[We are] not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Does the Judgment Seat of Christ have a Punitive Aspect?

by Antonio da Rosa

To ask this question is to answer it. How can it be a judgment seat of Christ (GK: Bema) if there is no punitive aspect to it?

Is the Bema Seat of Christ only a rewards platform or is it an actual Judgment Seat? Some people have a hard time accepting the fact that unfaithful Christians will be punished at Christ's Bema. They scoff at my use of the term "punitive" to describe consequences at the Bema.

I am a father. I have three children. My children are liable to be punished when they are caught in wrongdoing. They are still a part of my family. Breaking the rules of the house have consequences! These usually take the form of loss of privileges. This morning I awoke to a note from my wife that stated that my daughter is not to watch any of her alloted weekday television time today for breaking a rule.

Is my daughter still a part of the household? Yes. Is she forgiven? Yes. Do these facts sheild her from the punitive consequences for breaking the rules? No.

What is the definition of punitive?

Of our pertaining to punishment.

What is punishment?

Any pain, suffering, loss, or penalty inflicted on, or suffered by a person because of a crime, offense, or wrong-doing.

Is it wrong to state that there will be a "punitive" aspect to the Bema of Christ when it states things such as:

2 Cor 5:9-11
Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. 11 Knowing, therefore, the terror of the Lord, we persuade men;

Q: Why was Paul making it his aim to be well-pleasing to the Lord?
A: Because he knew that he would stand before the Judgment Seat of Christ.

Q: Why was that such an important consideration?
A: Because he would receive the things that were done in his body -- both the good and bad.

Q: What is Paul persuading men to be?
A: In the context, he is persuading them to be well pleasing in the Lord.

Q: Why is he persuading men?
A: Because of the terror of the Lord in having to receive the things done in the body if those things are bad.

What is receiving the due of the bad we have done in our bodies if it is not punitive?

1 Cor 3:14-15
14 If anyone's work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. 15 If anyone's work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.

Q: Why is someone "suffer[ing] loss" at the judgment scene here?
A: As a penalty for his unfaithfulness.

Loss of glories, honors, and privileges in the kindgom are the penalties for those Christians who do not overcome in this life.

How is this not punitive?

Shouldn't you now rethink your insistence that there are no punitive aspects to the Bema of Christ?

Three Resurrection Signs of the Savior

by Antonio da Rosa

Free Grace Theology Blog takes a look at Jonathan Perreault's Three Resurrection Signs of the Savior

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Earthbound by Evelyn De Morgan

by Matthew

This is such a delightful painting. The contrast between the blue of the cloth that the angel holds and the orange robe of the king is magnificent. Also noteworthy is the fantasy landscape and the realistic hands and feet.

The king truly seems a pathetic figure. He casts his gaze downward at his money, ignoring the beautiful sky and the majestic angel before him. In contrast a spirit in the distance soars into the air.

Tragically, many are like that king; absorbed in their pursuit of earthly gain and ignorant of the glories of heaven and the wonders that God will bestow upon those who look to the Lord Jesus Christ.

Luke 18
24 And when Jesus saw that he was very sorrowful, he said, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!

25 For it is easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

It is not that giving up riches is a condition of receiving eternal life. No, if it was it would be a salvation of works. Rather, riches blind people to their neediness. Earthly riches distract people from their spiritual darkness and poverty.

In Ezekiel 28 we see the pride of a wealthy king compared to the pride that lead to Satan's downfall. Wealth lifts people up, filling them with pride. They become self-satisfied. Yet through the work of the Holy Spirit, it is possible for the rich to come to know of their need for the Gospel.

What is the angel doing? I think perhaps the angel is using the cloth, with its celestial decoration to distract the man from his obsession with gold and to bring to the realisation of the wonders of heaven.

God is not far from any of us (Acts 17:27). The wonders of creation point us toward the creator. The light of the Gospel is being preached to all nations, though its course is sadly slow in some parts. There is a witness to all of the reality of God and the reality of His grace.

Matthew 16
26 For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

27 For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.

Tragically, many settle for much less than the whole world and yet lose their soul.

There is much misunderstanding about the meaning of this verse. Many confuse the loss of soul with going to hell. However, the actual word translated soul here, psyche, is translated in the previous verse as life.

The loss of the soul does not necessarilly mean the going to hell but means the loss of the kind of life that God wants us to live.

Through Jesus Christ, we can obtain not only eternal life, but life in abundance. We can experience a quality of existence that is beyond imagination. We can experience a union with God that is beyond anything we know now. We can receive heavenly rewards that are undreamed of and have the privilege of ruling over both earth and heaven.

Yet so many Christians get distracted by earthly conerns. They refuse to look beyond their immediate needs and their worldy desire for wealth and status. To follow that path will lead to the loss of heavenly inheritance; to fail to obtain the full glories of God's new race of heavenly humanity. Such Christians have found eternal life, they are justified and secure in Christ, yet they will miss out on so much that they might otherwise enjoy.

Let us not look downward at the vain toys of this world, but let us look upward to heaven. Let us set our affections on things above.

