Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Greetings Part 2 - Some Thoughts on 2 Peter 1:1-2

1:2 – May grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

A prayer on behalf of his readers is offered by the Apostle in this verse. Peter’s request is virtually the same as the one Paul usually makes in his epistles. It is a simple prayer of greeting. He seeks the Lord to grant them more and more grace and peace.

Most Bible students understand the meaning of grace. Simply put, grace is God doing for us what we do not deserve. Surely every true Christian who understands the Word of God realizes that God has done everything for us, and we deserve absolutely nothing but death, judgment, and eternal damnation. Instead, he has given us life now, hope for the future, and eternal life with Him!

Given all the grace God has already granted to us, it seems bold to seek God for more grace. Yet God hears our requests and gladly gives to His children. May we always seek for God’s grace in our life.

And, of course, with grace comes peace. In fact, apart from God’s grace there is no peace. Without grace there is no true peace in one’s soul and there is no eternal peace for the soul. More grace equals more peace and that includes peace with God.

So, for his readers, Peter asks the Lord to rapidly increase (“multiply”) both grace and peace in the lives of his readers. Such a multiplication of these two godly attributes is the meaning of spiritual growth. Peter wants his readers to grow spiritually. We should desire such spiritual growth for every believer including our self!

And how does God multiply grace and peace in our lives? He does so through knowledge of Himself and His Son. The word “knowledge” in the original has a preposition prefix and may be translated “knowledge upon”. In this form, the word refers to “full” or “complete” or “deeper” knowledge of God.

Our Sovereign Creator has revealed Himself in His Son (the living Word) and in the Scriptures (the written word). His revelation is complete. He has provided us with all we need to know to experience eternal peace and happiness. The grace and peace our souls desire will grow only as we meditate and study on His Word.

We need a full knowledge of the character of God. We need a full knowledge of the purpose of God. We need a full knowledge of the workings of God. Knowing God is not a one-time act; it is a lifetime act.

But our knowledge needs to be more extensive. It must include a complete knowledge of our Lord, the Lord Jesus. We need a full knowledge of who He was, who He is, and who He will be. We need a full knowledge of Christ as our Prophet, our Priest, and our King. We need a full knowledge of Christ not only as our Savior but also as our Lord, for He is Lord of all.

Yes, let’s seek the Lord and ask Him for more grace and peace. But we must remember also that the Lord grows us spiritually through His Word.

May we seek Him in the Scripture, and may He grow us into the image of His Son!

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Greetings Part 1 - Some Thoughts on 2 Peter 1:1-2

1:1 – Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ:

1. Note the author: he is Simeon, his given Jewish name for he certainly is a Jew. While called by many names throughout the New Testament, Simeon (Simon) is his true name (“one heard”). This name represents his human nature, the man he was before Christ and the man who, though redeemed, is still a sinner.

But he also says his name is “Peter” (meaning rock). Here is the name Christ gave to him upon his confession as to who Jesus was. He is a man of faith though, at times, that faith indeed wavers. Thank the Lord it did for it provides hope to those of us who struggle in our own Christian walk.

Having provided his readers with his name, he now mentions his titles. First, he is a “servant”. The word may be translated “slave” and should be connected with the two nouns “Jesus Christ”. Peter knew who he was in Christ just as Paul did. Jesus is the Master; they are merely his servants or slaves. A slave does only that which is commanded by his master. He, like all of those who trust Christ, are forever indebted to our great savior.

Second, he is an “apostle”, “one who is sent with a message”. Sometimes the word is used to describe the specific New Testament office of “Apostle” held only by those who had seen the resurrected Christ. I believe Peter is using the word in two ways. He is a messenger of the Gospel sent by Christ to preach and minister, but he is also a special called follower of Christ who witnessed the Lord’s activity after his resurrection. His office as an apostle carries divine authority which may be attributed to his writing including this letter. It is the very Word of God.

2. Next, Peter mentions his immediate audience. No specific church is mentioned. No specific location is mentioned. But his readers are described with precise terminology. While he may have certain individuals in mind as he writes, the description of these readers applies to every believer. Therefore, the letter is intended for the church through the ages.

