Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Nothing you are going through escapes the attention of God. He has not missed your suffering, your trials or your difficulties. In fact, he sees them before you do.

The Puritans spoke of God's providence, saying everything happens within God's providence. The word “providence” comes from the Latin words “pro”, meaning “see”, and “vide”, meaning “before”. We often fail to recognize this when we suffer or struggle. We feel alone. We feel that God does not care.

This feeling is false. Jesus said "are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father." You never suffer alone. Your heavenly father knows and cares. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hope In The Lord

"The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; is mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. 'The LORD is my portion' says my soul, 'therefore I will hope in him'."

These words were written by Jeremiah and recorded in Lamentations 3:22-23. He wrote them during a dark time in Judah, as the Babylonians conquered Jerusalem and destroyed it. But Jeremiah still hoped in the LORD.

Today is a new day to live in God's mercy and faithfulness no matter your circumstances. So, hope in God today.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


I'm sorry I failed to give an explanation for not have a Bible study posted this week. I'm on vacation & traveling.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Happiness In Christ

"The happiness promised us in Christ does not consist in outward advantages—such as leading a joyous and peaceful life, having rich possessions, being safe from all harm, and abounding with delights such as the flesh commonly longs after. No, our happiness belongs to the heavenly life...Christ enriches his people with all things necessary for the eternal salvation of souls and fortifies them with courage to stand unconquerable against all the assaults of spiritual enemies. From this we infer that he rules—inwardly and outwardly—more for our own sake than his...Thus it is that we may patiently pass through this life with its misery, hunger, cold, contempt, reproaches, and other troubles—content with this one thing: that our King will never leave us destitute, but will provide for our needs until, our warfare ended, we are called to triumph."
— John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion 2.15.4, On The blessing of Christ’s kingly office for us

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Christ Died For Our Sins - the battle over substitutionary atonement in the SBC

Here is a good article by Al Mohler on the battle over substitutionary atonement in the Southern Baptist Convention. Orthodox theology is that Jesus died to pay the penalty for our sins.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Draw Near To God - Hebrews 10:15 and following

Two Aspects of The New Covenant

One of the aspects of the new covenant that make it superior to the old covenant is that God puts his laws on our hearts and writes the on our minds. This is a reference to Jeremiah 31:33. This is the second time he has quoted this passage, having quoted it in great length in chapter 8. He gives us the ability to live for him. Paul wrote “But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves to sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.” (Roman 6:17-18) We now want to live in a way that pleases him and reflects his holiness. We are not able to do this perfectly, but we strive to please God and bring glory to him.

I do not believe in the concept that you can become completely sin free in this life. People who believe they lose their salvation when they sin are inclined to believe they can become perfect and not sin. But, 1 John 1:8 says “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”

But, God intends for us to make progress. We are to constantly move away from the life of sin to the life of Christ. The theological term for this is “sanctification”. We strive to be like Christ. Romans 8:29 says “for those he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son...”.

Romans 6:6-11 says it this way:

“We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. or one who has died has been set free from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”

So, we constantly turn away from sin and place ourselves at the disposal of God, not our flesh. Flesh means our sinful nature and desires. We do this, not counting on our own strength, but in God’s purpose for us and his work in us. What is God’s purpose for us? Ephesians 1 tells us. He chose us in christ before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. (Ephesians 1:4) We are blameless because Christ paid for our sins. We are holy because we are set apart for him and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, we live in a holy fashion.

God works in us through the Holy Spirit to make us holy. Paul wrote “and I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ.”  (Philippians 1:6) God began a good work in each of us when he brought us to salvation. He will continue the work of making us more like Christ until the last day, the day Christ returns for us.

God’s plan for you life is not that you will say some magic words just right, receive a get out of hell free card, and resume your normal life. No, God intends a transformation that leads to greater and greater sanctification. In other words, you become more and more like Christ as you mature in the faith.

The second aspect of the new covenant is expressed in verse 17: he will remember our sins no more. Once for all, all of our sins are forgiven, past, present and future. No additional sacrifice is needed. We have true salvation. The old covenant could not offer accomplish this.  Now, we are blameless in his sight.

Notice again that the writer puts these words of Jeremiah in the mouth of the Holy Spirit. Yet again, he shows that Scripture is inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Draw Near

This is the beginning of a new section that goes to 12:29. Remember that the chapter  breaks are for reference only, they do not mean that a passage begins or ends with the beginning or ending of a chapter.

Here, the writer of Hebrews stops his theological explanation and he moves to exhortation. In effect, he said, I have told you these theological truths. On the basis of these truths, you should do the following things.

In 19-25, he says, in essence, since we have a great high priest and a mediator, let us draw near to God, hold fast to our confession and encourage each other.

