written" by John Piper and probably many other preachers. I have been studying it verse by verse since February for my teen Bible study held in West Philadelphia. My desire is that they learn to understand the gospel from this book, and so learn to understand the message that the rest of the Bible proclaims.

Our studies may be read here

Oh, how I need prayer in all of this!
Thank God for all He has done in sending His precious Son. Grace and peace.

June 21, 2008

Trustworthy Sayings

Here are some faithful and trustworthy sayings to ponder this weekend:

"The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. But I received mercy for this reason, that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display his perfect patience as an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life. To the King of ages, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen." (1 Timothy 1:15-17 ESV).

"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time." (1 Timothy 2:1-6 ESV).

"For God alone my soul waits in silence;
from him comes my salvation.
He only is my rock and my salvation,
my fortress; I shall not be greatly shaken...
On God rests my salvation and my glory;
my mighty rock, my refuge is God.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your heart before him;
God is a refuge for us. Selah...
Once God has spoken;
twice have I heard this:
that power belongs to God,
and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love.
For you will render to a man
according to his work."
(Excerpts from Psalm 62 ESV).

"I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord." (1 Corinthians 1:4-9 ESV).

"All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:37-40 ESV).

"Let not the foreigner who has joined himself to the Lord say,
“The Lord will surely separate me from his people”;
and let not the eunuch say,
“Behold, I am a dry tree.”
For thus says the Lord:
“To the eunuchs who keep my Sabbaths,
who choose the things that please me
and hold fast my covenant,
I will give in my house and within my walls
a monument and a name
better than sons and daughters;
I will give them an everlasting name
that shall not be cut off.
“And the foreigners who join themselves to the Lord,
to minister to him, to love the name of the Lord,
and to be his servants,
everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it,
and holds fast my covenant—
these I will bring to my holy mountain,
and make them joyful in my house of prayer;
their burnt offerings and their sacrifices
will be accepted on my altar;
for my house shall be called a house of prayer
for all peoples.”
(Isaiah 56:3,6-7 ESV).

"I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules." (Ezekiel 36:25-27 ESV).

(This is adapted from an entry in my journal dating 10/17/05. A typical journal entry for me, simply copying verses down to be read again in the future :)

Grace and peace with love in the Lord Jesus our Savior.

June 19, 2008

Law vs. Grace

"Run, John, run. The law commands

But gives neither feet nor hands.

Better news the gospel brings;

It bids us fly and gives us wings."

- John Bunyan

That's grace.

June 18, 2008

He Gives Grace to the Humble

I have been thinking a lot about grace as a result of writing these blog posts. So when I read what James chapter four says, it touched my heart deeply and made me see more clearly the wonder of the grace of the Lord Jesus.

James 4:1 says, "What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your pleasures are at war within you?" (ESV). It goes on to say that these desires cause us to murder (hatred is murder in the heart), covet, fight and quarrel. "You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your pleasures." (4:2,3). So there are two problems that our sinful nature leads us to fall into; 1) not asking God for things, and 2) asking with selfish and sinful motives. This causes all kinds of evil to bubble up within us.

James has a name for the people he described, "You adulteresses!" This is not referring to physical adultery, but to spiritual adultery, because it says, "Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God." Friendship with the world is enmity with God. That is strong language! The enemies of God are his enemies because they hate Him. "For behold, your enemies make an uproar; those who hate you have raised their heads." (Psalm 83:2). They do not want to love Him or obey Him. They would rather have God serve them by giving what they ask for in prayer, so they can use it to satisfy their own evil desires. "Your enemies take your name in vain." (Psalm 139:20).