The readers are the ones who have obtained faith. The word translated “obtained” is a participle in the original and is found only here and in three other New Testament passages. It means to obtain by lot. In other words, whatever is received is received apart from their effort. They do not earn the item obtained; it is given to them by the selection of something (or someone) else. John the Baptist’s father obtained the right to minister in the temple by lot (i.e., he was chosen). The Lord’s clothes were obtained by certain soldiers by casting lots (i.e., they obtained them by chance).

The faith they have is not of themselves. It is not something they possessed that was lying dormant inside their depraved humanity. No, they obtained that faith through the work of Almighty God, not of themselves. Here we clearly see “the gift of saving faith”. Such faith is a gift of God. Regeneration comes first then faith. Salvation is indeed a work of grace!

True Biblical faith, true saving faith is not a mere intellectual assent of Scriptural truths (recall that the demons believe, and they tremble!). The faith to which Peter refers is a faith that not only assents to the truth, it trusts its object, namely, it trusts Christ! Trust includes knowledge but also includes dependence. Our faith believes the Word and depends upon the Lord. We trust Jesus with our eternal soul.

This “obtaining” is a completed action. God gave the faith to the one reading this epistle when the Spirit regenerated their soul. When that faith came, the sinner trusted the Lord and was justified before God.

What his readers have obtained is faith of the same kind as Peter and the other apostles. They are not different levels of salvation in the kingdom of God. While our sanctification may take different paths, the faith we place in Christ is the same among all believers. Peter is an apostle by the calling of God, and, therefore, carries higher authority. But the faith he exercises in Christ is the same faith his readers exercise in Christ. We are brothers and sisters in the faith, equals before our Lord.

3. Lest we assume our faith is somehow based upon our efforts to “accept Jesus”, Peter specifies how such faith comes: “by the righteousness of our God and savior Jesus Christ”.

Righteousness is that attribute of God whereby He always does what is right and He alone determines what right is. His righteousness is perfect. There is no sin in Him. To stand in his presence demands we, too, possess such righteousness. In our depraved state, that is impossible. Despite every effort we may muster, we will sin and, thereby, destroy perfect righteousness. In fact, God’s Word teaches us that we are sinners at our conception as a result of Adam’s sin. We are doomed from the outset. We do not have the necessary righteousness.

But the faith given to us by our great Sovereign God, when exercised by trusting our soul to Christ, is then credited to us as righteousness. Here is the great doctrine of justification by faith. We are justified or declared righteous through our faith, a faith we do not earn but are given. Praise our wonderful Lord for all his provisions!

Furthermore, the righteousness credited to us at our justification is not some artificial righteousness. No, Peter reminds us it is the righteousness of our God and Savior. And who is that God and Savior? Peter constructs this phrase so both nouns (“God” and “Savior”) refer to the same individual: Jesus Christ.

Jesus is God in the flesh. He was conceived by the work of the Holy Spirit in the womb of a virgin, born as a human child, lived a human life without any sin (active obedience), and died a sacrificial death (passive obedience). By his life and through his death, he obtained the righteousness of God. Our sin was credited to Him on the cross and He paid the full debt we owed. When we place our God-given faith in Him, His righteousness is credited to us and God declares us “not guilty”.

Let us rejoice in the opening words of this epistle. Peter was a sinner saved by God’s grace, called to the apostleship. The faith God gave to Him He gives to all His chosen ones. And that faith is based on the perfect, completed work of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ!

May we glorify Him forever!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

The Beginning of Life

Today, I saw an excerpt of a recent science fiction picture. I do not know the title, but the gist was they were scientists examining a single cell they found in the Martian dust. It resembles an earthly cell but is not alive. They manipulate the cell’s atmosphere in a variety of ways and, suddenly, the cell moves. With satisfaction and excitement, they pronounce they have discovered the existence of life on Mars! A single, moving cell was all the proof they required.

