The “Bourne Again” Ultimatum

Screenshot (1545)

Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.”  (John 3:3, NIV 1984).

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”  (John 14:6, NIV 1984).

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them:  “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”  (Acts 4:8, 12, NIV 1984).

My Musings – Ultimatum, a final demand or statement of terms that if not met, will end a relationship or otherwise result in some serious consequence.  Unambiguous, not open to more than one interpretation.

Ultimatum – Unless he is born again.  Through me. Must be saved.

Unambiguous – No one can see.  I am the way.  No one can come.  Found in no one else.  No other name.

There can be no relationship with God without coming to Christ (born again).  Otherwise, the consequences are quite serious.  Eternal separation.  Eternal damnation.  There is no other interpretation or conclusion that can be reached.

My Advice – Meet the terms.  Come to Christ and be born again.  There is no other way.

The Bourne Again Identity

Screenshot (1524)

My Musings – In charades, we make the sign “sounds like.”  I recently noted the following on the internet. “The English language is hard, but can be understood through tough thorough thought though.”  Perhaps its only how we Americans have corrupted it “though?”  Some will say they “know” that this is true, while others will say “no” there is no “colonel” of truth to this claim.   Okay, so maybe we Americans can’t be blamed for that “won.”

Here are a few more similar words, with similar consequences if relied upon without being “identified” with Christ.

Indivisible – Impossible to divide or separate. The word indivisible, as used in the pledge of allegiance, is intended to convey that the United States is rock solid in its unity and cannot be broken apart.  Sadly, there is move divisiveness today than perhaps at any other time since the Civil War.  What makes this particularly troubling is that we all face a common enemy, the coronavirus, yet to a large extent we are divided in how we should respond.  This even happened in the shadow of Israel’s golden age under King Solomon, and the kingdom was divided.

The king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the LORD, to fulfill the word the LORD had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite. When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king:  ‘What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse’s son? To your tents, O Israel! Look after your own house, O David!’”  (1 Kings 12:15–16, NIV 1984).

Invincible – Too powerful to be defeated or overcome.  The United States is the only remaining military superpower. Yet, in all its might, it has been unable to completely vanquish terrorism, and there is no weapon in its vast arsenal that can conquer the stealth of the coronavirus.  Madeline Albright, Secretary of State in the Clinton administration once claimed, “if we have to use force, it is because we are America; we are the indispensable nation. We stand tall and we see further than other countries into the future, and we see the danger here to all of us.” Did we see far enough to prepare for the danger of the coronavirus?  In the face of this silent killer, such a claim has proven to be mere hubris.  Such trust is ultimately misguided.  We are not first “world” superpower to have such misguided reliance.

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, who rely on horses, who trust in the multitude of their chariots and in the great strength of their horsemen, but do not look to the Holy One of Israel, or seek help from the LORD.   Yet he too is wise and can bring disaster; he does not take back his words. He will rise up against the house of the wicked, against those who help evildoers. But the Egyptians are men and not God; their horses are flesh and not spirit. When the LORD stretches out his hand, he who helps will stumble, he who is helped will fall; both will perish together.”  (Isaiah 31:1–3, NIV 1984).

Indispensable – So good or important that you could not manage without. A claim similar to Secretary Albright’s was made by President Obama. “When a typhoon hits the Philippines or schoolgirls are kidnapped in Nigeria or masked men occupy a building in Ukraine, it is America that the world looks to for help. So the United States is and remains the one indispensable nation. That has been true for the century past and it will be true for the century to come.” But we are turning inward (“America first”), during this current health crisis, making ourselves largely “unavailable” to the rest of humanity facing a plague that knows no boundaries. Soon we may not be able to help anyone, as the financial resources of the most prosperous nation on earth, very well may be strained to the point of national bankruptcy.  Pray to God that we do not also become morally bankrupt and lose our national “soul.”  What becomes of the “wealth of nations” that are not rich toward God and others?

The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I’ll say to myself, You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God.”  (Luke 12:16–21, NIV 1984).

Invisible – Cannot be seen or readily perceived.  National unity, military invincibility, and indispensable economic resources — largely impotent to a microscopic virus that is invisible to the naked eye.  Such a turn of events is not unprecedented in human history.

This is what the LORD says concerning the king of Assyria:  ‘He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here. He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it. By the way that he came he will return; he will not enter this city, declares the LORD. I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.’  That night the angel of the LORD went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand men in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there.”  (2 Kings 19:32–36, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Unity can dissolve.  Power may disintegrate.  Wealth can disappear. Where can we “identify” hope that does not disappoint?  In the “Bourne” Again Identity.