As high priest, Jesus led us into the presence of God, the holy places. He did this by his blood, his death. He also sits at God’s right hand while he continues to serve as our high priest. So, we can approach God, or draw near to him in full assurance of faith. (22) We have confidence to approach him. (19)

In the Old Covenant, the high priest went into God’s presence on the behalf of Israel. But the men and women stayed outside. But in the New Covenant, Christ led the way and we followed into the presence of God. We have the right as God’s children, redeemed by his Son, to come into the presence of God and seek his help. This is such an awesome privilege. The Creator of the universe allows us to come into his presence and petition him directly. What a privilege! We do not have to go through a priest, or a saint or the savior’s mom to get to the Father. Jesus has paved the way for us and we may now go there because we are in him (Christ).

This verse harkens back to 4:16: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” God welcomes our approach to him because Christ has opened the way.

Let’s think about how we got to this point of drawing near. Adam and Eve were near to God before they sinned. They lived in the garden God made for them. They lived in his presence and had access to God. When Adam sinned, God thrust him from his presence. Adam and his descendants were far off from God.

God redeemed Israel and brought them to himself. He gave them a land or garden. He dwelt among them in the Tabernacle and Temple. They lived in his presence. Israel, as a nation, was near to God. But they broke the covenant. God thrust them from his presence. They were not near, but far off.  

The Gentiles stayed far off all through that time. There were some who came into Israel, but the nations were far off. Christ came to fix that. In Isaiah 56, God speaks to “foreigners” and tells them they have a place in his house when they join themselves to him. In Isaiah 57:19, God said “Peace, peace, to the far and to the near”.

In Zechariah 6:15, the Lord spoke through Zechariah and said “and those who are far off shall come and help to build the temple of the Lord”. When Christ came, the body of Christ became the temple of the Lord. Christ built it out of Jews and Gentiles both and continues to do so.  

 Although he came principally to the Jews, he reminded them that the Father wanted to gather the nations to worship him. He spoke of lost sheep, lost coins and a lost son. He healed a Gentile woman, he raised the daughter of a Gentile man, he preached to Samaritans, and he told a parable of a great wedding feast where those who were near refused to come, so he went and invited those who were far off. (Matthew 22)

Peter picked up the theme in his first sermon, recorded in Acts 2. He said “for the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.” (Acts 2:39)

Paul wrote “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ”. (Ephesians 2:13)

So, we see the use of the word “near” is not casual or accidental, but conveys great historical and theological meaning.

And we should draw near with a full assurance of faith. We should not doubt God. We believe God wants to work all things to our good. Romans 8:28 says “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Now,  I will say that our “good” may not be our wealth or success, although he often grants those. It is likely our sanctification. He seeks always to make us like Christ, which is for our good. He may use trials or temptations or deprivations as well as success and abundance to sanctify us.

Let me give you a personal example. I had a little success in the mid-1980s. I made some money, accomplished some things and acquired some assets. I prayed then that I would do anything for God and that I depended on him. But, underneath that was a little pride that I did this on my own and I was not given anything. And, God took all of that away from me. He took my business, my fancy car, my pride, my self sufficiency and my assets. He left me with my family and my faith. And in that painful process, I learned that all I have comes from him, that he directs my paths, and that I could trust him to take care of me. I learned to be humble.

It was stressful. It was painful. It was scary. But it was good for me. I love God more. I trust Him more. He worked betrayal and dishonesty of others to my good, just like he said in Romans 8.

I learned also to draw near to Him. I cried out to him when I was scared. I begged him for money. I pleaded with him to take care of my wife and children. And he answered all those prayers and kept his word. And in the process, he increased my sanctification. The only thing I did in that process was to trust him and to draw near to him in full assurance. I told him I would not fall, I would not give up my faith. He took care of me.

So, this new relationship between God and believers, made possible by Christ, is characterized by prayer. This is another reason we should not neglect it.

There is also a greater sphere of “drawing near”. It may not mean just prayer, but worship in general. The believer, and the whole body of believers, draws near to God in worship.

In all things, we should hold fast the confession of our hope. Our hope is our belief in our future deliverance into God’s presence for eternity. And “hope” in Hebrews does not mean a wish, but a certainty of belief and expectation.  In fact, Hebrews 1:1 defines it for us. It says “Now faith s the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

We do not waiver in proclaiming and believing that Jesus is the Son of God who lived a sinless life, died on the cross to pay for our sins, was buried and raised on the third day. He ascended to heaven and sits at God’s right hand. He will come and take us to be with him. No matter what happens to us, that is our confession.

I know you are assailed on all sides by non-believers and doubters. They question the authenticity of the Bible, the deity of Christ, the exclusiveness of Christ’s salvation and the sovereignty of God. Do not waiver. Hold fast. (23) We do not do this because we are strong. We do it because God is faithful. It is not about the strength we have, but the faithfulness he has. He will do what he promised.

Once, I had to jump off the roof of our house and let my father catch me. I was afraid of heights and falling. I had no confidence in my ability to jump to him. But I jumped because I trusted him to catch me.  I jumped and he caught me and it was alright.

Not only do we draw near to God in faith, we encourage each other. (24) He says consider how to stir up each other for love and good works. That is what I am doing when I push you to love and serve. We all need a little push sometimes. So, do not gossip and criticize. Instead, encourage. We the conversation turns bad, do not join in. Instead, say “let’s find a way to love this person. Let’s extend grace to them. Let’s do something good for somebody.” This love and good works set us apart from the rest of the world. It defines us as the body of Christ.