A bit encouraging

by Matthew

I attended a service at my parent's Charismatic church down south. The denomination believes there are apostles today.

After a depressing hour of thumping contemporary worship, tongues-speaking and that sort of stuff, the guest preacher (a big-shot in the denomination) gave a very good sermon. He affirmed the eternal security of the believer and the importance of assurance.


Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Are you comfortable using John 3:16?

by Antonio da Rosa

John 3:16 is one of the most beloved verses in the whole Bible. The one who "believes in" Jesus will not perish but receives everlasting life. We have done some discussion about what Jesus meant when He said "believe in" Him over at my blog:

Free Grace Theology Blog: Are We Robbed of John 3:16? What Does 'believing in' Jesus Really Mean?

Here are a couple of excerpts:

When we use the colloquial expression "I believe in [somebody or something]" or "I trust [somebody or something]" it is shorthand for a much more precise and specific articulation. If I said, "I believe in the airline pilot" or equally it could be stated, "I trust the airline pilot," the intended meaning is clear: "I believe that the airline pilot is qualified and will get me from point a to point b safely." Or it could equally be articulated as, "I trust the airline pilot is qualified and will get me to my destination safely." In all of this it is important to note that each time we use the phrases, "I believe in _______," and "I trust ________," we have a specific content in mind, in other words, we are believing and trusting in someone/something for something specific and precise.

If I said the expression, "I trust the babysitter" it does not mean that I trust her in everything! I would not entrust her with my taxes or rely upon her for medical diagnosis. Nor does it imply that I know everything (or even the most major things!) about her that makes her qualified. It simply means that I have (through whatever communication or consideration) been persuaded that she is trustworthy. Obviously what is intended by this somewhat general sounding expression is in reality something very specific and precise: "I believe that the babysitter is well-qualified and able to sufficiently care for my children in a mature, responsible, and safe manner." We cannot take this any other way! These types of phrases are not used in any other way. These somewhat general sounding phrases are colloquial and in actuality convey implied, specific content based upon the context of the situation in which they are expressed and/or the named object(s) itself/themselves.

What is “believing in” Jesus shorthand for? What is the specific content of that belief? In a nutshell, according to the context, "believing in Jesus" means believing that Jesus gives me eternal life and I will not perish, or equally, trusting in Jesus for eternal life and deliverance from perishing. Essentially, “believing in Jesus” is entrusting one’s eternal destiny to Him; it is certain reliance upon Him for the promised result. It really is this simple, and as such lies unencumbered by any additional caveats or qualifications.

Much like:

A) Believing in the babysitter = trusting the welfare of your children into the hands of the babysitter, and

B) Believing in the airline pilot = trusting your own welfare into the hands of the airline pilot

Believing in Jesus = trusting your eternal welfare into the hands of Jesus

Jesus didn't intend by using the phrase "believ[ing] in" Him to include His deity, death, or resurrection as matters of saving faith when He spoke the words of John 3:16 (as well as John 5:24; 6:35-40, 47; 11:25-27) to His audience (in this case, Nicodemus). Using the principles of plain, normal, and literal hermeneutics, we come to the conclusion that these evangelistic communications were used by Jesus (and thus inscribed for us by the Apostle John) in a way foreign than how many evangelicals would use them today. When they say that the lost must "beleive in" Jesus to be "saved", they mean much more than what Jesus meant.

Jesus, whose words "are spirit, and are life" (John 6:63), and who has "the words of everlasting life" (John 6:68), made these evangelistic utterances with specific import, simply relating to His audiences that whoever believes in Him (in other words, entrusts their eternal destiny to Him) shall never perish but receives, as an immediate and irrevocable possession, eternal life. To this condition many traditional Christians add, in all reality, a number of complex theological requirements. Therefore the evangelistic passages of John, which we all know, and have been dearly loved over the centuries, are insufficient witnesses to Jesus' soteriological program in traditional Christians' estimation.

Furthermore, for traditional Christians to use them would be confusing, for what Jesus meant by "believe in Me" (which is a condition that once fulfilled is the intermediate agency through which one receives everlasting life) is not considered saving faith by them. Traditional Christians either have to import foreign meaning into the texts themselves (inserting extrinsic data into the meaning of "believ[ing] in" Jesus), or supplement them, when, indeed, Jesus spoke them they were sufficient, self-contained, authoritative decrees providing for His audiences the unadulterated condition for receiving eternal life.

My questions to you are these:

1) Are you comfortable using John 3:16 in your evangelism? Why?
2) Can you sincerely use John 3:16 in light of your theology?

I will offer my answers first:

I am very comfortable using John 3:16 because I believe that men and women get saved the same way that they got saved when Jesus said His beloved evangelistic expressions found in the gospel of John: simply by believing in Him. I am convinced that Jesus' words are still spirit and life. I am deeply persuaded that Jesus' utterances that have been inscribed for us by the Apostle John are still the words of everlasting life.

What about you? Do you believe that Jesus still has the words of everlasting life?

Monday, November 19, 2007

The Church is the real Queen of Heaven

by Matthew

Naturally, as fundamentalists we consider the marian veneration of the Roman Catholic church to be idolatry and abhorrent.