In reply Jesus declare[s], ‘I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.’  ‘How can a man be born when he is old?’ Nicodemus asked. ‘Surely he cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb to be born!’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, You must be born again. The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going [it’s invisible]. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.’”  (John 3:3–8, NIV 1984).

The Searcher

Screenshot (1468)

“The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10, NIV 1984).

“What do you think? If a man owns a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hills and go to look for the one that wandered off?”  (Matthew 18:12, NIV 1984).

My Musings – My all-time favorite actor? John Wayne.  His greatest movie?  Not the one he won the Oscar for (True Grit), but one that is consistently ranked among the top 100 movies of all time — The Searchers.  Presumably a favorite of Wayne’s as well, since he named one of his sons after the main character.

After a Comanche raiding party massacres a family, taking the youngest daughter prisoner, her uncle, Ethan Edwards (John Wayne), and adopted brother, Martin Pawley (Jeffrey Hunter), begin a multi-year quest to find her. During the long search, the young girl grows into a young woman. Edwards, a deeply flawed and bigoted man, intends to kill her, as in his mind she has been “tainted’ by living with the Comanches. Pawley, a much weaker man, is driven by love for his sister and is determined to protect her from her uncle.  In the end, Pawley is not strong enough to intervene, but Edwards’ prejudice is overcome as his compassion and love for his niece surfaces.  This is probably not the most “politically correct” plot by today’s standards, but it made a strong statement about how inappropriate prejudice and bigotry is.  In that sense, the movie was, perhaps, ahead of its time.

There is no such flaw in our Savior.  First, He “came to seek and to save what was lost” in order to make them part of His flock. Then, if necessary, He will “go to look for the one that wandered off” in order to bring them back into the fold.

My Advice – He is searching for you.  Won’t you come on in to His flock?  Once there, remain in the fold. But rest assured, if you wander astray, He will come looking for you to bring you back.

When No Is Good

Screenshot (1418)

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit of life set me free from the law of sin and death.  (Romans 8:1–2, NIV 1984).

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.  (1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV 1984).

“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”  (John 10:28–30, NIV 1984).

As it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him”— but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:9–10, NIV 1984).

God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like him. There is no fear in love.  (1 John 4:16–18, NIV 1984).

My Musings – No – in no respect or degree. No is probably the third word that toddlers learn to say after, after mama and dada.  Typically, no is not something we want to hear or be told.  Typically.  But not always.

  • No Condemnation – “For those who are in [accepted] Christ Jesus.” He took our condemnation upon Himself.  If we are “in” Him the condemnation is gone, being already paid for once for all.
  • No Temptation – Once we are in Christ Jesus the Holy Spirit lives within us, making it possible for us to “just say no” to temptation.  “He will not let [us] be tempted beyond what [we] can bear.”  Often we do, but we do not have to.
  • No One – “Can snatch them out of my hand.”  We are firmly in His grasp and He will never let us go.  No one has the power to loosen His grip on us.
  • No Eye, Ear or Mind – Can see, hear or conceive “what God has prepared for those who love him.”  There is no end to His benevolence towards His children.  It is beyond our ability to fully comprehend and beyond our wildest imagination.
  • No Fear – In love.  The only fear one could possibly feel from a loved is the loss of their love.  Never will He leave or forsake us.  Jesus did not go to the cross for a “romance” that would not last.

My Advice –  There really is no way anyone should ever want to say no to this kind of a relationship.  Say yes to no.

 

Trustworthy Sayings

Screenshot (1672)

Here is a trustworthy saying:  If we died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him. If we disown him, he will also disown us; if we are faithless, he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.  (2 Timothy 2:11–13, NIV 1984).

My Musings – This is an interesting passage, containing four couplets, each beginning with the word “if.”  What makes it interesting to me, is that the word “if” is typically the introduction to a conditional clause (if a certain condition is true, then a particular result happens), which it is in the first three couplets, but not the last one.  This should cause the reader to question why that is so, because it begs an explanation, which is given in the text.

If we died with Him, [then] we will also live with Him – “I tell you the truth, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 3:3, NIV). “Unless” also forms a conditional clause.  As with most conditional clauses, we would like to substitute our own conditions (good deeds, live a “good” life, don’t commit any “mortal” sins, etc.), but we cannot.  We must “die” with Him (accept His sacrifice on the cross on our behalf) in order to live (be born again) with Him.  We cannot be born again, if we have not “died.”  We die so we will not perish. It sounds like an oxymoron, but it is not.  “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16, NIV 1984).

