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.”