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The Cross of Jesus Christ

For many people, the cross is just another symbol for one of the many religions of the world. However in the first century, the cross had a very different meaning. The cross was a symbol of the worst possible punishment and death sentence reserved for only the most horrific criminals. It was deemed so horrible that it could never be used to punish a Roman citizen, and the Jewish people saw it as a curse from God: “he that is hanged is accursed of God”-Deuteronomy 21:23). The cross was a disgusting, repulsive, thing; something people didn’t talk about and definitely didn’t want to think about. So why is it the symbol of Christianity?
Jesus. who was crucified, is the God of Christianity, but the early Christians still could’ve chosen any number of other symbols to represent Him. As a matter of fact, the cross was such an unlikely symbol for anyone to choose to represent God, that even the Bible says. “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness: but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” - 1 Corinthians 1:18. So, the more pertinent question is, what does the cross represent to the followers of Jesus Christ? What would make someone exalt such a disgusting and repulsive sign?
To the Christian the cross symbolically reminds them of the death of Jesus Christ and the work His death accomplished there. So, what was that work? Jesus Christ took the deserved punishment of His people at the cross (Isaiah 53:10-12), and in so doing He reconciled them to God (Romans 5:10). But why would anyone need to be reconciled to God?
To see what is keeping us from being reconciled to God, let’s look at Isaiah 59:1-2 : “Behold, the LORD’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither His ear heavy, that it cannot hear: But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear.”
God will not  hear us because we have sinned against Him. That is the point of Isaiah 59:1-2. He’s perfectly capable of saving, of forgiving, of loving, and hearing our prayers, but He won’t listen to us as sinners. We must first be reconciled to Him through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice. He is a perfectly righteous judge, and He must side with justice. Justice is for those who have sinned to be punished for their sins. So, the question now becomes, are we sinners?
To get an honest answer to this question, we must first be completely honest with ourselves as to what we are truly like. After all, “Most men will proclaim every one his own goodness; but a faithful man who can find?” - Proverbs 20:6. So the question is: Are you a good person?
To find the answer, let’s look to God’s standard, “And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgement.” - Hebrews 9:27; that is the only standard that matters. Let’s examine ourselves in the light of the Ten Commandments:
Have you ever told a lie? The Bible says that “all liars, shall have their part in the lake  which burneth with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” - Revelation 21:8b. Have you taken God’s name in vain (i.e. OMG)? Have you ever stolen anything? Have you loved God with all your heart, mind, and soul? Has God always been first in your life? Have you honored your father and mother in obedience? Have you set aside a day to honor God/ kept the sabbath? Have you ever coveted/desired what didn’t belong to you? You may or may not have committed adultery, but Jesus said that “whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”- Matthew 5:28.  Have you ever looked at someone with lust/sexual desire? You may not have murdered anyone, but in 1 John 3:15 it says that, “ Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.” So, do you still think you’re a good person?
 Keep in mind that in James 2:10, the Bible says, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”  And this from 1 John 1:8-10, “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word in not in us.” Listen to what Psalm 14:1-3 says, “The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God.  They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. The LORD looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” And hear the words of the prophet in Isaiah 64:1-7, “Oh that Thou wouldest rend the heavens, that Thou wouldest come down, that the mountains might flow down at Thy presence, As when the melting fire burneth, the fire causeth the waters to boil, to make Thy name know to Thine adversaries, that the nations may tremble at Thy presence! When Thou didst terrible things which we looked not for, Thou camest down, the mountains flowed down at Thy presence. For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, beside Thee, what He hath prepared for him that waiteth for Him. Thou meetest him that rejoiceth and worketh righteousness, those that remember Thee in Thy ways: behold, Thou art wroth; for we have sinned: in those is continuance, and we shall be saved. But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. And there is none that calleth upon Thy name, that stirreth up himself to take hold of Thee: for Thou hast hid Thy face from us, and hast consumed us, because of our iniquities.”
Our best is never enough to satisfy God’s standard. There is nothing we can do to erase sin or our guilt, which points to our sinfulness. “But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds:”-Romans 2:5-6. “God creates out of nothing. Therefore until man is nothing, God can make nothing out of him.”- Martin Luther. 