I do think the image of the Virgin is a striking one. The idea of worshipping Mary as goddess seems to me incredibly seductive. Sometimes I feel like converting to Roman Catholicism. However, I know that to do so would be a denial of the Gospel of grace and a denial of the authority of the Word of God. It would be apostasy from everything I believe in.

Much as the Roman Catholics apply the term 'Queen of Heaven' to the mother of our Lord, it seems to be far more appropriate to call the church the 'Queen of Heaven.'

We cannot go to far in emphasising the future glory of the church.

The church is the bride of Christ. The church was hidden in the eternal counsels of God. Christ loved the church before the foundation of the world and the formation of the church as the holy bride of Christ is the highest and greatest fruit of divine grace.

Ephesians 5
25 Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;

26 that he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word,

27 that he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.

28 So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself.

29 For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church:

30 for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones.

31 For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.

32 This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church.

Just as a husband and wife become united in their flesh, in our mystic union with Christ, we are united to Him. The church is thus the body of Christ. This union will be realised in the resurrection, when our flesh is transfigured into the likeness of Christ. Our flesh will be deified in Him. Just as Christ's humanity is joined in inseperable union with His divine nature, our flesh will also be united to the godhead through union with Christ. It will come to share in that heavenly glory which our risen Lord posesses now. The union that we now know only spiritually will be realised physically.

Revelation 19
7 Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready.
8 And to her was granted that she should be arrayed in fine linen, clean and white: for the fine linen is the righteousness of saints.

A queen is granted all the splendour and dignity of her royal husband. So will the church. In the eschaton, the glory and beauty of the church will be displayed before the entire cosmos.

A king does not necessarilly share his governmental authority with his queen. However, in the case of Christ and His church, there certainly is joint rule. The saints are called to reign with Christ, to share in His sovereign government.

Revelation 22
1 And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.

2 In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

3 And there shall be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him:

4 and they shall see his face; and his name shall be in their foreheads.

5 And there shall be no night there; and they need no candle, neither light of the sun; for the Lord God giveth them light: and they shall reign for ever and ever.

Receiving the privilege of reigning with Christ is dependant upon faithful service. However, all believers are indwellt with the Holy Spirit. They are sanctified in Christ. Every believer has the power to overcome, to live a life of faithful service. The church is called to be a victorious people. The yoke of Christ is easy and His burden is light.

1 Corinthians 2
9 But as it is written,
Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard,
neither have entered into the heart of man,
the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.


An illustration of Lucifer in Paradise Lost, by Gustave Dore

by Matthew

I think this is the best ever artistic depiction of Satan.

Conventionally in art, Satan is portrayed as an ugly red creature with horns and cloven hoofs. While the red colour and horns have foundation in Revelation 12, a more accurate portrayal based on that text would probably be of a serpentine creature, a giant snake, rather than an humanoid figure.

Dore departs from convention in drawing Lucifer as an handsome angel. This reflects the Biblical idea of Satan as an angel.

Ezekiel 28
17 Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee.

Often sin is attractive to the eye. That is because so often it is a corruption of that which is good. Sexual sin is attractive to people because it is a corruption of the divinely created blessing of marital sex.

Let us beware of false teachers. So much in false religion is attractive. The worship in Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy is beautiful and majestic, yet this facade betrays an ignorance of the Gospel. The evangelists of cults come across as pleasent, sincere and knowledgeable in Scripture, yet they present a message that contradicts the truth.

Note that Lucifer in this picture has been wounded in battle with God's angels and he is armed for war.

There are battles in heaven. We do not understand everything about these battles. We do not know what weapons creatures with ethereal bodies would use or what effect these battles have on this world, but we know they are fought.

Revelation 12
7 ¶ And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels,

Christians do not directly engage in warfare with fallen angels; if we did we would have no hope of victory, for they are greater than us in power and strength. However, through our prayers we fight against them. By preaching the Gospel, we bring men out of the captivity of Satan's kingdom and the domminion of his counterfeit heavenly government.

12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

Notice that Lucifer's feet are bare. Dore always portrays his angels with barefeet. No doubt angels have no practical need for shoes, as they live in the perfect and ordered realm of heaven. However, their barefeet reflect the fact that they dwell in the very presence of God, the holiest part of the universe.

Satan once dwellt in the presence of God. We read in Ezekiel 28:

13 Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.

14 Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.

15 Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.

16 By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.

That Satan fell into sin having dwellt in the very presence of God is a lesson for us.