In an earlier post (“Society and the Law”), I contended that abortion is an example of a modern societal “norm” that has become a law yet is condemned by the Word of God. A true follower of Christ can never support abortion if they are being faithful to God’s Word instead of bowing to the “wisdom of man”. In this post, I want to present my simple explanation for my position.

Many will argue abortion is a “woman’s right to choose” and must be her decision, not the decision of others or society. I pointed out in the earlier article that most abortions (over 95%) are performed for reasons other than rape or incest. In other words, most abortions are performed on pregnancies that result when the woman exercised her right to choose and chose to have sexual relations. They knew the potential consequences of their actions before they made that choice. If they are unwilling to bear responsibility for the possible resulting pregnancy then they should not engage in the sexual act in the first place. Use your “right to choose”, ladies.

Others will argue the object aborted is not a human being. It is a “fetus”. Of course, no woman ever refers to the unborn thing in her womb as a fetus. They always call it a baby, a child, for that is what it is. Would those who support the killing of the unborn do so if they truly believed the “fetus” was human life? Unfortunately, I suspect they would and do so even today. I fear there are even Christians who believe such action is proper and, perhaps, preferred in certain situations.

Nevertheless, the unborn child is a human life. It is a human life that begins at conception. Modern science sees the unborn and performs surgery on the unborn early in pregnancies. Is it not a life at those times? They hear and see the beating heart very early in the cycle. Is it not a life at those times?

It is our great God who gives life. As the Psalmist says, “Children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Psalm 127:3). Perhaps the remaining question on the matter of abortion is exactly when that “fetus” is truly a child. For me, the answer is quite simple. As I said, human life begins at conception.

Medical science has concluded that the nuclei of the sperm and the egg have fused at twenty minutes from the time the sperm penetrates the egg. At forty minutes, DNA synthesis has begun. And, at ninety minutes, the first cell division occurs; ninety minutes! Doesn’t the dividing of the cell indicate whatever you call this unborn thing is alive? According to the science fiction movie I mentioned earlier, the answer is yes, this proves life!

With that being the case, the next question is what kind of life is now dividing in the womb of the mother? Is it a monkey? Is it a frog? Is it a tree? Perhaps it is a Martian. Of course, we all know what kind of life has begun its existence in the first ninety minutes: human life! That two-cell entity is a living, human being, growing and taking shape much like it will continue to grow and change after its birth. It is human life from the outset.

How can anyone who believes God is the creator and giver of life support the murder of that life? “You shall not commit murder,” God has said. How can you take that unborn life? I call on those who claim they are following Christ but who support this hellish practice to turn from their sin, ask their Lord for forgiveness, and stand against those who oppose life.

To those of you who support abortion on demand or even practice it, may God have mercy on your soul. You need deliverance from your sins. You need forgiveness for your sins. You need Jesus Christ.

May you seek and find Him, and may He deliver you from this devilish deed. Only He can deliver you from the clutches of Satan and your eternal destiny in hell.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Society and the Law

As a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ, I am fed up! I am fed up with our politicians. I am fed up with our churches. I am fed up with other Christians. And, I am fed up with myself. What I am about to write will be offensive to some and raise the ire of many. Political correctness has had its day and I’m done with it. If you do not like what I write or say, don’t read it or listen to it. I can do the same with your responses.

The “norms” of society are rapidly becoming the “laws” of our nation. Too many in our great country, including those who call themselves followers of Christ, have been duped by the world into accepting what SOCIETY deems “normal”. We have forgotten that our great Sovereign God decides what is and isn’t normal and we are to follow His Word, not the word of society even if society incorporates their “norm” into a law.

“What are you talking about?” you might ask. Well, allow me to list several “norms” present in our society today. Decide for yourself whether you accept what society (our man’s law) says or what God says.

1. Abortion. Society and the laws of our nation permit a woman FOR ANY REASON to kill her unborn child. Some states are even passing laws permitting the child’s death if it is born alive! I’ve read and heard professed people of God, even ministers (!), support such actions. You have been duped by Satan himself. God creates life and that life is created at the moment of conception. To take that life is to play God. It is murder plain and simple. God’s law says, “You shall not commit murder.” Man’s law says, “A woman may kill her unborn while in the womb.”