Your good deeds cannot undo the wrong you have done or your guilt, and justice demands you be punished. You may think eternity in hell is a bit extreme for your crimes, but keep in mind that punishment is dependent upon whom you have sinned against or committed the crime against. For example, if you lie to a total stranger at the grocery store, there’s probably no consequence outside of your conscience bothering you. Yet if you lie to your spouse, you might suffer their anger and damage the relationship, but if you lie to your boss, you might get fired.  And still further if you lie to the government you could go to jail or worse. The crime or sin was the same; lying, but the consequences and punishment were greatly changed because of whom you sinned against. 
We have sinned against the perfect and Almighty God of the universe. Any infraction of His commands is considered high treason; a capital offense (God killed a husband and wife in Acts 5:1-11 for telling one lie.). God is our Creator and gives us every breath we take, provides each beat of our hearts, and has given us all the good things we enjoy (i.e. food, family, friends, etc.). He can do with us as He chooses, and by His law we stand condemned and guilty deserving of eternal hell.  
“That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:  But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were afar off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.. . . . And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh, For through Him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” - Ephesians 2:12-13, 16-18.  
“For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” - Romans 6:23
 In the “Institutes of the Christian Religion”, John Calvin said, “For God, who is the highest righteousness, cannot love the unrighteousness that He sees in us all. All of us, therefore, have in ourselves something deserving of God’s hatred. With regard to our corrupt nature and the wicked life that follows it, all of us surely displease God, are guilty in His sight, and are born to the damnation of hell. But because the Lord wills not to lose what is His in us, out of His own kindness He still finds something to love. However much we may be sinners by our own fault, we nevertheless remain His creatures. However much we have brought death upon ourselves, yet He has created us unto life. Thus He is moved by pure and freely given love of us to receive us into grace. Since there is a perpetual and irreconcilable disagreement between righteousness and unrighteousness, so long as we remain sinners He cannot receive us completely. Therefore, to take away all cause for enmity and to reconcile us utterly to Himself, He wipes out all evil in us by the expiation set forth in the death of Christ; that we, who were previously unclean and impure, may show ourselves righteous and holy in His sight. Therefore, by His 
love God the Father goes before and anticipates our reconciliation in Christ. Indeed, “because He first loved us”(1John 4:19), He afterward reconciles us to Himself. But until Christ succors us by His death, the unrighteousness that deserves God’s indignation remains in us, and is accursed and condemned before Him. Hence, we can be fully and firmly joined with God only when Christ joins us with Him. If, then, we would be assured that God is pleased with and kindly disposed toward us, we must fix our eyes and minds on Christ alone. For actually, through Him alone we escape the imputation of our sins to us - an imputation bringing with it the wrath  of God.” 
This is what made those first century Christians and all true believers today cling to the symbol of the cross. The crucifixion of Jesus Christ is the payment, the propitiation, for our sin debt to God. Jesus was sinless, and therefore the only One who could pay that debt in His own life’s blood. “For he hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in HIm.” - 2 Corinthians 5:21. This is what Christianity is truly all about.  God has redeemed and pardoned sinful people by offering His own Son, Jesus, to be punished in our place; that’s what happened on the cross. That is why the cross is the symbol of Christianity. Not because there is beauty, favor, power, or social status in the symbol, but because it symbolizes the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ and the forgiveness offered in that sacrifice to reconcile us to God, as sinners “dead in our trespasses and sins” (Colossians 2:13), without anything we could do on our own account “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9), by repenting (confessing our sinfulness to God, asking His forgiveness, and turning from those sins) and putting all of our hope for Heaven in the sacrifice of Jesus making it possible. Don’t run from the cross, cling to it!
Listen to the words of A.W.Tozer: “The glory of the Christian faith is that the Christ who died for our sins rose again for our justification. We should joyfully remember His birth and gratefully muse on His dying, but the crown of all our hopes is with Him at the Father’s right hand. “  
 This unbelievable knowledge should cause the unsaved to seek God’s mercy and salvation in Jesus Christ, and should make the Christian praise the Savior and seek to serve and obey Him in telling the whole world the “good news” of the gospel. Let us as Christians live as if all our hope is in Christ, His atoning death and resurrection, because there is no other hope!  And may this powerful knowledge allow us to say confidently with Justin Martyr, a first century Christian martyred in A.D. 165, “You can kill us, but you cannot do us any real harm.”


