God’s grace

Persuading and Pleasing God #3

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

“For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Galatians 1:10 KJV).

What does today’s Scripture reveal about the Apostle Paul’s past?

As Saul of Tarsus, Paul was a Pharisee (Acts 26:5; Philippians 3:5,6), diligently serving men in “the Jews’ religion” (Galatians 1:13,14). The Mosaic Law (rabbinical) scholar that he was (Acts 22:3), no one was more dedicated to striving in works-religion than he. However, on the road to Damascus, Acts chapter 9, he met the resurrected, ascended, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ from Heaven. Pious Saul suddenly realized he was headed for Hell! He came to believe the new gospel message that the Lord revealed to him—Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He was raised again the third day. Thereafter, Saul would no longer please men. In fact, at his conversion, he asked, “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” (Acts 9:6).

In contrast to his earlier life, Paul was now a servant of God. Galatians 1:11-12, the verses immediately following today’s Scripture, affirms: “[11] But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. [12] For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Rather than being faithful to a God-originated religious system that man had watered down over the centuries, Paul was now faithful to the commission God had given directly to him. He was truly now a God-pleaser instead of a man-pleaser (today’s Scripture).

The Lord Jesus Christ had revealed Himself to Saul outside of Damascus. In doing so, He revealed to Paul the Gospel of Grace—the first installment of the Dispensation of Grace. The Holy Spirit moved Paul to write to the churches at Galatia, that they learn his distinctive apostleship and message, to the end that they would learn not to be men-pleasers either. Brethren, let us learn the lesson: the answer to successful Christian living is grace, not law—Christ, not religion! It is not what we do; it is all that Jesus Christ did for us at Calvary’s cross! This persuades and pleases Father God! 🙂

Our latest Bible Q&A: “Should a woman lead a group in prayer?

Two Sons and Two Fathers

Thursday, April 20, 2017

“And they cried out all at once, saying, Away with this man, and release unto us Barabbas:” (Luke 23:18 KJV).

One son will be liberated to live, and the other Son will be sentenced to die!

At the time of Christ’s trial, Barabbas is a prisoner (Matthew 27:16). Barabbas is a murderer, a robber, and guilty of “insurrection,” or rebelling against the government (Mark 15:7; Luke 23:18,19; John 18:40).

It is Passover. Roman governor Pontius Pilate has a custom that, at the feast, he releases a prisoner, whomever the people desire (Matthew 27:15; Mark 15:6). “But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas. Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified” (Matthew 27:20-22).

Israel’s chief priests, rulers, and common people all demand Christ’s crucifixion and Barabbas’ release, so Pilate gives the sentence (Luke 23:23-25). Guilty Barabbas is set free to live, and innocent Jesus Christ is condemned to be crucified. While Barabbas’ involvement in the matter seems insignificant upon first glance, God included it in His written Word because to provide us with an amazing illustration!

“Barabbas” means “son of the father.” Barabbas is a criminal, and he represents sinful, rebellious mankind who is worthy of death. He is bound by sin, and faces eternal death. Spiritually, sinful mankind is the son of Satan—man is of his father the devil (John 8:44). Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father, God, “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21), but took upon Himself our sins and was punished in our place.

Innocent Jesus Christ took the place of guilty Barabbas, which actually represented Christ taking the place of the whole world, suffering God’s wrath on our behalf! “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust…” (1 Peter 3:18). Thus, through Christ’s finished crosswork, we sinful sons of Adam (and Satan) can be freed from sin, and we can become the righteous sons of God.

Christ Liveth in Me

Sunday, April 16, 2017

“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20 KJV).

“He is risen” is not a simple blasé cliché!

When Jesus’ disciples came to His tomb on that glorious Sunday morning nearly 2,000 years ago, they were startled to find it empty! Angels inform them that He has resurrected, but they are still in shock (Matthew 28:1-8; Mark 16:1-8; Luke 24:1-8). Jesus Christ Himself must later explain the Scriptures to them regarding what happened those last few days (Luke 24:44-46).