Which law are you accepting, supporting, and promoting? A woman has the right to choose, in most cases, whether to engage in the sexual act. If they want to choose not to have a child then choose not to engage in the act. The cases of rape and incest may be discussed separately for most abortions (over 95%) have nothing to do with rape or incest.

Our laws permit the murder of the unborn. That is not God’s law!

2. Divorce. Society and our laws permit the termination of a marriage for almost any reason on earth. Adultery, sure. Abuse, sure. Unhappy at times, sure. “Irreconcilable differences”, sure. Any reason, any time. Simply get your lawyers, arrange your settlement, and give any reason for the dissolution of the vows you took before God and witnesses. That’s man’s law. That society’s way.

But that is not God’s way. He has proclaimed that marriage is between a man and a woman before God and is to last forever. Bible scholars often debate whether divorce is permitted for adultery or not, a matter to discuss for another day. But let’s be clear: The Bible says nothing about ending a marriage for all the other reasons under the sun. When you take your vows, you proclaim “for better or for worse”.

Marriage is not easy. Two different and imperfect individuals are thrown together into a union. There are great days and there are difficult days. Marriage takes work, hard work.

Society says you can end a marriage at any time. God says no, your marriage is for LIFE.

3. LGBTQ… I’m sorry, but I do not know all the letters or all their meanings. But I know what society says today. They say there is nothing wrong with homosexuality. There’s nothing wrong with lesbianism. There’s nothing wrong with transgender. Society claims men may become women and women may become men. Society and society’s law even permit the marriage of homosexuals. Most frightening to me is how many professing Christians accept the teaching of men over the teaching of God. If a person believes they are female, no big deal. If a person wants to marry someone of the same sex, no big deal. If a person enjoys sexual relations with either sex, no big deal.  

Well, it IS a big deal to God. God created us male and female. His gender stamp is imbedded in the very chromosomes found in each cell of our body. God’s biological blueprint is there: “xx” is a female, “xy” is a male. No chemical, no surgery, no mindset will ever change that fact.

Furthermore, as noted above, God created marriage and, therefore, God defines marriage. Marriage is between a man and a woman. PERIOD! It is not between two men. It is not between two women. It is not between a man and a man who thinks he is a woman. It is not between multiple individuals; only two, a man and a woman.

And God condemns such sexual acts. They are, to Him, abominations. This fact is taught in both the Old Testament and the New. Those who support such lifestyles often claim Jesus would not condemn it, yet Jesus is God and God has condemned it even after Jesus ministered on the earth (read Romans 1).

Too many Christians have surrendered their allegiance to this sexual perverted community. Either out of Scriptural ignorance, apathy, or political correctness, they have given in to the demands of a segment of our society and accepted them and their practices as normal and right. Yet, God condemns their very acts.

4. Co-habitation. I have no idea what the proper term is these days. When I was younger, I remember the term “shacking up”. What I am referring to is the ever-increasing practice of a man and woman living together before being married. Fifty years ago, such a practice was condemned in the eyes of man. Today’s society treat such a practice as a common one, even an expected one. Even two young people, each professing to be a follower of Christ, see no problem with sharing the same apartment with a member of the opposite sex outside of marriage. It is now an acceptable practice in society. I am sure there are even laws covering such situations.

I certainly have no idea what takes place behind the closed doors of EVERY such co-habitation. But, I strongly suspect most of those arrangements, if not all of them, wind up with sexual activity. And that, fellow Christian, is PROHIBITED by God and His law. Sexual acts are reserved for those who are married. Why a Christian would ever place himself/herself into such a tempting situation is beyond me. God says no.

5. Adultery. For most of our nation’s history, the act of adultery was condemned by society. Those who engaged in sexual activity outside of their marriage were frowned upon and, in some cases, even shunned. Not today.