Are You Ready to Reach the Lost?

I began the conversation by asking him about his family.  He told me that the cholera had visited his home, and that he had lost no less than thirteen of his relatives, one after another, by death.  My question, and the man’s answer, prepared the way for a dialogue somewhat in this fashion:  
Spurgeon.-Have you, my friend, a good hope of Heaven if you should die?                                                   Waterman.-Well, sir, I think as how I have.                                   
 S.-Pray tell me, then, what your hope is, for no man need ever be ashamed of  good hope.                                                            
W.-Well, sir, I have been on this here river for five-and-twenty or thirty years, and I don’t know that anybody ever saw me drunk.                                                        
 S.-Oh, dear! Oh, dear!  Is that all you have to trust to?                                                                                  W.-Well, sir, when the cholera was about, and my poor neighbours were bad, I went for the doctor for ‘em, and was up a good many nights, and I do think as how I am as good as most folk that I know.
Of course, I told him that I was very glad to hear that he had sympathy for the suffering, and that I considered it far better to be charitable than to be churlish; but I did not see how his good conduct could carry him to Heaven.  Then he said: “Well, sir, perhaps it can’t; but I think, when I get a little older, I shall give up the boat, and take to going to church, and then I hope that all will be right-won’t it, sir?”
“No,” I answered, “certainly not; your going to church won’t change your heart, or take away your sins.  Begin to go to church as soon as possible, but you will not be an inch nearer Heaven if you think that, by attending the sanctuary, you will be saved.”
The poor man seemed perfectly astounded, while I went on knocking down his hopes one after another.  So I resumed the dialogue by putting another question to him:                               
S.-You have sometimes sinned in your life, have you not?                                                              
W.-Yes, sir, that I have, many a time.                                           
S.-On what ground, then, do you think that your sins will be forgiven?                                                                                  W.-Well, sir, I have been sorry about them, and I think they are all gone-they don’t trouble me now.                                                                      
S.-Now, my friend, suppose you were to go and get into debt with the grocer where you deal, and you should say to her, “Look here, missus, you have a long score against me, I am sorry to say that I cannot pay you for all those goods that I have had; but I’ll tell you what I will do, I’ll never get into your debt any more.”  She would very soon tell you that was not her style of doing business; and do you suppose that is the way in which you can treat the great God?  Do you imagine that He is going to strike out your past sins because you say you will not go on sinning against Him?                                                                  
W.-Well, sir, I should like to know how my sins are to be forgiven.  Are you a parson?                                                                     
S.-I preach the gospel, I hope, but I do not go by the name of a parson; I am only a Dissenting minister.
Then I told him, as plainly as I could, how the Lord Jesus Christ had taken the place of sinners, and how those who trusted in Him, and rested in His blood and righteousness, would find pardon and peace.  The man was delighted with the simple story of the cross; he said that he wished he had heard it years before, and then he added, “To tell the truth, master, I did not feel quite easy, after all, when I saw those poor creatures taken away to the graveyard; I did think there was something I wanted, but I did not know what it was.””-C.H.Spurgeon, excerpt taken from his autobiography.
"So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith."-Romans 1:15-17
Are you ready? Christian, the "power of God" is in the gospel. 
Think of the most powerful thing known to man: nuclear fusion. The sun in our solar system is a gigantic fusion reactor. But our sun isn't large for a star. Take our galaxy, the milky way. It's been estimated that there are at least a hundred million more galaxies of similar size in the universe. This how much effort is was for God to create all that power: ". . . he made the stars also."-Genesis 1:16c. No big deal for God to make that kind of infinite power.
God's Word is powerful.
"Who [Jesus] being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;"-Hebrews 1:3
"For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts an intents of the heart."-Hebrews 4:12
The gospel is in God's Word. 
"How shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things! But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who hath believed our report? So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."-Romans 10:14-17
"It is Jesus Christ who has made Paula  debtor (Romans 1:14-15) by committing the gospel to his trust. . . . Similarly, we are debtors to the world, even though we are not apostles. If the gospel has come to us (which it has), we have no liberty to keep it to ourselves. Nobody may claim a monopoly of the gospel. Good news is for sharing. We are under obligation to make it known to others."-John Stott, The Cross of Christ.
We must share the gospel with all whom we come into contact.  Because, "It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God."(Hebrews 10:31). And that is exactly where all mankind stands at the mercy of God, but those whom He has saved through His Son, Jesus Christ, can stand without fear before Him. "According as he hath chose 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."-Ephesians 1:4-6.
And the most important reason to share your faith is because that it's a direct command from the Lord Jesus Christ to us. 
"And he said unto the, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature."-Mark 16:15
We will all be held accountable to God. If you aren't saved, and have never been regenerated, then you must face a completely holy God, and will be without excuse ("Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man,..."-Romans 2:1a). But those who are saved will be held accountable as well: "When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand."-Ezekiel 3:18.
Let me leave you, beloved, with the words of Charles H. Spurgeon once again.
"If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to hell over our bodies. If they will perish, let them perish with our arms about their knees. Let no one go there unarmed or unprayed for."
And may we unashamedly proclaim the glorious gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ in all of its fulness and uncompromisingly perfect beauty! Love in truth.