Verse 5 says, "Or do you suppose it is to no purpose that the Scripture says, "He yearns jealously over the spirit that he has made to dwell in us"? This is why spiritual adultery is so horrible, because God is jealous over the spirit of His people. God wants our spirit to be set on Him. He is the only One who can truly satisfy us. Our worship and love must be for Him only, or else we are idolators. And after I read these verses, my heart broke. I knew that I'm guilty of these things. I know I still sin, even after He has given me His Holy Spirit to be with me. As A. W. Pink said, "I am vile." I feel this deep within me. But I have hope, and it is no small hope, but hope that is confident, joyful and full of expectation. Here's why:

"But he gives more grace." What?! That's crazy! "More grace"? To those who hate Him? To those who turn from Him to spiritual adultery? Yes, "Therefore it says, "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Spiritual adultery is a pride issue. Every person on earth is guilty, and God is opposed to them because of their pride and resistance to His will. God opposes the proud. He does not allow them to get what they want, but gives them what they deserve, ultimately, hell. But there is hope for the humble, because He gives them grace. Those who are humble are the same who are guilty of cheating on God. They are humble because they know they are guilty and are at His mercy. Yet, He has grace for them. Not for the unrepentant, but for those who are humble. Humble because of their guilt. Humble because of their shame and because they now see what they have done to God. To them, "He gives more grace." Unbelievable!

I don't have time to go on about the rest of the verses in James four, but will end with this thought: How does God give grace to the humble and why? The answer to that question is one verse in Romans five. "For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life." (Romans 5:10). God opposes the proud, but gives grace to those who humble themselves in repentance, drawing near to Him and fleeing from sinful pursuits, because His Son died to reconcile them. Much more shall we who are reconciled, be saved by the life of the Son of God, who gave Himself for our sins and overcame our death by rising from the dead, so that we might live to God through Him.

If you are humbly trusting in Christ, will you join me in giving thanks to our God for His awesome grace? Praise His wonderful name!

June 16, 2008

What is Grace? (Part 2)

In writing my last post, I learned that the word "grace" can have a bunch of different meanings. One of those meanings was the divine favor of God toward undeserving people through Christ. That definition can be found by reading some references about God's grace toward His people. Take Ephesians 2:8-9 for example, "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast." (ESV). And Romans 5:2, "Through him [Christ] we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God." (ESV).

I also said that Jesus Christ is the fullest manifestation of the grace of God, and He is the One from whom all grace flows to us. He is "full of grace and truth" (John 1:14), and "of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace" (John 1:16 NKJV). So grace is really all about the Lord Jesus.

I have been starting to notice how God uses different illustrations and examples in the Scriptures to show the power of His grace. Such as Ephesians 2:5, which says, "even when we were dead in trespasses, He made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)." (NKJV). Grace is defined by the powerful work of God in giving life to the spiritually dead through the resurrection of His Son. That is an awesome illustration! God raises dead and undeserving sinners to spiritual (and on the last day, physical) life. It really shows the strength and might of God, and moves my heart to worship Him "in humble adoration" when I consider it.

Grace is more than we can imagine or comprehend now. In fact, God will be showing for all eternity "the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus." (Ephesians 2:7 ESV).

There is so much more to say, but I will end with this question: should we ever stop meditating on this wonderful grace of God?

Grace and peace to you in Christ Jesus our Lord.

June 12, 2008

What is Grace? (Part 1)

The English word "grace" has a number of meanings. Some include, favor, good-will, beauty, a pleasing or attractive quality, kindness, esteem, etc. The Hebrew word used in the Bible for grace, can be pronounced something like "Khen." It is often used to describe the favor of God. "But Noah found favor [grace] in the eyes of the LORD." (Genesis 6:8). The Greek word used in the Bible for grace, can be pronounced, "Kharis." It is mentioned in the New Testament over 150 times, often meaning God's divine favor, freely given with unlimited kindness and mercy to undeserving people. It also refers to a blessing for those in Christ, favor with God, salvation, thanksgiving and thankfulness, joy and pleasure.

The concept of grace in the Bible can be seen in a number of verses connected with the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ:

Luke 2:40 describes Jesus, "And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor [grace] of God was upon him." (ESV).

John 1:14 says of Jesus, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."

John 1:16-17, "And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."

So we see that the grace [or favor] of God was upon Christ, He was full of grace and truth, we receive grace from His fullness, and grace comes through Jesus Christ and not the law of Moses. Jesus Christ is the manifestation of God's grace. Romans 5:2 says it like this, "Through him we have obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice [or lit. boast] in hope of the glory of God."

When you think of grace, do you think of Jesus Christ?