When the world hears that some married man has engaged in sexual relations with a woman other than his wife (or vice versa), eyebrows are rarely raised. The movies, television, and literature have given the impression that such acts are expected in most marital relationships. Husbands cheating on their wives is just the way things are.

That may be man’s attitude, but that is not God’s attitude. As already mentioned, adultery is a serious sin. In the Old Testament, stoning was the penalty for such an act. Certainly, I do not condone stoning. Jesus taught us to forgive those engaged in such activity, not to kill them. Nevertheless, Jesus Himself pointed out that adultery is an act of SIN. It is not an acceptable or  “normal” action. It is an act of disobedience, an act of rebellion against the Almighty.

Even Christians might engage in adultery. If they do, they should not simply dismiss their illicit activity, rather, they should seek Christ and ask His forgiveness.

Society views adultery as a “to-be-expected” act, a slip, a mistake which may be excused. God views it as a sin to be avoided. If committed, the offenders are to seek the forgiveness of God, not merely the understanding of man.

6. God’s Word. My last item forms the foundation for all the others. Society, in general, including many Christians, have rejected the Word of God. Early in our history, our laws were governed by His Word as proclaimed by godly men. The laws passed by our government were often aligned with the Scripture. God’s Word provided a roadmap for our society.

Unfortunately, that has changed. Most of society does not accept the Bible as the Word of God. It is merely a book. Furthermore, it is an old book. Much of what it has to say has no bearing on modern man. How many Christians in our nation today claim they believe in the Bible, yet, when the Bible tells them and society “NO”, they reject what the Word says and reply, “YES”? Even worse, how many Christians have no idea WHAT the Bible says because they never read it, they never study it, they never hear it taught, they never hear it preached?!

Too often, I have found myself tempted to join the world’s perspective on these and other topics. In fact, I’m certain there have been moments when I should have stood up and proclaimed God’s Word against such matters, but, instead, simply remained quiet. May the Lord forgive my silence.

Fellow Christians, we need to wake up, understand the Word of God, and reject the “norms” of society. We need to ignore the threat of political correctness, the charges of racism and homophobic, and the labeling as “Jesus freaks” or “Bible thumpers” and take a stand for Christ and His Word. God calls us to obey the laws of the land EXCEPT when those laws are contrary to the laws of God.

I do not wish to be confrontational. I do not wish to be argumentative. To the best of my ability, I have aligned my thinking on these issues with the Word of God. My objective is not to offend anyone, rather, it is to enlighten them. I am not trying to be aggressive in terms of my response and neither should any Christian. We simply need to be honest and speak the truth in love. If God has condemned an act, then let us tell those who promote it, practice it, or legalize it that God has so condemned it.

Furthermore, there are souls at stake. The actions of society are merely the acts of depraved individuals, each one born as a depraved sinner, condemned in the eyes of God. They need the salvation only Christ can provide. Sharing with them what God truly says concerning their sinful acts may be the prompt the Holy Spirit uses to bring to them conviction of their sins. Such conviction may result in the salvation of their eternal souls.

And, in doing so, may we accomplish our true purpose in life: “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.”

Monday, April 29, 2019

Owen Revisited

A brief moment from our Sunday School class yesterday jogged my memory on an argument presented  by the great Puritan John Owen in "The Death of Death in the Death of Christ". For reasons known only to my mathematical inclinations and the Lord, I quickly jotted down a logic table. For fun, here it is:

# of sins               # of people
for which             for whom 
Christ died           Christ died       The Result
 NONE                  NONE            DOOM
 NONE                  SOME            DOOM
 NONE                  ALL                DOOM
 SOME                 NONE             DOOM
 SOME                 SOME             DOOM
 SOME                 ALL                 DOOM
 ALL                     NONE             DOOM
 ALL                     SOME             REDEMPTION
 ALL                     ALL                 UNIVERSALISM

The first seven possibilities leave all people in some of their sins. Hence, all that awaits the sinner in those cases is judgment and doom. In fact, to say Christ died for all sins of no one makes no sense at all. His death was completely meaningless.