We have rejoiced together in happy moments, cried together in disappointments and losses. We have sat together in funerals and weddings. We have consoled each other, counseled each other, encouraged each other, instructed, rebuked, hugged, patted, and most of all, prayed with and for each other. That is what the writer is writing about. May we do it more and more. We can say we love each other, but good works are the tangible expressions of such love.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Divine Intervention

We can expect the direct intervention of God in our work to accomplish more than we ought to be able to.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Once For All - Hebrews 10

Hebrews 10 - Christ's Sacrifice Once For All

Animal Sacrifices Cannot Make Us Perfect

Here the writer returns to his earlier theme, comparing the perfect sacrifice of Christ to the imperfect sacrifices of the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant sacrifices could not make the worshipper perfect. That is shown in that they had to be offered year after year. In fact, those sacrifices reminded worshippers of sins because the could not obtain salvation for them. Again he says the law is a shadow of salvation in Christ. The law and the sacrifices were not meant by God to be permanent, but to point the way to the sacrifice of Christ. 

Paul also told us the law acted as a keeper or guardian until the coming of Christ. In Galatians 3:19, he wrote “Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring (Christ) should come to whom the promise had been made...”. Then, in verse 24, he wrote “So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith.” 

God Rejected Old Covenant Sacrifices

Of course, God never intended the sacrifices to be empty ritual. They were not to take the place of love, devotion and worship. The important thing was to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might”. (Deuteronomy 6:5) When Israel failed to love God completely, the Lord rejected their meaningless sacrifices. In our study of the book of Jeremiah, we heard the Lord say “Your burnt offerings are not acceptable, nor your sacrifices pleasing to me.” (Jeremiah 6:20)

The writer of Hebrews goes to the Old Testament to make this point. He quoted Psalm 40:6-8. Psalm 40 is attributed to David. But Hebrews attributes these words to Christ! Hebrews 10:5 says “Consequently when Christ came into the world, he said...”. So David spoke personally to his time, inspired by the Holy Spirit. But, he also spoke prophetically, speaking the words of Christ at his coming.

So, what did he say? 

First, he said God did not desire sacrifices and offerings. (5) God did, however, decree the sacrifices. But he desired them only with love and devotion, not as ritual or superstition. In Hosea 6:6, God said “For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.” 

That word is relevant for us today as well. God does not want you to come to church for the ritual or to make yourself feel you are doing your duty by checking off the box of church attendance. You can sing the songs, sit through the sermon bow your head during the prayers and not worship. We have all probably done this at one time. I think you could stop at the end of the hymn singing and ask some people what songs they sang and they could not tell you. That ritual does not please God. Worship in spirit and truth pleases God. (John 4:23-24)

Back to the Psalm. David prophesied that one would come who would perfectly do the will of the Father. That person was Christ. So, in effect, he said “I have come to do your will O God”. (7)  

Christ came in human form and did the will of God perfectly. He kept the law. But he did not do it just as ritual. He loved God with all his heart. Jesus said “...I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.” (John 14:31He did not sin. He did all he was supposed to do and he did nothing he was not supposed to do. He told his disciples “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17) He did not disregard the law, but obeyed it in the spirit in which it was intended. He said “...I do as the father has commanded me...” (John 14:31) He also said “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” (John 17:4) Some would call this the “active obedience” of Christ. He obeyed all the requirements of the law. For example, he was circumcised, he observed the Passover obeyed the commandments. (In contrast, his “passive obedience” is his assuming our guilt for sin and paying the price for it by dying on the cross for us.)

Part of the will of God for Christ was his death for our sins. Peter preached that “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified...” (Acts 2:23). Jesus was obedient to this part of God’s will. Philippians 2:8 says “he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”.  And, Hebrews explains to us that, according to God’s will, Jesus did away with the first covenant sacrifice to establish the second covenant through the sacrifice of Christ. (9) And it is God’s will that we are sanctified through Christ’s sacrifice “once for all”. (10)

So, not only did Christ die once for all, we are sanctified once for all. We do not lose our salvation because he has achieved it with his perfect sacrifice. His sacrifice is better than the old covenant sacrifices and his covenant is better than the old covenant exactly because it does save completely.

In verse 14 he says it this way “For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified”. We are not sinless now, but Christ has won perfection for us. His perfect sacrifice obtained for us perfect forgiveness for all time.

We will get better and better at resisting sin as Christ sanctifies us through the work of the Holy Spirit during this life. But we will receive a perfect sinless nature for all time when he returns and changes us. 

The sign of Jesus’ completion of his work of sacrifice is that he sat down at the right hand of the Father. (12) His sitting down is a signal that he is finished with his work. And indeed, just before he died, he said “it is finished”. (John 19:30) The Greek word for “finished” is “teleo”, which carries the idea of completing or fulfilling. Having fulfilled his work, he will stay in heaven until all of his enemies are defeated. (10:14)