Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Are you a good person?

This past week, I was reminded of a technique popularized by Ray Comfort that leads people to Jesus by showing them their sins.  It is the "Are you a good person?" technique.

It first asks the person to rate their goodness on a scale of one to ten with Hitler being number one and perhaps (in honor of his homegoing today) Billy Graham at ten.  Compared to these two people I would probably rate myself at a 7.  I know I'm not perfect. (Neither was Billy Graham).  But I've never systematically slaughtered millions of Jewish people.

But the problem is that God will not judge our perfection based on other people.  He will judge us based on himself and his own standards.  Jesus Christ was the only perfect human being to live and he was God.  We will be judged against him and by him.  Matthew 5:48 says to be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.  Jesus achieved that.  I have not.

Then we go through all the ten commandments to show how rotten we really are.  Really commandments 2 through 10 are just a reiteration of the first.

1. You shall have no other gods before me.  Is there something I love more than Jesus that I look to for answers more often than him?

2.  You shall not make a graven image of God. 

3. You shall not take God's name in vain.  Have you ever said "God" or "Jesus Christ" in a swearing fashion?

4.  Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.  Do you take a whole day off from working and actually stop?

5. Honor your mother and father.  Do you ever disrespect your parents?

6.  Do not murder.  Have you been simply angry at someone?  Those are the seeds of murder and fall under that sin according to Jesus in Matthew 5.

7. Do not commit adultery.  Do you think of somebody else lustfully, even fantasize?  Those are the seeds of adultery and fall under that sin according to Matthew 5.  Plus any sex that is not between a married man and woman is in this sin, too even though "adultery" specifically denotes someone who is married but not to the one he or she is having sex with.  Even if neither of you are married, it is still adultery.

8. Do not steal.  Have you cheated on a test?  Idled on the clock at your job?  Done poor work for pay or credit?

9. Do not lie.  Have you lied?  Unless you are Jesus, you've lied.  It's the easiest sin to commit.

10.  Do not covet.  Do you want something so bad that you will stop at nothing to get it? 

I've committed all 10 categories of sin.  When you compare yourself to this list, you will notice that you have too.  And if you break one commandment, you've broken them all.  And no amount of good deeds will balance it out because your sins are like a tattoo.  It's permanent and will haunt you the rest of your life.

You have to perfectly keep the commandments to be saved, but you haven't.  There's a problem.  It's like trying to jump across the Grand Canyon by yourself.  You need help.

That is why we need Jesus.  Jesus kept all the commandments.  He lived the only perfect life.  And then he died in my place because it is impossible for him to stay dead since he was perfect.  And he stands before his Father in heaven to plead my case.  If you believe in him, he will take on your sins and give you his perfect righteousness so that you can come before the Father on the day of judgment completely absolved of your sins.  You don't have to do special penance or any rituals.  You just have to believe.  And when you do, you will receive the Holy Spirit who will shape you and guide you to the Scriptures so that you can finally follow those commandments.  You won't do it perfectly in this life.  You won't be sinless, but you will sin less.  1 John 1:9 says that if you confess your sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to purify us from all unrighteousness.  Jesus's most simplest sermon is "repent for the kingdom of heaven is near."  Don't just turn from your sins.  That won't save you.  Turn to Jesus.  If you do, he's already saved you.

Monday, February 12, 2018

FISH: Jesus is calling you

Step 1: Realize that you are dead in your sins.
Step 2: Answer God if he is calling you, because he will pursue you until you do.
John 6:44 - No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day.

The classic Augustinian/Calvinistic view of salvation that I follow is that when Adam and Eve sinned, all of their children, us, were born in sin and cannot approach God unless blood is shed.  It should be our blood, but God was merciful and sent a Substitute, the perfect permanent one, in Jesus Christ.  He died for the sins of his church and now sends the Holy Spirit to change our hearts so that they can love him.

The Pelagian view, which I consider unchristian, is that Adam and Eve’s sin did not cast all their children into sin.  We are born neutral and can made good, moral decisions to save us from our sins.  Jesus did not die as our Substitute because we did not need one.  He was simply a good, moral example of self-sacrifice.

Then, there’s the Arminian view, which is Christian.  Men and women are born with original sin and must have Jesus die in their place in order to have a good relationship with God.  But they can feely come to Jesus for their salvation without any coercion.

It’s Christian, and I count Methodists and Nazarenes who follow this view as brothers and sisters in Christ, but I don’t agree completely.  We have wills, but they aren’t free.  We can make decisions, but not for the Lord until the Holy Spirit changes our hearts so that we can truly love God for the wonder that he is.

So now, I turn to Simon Peter.  He was a fisherman and a good Jew with no real direction.  And then Jesus called him to be a disciple.  He learned under Jesus for three years and then saw his master crucified, which was not supposed to happen to the Messiah, in his opinion.

On the night before Jesus was betrayed, Peter vowed that he would die with him.  Then, three times, he denied he even knew Jesus.  He also betrayed Jesus that night.

But here is the wonder of God’s mercy.  When Jesus died on the cross, and you believe in him, then that death had your name on it.  It didn’t made salvation possible for everyone but uncertain because of free will.  It made a definite salvation for all that the father intended to save.  And if you believe in Jesus as your Lord, then you have received that salvation.