That leaves the last two possibilities. Most Christians argue for the last position, namely, that Christ died for each and every sin of each and every person. However, to accept the position that Christ died for all sins of all men (general atonement) must result in universalism. One cannot argue that Christ paid the debt for all sins but some do not accept that payment. To not accept is to not trust God, to not believe in God, to not have faith in God which is the same as disobeying God, i.e., SIN (hence, a sin not covered by the blood).

This leaves the only viable outcome: Christ died for each and every sin of SOME people. This doctrine is known as Particular Redemption (sometimes called Limited Atonement). Yet, in particular redemption, Christ fully accomplished the redemption for EVERY sin of EVERY person given to Him by His Father.

Now, some will argue, how does one handle the Biblical passages which appear to teach that Christ died for everyone? Well, the "All" Biblical texts may be reconciled with the "Some" Biblical passages by their context. However, the opposite is not true. You can't reconcile the "Some" passages with the "All" passages. A rough illustration:

Some cats are yellow. All cats (within the yellow group) are yellow.
All cats are yellow. Some cats (all within the yellow group) are yellow. But this implies the yellow group is not the only group. They are SOME among other colors of cats.

Some sinners are saved. All sinners (within the elect group) are saved.
All sinners are saved. Some sinners (all within the elect group) are saved. While this is true, it implies there is a non-elect group which means the death of Christ was particular after all.

The wonderful news of particular redemption is the certainty of the salvation of those whom the Father has chosen, the Son has died, and the Spirit has quickened! God has accomplished it all for no reason other than His mercy and His grace!

"According as He hath chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love: having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved. In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace." (Ephesians 1:4-7)

Monday, March 18, 2019

Philippians 2:14

Our adult class on Sunday spent some time on this verse and engaged in some great discussion concerning its meaning and application. I decided I would simply share some quotations from a few other believers on this verse without any commentary of my own. So, here we go:

Philippians 2:14 - Do all things without grumbling or questioning, ...

J. B. Lightfoot: "Be ye bot like Israel of old. Never give way to discontent and murmuring, to questioning and unbelief. So live that you call forth no censure from others, that you keep your own consciences single and pure."

Homer Kent, Jr.: "Compliance with Paul's exhortation should be 'without complaining or arguing." The first term describes the grumbling discontents among the congregation, and the second depicts the evil reasonings and disputes that usually follow. Are these directed against God or against each other? Neither alternative is foreign to the context. The passage is influenced by Deuteronomy 32:5, and the example of Israel's complaining, which was chiefly against God, was used elsewhere by Paul to instruct the church (1 Cor. 10:10). ... Emphasis in the command falls on the word everything ..., which is actually the first word of the verse in the Greek text. Most Christians are able to do some things without complaint. IT is when we are exhorted to be doing 'all things' with a joyful spirit that the difficulty comes. Yet the outworking of our Christian faith in daily life lays this responsibility upon us."

John Calvin: "For every man that has learned carefully to submit himself to God, without claiming anything for himself, will also conduct himself agreeably among men. When every one makes it his care to please himself, two faults prevail: First, they calumniate one another; and secondly, they strive against one another in contentions. In the first place, accordingly, he forbids malignity and secret enmities; and then, secondly, open contentions."

Henry Airay (16th century English commentator): "We must live thus and do thus, that we may be blameless. That is to say, that we may not give to anyone any just cause of complaining of us or blaming us. And this is set down for us as a mark to shoot at, at which in our life we must level as nearly as we possibly can, to live without blame and reproof among people. But is this possible? Could our Savior Christ himself, or could his apostles and disciples, escape the reproof and hatred of the Jews? No, they could not; neither could we."