However, until Paul’s ministry, Christ’s finished crosswork is not preached as good news for salvation. Peter and Israel’s other apostles simply preach that Jesus Christ is now resurrected to “sit on [David’s] throne” (Acts 2:30)—that is bad news for much of Israel, for they still reject Him, weeks and months after His resurrection and ascension. Throughout early Acts, Israel’s apostles warn her that Jesus Christ is coming back to judge them.

When we come to the Apostle Paul’s ministry, we learn that we Gentiles can benefit from Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork. Israel’s rejected Messiah is now our way to heaven! Yes, Israel hated Him, and demanded that He experience the most awful method of execution devised, but God allowed it in order to accomplish His will. Satan attempted to hinder God’s will by having Christ killed, but all that did was provide the method whereby God could save us pagan Gentiles. Calvary’s finished crosswork frees us from Satan’s evil system and gives us a chance to be God’s people (Acts 26:17,18)!

As people who have trusted Jesus Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection as sufficient payment for our sins, that crucifixion is our death to self and sin, and that resurrection is our raising to walk in newness of life—His life (today’s Scripture; cf. Romans 6:1-11)!

Indeed, Jesus Christ is alive, and He lives in and through those who walk by faith in God’s Word to them, Paul’s epistles of Romans through Philemon! 🙂

HAPPY EASTER!

*Adapted from a larger Bible study by the same name. That study can be read here or watched here.

Start in Romans #3

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office (Romans 11:13 KJV).

Why should people new to the Bible begin in the Book of Romans? Today’s Scripture tells us.

It is usually said that people should start reading God’s Word in the Book of John. However well meaning this is, it is spiritually hazardous. Christ’s earthly ministry, Matthew through John, was to and about the nation Israel, not us Gentiles: “I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24). Moreover, John’s goal is confirming to Israel that Jesus is her Messiah because He conducted a ministry of signs, special teaching miracles, in her midst (see John 20:30,31). “The Jews [not us Gentiles] require a sign” (1 Corinthians 1:22).

Paul is God’s messenger to us non-Jews (today’s Scripture). Ephesians 3:1-2 elaborates: “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward….” Romans 16:25-26 says God wants to “stablish” (stabilize) us Gentiles using three components: (1) Paul’s Gospel, (2) the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery, and (3) the Scriptures of the prophets. Paul’s Gospel is laid out first, and most clearly, in the Bible in the Book of Romans, the head, or introductory book, of his 13 epistles (Romans through Philemon).

Romans is divided into four sections. Chapters 1-5 deal with justification, or how to have our sins forgiven and a home in heaven. Chapters 6-8 discuss sanctification, or how that Gospel of Grace has changed our identity from Adam to Christ. Chapters 9-11 covers dispensational changes—we are not the nation Israel, but rather the Church the Body of Christ, with Israel still having a future in God’s program. Chapters 12-16 are application, or how we are to by faith use the grace principles in Romans so our lives can glorify our Lord and Saviour!

Friend, you will not mature in grace if you begin the Bible in the wrong place. Using John as an introduction to the Bible will hinder you from laying the Scriptural foundation God intended for you. Start in Romans! 🙂

Not a Game

Thursday, April 6, 2017

And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ. I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able (1 Corinthians 3:1,2 KJV).

Many such “Corinthians” can be found in churches today!

Recently, I watched my young nephew play a mock baseball game with his teammates. They have been practicing for some weeks; their “real” games are coming soon. Some boys threw, caught, and hit very well; most were clumsy. Coaches repeatedly advised them to pay attention. While their teammates batted, instead of watching and learning tips, they played around in the dugout. On the field, they looked up and around when they should have been watching the ball. One little boy, after hitting the ball, just stood there instead of running to first base. Another hit the ball and ran toward the dugout before the coach pointed him to the base. A coach fussed a player for taking off his glove when playing outfield. As I observed them playing, I just could not help but think that Father God is grieved because He sees similar behavior in the professing church!

Friends, inexperience is not sinful; prolonged immaturity is. Even the greatest professional athletes were unlearned at one time. Still, they practiced and matured, perfecting their sport. What would be sad is if they were no better playing today than when they first practiced many years ago! When I see many professing “Christians,” I see the aforementioned baseball game. Very few players pay full attention; they have focused their eyes on everything but what matters. Those “running” (busy) usually have no sense of what they are doing or where they are going! Perhaps they have been saved 40 or 50 years, but are still asking the same basic questions. Instead of listening to the “coaches” (or sound Bible preachers and teachers), they joke around on the sidelines.