Justified By The Power of the Gospel

“16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith. 18 For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness; 19 Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. 20 For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse:”-Romans 1:16-20
In this passage, Paul has just finished telling the church at Rome of his great desire to visit them, and that he is ready at any time, but is only waiting for it to be God’s will (vs. 10-15). And in verse 16 he is explaining why he is always ready and why he is a “debtor” to them. 
Ever wanted to access the power of God? This is where it’s at, “the gospel of Christ”. God hasn’t given us access to His infinite power in any other avenue, and no this isn’t about living prosperously here and now or how to fill the church pews, because the access given to us is “power unto salvation”. And this power only comes through the “gospel of Jesus Christ”.
Let’s clarify this a little. Jump down to verse 18-20. God’s wrath is “againstall ungodliness an unrighteousness”. That means that God’s wrath isn’t just against Hitler, suicide bombers, serial killers, rapists, and child molesters. All means all, so, God’s wrath is against idolators, people who deny God, blasphemers who use the holy name of God their Creator as a curse word, haven’t kept a sabbath or given any time to God, have disobeyed their parents, have been unjustifiably angry and murdered in their heart, have stolen anything ever, liars, and coveters (desiring things that don’t belong to you). Any and all sin is enough to justify the wrath of a perfectly holy God. 
“Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.”-1 John 3:4
“For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”
-James 2:10
The guilt is worsened by the fact that the knowledge of God is made known within us and that God Himself has shown us Himself (vs. 19). And yet as in verse 18 we literally hold down this truth, we ignore and deny it’s very existence. And verse 20 makes our situation worser still, in that the very creation, the fact that there is an earth, a universe, people, is proof enough that there is a Creator. Spontaneous regeneration is impossible, something never comes from nothing. An effect must have a cause. And the entire universe is winding down, indicating that there is an end to it, which implies there must be a beginning. God has not hidden the fact of His existence, nor has He kept men from knowing Him.
“The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. 
Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge.
There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard.
Their line is gone out through all the earth, and their words to the end of the world. In them hath he set a tabernacle for the sun, 
Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber, and rejoiceth as a strong man to run a race.
His going forth is from the end of the heaven, and his circuit unto the ends of it: and there is nothing hid from the heat thereof.
The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.
Moreover by them is thy servant warned: and in keeping of them there is great reward.
Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults.
Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression.
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.”-Psalm 19
The most condemning statement comes in the last phrase of verse 20. Because God has made the truth of His existence and showed Himself to us that we might know Him, and has revealed openly these things in creation, we are without excuse. In other words, you won’t have anything to say in your defense when you stand before the eternal and just God. And because we have no excuse, God’s anger is justifiable.
If someone were to walk up to you and punch you in the nose out of anger, this would be unjustifiable anger and an unjust act. However, if you were trying to steal a woman’s purse, and her husband punched you in the nose, his actions would be justifiable as would his anger, because you have sinned against him. 
Now let’s look at God’s wrath. If God crushed all of us in His wrath in this very instance, He would be justified in doing so, because we have sinned against Him. But God is loving, merciful, gracious, patient, and longsuffering with us. That’s why He hasn’t done what would be deserved by our actions. 
So, what does all this have to do with verse 16? Justification. God’s anger and wrath is justified by our sins. The best example of God pouring out His wrath against “all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men” is found at the cross of Jesus Christ. It was here that the wrath of God that was justly deserved by our ungodliness and unrighteousness was poured out on the sinless and holy Son of God.
“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”-2 Corinthians 5:21
God’s wrath against the sin of those He has redeemed was justified at the cross. This is the “gospel of Christ” where “the power of God” is revealed “unto salvation”. In verse 17, the righteousness of God in Christ is revealed  that “The just shall live by faith.” We can stand justified before God because of Christ’s righteousness given to us by faith. If we have repented and put our faith in Christ and have been regenerated as a new creature, then God’s wrath cannot be executed upon us; it would now be unjustifiable wrath, because His wrath was already put on Jesus Christ. 
If we are saved this news should spur us on in witnessing and sharing the gospel with everyone, because apart from Christ’s righteousness all people will be under the just wrath of God and will be without excuse. And should make out Savior only sweeter and make us love Him more.
If you are not saved, then know that right now is the moment to seek God’s power in salvation. There is no guarantee that God, who is mercifully allowing you to live by providing every breath and beat of your heart each moment, will continue to do so. You may walk across the street and be hit by a car or die in your sleep tonight. Do not let this rest until you are sure He has saved you. Plead for His mercy, turn from your sins, ask His forgiveness, but don’t wait. For when you stand before the all powerful and mighty God His wrath will be justifiable and you will be condemned without excuse. Then read His Word, the Bible, that you might please Him and walk in obedience to Him. Love in truth.