The Christian posesses eternal life. She lives a divine life and is indwellt by the Holy Ghost. Spiritually her identity is in heaven. Yet Christians so often fall into sin, even though they have experienced God. We can fall away. We can grieve the Spirit of God. Let us not have a false confidence, but let us walk with humility and exercise moment by moment faith in Christ for His sanctifying work through the cross.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Blessedness of a Burden

by David

When do you do your best praying? What if our prayers were recorded for us to see at all times? Would there be certain times when they would be free of the clutter of cliches & be most heartfelt? Have you ever prayed, or felt like praying a prayer like this: "I wish I had wings like a dove! Then I could fly away and be at rest. Yes, I would flee to a place far off, I would stay in the desert." That is Psalm 55:6-7 from the Complete Jewish Bible, translated by David Stern.
My question in this post is this: Are there times when God does NOT deliver us from burdens? Or, are there times when He even sends us into a spiritual storm? I am sure many if not all of you reading this know what I am getting at, & that there are indeed those times in our lives as believers. Reading Matthew 14:22ff as well as chapter 8:23-27 in that same Gospel reveals that there are times that the Lord sends us into storms, or goes with us into them & then seems to fall asleep, leaving us to manuever through it somehow, all the time feeling totally hopeless. Why am I saying this? Just to say, that there is such a thing as the blessedness of a burden. David was extremely burdened as he wrote Psalm 55. A dear friend, probably Ahithophel his once trusted advisor, betrayed him & defected to Absalom's side during a particularly difficult time in David's life. But, during that time, David prayed like this: "Listen, God, to my prayer! Don't hide yourself from my plea! Pay attention to me, and answer me! I am panic-stricken as I make my complaint, I shudder at how the enemy shouts, at how the wicked oppress; for they keep heaping trouble on me and angrily tormenting me. My heart within me is pounding in anguish, the terrors of death press down on me, fear and trembling overwhelm me, horror covers me." But he also tells us that this burden led him to pray morning, noon & evening, pouring out his heart to God, all the while learning to trust Him more & more. I wonder, does this sound familiar to you? Our God, though He may seem to have left us or fallen asleep, leaving us to go it alone, is right there in the boat of life with us, teaching us to rely on Him, making us into Christ's image! What a wonderful God we serve.

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Friday, November 16, 2007

A Cute Picture of Jacob's Ladder and some thoughts

by Matthew

What are these angels thinking? What would run through the mind of an angel at such a time?

They look a little curious. They are keeping a slight distance.

The man they look at is hardly elegant in his sleep. No doubt he was dirty and sweaty from his travels. There is a great contrast between their purity and beauty and his own coarseness. Their barefeet gleam as they tread the celestial staircase, in contrast to Jacob's dusty feet.

The second angel up looks excited and is calling to his fellows. Perhaps he is saying:

Look, it's that man.
No, not just any man. The man our Lord is so concerned about. The one He sent us to watch over. Come and have a look at him. Maybe you have some idea what the big deal is about this guy.

Psalm 8
4 what is man, that thou art mindful of him?
and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels,
and hast crowned him with glory and honor.
6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands;
thou hast put all things under his feet:

The angels are wonderful creatures. In their glory and beauty they reflect the wonder and holiness of God.

Yet God is not accomplishing His purpose in establishing His eternal kingdom through angels. No God has chosen to work through humanity and it will be glorified men and women who exercise domminion over the universe when the Son of man puts down all rulers and authorities that oppose His rule. The saints will inherit the earth with Christ, and not only earth but heaven, for they shall judge angels.

God was mindful of that man Jacob. A weak and frail man, lacking in faith and integrity of character.

God loved that man in all his failings. From the ancestry of Jacob came our Lord Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ was a man, knowing all the limitations of our weak flesh. He did not take on the beautiful and heavenly flesh of angels, but the flesh of men.

Yet now this man, the risen and ascended Christ is seated in heaven, Lord over all. His flesh is glorified. His humanity now reflects the glory of God as does the flesh of angels.

Those men and women who are in Christ shall one day be brought into that position of heavenly glory. The Christian may feel frail and weak and dirty, yet one day she shall be transformed into the likeness of Christ. In Christ the Christian shall be deified in her flesh. Those Christians who have faithfully served their Lord will inherit all, as He has. They shall rule over multitudes of angels. They will ascend higher than Jacob's ladder.

Do those angels in the picture long to look into these things?


Sunday, November 11, 2007

A Sermon on Satan

by Matthew

I preached this sermon this morning.

Ezekiel 28
11 ¶ Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,

12 Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty.

13 Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.

14 Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire.

15 Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.

16 By the multitude of thy merchandise they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire.

17 Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee.

18 Thou hast defiled thy sanctuaries by the multitude of thine iniquities, by the iniquity of thy traffic; therefore will I bring forth a fire from the midst of thee, it shall devour thee, and I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee.

19 All they that know thee among the people shall be astonished at thee: thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more.

This seems at first a very strange chapter. The first verses of it seem relatively straightforward. It is a prophecy of God’s judgement on Ithobalus, the king of Tyre, in modern-day Lebanon. We learn that this king is wise, handsome and incredibly wealthy. Yet he is also proud.

On this Remembrance Sunday, we think of those who have died in wars because of the pride and vanity of rulers. When a ruler is proud, often he thinks little of the lives of his subjects.

The last century has seen many dictators. Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Sadam Hussein.

Yet God resists the proud. So often in their pride, rulers will overstretch themselves. Hitler believed that there were no limits to how far he could conquer. He dominated Europe. Yet in his pride, he brought the German nation to ruin. God resists the proud.

Yet this passage says some things about the King of Tyre that do not seem to fit a human being. He has been in the Garden of God, he has been in the mountain of God and walked in the midst of the stones of fire, (whatever they are) and most notably of all, he is said to be a Cherub, one the highest ranks of angels. What is going on this text?