They have not followed the Pauline edification process; they have not matured as God intended. Knowing nothing about dispensational Bible study, and ignorant of God’s grace, their flesh runs their life, which explains their confusion and misery. They must realize—Christianity is not a game!

Onesimus and Deuteronomy

Thursday, March 30, 2017

I beseech thee for my son Onesimus, whom I have begotten in my bonds: Which in time past was to thee unprofitable, but now profitable to thee and to me: Whom I have sent again: thou therefore receive him, that is, mine own bowels:…. For perhaps he therefore departed for a season, that thou shouldest receive him for ever; Not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved, specially to me, but how much more unto thee, both in the flesh, and in the Lord? (Philemon 10-12,15,16 KJV).

What did the Mosaic Law demand?

Moses declared to Israel in Deuteronomy chapter 23: “[15] Thou shalt not deliver unto his master the servant which is escaped from his master unto thee: [16] He shall dwell with thee, even among you, in that place which he shall choose in one of thy gates, where it liketh him best: thou shalt not oppress him.” The Mosaic Law could not be clearer: under no circumstances was the escaped servant to be returned to his master. Yet, as today’s Scripture bears out, the Apostle Paul sent runaway slave Onesimus back to owner Philemon. Why did Paul not follow Moses?

Due to an undisclosed wrongdoing, Onesimus ran away from Philemon’s house in Colosse. While Paul was imprisoned at Rome hundreds of miles away, Onesimus showed up there and Paul shared the Gospel of Grace with him. Onesimus trusted Jesus Christ as his personal Saviour and thus joined the family of God. Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon, Onesimus carrying a special message—the Bible Book we now know as “Paul’s Epistle to Philemon.” In that little Book, the Apostle explained to Philemon the spiritual transformation of Onesimus.

As a former Pharisee and Jewish Law scholar (Acts 22:3; Philippians 3:5), Paul was very much aware of what Moses commanded. Still, the Law was not in operation. The Church the Body of Christ was under a whole new dispensation (set of divine rules). Grace would enable Philemon, no matter how badly he had been cheated, to accept Onesimus as an eternal “brother beloved” in Christ. By sending Onesimus back to Philemon, Paul afforded them both an opportunity to experience just how amazing (and unifying) God’s grace is! 🙂

An Eternal House in the Heavens #9

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

“For we know that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, an house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1 KJV).

You may not see it, but God already does!

Christians worldwide live in physical bodies that are falling apart—cataracts, malnutrition/starvation, arthritis, hearing impairments, amputations, brain damage, heart disease, forgetfulness, cancer, thinning bones, high blood pressure, speech difficulties, limited mobility, and so on. While we should take care of our bodies as best as we can by taking advantage of medical science, exercise, and nourishing diets, the fact is that these bodies are not going to last forever anyway. All “healing” claims aside, lost and saved alike are buried in the same crust of Earth! To concentrate so much on maintaining these temporal bodies is a most serious error in the modern world. (People without hope in the next life are definitely trying to make the absolute most of this one!)

Short of the Lord’s coming, Christian brethren, these “outward men” of ours will succumb to the ultimate weakness—mortality—and thus they will “sleep” in the dust of the Earth. Paul, led by the Holy Spirit to write today’s Scripture, knew that as he penned it. As the outward man was growing weaker (and closer to death), the inward man was growing stronger in God’s grace: “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 4:16). Steady, daily intake of God’s Word rightly divided would continually “renew” that inner man!

Our Apostle was more focused on what would be the condition of our inward men at the Judgment Seat of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:9,10). The physical body would return to the ground, to be resurrected a spiritual body—a literal body just as real, just more advanced (no longer subject to death, and not limited by time or space). What would last forever is: (1) our soul currently living within our physical body, and (2) the resurrected body, “eternal in the heavens,” in which our souls will reside forever. Remain focused on these two eternal things!

Now, we conclude this devotionals arc….

Our latest Bible Q&A: “How long was Christ’s earthly ministry?