Crises of Faith – 6

As I listened to the news this morning, I heard that there was over 500 tornados in our nation during yesterday’s storms.  This is unprecedented numbers.  My wife and I had to shelter from a potential tornado for the first time ever.  I got the sensation that God is trying to turn us as a nation, but I don’t sense that we are getting the message so here it is as I hear it from God.

“Without faith it is impossible to please Him.”  “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin.”  We have adopted a lifestyle of religion without faith in Him.  We are similar to the Pharisees in that we are careful to dot the I’s and cross the t’s in our form of worship, without ever realizing we are in the presence of Almighty God.  We struggle and work to “do good” and to “be good” on our own, but God is saying to us that such religion is an insult to Him.  We need to get this right.  God is not pleased with a religion that does not place us in a position of trusting in Him and will judge us for not turning to Him. 

The situation is this:  All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.  We are not guiltless, we are guilty of sin and will face judgment unless we turn from sin.  According to Romans 14:23 living a life of not trusting in Him (faith) is sin.  Do you get it?  Faith is the missing ingredient.  That is the only thing that will please Him.  We must own our sin.  It is not because we are so bad and fail so much, but because we refuse to live by faith in Him.

I can just hear the response of “I trust in God.  How dare you question my faith?”  My dear friend, I am not judging you.  I am sharing the truth of what the Scripture states about our condition.  Jesus Himself said that most people will travel the Broad Way that leads to death.  Only a few will find the narrow way that is restrictive and corrective but they will find life.

That brings us to the second truth about our situation.  There is a way to please Him and turn away His wrath.  Instead of insulting Him by our rejection of the truth of our sin, we need to own up to it and confess that we are desperately in need of His forgiveness.  We can’t do it without Him, whether we understand it or not.  God is well aware of our plight.  It is even worse that we know, so His plan is to take our sin on Himself, suffer the consequence of it, and deliver us from its consequence.  I remember a time when I was about four or five years old that there was a forest fire near our home and Dad was fighting the fire with other neighbors.  Dad had placed my older brother and I in a fairly safe place at the edge of the forest with a couple burlap sack to put out little spark fires that would break out from the airborne cinders.  Sure enough, one broke out near us and my brother put it out.  Soon there were others and I got involved but I didn’t know much about what I was doing.  I was wearing a pair of sandals and kicked at the fire but my sandal flew off and when I stepped down in the leaves, I stepped on a thorn and I let out a scream.  I stood there on one foot, with fire coming closer and fire between me and my brother and I cried out in desperation.  Then I heard a sound come rushing toward me and when I looked up I saw my Dad come running through the fire to me.  He spotted my sandal and in full stride, gathered it up and then grabbed me up and carried me out of my situation.  This is what our heavenly Father wants to do for us.  He is our solution and not the sum of our best efforts.

The final truth of our situation is that all God requires of us is for us to continue to walk by faith in Him.  He is not concerned with us looking good in His eyes.  His love for us is enough.  He is not pleased with our good works, but he is pleased with our faith in Him.  When Jesus was asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” he answered, “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.”  The word “believe” and the word “faith” are exactly the same word in the Greek language so that it could be translated that ye have faith in Him. . .   God is not concerned with your mighty works but he is infinitely concerned with your faith in Him.  God will do the work, but you are required to do the believing.  Faith in Him is our work.  Sadly, we have it turned around today and are focused on the works, omitting the faith and that is what defines the Crises of faith today.

It’s Just A Little sin.

My oldest son, who lives 10 minutes from me, is building a cover for his patio and has asked me to assist him as some of the beams are 6” x  12”  x 18’ to 23’ in length.  For the last two days we have been moving the beams as well as all the other lumber to the rear yard by hand.  Along with assorted scratches and bruises, I managed to get a splinter in one of my fingers.  This morning I noticed that it had become infected and swollen so the splinter had to come out.   It was one of those splinters that was blond and not easily seen so it was not apparent that there was a splinter but because of experience I knew that it was there.  There was all the evidence; pain, swelling, infection and a puss pocket.  After it was removed there was immediate relief.  The pain and soreness quickly subsided, the puss was removed and the redness began lessening. 