Charles Spurgeon: "The apostle says, 'Do all things' --- by which he seems to teach the activity of the Christian Church, for the Christian religion is not mere thinking or feeling, but doing and working for God. 'Do all things without murmurings' without murmuring at God's providence--- which was a common vice of the heathen, who, on their tombstones often recorded their protest against God for having removed their darlings, and upbraided him as cruel and unkind for taking away their relatives. 'Do all things without murmurings against one another.' Let your love be so hearty and sincere, that ye do not envy your richer or more talented brethren. Let there be no low whispers travelling through your assemblies against those who ought to be esteemed among you. Whatever ye do, let no murmuring be mixed with it, but labour with delight, and suffer with patience. Let there be no murmurings even against the ungodly world. If they be unjust, bear their injustice in silence; be not always offering complaints; there are a thousand things which ye might speak of, but it is better that like Aaron ye should hold your peace. To suffer in silence shall dignify you and make you greater than ordinary manhood, for then you shall become like Him, who before his accusers opened not his mouth.

"The apostle continues, do all things without 'disputings.' Dispute not with God, let him do what seemeth him good. Dispute not with your fellow Christians, raise not railing accusations against them. When Calvin was told that Luther had spoken ill of him, he said, 'Let Luther call me devil if he please, I will never say of him but that he is a most dear and valiant servant of the Lord.' Raise not intricate and knotty points by way of controversy. Remember, you have adversaries upon whom to use your swords, and therefore there is little need that you should turn their edges by dashing at the armour of your fellows. Dispute not even with the world. The heather philosophers always sought occasions for debate; be it yours to testify what God has told you, but court not controversy. Be not ashamed to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints, but never do it in a spirit of mere debating, never because you wish to gain a victory, but only because ye would tell out what God hath bidden ye reveal.

"'That ye may be blameless.' Men will blame you, but you must seek as Christians to lead lives that give no occasion for blame."

John MacArthur: "Whatever the elements of working out your salvation are, do them all without grumbling or disputing.  In other words, in all your Christian living, in all that you do by way of obeying God, in all that God is working in you to will and to work for His good pleasure, be sure you never complain.  That’s the idea. 

"So, we now have then a companion to verses 12 and 13.  Verse 12 says, 'Work out your salvation.' Verse 14 tells you the attitude in which to do it.  Can you get that?  This is the attitude in which you work out your salvation.  It is an obedience without complaint.  You don’t complain about what God calls you to do.  You don’t complain about what He asks you to do.  You don’t complain about the circumstances in which He asks you to do it.  Who are you to complain in view of your sins?  It is grace that you are not consumed, and complaining is in itself a wicked proud sin.

"So, here you have a very general 'work out your salvation.'  Why does he come down so narrow and say, 'Do all things without grumbling and disputing?'  Isn’t that very narrow and very limited?  No.  That’s the attitude that fits the general command.  Why?  Because life isn’t going to always serve you up what you’d like.  God’s going to allow you to go through trials and testings and difficulties not to make you gripe, but to help you to pray, to teach you to trust, to teach you to be grateful and thankful for what you have because you can see the hard things as well.  So, this is not a narrow, isolated command, this is a broad general attitude that in all things related to your working out your salvation, you do them without ever grumbling or ever disputing."

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

A Nightmare OFF Elm Street

It was only a dream; well, more like a nightmare!

I awoke with a start on that Sunday morning as a result of the dream. While not reality, the dream did contain foreboding images and sounds which would not depart from my brain. Sensing something amiss, my wife asked me what was wrong. I told her I was in a bad mood because of the dream.

For the remainder of that day, I could not clear my head of the horrible events I witnessed in my sleep. Some of my family interpreted my quietness and the absence of interest in variable events of the day to mean I was angry. But, that was not the case. It was not anger that troubled me; it was fear. This fear arose out of what I envisioned in my dream and the possibility it may foretell the future.

I’ve never been one to put much credence in the interpretation of dreams. Usually, I simply dismiss any which I recall once awake. God once revealed Himself to our ancestors in dreams, but I’m not convinced He does so today. If He would give us a dream for some purpose, that vision must align with the words of Scripture. God’s revelation has been sealed for centuries; no new revelation is being given, only illumination of His revealed Word. Therefore, I lay no claim that this horrific dream was God-sent.