We see this in Psalms. In many psalms we see things that seem to reflect the experience of David. Then a few verses later, we see statements that can only apply to the messiah, Jesus Christ, the son of David.

In this passage, Ezekiel takes us from the king of Tyre, a contemporary example of evil conduct and pride to Satan, the originator of all evil.

Satan is real. To deny his existence is folly. Sadly there are many professing Christians who refuse to believe in Satan’s existence. They prefer to see him as an allegory or symbol. But this is to deny the record of Scripture. The Lord Jesus not only taught that Satan is real, but He was tempted personally by Satan.

At the very beginning of our Bibles in Genesis we read of how it is through the Serpent’s temptation that sin entered the world. If we take Satan out of the world, the whole record of the Bible’s revelation of man’s history falls apart.

When we read in the newspapers daily about the terrible things that go on in the world, it should not be difficult to believe in the reality of Satan.

Some people feel that the idea of a personal devil allows people to make excuses for their sin. However, the excuse that ‘the devil made me do it’ is not accepted in the courts of heaven. Eve tried to blame the serpent for her sin. God judged the serpent, but He also judged Eve.

Some Christians make the mistake of getting obsessed with Satan.

If you go to some churches, you sometimes hear preachers rebuking the Devil.
I would suggest to you that this is a rather silly thing to do. If I stood here and I said “We rebuke you, Satan!” I would be wasting my breath. Satan is not everywhere. He is not God and he is thankfully not here in this church to listen to me.

Some Christians get really obsessed with demon possession. You can read a lot of Christian books on the subject of exorcism and spiritual warfare. I would suggest that a lot of these books are very sensational and very unbalanced.

I don’t think that many people are possessed by demons today. In the life of our Lord Jesus we see many incidents of demon possession, in contrast, we see less in Acts and very little mention of possession in the Old Testament or Paul’s epistles. Satan varies his methods. He made great use of possession in the time of our Lord, but that does not mean that this is always his way. I believe that the work of the cross has weakened Satan’s power and so we do not need to be continually casting out demons.

Our role is to preach the Word of God. The Word of God has power and that power was obtained by the cross of Christ and His resurrection. Our business today is not to exorcise but to make Christ known. In the Gospel we find the answer to Satan’s hold over men and women.

In this passage we learn that Satan was the anointed cherub. What is a cherub? The cherubim are one of the highest ranks of angels. In their glory, they reflect God’s power and authority. In the holy of holies there were statues of cherubim. When Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, cherubim were set up to guard paradise and keep them out.

It is staggering to think that such an holy being could have fallen into sin. In verse 15 we learn of Satan:

Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day thou was created until iniquity was found in thee.

It should not therefore be such a surprise when we see the low state of Christendom. In history we read about the violence of the crusades and the scheming of popes. We see far too many Protestant ministers who deny such fundamental truths as the resurrection and virgin birth of Christ. We also see the most tedious and petty divisions in churches and denominations. We see televangelists squandering large sums of money on lavish lifestyles. When we see the failure of so much of professed Christianity we need not be surprised to learn that Satan was the anointed cherub, the guardian of the throne of God.

That Satan is an angel is a fact mentioned by Paul. Paul said:

Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
Therefore it is no great marvel if his ministers also be transformed as the minister’s of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

A lot of the people who come knocking on your door with the Bible in their hands are not good news. There are a lot of people out there who bring a message that seems like Christianity, but which is not the real thing. It is so important for us to know the Bible and to able to test what is in accordance with its teachings and what is not. Don’t let yourself be taken in by wolves in sheep’s clothing. Get to know your Bible.

We are told that Satan was in Eden, the garden of God. This probably does not refer to the Garden of Eden that Adam and Eve were in, because it is referring to Satan’s state before his fall. This would seem to be the heavenly paradise above. The word Eden means ‘delight’ and heaven is a delightful place. The mention of precious stones here should remind us of the description of the celestial New Jerusalem that we read about in Revelation.

Heaven is the place that the Christian is destined for. God has responded to the fall of Satan by doing a new work. This is always God’s pattern. Satan and His angels fell. But God responded to this by creating man. And through man He is accomplishing His purposes. Satan once occupied a place of glory and privilege in heaven. One day, believers in Christ will occupy a place of glory and privilege in heaven.

Jesus Christ, the risen man has been exalted to the highest place in the universe. He is going to claim His authority over creation. But he will not rule alone. Christ is gathering a people who will rule with Him, an heavenly government, a celestial aristocracy if you like. The Christian who has faithfully served the Lord will have a far more glorious position in heaven than Satan ever had.

Satan knows this and it makes him furious. That is why he is at war with the Church of God. For when the Church is brought into its place of glory and privilege over all creation, then Satan will be defeated. He dreads that day.

Wealth is a very significant thing in this chapter. The king of Tyre is seen as one who is proud because of his great wealth. In verse 5:

By thy great wisdom and by thy traffick thou hast increased thy riches, and thine heart is lifted up because of thy riches.