So why did I wait until this morning to remove the splinter?  I suppose that there is a number of reasons.  I was in the middle of a job that had to be completed within the time I had.  It took priority over the situation so I just put it off until a more convenient time.  Then there was the fact that it didn’t seem that bad at the time.  I have had lots of splinters and they have never caused a major problem so I didn’t feel that it was that urgent.  Also, I wasn’t certain that there really was a splinter because I couldn’t see it.  Then there was no urgency as the splinter and its repercussions were not yet evident.  But by this morning all of these reasons for procrastination were gone and in its place was the urgency to do something about it, simply put – get it out now.  It would not wait even long enough to write this post. 

It is funny how something as small and insignificant as a splinter can command such attention.  It is such a small portion of the beam that its loss does not affect the strength of the beam yet when it is pricked into the skin of a person it affects the strength of the person so much as to require immediate attention.  The reason is that it brings germs with it that begin to multiply and attack the body.  Infection is the bigger problem and is more devastating than the injury. 

So it was with man.  He was created without sin and was a giver by nature.  He was in step with God and His ways.  Harmony was the order of the day and all of creation was in harmony as well.  Plants did not have thorns and were not poisonous (with the exception of the tree of knowledge of good and evil), animals did not eat each other and everything supported the plan of God in perfect harmony.  So what happened?  You know the story of the sin of Adam and Eve.  They injected their will in the order and sin (like germs) began to effect man and all of creation until now,  Ro 8:22 For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth in pain together until now.  The order has been infected by sin and now instead of being a blessing, we seek to get a blessing.  We have become takers instead of givers. 

With the entrance of sin into the world comes the consequence of sin , DEATH.  (Romans 3:23)  Physical death is a certainty but eternal spiritual death is yet to be decided.  It can be averter but ONLY by the blood of Jesus our Lord. Heb 9:22 And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission. Just as the splinter demands its removal  for healing, so also our sin demands the blood of Christ, or there is no remission of sin.  There is no plan be or any other way.  You cannot earn it by your good works but it is offered free to those who will put their trust in Jesus as the Lord of their life.

First Word – JESUS

Early in my ministry I had a pastor who was called to preach when he couldn’t even speak a word.  He had a membrane grow across the opening in his voice box so the only sound that he could make was a grunting sound. But there was nothing wrong with his mind and he was clear that God had called him to preach.  He would try to preach but no one could understand him.  They were compassionate and considerate but they were not receiving the message.

Finally, a voice therapist discovered the growth over his voice box and thus began the process of opening up the voice box so that he could speak.  They would poke red hot needles through the membrane, cauterizing the opening so that it would not close up, and then letting it heal.  The next operation was to enlarge the opening more by the same process until the opening had been enlarged enough to allow him to speak.  Then came the final day when he would speak his first word, and he said JESUS.

I was listening to a radio preacher who was bringing a Christmas message and was speaking on an often overlooked person of the Christmas story, Joseph, Mary’s husband.  In his message he made the point that there is not one word that is recorded that Joseph ever spoke.  That surprised me so I began to search the Christmas story once again to see if that was correct.  Technically, he was correct in that he was not quoted as saying anything, however it is also recorded that he named Him, JESUS which was the direction of the angel of the Lord to so name him.  The only word that we are certain that he spoke is the name, JESUS.

 Matthew 1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins

Mt 1:25 And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS.

Since Joseph was not the father of Jesus the naming rights then would fall to the mother, Mary, who also named Him JESUS, which was also under the direction of the angel Gabriel, who was sent from God.  We can therefore conclude that Jesus was named by His Father, God; by his stepfather, Joseph, and his mother, Mary.

Mt 1:21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.

Lu 1:31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.

Lu 2:21 And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

This then is the heart of the Christmas message.  A savior has come to save us from out sin, and His name is JESUS.

 Ac 4:12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.

Why Did Jesus Go To The Cross?

Galatians 1:4 Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:

Colossians 1:22 In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:

Titus 2:14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

These are not the only verses that answer this question but they do represent the answer.  The answer is like the hand, it branches out into multiple directions but is still a part of the hand.  Galatians 1:4 gives us the overarching purpose and that is that we might be delivered from this present evil world.  This deliverance is accomplished in three stages.  Stage 1 (called Regeneration) is the isolation of the human spirit from sin.  Since we are incapable of lifting ourselves out of sins grasp, the Lord accomplishes this by placing the Holy Spirit within the person and permanently seals him as a child of God.  At this point, God has committed to bring the powers of heaven to bear on the completion of His child.  Yes, I am aware that the child of God will still act like the world because he is  not yet finished.  That is where stage 2 begins.