Sometimes Re-runs Are Needed and Helpful

The next four posts are re-postings from another blog I was a part of and were featured in a newsletter/tract that we produced for the youth group. I wrote all but one, which is an excerpt from Charles Spurgeon's autobiography. I hope you enjoy them and pray that they will be edifying and give God glory.
This picture is completely unrelated to the posts, but Shelby thought it was needed,
and mommy thought it was too cute to waste :)


Conviction and Compromise: "speaking the truth in love"(Eph. 4:15) Final Pt.3

One of the things that stands out to me both in Scripture and in the lives of Christians I admire, is the pervasive presence of an all encompassing love. A true love that confronts wrongs without fits of anger, belittling, or intentionally causing division and strife in the body. Loving statements that are bold and firm, yet do not leave the hearer angry with the person as much as angry with the truth being told, if they are angry at all. One thing we do know is that the gospel is an offense (1 Corinthians 1:18 ), even to the point of others seeking to kill the proclaimers of it (Mark 8:35 ). So, "speaking the truth in love" by no means ensures that we will never offend, but what it does ensure is that we are not sinning when we do so (Eph. 4:26 ). 
I must confess this is an area where I feel continually inadequate, and can only praise God that my abilities, or doing of it, in no way impact the effectuality of my salvation, as that is already and can be only secured through Christ's atoning death and propitiation for my sins on the cross!
 "I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."-Ephesians 4:1-3.
These verses are preceded by some of the most encouraging and glorious promises given to the believer. In Chapters 1-3 of Ephesians is laid out the unbelievable truths as to who we are in Christ, what His death and resurrection have done for us, and what are future is to be in Christ through our inheritance in Him. There are things in these chapters so wonderful that they can hardly be believed, and yet we cling to them because they are so wonderful and we want them so badly. 
These chapters, however, make the first verse of chapter 4 all the more serious. We are told that because of these promises and who we are in Christ, we must "walk worthy". Not that we can achieve perfection while we are in the flesh, and we certainly cannot achieve it on our own, but that we should attain to these attributes as befits a believer in Christ, that we would not hinder the gospel and that we would be "to the praise of the glory of His grace" (Eph. 1:6 ). 
When it comes to dealing with our convictions and others, when they are true convictions from God proved by Holy Scripture, without compromising we must address these in: 
1. "lowliness and meekness"- We must put the welfare and feelings of others before our own. In other words (and this is to me), I can't let any personal offense taken on my part keep me from acting with the potential of them being offended or wronged by me ever in mind in all of my actions or words directed towards them. I also can't come to them with the attitude of pride, because I think I know more than they. Part of my being meek towards them is being willing to reason with them from the Scriptures and to listen to what they say and why they believe differently. All the while, I have to be in submission to the Word of God. If they prove me wrong, I must submit, regardless of how strongly I felt earlier.
2. "longsuffering"- Here's where patience is so important. I have to understand that any wisdom I may have or any true biblical convictions come only through the grace given by the Holy Spirit of God to give me that understanding or knowledge, therefore I have nothing in my own ability to boast in. The same is true for others. We know nothing about the things of God, except He teach them to us. Knowing this, we have to be patient when dealing with others who maybe haven't been given the same knowledge, and yet not be arrogant in what we know. Just because I feel as though I have an understanding about a particular issue, while someone else does not, doesn't mean they