We read in 1 Timothy 6:10 that ‘the love of money is the root of all evil.’ Some Bible translations say that it is the root of many kinds of evil. I am not a Greek scholar, so I will not presume to judge between these readings. However, this passage in Ezekiel might give a clue as to how the love of money could be the root of all evil.

In this passage, we see that just as the king of Tyre became proud because of his wealth, Lucifer or Satan became proud because of his own kind of wealth; for he was covered in precious stones and dwelt among the stones of fire.

Wealth makes a man proud. And in pride he neglects his need for God. This is the fruit of Satan who in his pride sought to usurp God. How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!

The fact that Satan was in heaven leads to the question, where is he now?

Some people have an idea that Satan is in hell. That idea is from John Milton’s Paradise Lost, not from the Bible. Satan is not in hell. One day he will be in hell, not to reign over it but to be tormented there forever. No, Satan is not in hell, but in the heavens where he makes war on God’s angels. Not that part of heaven where Christ is, but in some unearthly realm, perhaps among the stars. We read in Ephesians 6:12

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.

The word high places is also translated elsewhere in Ephesians as ‘heavenly places.’

God has his heavenly kingdom in which he rules over a multitude of angels. Satan has his heavenly kingdom, in which he rules over his angels. Satan sought to usurp God and in doing so he established his counterfeit kingdom.

Did you know that Satan is the god of this world? This world is his kingdom. That is why the world is in such a mess.

Everything in society is designed to make man think that he does not need God. Satan uses all sorts of things, religion, politics, culture to make people turn away from God.

Satan will do two things for people. He will give them lies to darken their minds and work to keep them busy.

Satan gives people false religious systems. The system of Islam is a false religion. It makes people believe that Jesus Christ did not die to save sinners and that man can come to God by doing good deeds. Another false religious system is evolution. It makes people deny that God made man and think that the Bible us unrealiable. These Satan's lies.

But Satan also gives people things to do. People find all sorts of things to busy their lives with. Some people dedicate their lives to athletics. They decide that one day they will win the Olympics and so they put all their time and energy into training for athletics. But they never seek God. How tragic that a person should reach the heights of achievement in athletics or sports but never come to know the salvation that is found in Christ!

Other people dedicate their lives to politics. They spend all their life trying to improve society and make the world a better place through legislation. A very worthy intention. But sadly, though we can try to improve the world, ultimately it will be in a mess as long as sinful men are running it and from behind the scenes, Satan. The only hope for the world is the return of Jesus Christ to establish His kingdom.

But we can be delivered from this evil world system. That deliverance is through the Lord Jesus Christ. We read in Ephesians 2:

Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience.

That is how they used to be. But now:

But God who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,
Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ (by grace are ye saved)

When a person comes to faith in Christ they are born again. They are delivered from Satan’s power. In 1 John it says that ‘He that is born of God overcometh the world’.

If you have been born again, if you have trusted in Christ you are delivered from Satan’s power. Your destiny is secure. You may fall into sin, you may backslide, but nothing that Satan can throw at you can separate you from the love of Christ. If you are born again, you will never be dragged down to hell, no matter how much Satan may rage against you.

That is good news!

Satan is doomed. He can cause a lot of trouble. He continues to deceive the nations. But his time is short. In Romans it says that our feet will bruise Satan shortly. We are going to see him defeated. In verse 17 of this passage we read:

Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou has corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brigtness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee.

In times to come, Satan is going to be cast into the Lake of Fire to be tormented day and night forever.

I have done a lot of street preaching. Sometimes I hear teenagers making silly comments about Satan. I tell them ‘Satan is going to hell and if you continue in your course, if you continue to reject God you will be there with him.’

We don’t need to fear Satan. We need to beware of his schemes. We have to be discerning as to his workings. We have to beware of pride, for it is by pride that he fell. If we are in Christ we cannot be separated from the salvation that is in Him. However, if we become proud, we can stumble and fail to serve our Lord as we should. There is no room for pride in the Christian life. Let us only boast in the Lord Jesus Christ. Everything which we are is in Him.

Let us rest secure in the victory that we have in Christ. Let us look forward to that day when our feet bruise Satan.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Does Anybody Agree with This Quotation? Part XXI

by Rose

Although it is true that God loves both the wicked and the righteous, it is also true that before the world was created, God chose to love only a few people and destine them to eternal life in the kingdom of heaven. He chose to hate the rest of mankind and destine them to hell for eternity.
By: (Identity withheld at the moment)

Monday, November 05, 2007

A Sermon on Mary and Martha

by Matthew

I preached this yesterday:

Luke 10
38 ¶ Now it came to pass, as they went, that he entered into a certain village: and a certain woman named Martha received him into her house.

39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus' feet, and heard his word.

40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.

41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:

42 but one thing is needful; and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

This passages completely subverts the attitude of people in this society and in the world. Society values men and women of action. People say ‘actions speak louder than words.’ People value men and women who ‘get things done.’

The temptation for the preacher is too excuse Martha in this story. Many would instinctively feel that she was the sensible person in this story, busying herself with the tasks that needed to be done. However, to take this line is to make out that we know better than the Lord Jesus. Our Lord knew that Martha was doing more than she needed to do. She was going overboard.