Stage 2 is the Sanctification (or setting apart) of the soul.  This takes the remainder of the person’s life here on earth.  It is in this stage that we learn what it means to walk by faith, and are transformed into the character and likeness of God.  We discover how right God is in every area of our life.  Our thinking is changed, our understanding is transformed, our actions take on a new purpose and our will is subdued.  Grace defines the maturity of the child of God, more and more.

1John 3:2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

Philippians 3:21 Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

Stage 3 is our Glorification and addresses our body.  To be able to live in eternity with God we will need a spiritual body for this corruptible body cannot endure in His presence so we will be given a supernatural body like that of the Lord Jesus’ body that will never decay.   Only then is the separation from sin completed.  This is the work of the Lord as stated in Ephessians 2:10.  We were created in Christ Jesus, we are transformed by Jesus and we are completed like Jesus, that we might be presented holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:  That is why Jesus endured the cross.  The price was not to be compared with the value of God’s children.

What’s the Problem?

I have a small garden in my back yard and I harvested some beets yesterday evening.  My wife really likes pickled beets so we have been watching them grow and yesterday was the first we had harvested.  You can imagine her disappointment when we discovered that some kind of bug had eaten into most of the beets.  They looked good in the ground, the leaves were large and green and we could see the tops of the beets that they were large enough to harvest but most of the beets had to be thrown into the trash because of the deterioration from the bugs.

So it is with us, from the outside our sin remains undiscovered.  From within we are rotting and dying.  We alone, know about the inner condition of our heart and soul.  We are like David in  Psalms 51:3 For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me. and we need to face the truth about ourselves before there can be any remedy.  All of our efforts to appear righteous are futile until we face our sin.  Excuses will not fix it.  Works will not pay for it.  Intentions will not change it.

1John 1:5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.   
6 If we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth:  7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.  8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all  unnrighteousness.  10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

The Lord does not ask us to pay for our sin, though we think that somehow we should and we try to make up for it.  He knows that the wages if sin is death so he paid the sin debt in full.  That means that our efforts to make up for it only frustrates the grace of God.  It is a free gift and must be received as such.  What He does ask from us is that we confess it.  At that point He will forgive our sin and His blood will cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

On the other hand, if we deny that we have a sin problem then we are contradicting God and we are denying the truth of His word which says ALL have sinned and come short of the Glory of God.

It’s like my Dad used to say, “You can’t fix it until you know what’s broke.”

Self Deceived

It has been said. You can fool some of the people some of the time, and you can fool some of the people all of the time, and you can fool all of the people some of the time but you cannot fool all of the people all of the people all of the time.  But of all of the people, don’t fool yourself.

1Jo 1:8 If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

1Co 3:18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seemeth to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.

To see things as they really are, is truly an art.  Few there are that can properly appraise things objectively.  We see things through the eyes of various prejudices, preferences and presuppositions.  We set the standards of acceptance and tolerance.  Our perspective is often based on half truths or even untruths in some cases.  Because of this, we are often self deceived.

Failure to acknowledge the truth about ourselves is another way we deceive ourselves.  It does not matter if that failure is because of misinformation or because of stubborn refusal to accept the truth about ourselves, the outcome is the same.  Unless and until we come to acknowledge (not just admit) the truth about ourselves we will remain with only a partial view of reality.

Another way that we can be self deceived is when we have an inflated view of ourselves.  We call it “prideful”, “a superiority complex” or even “arrogant”.  Regardless of what we call it, it remains a false and incomplete assessment of the truth.  Based upon the above scripture, we must accept the truth that we have a sin problem and humble ourselves before the Lord so that He can make us more than we presently are.  It is vital that we have a proper assessment of our condition in order for us to properly respond to the world, ourselves and the Lord.

Evolution?