don't have understanding that I don't have. Especially when it comes to people who have been faithful Christians much longer than I. It only stands to reason that they have a greater understanding of many things, because they've been given more experience in the Word and in life. I am reluctant to stand against anyone that I don't know for sure that they are in direct defiance of the Word of God and that they are resistant to any attempt to be in submission to Scripture when often confronted with it, but even so, there must be love and patience in this, never giving up that God can and does continually change and teach all of us as He sees fit. 
3. "forbearing one another in love"- To speak plainly, we have to put up with others lovingly, just as they must put up with us. Love takes many forms and includes many things (1 Corinthians 13 ), but there is only one truth (John 14:6 ). Take for example the loving way Jesus taught His disciples(Luke 9:46-50 ; 10:17-20 to name two of many examples), when they often had no idea what they were talking about (as do I). And yet the loving way to deal with the outright falseness of the doctrine of the pharisees and how it was hindering the gospel, was to condemn it to their faces and before others (Matthew 3:7 ; Matthew 23 ). There is a time and a place to be forceful and to be public, but it isn't most of the time. The majority of Jesus' teaching was done with parables and patience. How forbearing must our Lord be to let us come to Him in our ignorance when we pray and to use us as imperfect as we are to preach His gospel and further His kingdom? 
You can also see this example in Galatians when certain Jews were enforcing the strict requirements of all the Old Testament Law on the believers in Galatia, making it a requirement for salvation. "O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?"(Galatians 3:1 ). These seem pretty harsh, but the gospel was at stake, people were being misled to trust in their own righteousness and their own ability to keep the Law rather than in Christ's alone. What Paul said to them was loving, and yet he rebukes in much of his letters to the church but only rarely uses this kind of language.
4. "Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace"- Most things as you may have seen in the prior posting , are not worth breaking fellowship over or leaving a church over. I will never agree with everything everyone in any local congregation believes, including the pastor, but as long as the gospel is being taught and preached to all, being ever faithful to the whole council of God as revealed only in Holy Scripture, then I must endeavour with all that is in me to maintain unity and peace with my brothers and sisters within and without my local church. I won't be able to go to church everywhere in good conscience or I may prefer a certain denomination based on convictions, but it doesn't keep me from respecting others in Christ and approaching them with patience, meekness, and love in all things. 
How many times must Christ have been frustrated with me? How many times was the Holy Spirit patiently letting me go on in my own ways in order to teach me the only right way was God's way? How often does God not simply destroy us all for sin as we continually dishonor Him, our Creator and Sustainer? If such grace has been shown to us, than how can we not endeavor (not perfectly do) to show that same grace to others, especially our brothers and sisters in Christ? 
Sin will always cause divisions among the body of Christ, but that doesn't lessen our responsibility to do all that we can to prevent it. No one but God is always right about everything. We have deal patiently and lovingly when disagreements arise, and be always willing and ready to submit to Scripture when we are proved wrong by it. I have not the ability of Christ or even of Paul, who was inspired by the Holy Spirit as he wrote, to always know when and where to openly dispute or rebuke, but I have the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit. Lord, I pray that I would use them instead of my own understanding!
"For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh." - Galatians 5:13-16