In the King James Bible the Lord says ‘Martha, thou art careful about many things.’ There may be things that it is right to be careful about. But Martha was troubling herself with more than was necessary. She was preparing too many dishes, trying to get everything perfect. A lot of women who host dinner parties make the mistake of preparing more elaborate food than they can prepare in the available time. And that frequently spoils the evening.

There are a number of very bad ways to preach this passage.

One mistake in preaching this passage is too emphasise the difference between the personality of Mary and the personality of Martha. Mary is spiritual and deep, Martha is sensible and practical. The preacher then tells us that the Church needs both Marys and Marthas and they are all just as valuable. While there is a certain amount of truth in this approach; for the Holy Spirit does give different gifts to Christians and uses different personalities, this misses the main point in this story. Whatever the differences between Mary’s personality and Martha’s; it was their behaviour that was the issue. Martha’s behaviour and attitude was wrong, Mary’s behaviour and attitude was right and to be praised.

Another bad way of preaching this passage is too make it all about justification by faith. Martha is thus portrayed as working for her salvation and Mary is seen as having faith. Justification is certainly by faith. Any attempt to compromise the glorious truth of justification by faith must be rejected. As we shall see, this passage does touch on that issue, but to preach this passage that way is a distortion.

The reason for this is that Martha was a true woman of faith. We read in John chapter 11 that Martha was convinced of the resurrection of the dead. We also read that she confessed that Jesus was the Christ. We often hear of Peter’s confession of Christ, but I think Martha’s is even more wonderful. You will please forgive me if I divert from Luke to bring it up here.

Our Lord says to Martha:

"I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

Jesus asks Martha a yes or no question. He asks Martha to affirm a fact. Do you realise that the difference between heaven and hell comes down to a yes or no to this question? Jesus asked Martha whether she believed that He could give her everlasting life. Did she believe that if she trusted in Him she would never die? She answers:

27"Yes, Lord," she told him, "I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world."

Martha affirmed Jesus’s claim to be the Christ. Believing that Jesus is the Christ is simply to take Jesus at His word. To trust that he will give you everlasting life. If you believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, if you take him at his word, if you answer yes to his question, you will never die.

Have you come to that point of trusting in Jesus Christ? Are you certain of being raised from the dead to everlasting life?

But we must return to Luke.

We read in this passage that Martha received Jesus into her house. I would like to say a word to Christians about how they use their houses. Do you know that your house is a gift from God? We are responsible to Him for how we use all the gifts that He gives us. There are so many ways in which you can use your house to serve your God. You can host prayer meetings and Bible study meetings. You can provide accomodation for visiting speakers. I don’t think there is an university or college here in Upton, otherwise I would have said that you can provide lodgings for a Christian student. How about inviting single people for Sunday lunch after church? Do you know, for single people, Sunday afternoons can be a really lonely time. Have you thought about inviting a single person to join you for Sunday lunch? It is not only in church that we can serve God. We cannot put too high a premium on hospitality.

However, in seeking to show hospitality, let us beware of pride. Seeking to show off our cooking or how nice our houses are. That is not a right motive for hospitality. And I think we can see that in Martha in this story. Instead of keeping things simple and just offering a few dishes, she was trying to prepare a feast. She wanted the Lord Jesus to remember her for her cooking and for her skills in preparation. She was getting caught up in the things of this world.

This world is passing away. This world is coming to a close. We read in the second epistle of Peter that the world is going to be burned or purified. It is going to be transformed. The Christian looks to a new heavens and a new earth. Seeking glory in this world. Delighting in the things of this society which are passing away is folly.

Only things that are eternal will remain. Mary was looking at eternal things. She saw that Jesus was the Son of God and wanted to hear His words to seek more of Him. Martha was getting caught up in the things of this world that were passing away.

One sin leads to another. Martha had shown her pride and she soon showed her anger. She lost her temper and complained to the Lord.

"Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"

Loosing your temper is no light matter. The Lord Jesus said that if in you are angry with your brother without a cause, you have committed murder in your heart. Martha was angry with her sister for no good reason.

Martha was a believer and yet she sinned. Christians are not perfect. In every Christian there is that Martha that wants to judge others and complain about unfairness when there is no unfairness. Christians are not perfect.

Maybe you have been hurt by Christians who have said or done things that were wrong. Don’t let that keep you from seeking Christ. Yes, Christians blow it. They need forgiveness just as much as anyone else. The difference is that they have found forgiveness for their sins. They know that they have an advocate in heaven, the Lord Jesus Christ.

It says in the firt epistle of John chapter 1:

8If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Have you found forgiveness for your sin? That forgiveness can be found in the Lord Jesus Christ. He can purify you from all unrighteousness.

Notice how the Lord answers Martha. He addresses her by name:

“Martha, Martha”

We can almost hear the tenderness in His lovely voice. Martha had sinned. Martha had blown it and disappointed her master. Yet He loved her. Despite her failing, the Lord still loved Martha. For the love of Christ for sinners is great indeed. The apostle Paul wrote in Romans chapter 5, verse 8:

8But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

It was His love for sinners that took the Lord Jesus Christ to the cross. There He demonstrated His love for the lost by bearing in Himself the penalty for the sins of the world. By His sacrifice He made it possible for you and I to be reconciled unto God. To have peace and find acceptance in Him.