Grace and peace to all of you who are resting in Him.

June 9, 2008

By His Grace

For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.
(Titus 3:3-7 ESV).

Grace is more than a free ticket to heaven. Grace does not only make it possible for fallen, imperfect, broken and sinful people to be accepted into the gates of pearl. It does far more. Grace works by the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior. "For by grace are you saved" (Ephesians 2:8). God's grace and mercy actually works with power to regenerate dead and lifeless rebels, washing them and renewing them by His Holy Spirit so that they are no longer the same. "Even when we were dead in sins, has he [God] quickened us [made us alive] together with Christ (by grace you are saved;) (Ephesians 2:5).

God's grace is personal. By this grace of God I have been saved. For I myself was once foolish, disobedient, led astray, a slave to various passions and pleasures, passing my days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God my Savior appeared, He saved me, not because of works done by me in righteousness, but according to His own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on me richly through Jesus Christ my Savior, so that being justified by His grace I might become an heir according to the hope of eternal life. Can you say the same about yourself? All praise and glory goes to God our Savior!

Grace and peace be multiplied to you who are in Christ Jesus by grace alone.

June 7, 2008

Full of Grace

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

And of his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law came through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.
(John 1:1,14,16-18 ESV).

It's all about Him. Grace and truth are from one source, and it is not from the Law. Neither is it found in any other system of works or efforts done by human beings. Grace and truth flow from the head spring which is Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God. When we turn our eyes away from worthless things (Psalm 119:37) and set our gaze upon the King of kings, we see glory. The very glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6). No one has seen God ever! But the only begotten Son, who is the Word and is God, he has made him known. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." This is how we know God - through His Son. "And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace." There is a never ending abundance of grace for the poorest of souls and the vilest of sinners, found only in Christ Jesus my Lord and God. When the wrath of God and the Lamb comes (which it will - Revelation 6:16-17), will you be found safely hid in Him by grace?

Praise His name!

June 1, 2008

Justified by Grace

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it - the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 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 a 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. (Romans 3:21-25 ESV).

This is good news for bad people (see Romans 1:15; 3:12). For those of us who are humbled before God; knowing we are sinful, having a heart that goes astray, utterly worthless as far as doing any good, helpless, hopeless, spiritually lifeless; for such there is good news!
"The righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law." This righteousness is God's righteousness. It is given to those who believe. I like the way the KJV says it, "unto all and upon all them that believe."

For those who are righteousness-less, there is a righteousness freely given unto and upon all who believe the gospel. It is a gift. The gift is a right standing before God, justification, forgiveness and peace with God. It is given "unto" those who believe, and it is given "upon" those who believe. We have received a righteousness from God by faith in Christ, and it is put upon us by Him.

It says this is all "by his grace as a gift." Justified by his grace. Not by our grace. Not by anything in us or done by us. It is a justification by His grace for all who believe. How is that possible? The answer is, "through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus." God made it possible to count a sinful, hell-deserving, unholy, wretch like me perfectly righteous through faith in Jesus Christ. It is possible, because Jesus suffered and died as a propitiatory sacrifice for those who believe.

Jesus is precious to me! Is He precious to you? Are you justified by His grace?

"Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible."

Grace for the Homeless

A dearly beloved brother came back to Philadelphia today (I won't mention his name, but if you read this, brother, just know I'm sharing it with joy). He had been traveling around the country for the past few months visiting various shelters and ministries. He is homeless, but has been taken in by a gracious family. He has been looking to Christ through all of his trials and loves the Word of God. More good news was that today, he received a letter that his late father had left him all his life insurance money. After his father died, his name was not on the will, so he was disheartened, until now. So perhaps this is the end of his long history of homelessness. The believers there were rejoicing with him, but mostly rejoicing to see him again. We had, what I believe to be, a Spirit filled prayer meeting and Bible study. God's grace is powerful.

Note: the ministry I labor with in W. Philly is not a homeless ministry, but an evangelistic ministry. We are not your typical anything, just a few sinners looking to Jesus for everything.

Rejoice in the Sovereign grace of God with me! Grace, grace!