Charles Spurgeon on Conviction and Compromise

Sorry I haven't been able to finish the third installment in the series. Walking pneumonia has been sweeping through our house, and mommy was the last to be struck and was unable to even take a decongestant because I'm pregnant. I just thank God for antibiotics! :)
Please enjoy this posting from Teampyro (one of my favorite blogs ever!) from their weekly dose of Spurgeon.

Thanks for bearing with me :)


Conviction and Compromise: Is It Just Me? Pt. 2

Again, no expert here, but God has definitely been dealing with me in this area. 
One of the first things that plagues me in this area is the question: Is this Biblical? In other words, am I just preferring this, angry at someone or something, or is this actually backed up literally in Scripture (not can I take something out of context here or a random verse there, but does the whole council of God found in Scripture support what I'm feeling convicted about). The last thing I want to become is caught up in legalism (Titus 3:9 ). I want to enjoy the freedom I have in Christ, but only if it edifies my brothers and sisters in Christ and furthers the gospel (1 Corinthians 10:23 ). 
I hope this is a way to avoid that trap. 
I have found that there are certain things God convicts me of, because they pertain to my personal sinning, but that He might not convict of others. Let me explain a little if I may. One area of my life that God has dealt with me almost since I was saved is the area of immodest clothing. 
 One area that was controlled as a teen was how I dressed, because I was blessed with very vigilant and loving parents. But when I was on my own in college and even after getting married, I started to dress more and more like my peers. I don't think most people's standards would've said I was extremely immodest, but I knew I was. And worse, I knew why I was dressing that way. I wanted to entice lust in men. I thought it gave me power over them and over other women. I was sinning against my God, Creator, and Savior, as well as my husband, my parents, and my own body. There was a period of time where I was so ashamed and disgusted with my sin that I wouldn't even wear makeup and felt as though any heels would be sinful. After much prayer, study of the Word of God, and time, I knew that my heart had been sinful and not the things. I became convicted that I was now dressing in an unfeminine way(Deuteronomy 22:5 ). I realized that dressing modestly didn't mean I needed to forego anything that might be beautiful and that I could never fully hide that I was female. God's Word didn't forbid me to be beautiful or feminine and to seek that beauty for my husband's enjoyment, it actually celebrates it in marriage. I also realized that true beauty was in my being a woman who seeks God and serves others for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ(1 Peter 3:1-6 ).
The point is that for me, how I was dressing was directly hindering the gospel in that it affected my witness and testimony to others. Yet, I can't and wouldn't tell others that wearing heels for example is a sin. I couldn't wear them for a period, because God was dealing with me over my sin. There's nothing sinful in heeled shoes when they are paired with modest clothes. My conviction wouldn't allow me to wear them, and my conviction was founded in Scripture, because I knew my heart's sinful desires to entice lust in others was keeping me from being able to share the gospel in a God glorifying way. The conviction was legitimate, but didn't necessarily apply to others and didn't even apply to me forever (I do wear heels now, they're just with modest skirts and dresses). I could not and should not impose this conviction on others, because the Bible doesn't expressly forbid heels, only immodest apparel. 
The focus has to be: Is the gospel being hindered/ hurt by this? Whether that be something that is personally harming it through the sins of myself or of others. But, if it pertains to only my sinning than I cannot and should not impose the convictions and or restrictions that God has led me to place on myself onto others. They may not struggle with that sin or God may protect them from that temptation in another way. 
Albert Mohler (one of my favorite speakers and authors, check out his blog ) puts the emphasis much better than I ever could in his book "The Disappearance of God: Dangerous Beliefs in the New Spiritual Openness".  He calls a need for a "theological triage". I used to work as a respiratory therapist and if you've worked in any medical setting or just watched a lot of medical tv, you will know to triage someone is to, through a series of protocol procedures and questions determine the severity of their illness/injuries and the necessary treatment as quickly as possible so that the patients whose condition is the most critical can be treated first. Dr. Mohler suggests that we should do something similar for convictions over theological matters. 
He breaks it down into three distinct levels with the first level being the most serious. 
"First-level theological issues would include those doctrines most central and essential to the Christian faith. Included among these most crucial doctrines would be doctrines such as the Trinity, the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ, justification by faith, and the authority of Scripture."
These are truths that someone can't deny and be a Christian. They are the gospel in and of themselves, to deny them would be to deny Christ, God, and the Holy Spirit. These are definitely worth fighting and dying for, they should cause divisions. 
"The set of second-order doctrines is distinguished from the first-order set by the fact that believing Christians may disagree on the second-order issues, though this disagreement will create significant boundaries between believers."
This level includes things like the meaning and mode of baptism. Again, Dr. Mohler, "Standing together on the first-order doctrines, Baptists and Presbyterians eagerly recognize each other as believing Christians, but recognize that disagreement on issues of this importance will prevent fellowship within the same congregation or denomination. Christians across a vast denominational range can stand together on the first-order doctrines and recognize each other as authentic Christians, while understanding that the existence of second-order disagreements prevents the closeness of fellowship we would otherwise enjoy. . . . Many of the most heated disagreements among serious believers take place at the second-order level, for those issues frame our understanding of the church and its ordering by the Word of God."
Disagreement over these things does not mean that one is saved and the other is not. They are true convictions derived from the Bible and do not completely break fellowship, but a church cannot properly function as one body with these kinds of disagreements in them. These are the convictions that often lead to our being in a particular denomination or church as opposed to others that are just as faithful in preaching the Word of God and are focused on the gospel of Christ in a biblical way. 
"Third-order issues are doctrines over which Christians may disagree and remain in close fellowship, even within local congregations. I would put most of the debates over eschatology, for example, in this category." 
I may not agree with my family in Christ on every little detail, but the essential parts of the gospel and who God truly is, and the authority of Scripture are not debatable. They define who we are as Christians and who we are in Jesus Christ. They tell what salvation is and isn't and how and who it is that effectuates that salvation. 
I know this is long, but I hope and pray that it will help myself and others to think these things through very carefully before I say or do something I will regret. There will be a third installment in this series, so bear with me graciously.


Post Featured At The Well

Check out a blog post of mine being featured At The Well today :)

Or click here to read the full version (I'm a bit wordy), and the follow up post here.