Have you come to know the love of Christ for sinners? Have you looked to Christ and received His free gift of redemption?

The Lord told Martha that one thing was needful and Mary had chosen it. What is that thing that Mary had chosen?

Was it listening to preaching? Is that the one thing needful? We certainly do need to listen to preaching. Attending to the Word of God is vital. However, there is more to the Christian life that simply listening to sermons.

No, the one thing that was needful, that thing that Mary had chosen was Jesus Christ Himself. She had chosen to sit at His feet and Hear Him. She had chosen to seek more of His presence and a greater knowledge of Him.

There was an Anglican theologian, WH Griffith Thomas, who wrote a book entitled ‘Christianity is Christ.’ This is absolutely true. The Christian religion is not about things that Christians do, it is not about the churches that Christians join. Christianity is 100% about a person, the man Jesus Christ in whom manhood and deity are united.

Some people say a Christian is a person who follows Christ. That is part of the truth, but only part. I would say Christianity is not so much about following Christ as knowing Christ.

From the start to the finish, the Christian life is about knowing Christ.

The Christian life begins with trust in Christ for the gift of eternal life. We have seen how Martha exercised faith in Christ. She recognised that He was resurrection and the life, the guarantor of eternal life to those who believe. For Jesus is life, He possesses it and gives it to those who put their trust in Him.

Possessing eternal life means that one will certainly live forever. But eternal life also has a dynamic character. For our Lord said:

3Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.

Eternal life involves knowing God and knowing Him through Christ. As the Christian experiences more of the life of Christ, the more she comes to know of God.

The Christian life is a new kind of life. When one believes on the Lord Jesus Christ, one is born again. The Christian possesses a new nature one that is patterned after Christ. The apostle Paul was able to say:

I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

The Christian is a completely new person modelled after Christ.

The more the Christian grows in the knowledge of Christ, the more she is able to live as He would. She becomes more Christ-like.

As for the future, the Christian will know Christ and be with Him forever. It says in 1 Thessalonians that when Christ comes ‘so shall we ever be with the Lord.’

The delights of heaven will be incredible, but the greatest of all of them is to be with the Lord Jesus Christ. If you have been invited to a friend’s house for dinner, you look forward to going. You may look forward to the food, but more likely, you are looking forward most to seeing your friend. You look forward to being with that person who you admire and who’s company you enjoy. The Christian can look forward to being with the perfect man, the greatest man in history.

In the future, this man Jesus Christ is going to establish His perfect rule and government over the universe. Everything in heaven and earth will be put under His authority. But He will not rule alone. Those Christians who have faithfully served Him will be given a share in reigning with Him. They will constitute a celestial aristocracy, a new heavenly government. They are exalted to the highest position through Christ.

Thus, to know Christ is a most wonderful thing indeed. To say that knowing Christ is life-transforming is an understatement.

Do you know this man Jesus Christ? Have you chosen that better part?

You can know all of the blessings found in Christ if you would only turn to Him. If you would believe on Him and trust Him to give you everlasting life, then He shall indeed. Like Martha, you will have that certainty that you will never die.

For our Lord said of Mary in this story that the best part that she had chosen would never be taken from her. Once you are in Christ, you are in Him forever. It is an everlasting salvation. You can have eternal life.

Choose the best part. Choose the Lord Jesus Christ. Believe on Him and you can enjoy Him forever.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The Apostle Paul was a Non-Calvinist

by Rose

I know, I know, there was no such thing as "Calvinism" in the day of Paul, but the ideas espoused by those who today call themselves "Calvinists" or "Particular Redemptionist" or whatever .... I dare say the Apostle Paul was not one of them.

15 This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief. (1 Timothy 1)
Now if Paul held that there was a small group of people who, from before the foundation of the world, God had chosen to gift with faith and chose them ond only them to become believers...
if the Apostle Paul held to this view, how could he, with confidence, pen this saying and claim it was a faithful and worthy saying?

How could he know that he was one of those sinners for whom Christ died? If Paul did not mean "all sinners," then how could he know that he was the cheifest of them? If Paul believed in secret election, limited atonement and was using shrouded language and really meant "some sinners" and not "all sinners," then he wouldn't be able to say for a certainty that he was one of them. However, if Paul believed that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, then he could certainly know that he himself, Paul, the apostle, (being one of the world and being a sinner) therefore, was one for whom Jesus Christ had died.

I know that when I stand in church and I sing hymns and spirtual songs about God's provision that I never have to doubt whether or not God has done these things for me, because I know that He has done this for every man, woman and child. He, in His sovereign grace, has decided and chosen to make the reception of the results of His work - this gift of eternal life - only to those who believe. We enter this "saved" state that Paul refers to in the above mentioned verse through faith. This is God's choice.

...the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. (Romans 3)
This is the way He has chosen to do it. He is sovereign and He can do it this way if He wants.

This is a beautiful and true saying.