Chance or Choice?

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My Musings – Many envision God as He appears to be depicted in the Old Testament as a God of wrath and judgment. In contrast, others tend to have an impression of God from the New Testament as one of compassion and grace. But God does not have a personality disorder nor has His nature changed over time (“I the Lord do not change.”Malachi 3:6, NIV 1978). God has always loved and continues to love mercy. At the same time, His Holy nature demands that He act with justice. These qualities are not contradictory. They are, in fact, quite compatible. Reconciling His love of mercy and His Holiness that demands justice is the grace bought and paid for by the sacrifice of His Son. Because of this, God is able to pardon and forgive the repentant sinner. But when the heart is not penitent, God cannot pardon and will condemn.

My Advice – “The LORD, the LORD, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin.” (Exodus 34:6, NIV 1978).  An Old Testament verse on God’s compassion and grace.  “But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.” (Romans 2:8, NIV 1978). A New Testament verse on God’s wrath and judgment.  God’s “scales of justice” do not balance a person’s good works against their sins.  Rather justice depends upon which side of the scales one “falls” on, grace or wrath.  Where one “falls” is not matter of chance, but rather a matter of choice.  Grace is available for all to choose.  For those who do not choose grace, only wrath and judgment remain.  One must choose wisely.

 

What Seems Right?

Screenshot (1441)My Musings – In the movie Hondo (one of my favorites), John Wayne plays a scout for the U.S. Calvary in the old west.  A man with a clear sense of what is right, honest, and just and having little tolerance for what is wrong, deceitful or unjust.  There are many memorable lines in the movie, but one in particular stands out to me.  “A man ought to do what he thinks is right.”

Unfortunately, what we think is right is not always the best guide.  In a society where right is relative, the truth is tentative and justice is just “if”, what we think might not always be the best guide.  Sad that it has come to this.  But when we think about it for awhile, it really has been like that since the garden.  The forbidden “fruit” seemed so right, but was so wrong.

For a long time now, what has seemed right to man is, if the “good” in one’s life outweighs the “bad,” then things should work out okay for the afterlife.  But in many cases, what was once considered “bad” is now considered okay or depends on the circumstances.  So what standard should one use for determining if the “good” outweighs the “bad?”  Is it a different standard for different people depending when they lived and the standards that seemed right then?  Is it a different standard for different people depending on what seems right to them?

The reality is that there is only one standard.  We are all playing in God’s “sandbox” and He made the rules.  What’s more, the rules never change.  What was right, truthful and just in the garden is right, truthful and just today.  What was wrong, deceitful and unjust when God handed down the laws, are still wrong, deceitful and unjust today.  We couldn’t keep one rule in the garden and we can’t keep a multitude of laws now.  In fact, breaking one law, even the most “insignificant,” is the same as breaking all of them, even the most “egregious.”  How could that possibly work out for the “good” outweighing the “bad?”

The reality is they never could.  They were never intended to. There is “no one who does good, no not one.”  No matter what seems right to man, it will always lead to death.  What then is the answer?  It has always been about grace, extended to man only through Jesus Christ.

My Advice – Go for the grace.  You’ll never have to wonder if your “good” was good enough.  You’ll never have to worry if Christ’s good was good enough.  If it wasn’t He would never have risen from the grave.  But He conquered the grave, He conquered death.  As a result, He can offer life to all who will believe and receive.  Now that seems right to me.

 

Good Neighbor Sam

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My Musings – As was usual in His parables, Jesus turned conventional wisdom on its head with some surprising twists.

Pleading His Case“Teacher” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10:25, NIV 1978).  The question implies a works-based salvation (“what must I do?“) So, unlike the fairly straightforward answer given to Nicodemus, “you must be born again,” Jesus asked the legal expert what he thought.  “He answered: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and, Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27, NIV 1984).  Jesus’ response appears to imply that a works-based salvation is indeed possible – “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” (Luke 10:28, NIV 1984).

Seeking A Loophole – Apparently the legal expert felt he could love God sufficiently (all his heart, soul strength and mind – really?), but might have a problem being a neighbor to some, since his only question was “and who is my neighbor.”  (Luke 10:29, NIV 1984).  Notice his question was who should be his neighbor, rather than who he should be a neighbor to.  To drive home this point, Jesus told a most unlikely parable.

Examining The Crime Scene –  “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.” (Luke 10:30, NIV 1984). The road to Jericho was called the “bloody way”, with winding roads and hidden turns, where robbers often laid in wait concealed in the rocks.  A dangerous route.

The (Un)usual Suspects – “A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him.” (Luke 10:31-34, NIV).  Priests were Levites descended from Aaron.  They served the higher duties in the Temple.  Of course, not all Levites were descended from Aaron and were not priests.  As a result, they served in lower functions in the Temple.  But both would have been expected to have compassion, but they did not.  Samaritans were “half-Jews” of the northern kingdom who had inter-married with Assyrian colonists.  They were despised by “pure-bred Jews.”  The Samaritan was an unlikely candidate to have compassion on the injured man (assumed to be Jewish), but he did.