Conviction and Compromise: Where's the Line?

On a completely side note: my grandpa was briefly a
professional boxer, even sparring with a then unknown
Joe Lewis. Grandpa later was saved and called to be a pastor.
This isn't him, btw ;)
First, let me say that I am neither a theologian, nor do I claim to be any kind of authority on Scripture, but am merely writing and trying to express something that has been keeping me awake at night and that I've been feeling quite uneasy about. 
I, like everybody else, have certain convictions which are derived from Scripture and as of late have been struggling with how to maintain those convictions whilst being patient and loving with my brethren(I mean sisters, too when I say brethren) in Christ. How can I lovingly and peaceably get along without compromising what I feel is plain in Scripture?
"Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints."- Jude 1:3
We are to contend or struggle/fight for the truth of our faith, for the very gospel that saves us through Jesus Christ. And many have done so throughout Scripture and history, even laying down their own lives for the sake of truth, and some have taken it to the extreme of killing others to keep the faith pure. (I am not trying to instigate a discussion as to whether or not persons deemed heretics should've been put to death, nor am I trying to defend or negate those individuals who participated in such things. But encourage you, before you pass judgement on them or their teaching to remember that God only uses flawed men and women in His work, because there isn't any other kind of people. Noah got drunk and naked, in front of his family no less, even after God had killed almost every living creature from off the face of the earth in judgement for unrighteousness. Abraham lied about his wife Sarah and gave her over to another man to wife, disregarding whatever harm or hazard could and probably would befall her as a result. Jacob cheated his brother out of his birthright and blessing by plotting against and lying to his own father. David committed adultery and then murdered to cover it up. Solomon had a passion for many women, including the forbidden foreign women, and in his seeking to please his own lust for them committed himself to idolatry in worshipping their false gods. The list could go on and on. The point being that their sins don't negate that God used them in spectacular and purposeful ways to further His kingdom and bring glory to His name.) I want to be the kind of person that would die for the sake of the gospel. I want to be so earnest in my willingness to be under the authority of Scripture that nothing would keep me from being faithful to it. But I know that I am still in a body of flesh, and am ever struggling against myself, and am often being overtaken in that struggle. I often feel like Peter. I am so willing to rush into the fight that I often go on impulse instead of resting in Christ's power and authority. My desire to defend God and His Word sometimes gets ahead of my trusting that He is more than capable of defending Himself. 
Here is my conundrum. Where do I draw the line? How can I stay true to a literal reading of Scripture and yet be loving and patient and peaceful with my brethren in Christ without compromising truth? I'm sure I'm not the first, nor will be the last to have this question berating my mind, nor will I never face it again, but for now it's really bothering me. (BTW a great source for biblical answers to these kinds of questions is 9 Marks Ministries .)
One of the first Scriptures that comes to my mind is Philippians 2:1-4 (click link for context). "If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others."
The text here in Philippians doesn't contradict Jude 1:3. We are to "contend for the faith", but we are to seek to be "likeminded" and to be of "one mind" all who are in Christ. Why? Because of the consolation/encouragement found in Christ, the comforting love and fellowship in the Holy Spirit that should be found in all believers, and the affection and sympathy/mercy between the brethren. That brings joy; it fulfills our joy. We are commanded to have the "same love" for one another, not striving intentionally and selfishly or seeking our own way to gain glory or for the sake of pride. We are to address one another in all humility/lowliness, even to the point of esteeming others "better than ourselves", looking to their interests first and not to our own. 
Sounds great, but how does it really work? 
One of the first questions I found myself asking was: Am I pursuing what I feel is a biblical conviction (assuming the conviction is Scripturally defendable), with the needs and interests of others being greater than my own, in humility, love, and mercy? This is a hard question to face for me. I feel so strongly, and yet would I feel as strongly about it, if I were to think of others before myself? I am called to love my neighbor as myself  , and yet love isn't compromise. Love rejoices in truth, and doesn't rejoice in sin/iniquity (1 Corinthians 13:6 ). The most loving thing you can do is to tell the truth. Yes, it hurts in the moment, but always feels better for both parties in the end. (Think of sharing the gospel. It would be much more painful for a lost person to not hear the truth about their sinful nature and the inevitable wrath of God that awaits us all apart from Christ's atoning sacrifice being imputed to us for righteousness.)
So, I must be truthful, and in so doing be loving to my brethren, going in all humility with their interests placed before my own with my convictions. (To be continued in next post....)