I saw an article today that claimed it had proof for evolution.  The “proof” was the bones of a young girl that died in an underground cave 12 to 13 thousand years ago and had different characteristics than that of her descendants, such as different facial structure and appearance.  I marvel at the incessant attempts to manufacture evidence for a theory that cannot be substantiated.  I say this because of a number of reasons.  First, change within a species is not proof of evolution.  Evolution holds that life is evolving in complexity and that it crosses the universal law of God that each species reproduces after its own kind.  Their position claims that it is a slow process and takes tremendous amounts of time, but archaeological evidence shows just the opposite.  One of the evidences that they give is the example of the Eohippus.  50 million years ago it was about the size of a dog and had multiple toes.  Today it is much larger and now has hoofs. This is an example of change within a species, which no one denies.  But the Eohippus never became another species, like say a monkey.  It has always remained within the same species.  Furthermore, there is not one single evidence of any species ever becoming another species.  This is true for all species whether small or large; simple or complex.

Second, the archaeological evidence shows just the opposite change from what evolution claims.  Instead of life generating into greater and greater levels of life, we see a degenerating  of life from complexity to simplicity.  For example, the hoofs of the horse have changed from the complexity of toes to a single hoof without joints.  In the example of man, the evolutionist hold that man is getting better and better.  They support their position with the extended knowledge of man, his longer life over the last hundred to two hundred years and his increased height.  If man were evolving upward, we would see man becoming a higher life form.  He would be doing an increasingly  better job in relating with others, and in caring for one another.  Instead, what we see even with the increased knowledge, is a world with the means and intent to destroy others.  We see greater degrees of degradation, bodily mutilation, opression and destruction. We see more wars and less peace.  We see mass killings by governments, sometimes in the millions and people reduced to the level of animals. Treachery knows no bounds, just as the Bible says, “times will wax worse and worse.”

Third, it goes against tried and true practice.  There is no record of someone planting a  seed of any kind and growing a different crop.  Every seed reproduces a crop after its own kind.  If you plant wheat, you always get wheat, add infinite-um.  How confusing life would be if you could not depend on God’s law of like kind.  I am fully aware of grafting and it procedures.  Yes you can plant an apple tree and after it grows, you can graft a peach limb onto the apple tree and get both peaches and apples from the same trunk, but the apple limbs always grow apples and the peach limb always grows peaches.  You do not later find peaches and apples interspersed on the limbs.  They retain their genetic structure and just share a common root to supply the nourishment.  Furthermore, you will never find this condition without man’s intervention.  It never happens naturally.

The evidence does not show evolution but rather degeneration.  Our bodies wear out and everyone dies from something.  Sin affect all life and has a degenerating effect on all life.  It injures, mutilates, destroys and ultimately kills.  The only remedy for sin is the blood of Jesus.  In Him alone is life.

Sin or Sins

I remember reading a gospel tract entitled “How to get to heaven from Pineville, Kentucky”  It had a catchy title and got me to reading. The truth is that it would read the same from anywhere on the earth.  There is only one way to get to heaven and that is the way that is specified in the Bible.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6)  So that begs the question, how do you come “by me?”

It is at this point that there seems to be confusion.  Does that mean to try hard or is it by doing good things like benevolent acts?  Does it mean that I have to quit doing “something”?  Does it mean that I have to give up fun things?  How does it work?  None of these answers are correct for they are all works of man?  Eph 2:8-9 Eph 2:8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

The problem between God and man is not what he does but what he is.  He is a sinner, which is another way of describing rebellion against God’s control on our live.  We cannot earn His favor for as soon as we try that avenue, our true nature takes over and our sin nature is exposed. It is at this point that we need to note the difference between Sin and Sins.  Sin is the self life that we hold naturally.  It is all about me; what I want, what I think, what I do.  I don’t want God directing my life because He won’t let me do my thing.  Sins are what we do  because of this attitude. Sins are the symptoms of the rood cause, sin.  We are incapable of paying for our “sin” so God made a way for us to be accepted and that is by our placing our faith in Jesus instead of ourselves.  When we are willing to do that we repent of our sin (that is turn from it) and place our faith in Jesus to make that payment (turn to Jesus as our way).  It is not two separate actions, but one.  It is like a coin.  It has two sides but it is just one coin.  The act of turning moves you from one thing and unto another.

If we continue to deal with the symptoms (sins) we will fail to treat the problem of sin, itself.  Faith in Jesus as the Lord of our life is the way to heaven.