The Cross-Examination – Jesus turned the legal expert’s question back on him. “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” (Luke 10:36, NIV 1894).  It must have been hard for him to reply, “the one who had mercy on him.” (Luke 10:37, NIV 1984).  He couldn’t even use the word Samaritan.  To bring this parable up to date might have included a Catholic priest, an evangelical Christian (ouch!) and a Muslim or an illegal alien.  Guess which one would have compassion in the updated parable?

The Verdict – “Jesus told him, Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37, NIV 1984).

My Advice – Attainment of eternal life is not a matter of scrupulously following the rules. “Do this and you will live” is more rhetorical “if you could do this you would live.”  The lawyer appeared to understand this because he sought to limit its application and find a “loophole.”  And so do we all.  But all is not lost.  Jesus became a “neighbor” to us to bring salvation.  But we should still have compassion and be a neighbor to all.  Not to gain salvation, but to imitate the Master.  “Go and do likewise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Adding To Your Faith

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My Musings – Yesterday’s musings, referencing the Apostle Paul, stood for the doctrine that salvation was by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.  Any effort (on our part) to add to this would be futile.  In today’s text, the Apostle Peter is saying that we should make every effort (work) to add to our faith the listed qualities.  That these efforts (on our part) would be effective and productive.

Surely this is a huge contradiction between these two giants of Christianity?  Not at all.  Paul was speaking about what results in salvation (grace).  Peter was speaking about what results from salvation (good works/qualities).  Grace is the cause of salvation, good works/qualities are the effect of salvation.  Salvation is an event, developing these qualities is a process (in increasing measure).  One can have good works/qualities without being saved, but no one can be saved without developing good works/qualities.  There is no effort of our own that can gain us salvation.  But once we have gained it, we should make every effort to add to it. And yet, here’s the deal.  Even though you are putting effort into it to grow your faith, it is the work of the Holy Spirit transforming you into Christ-likeness that gives the increase.

My Advice – You cannot grow it, if you don’t got it.  Get it today.  It’s free.  By grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone.

Another Gospel

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My Musings – This text requires a bit of explaining.  Paul was speaking against the “Judaizers.”  These were people who were attempting to burden the Gentile believers with Jewish laws and customs in addition to the free gift of grace.  Paul, the same man who wrote the “love chapter” and instructed his followers (to the extent that it depended upon them) to be a peace with all people, has very strong words for anyone attempting to turn others “to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all.

It’s as if they are saying that what Christ did on the cross was not good enough.  Not of sufficient value to save us, without adding our own efforts or religious practices. Elsewhere (Galatians 5), Paul states that doing so (adding to grace) results in Christ being of no value at all.  Why?  Because trusting in ourselves, even if partially, means we are not really trusting in Christ at all.

My Advice – Relying on a safety net, putting “confidence in the flesh,” means that our confidence (faith) in God’s saving grace is not absolute.  If it is not absolute, it is no faith at all.  You do the math.  Adding to grace is, in reality, subtracting from it.

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon on October 27, 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.

 

The Right Stuff?

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My Musings – Paul had just recounted all the reasons he had for putting his confidence in the flesh – that if anyone could obtain righteousness on his own merit it was him.  This was no idle boast on his part.  His credentials were impeccable.  If anyone had “the right stuff” it was him.  But Paul came to realize there was nothing he could “do” to obtain his salvation, it had already been “done” by Christ’s atoning death on the cross.  What Paul’s greatest efforts were powerless to accomplish, the “power of [the] resurrection” was able to do.

“But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ” – Like Paul, we could never be able to do enough of the “right stuff” to earn our salvation.  Rather, it comes “through faith in Christ.

“But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead” – What we put behind us is our own righteousness that comes from the law.  We count it as loss.  What we strain toward is the righteousness that comes from God through faith in Christ. We count it as profit.

My Advice – Knowing that we cannot “have a righteousness of [our] own,” do we really want to come to God on the basis of that righteousness (rubbish), or on the basis of Christ’s righteousness (surpassing greatness)?

Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon “Grace Exchange” on October 20, 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.

Called Out Of Darkness

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My Musings – “The future ain’t what it used to be.”  (Yogi Berra).  It certainly isn’t.  Hopelessly lost and separated from our Creator, with no hope for reconciliation by our own efforts.  Facing an eternity apart from God in Hell.  No Exit. His righteousness demanded it.  That was our future.

Where there was no hope, God provided hope.  Where there was no way, God provided a way.  The possibility of being reunited with our Creator because He made it possible for us to be a new creation through the death, burial and resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ.  His grace satisfied His righteousness.  The opportunity to spend eternity reunited with God in Heaven.  This can be our future.

My Advice – Which future do we want?  This should be an obvious choice.  Yet so many stumble over it.  Yes, Jesus is the only way, because His sacrifice was the only possible way to satisfy God’s righteousness.  But whoever calls on His name will be saved.  He’s calling us out of darkness.  Will we respond?