If we endure, [then] we will also reign with Him – John 3:16, cited above, is not a conditional clause.  Whoever believes has eternal life.  It cannot be eternal if it can be lost.  So this conditional clause must mean something else.  “Well done, my good servant!” his master replied.Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities.”  (Luke 19:17, NIV 1984).  How we live (endure in) this life, does not determine if we will live with Him in the next.  It determines how we will reign with Him in the next.

If we disown Him, [then] He will also disown us – This clause stands in juxtaposition to the first clause.  We can either die with (be owned by) Him, or die without Him by disowning Him. “Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.”  (Matthew 10:32–33, NIV 1984).  If we disown Him, we will never see the Kingdom of Heaven. To make sure we do not misapply this clause, that having once genuinely accepted Christ we can later disown Him and lose our salvation, the final unconditional clause is added.

If we are faithless, [nevertheless] He will remain faithful – There will be times in our Christian walk that our “enduring” will be less than stellar.  We will be unfaithful at times.  But God’s faithfulness to His promise “whoever believes in Him shall not perish” is unconditional.  He cannot be unfaithful. “Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath. God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope offered to us may be greatly encouraged. We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”  (Hebrews 6:16–19, NIV).  As Christians, our identity is in Christ, God’s “one and only Son” and  “he will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself.

My Advice – Die with Him so you can live and reign with Him.  Then live a life worthy of the calling.

___________________________________

Want to become a Christian (die with Him)? See my blog series “The Born Again Experience.”
Want a closer walk with Christ (endure with Him)? See my blog series “Got Spiritual Milk?”

 

I Now Consider Loss

Screenshot (1298)

My Musings – Whether it is how we spend our time, invest our treasure or use our talent, we consider very carefully whether or not it is worth it.  Are there other “things” that would be a better way to spend our time, provide a greater return on our investment or be a more productive use of our talent?  Time, we can never get back.  Treasures can be subject to loss instead of gain.  Talent can go unappreciated.

Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?”  (Matthew 16:24–26, NIV 1984).

To follow Christ, we must deny ourselves.  Taking up our “cross” is a powerful image of just how much the “cost” can be.  And afterall, there just might be other ways we’d rather spend “our” time, invest “our” treasure and use “our” talent that we think might profit us more.  But this profit is temporal.  Do we really want to forfeit our soul for temporal gain?

My Advice – We should have Paul’s perspective. Whatever we consider profit, if it is not for the Kingdom, is actually loss (Paul goes on to call it rubbish).  And whatever we do for the Kingdom can never be lost.  It will last forever.  Exchanging the temporal, even if it is “all things” or even the “whole world” for the eternal sounds pretty profitable to me.

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon on November 3, 2019. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you.

 

No Other Name?

Screenshot (613)

My Musings – There once was a time, at least in the Western world, that people almost universally accepted that Christianity was the only true path to God, whether they took that path or not.  Today, this is no longer universally accepted even within “Christian” circles.  Outside Christian circles this premise is becoming more and more contemptible.  These three “scenarios” (see below) are being played out like a shell game.  But it’s anything but a game.

You’re Okay, I’m Not Okay – Your path to God looks like the right path to me and I’m on the wrong path.

You’re Okay, I’m Okay – Your path to God might be okay for you, but that doesn’t make my path wrong.

You’re Not Okay, Saying I’m Not Okay – Your insistence that you are on the right path to God and I am on the wrong path is arrogant, intolerant and hateful.

The reality is: that Christianity has always been the only true path to God or it never was. The reality is: that other paths to God  have always existed or they do not exist now.  The reality is: if other paths to God exist, then Christianity is not one of them – because Christ said He was the only path (John 14:6).  The reality is: that it is up to us to decide what we believe (who we believe in).  Some would have you believe that the reality is that there is no wrong answer here.  The reality is: do you really want to bet your (eternal) life on it?

My Advice – Eternal security is not determined by the democratic process.  The majority view is only right if it is right, not because most people believe it is right (or not).  Stakes are too high to just go along with the crowd.  Being politically correct is an insufficient justification in the life to come, one must be absolutely correct.  You owe it to yourself to  investigate these “truth claims” very carefully, then to choose wisely.  The “pea” of truth is only under one of these shells.