Nevertheless, it remains with me days later. I’ve struggled with whether to share the content of the dream or to keep it to myself. Furthermore, I’ve struggled with what, if anything, I can do about it.

I’m writing this article to explain what I dreamt and attempt to do something positive from it.

First, the reader must have some background on our family. My wife and I have nine, grown children. All eleven of us, at one time or another, have professed Jesus as our Lord and been immersed. Furthermore, we have eighteen grandchildren ranging in age from one to twenty-five. Some of them have also made professions of faith in Christ.

I must also confess I have developed a ridiculous fear of crowds (ochlophobia) over the past decade. On occasion, if I am in a large group of people, I become extremely nervous and have an urgent need to extricate myself from the situation. At times, I have successfully managed to control the fear. But, I never know beforehand if I can do so.

With that knowledge, I begin my recollection of my dream. It came to me in two distinct parts.

First, my entire family were visiting Disney World. We were walking around when my ochlophobia began. After attempting to control it for a brief time, I told my family I must leave them and return to the hotel room. To my dismay and surprise, some of them laughed at me, some mocked me, and others yelled at me for not seeing a doctor about my condition. None of this mattered to me, and I departed for the solitude of the hotel room.

Second, while relaxing in my room and recovering from my panic, I began to hear voices. I sat up in my bed and distinctly heard the voices of some of my family. Someone was shouting, “Dad, please help me.” Another screamed, “Grandpa, help!” The voices became louder in volume and more in number.

Concerned for my family’s well-being, I leapt from my bed, threw on my shoes, and bolted for the door. Meanwhile, the voices were growing louder than before, repeatedly pleading for my help. I was quivering from fear, wondering what might be happening to them.

Then, I flung open the door to the room.

On the other side of the door was a massive chasm, the bottom completely out of sight. Far down in that hole, orange flames and smoke were clearly visible. The sound of steam was now added to the crying voices of my family.

Across the chasm on the far ledge stood some of my family, both children and grandchildren. Not all were there, and I could not make out any of their faces. Yet, I knew they were the source of the pleas for help.

Standing in the doorway of my room, I watched as my family members, one by one, were pushed into this pit. Even as they fell, they were screaming for my aid, begging me to rescue them.

I could do nothing.

Then, I awoke.

I trust the reader now understands why this dream has dramatically affected me. I suspect such a dream would haunt any parent. The larger and more important question is what can I do with it? Simply forgetting the dream is not an option, at least, not one for me.

Now that all our children have left our home, they must live their own lives. I have no authority over them and cannot demand their obedience to my religion. I do my best not to offer advice to any of them unless asked. Some of them remain active in local churches, hopefully a sign of their true faith. Others, however, appear to have abandoned the faith, or, at least, no longer consider it of importance. The only help I can offer my child is, first, that I will pray for you, and, second, to exhort you either to return to the Lord you once professed or to truly seek Him for the first time. For when the judgment comes, and we stand on opposite sides of God’s throne, there is nothing I can do to help you. Screaming for my assistance will prove useless. Jesus is your only hope.

My grandchildren prove a special burden. I have exercised extreme caution over the years with meddling in their lives. Their parents, not me, are responsible for their upbringing. Even in the realm of religion, I have reluctantly refrained from saying very much about Christ and salvation so not to override their parents’ views. Yet, I fear some may not be learning about the danger that awaits them and their need for Christ. What might I do to respect their parents but assist my grandchildren? Well, as with your parents, I will pray for you, grandchild. The Lord often moves in mysterious ways and He can reach you even if your parents attempt to block His influence. Second, I will pray for your parents. I will pray that, perhaps, they will have a similar dream in which they are standing in the door and watching you being pushed into eternal punishment. I will pray they come to their senses in the matter of God, sin, Jesus, salvation, and eternal judgment. They have the responsibility to share those things with you.

Lastly, I will pray that, when judgment day comes, all my family, each one, stand on the same side of God’s throne, believers in Jesus, prepared for eternity.

Oh, and yes, we do live just off Elm Street!