Peter had received it.  Here is John 21:15-25

15 When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”
“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”
16 Again Jesus said, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
He answered, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Take care of my sheep.”
17 The third time he said to him, “Simon son of John, do you love me?”
Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.”
Jesus said, “Feed my sheep. 18 Very truly I tell you, when you were younger you dressed yourself and went where you wanted; but when you are old you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 Jesus said this to indicate the kind of death by which Peter would glorify God. Then he said to him, “Follow me!”
20 Peter turned and saw that the disciple whom Jesus loved was following them. (This was the one who had leaned back against Jesus at the supper and had said, “Lord, who is going to betray you?”) 21 When Peter saw him, he asked, “Lord, what about him?”
22 Jesus answered, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.” 23 Because of this, the rumor spread among the believers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?”
24 This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true.
25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.

Peter thought he was done and went back to his meaningless and unsuccessful job as a fisherman.  But Jesus lovingly showed him his sin, forgave him, and made him the leader of the disciples.  Not only did he call Peter to be a disciple; he called him to salvation.  And he wooed him until he followed.

Is Jesus calling you?  Then he will have you.  He will change your will and your heart so that you don’t love sin anymore and that you love him even more than you hate sin.  He did it for me and is still doing it.  This offer is open to you, too.

Found by Jesus
Instead of being lost in your sins
Salvation is definite
How could you reject such a salvation?

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Hosea: Application and going to other books

Here is my continuing monthly saga of following Kelly's class on inductive Bible study using the prophet Hosea. 

The first thing she emphasized is that the Bible is not a self-help book.  People often come to church and the Bible looking for advice on how to sin less, improve their marriages, be better at their jobs and with people.  The Bible is not about that and church should be teaching what the Bible teaches.  The Bible is simply God's communication to his lost people about why they are lost and who the solution is.  When man sinned against God he did not have to give them a way to get back into a good relationship with him, but he sent one way and one alone: Jesus.  He makes it possible to come back to God through taking the punishment for your sins and by giving you his righteousness.  He sends the Spirit to call you to him and to change your heart. 

But here is what happens when you do read the Bible: 

1) First, it will lead you to prayer.  The other day I was reading 1 John 2.  Usually when I read the Bible I have a notebook next to me of all the people and situations I want to pray about.  And although I follow that, 1 John 2 says, "My dear children, I write this to you so taht you will not sin.  But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father -- Jesus Chrsit, the Righteous One." I thought of the children I used to care for at CCS after school and how my heart still aches for them.  Especially when I see them making the same mistakes over and over and after I've invested so much in them.  This passage caused me to pray for them.

2) It will lead you to repentance.  Another thing Kelly mentioned is that repentance isn't so much turning away from sin as it is turning to Jesus.  A lot of people can repent and not be saved.  Judas Iscariot repented of his betraying Jesus but he never turned to Jesus.  He took his life.  Peter also betrayed Jesus by denying him, but he repented to Jesus.  Actually, Jesus initiated that by calling him back again when he was fishing.  The same day I read 1 John 2, I also read Numbers 16, where Korah and other people didn't like how Moses and Aaron were leading Israel and insisted that God had appointed all Israel to lead Israel.  I had to repent of ways that I've been angry at certain leadership and people who get privileges that I don't get.  I need to recognize that God has them in charge for now.  Whenever I'm in charge, I simply seek my own glory and worship myself.  That is why I can't do it.  But I must not simply repent.  I need to turn toward Jesus.

3) It should cause you to worship.  The Bible's words all should be in red because they are all Jesus's words.  He is God's Word and he is very much alive and in your life.  This is the one book where the author is alive and in the room with you.  It should cause you to both talk to him and fall in love with him.  He chose you to be able to read this book and to read the words that cause you to come back to him.

Now for Hosea 13:4-8.
4 But I am the LORD your God from the land of Egypt; you know no God but me, and besides me there is no savior. 5 It was I who knew you in the wilderness, in the land of drought; 6 but when they had grazed, they became full, they were filled, and their heart was lifted up; therefore they forgot me. 7 So I am to them like a lion; like a leopard I will lurk beside the way. 8 I will fall upon them like a bear robbed of her cubs; I will tear open their breast, and there I will devour them like a lion, as a wild beast would rip them open.

Think of these questions whenever you read a passage:

• Do I have any incorrect thoughts about God that need to change?
“God is a God of love that I don’t have to fear.”  If you forget God, he will not sit still.  He will not share his glory with another.
• Is there something to worship God for or thank Him for?
I need to worship only God and thank him that he will take vengeance on evil and all people who oppose him.
• Is this passage exposing sin, namely self-trust or self-worship, that needs to be confessed?
It is exposing people who claimed to be God’s people but who turned their backs on him and worshiped idols.
• Where is repentance (turning from self and clinging to God) needed?
It is needed so that God does not cast us into an eternity filled with his wrath.
• Is this passage revealing a truth about God or the Gospel of Jesus Christ that I need to believe?
It doesn’t seem to do so at first.  But all the Bible is about Jesus, both Old and New testament.  It shows the urgency to repent and turn to Jesus.  It is the only way God will forgive us of our sins.  And it mentions the “savior.”  Jesus is the savior.  We have no savior other than God, so Jesus is God.
• What false beliefs must I turn from?
That God will never hold people accountable for their sins.  Their sins will be punished.  Either in them or in Jesus.
·         What would my life look like if I believed the meaning of this text? How different is that from my life now?
I would probably be more open about sharing the Gospel because I no people all around me who live in sin against God and are not repentant.
• What actions steps do I need to take – empowered by the Holy Spirit – today? Make your application specific to your life, not just a general principle. Make your application realistic and doable.
Isn’t the Spirit a gift, someone I already have in my life?  I’m already empowered by the Holy Spirit.  I suppose I could ask him to show me where I need to speak up and also give me a way to do it.  Right now I can’t do it.
• Is there someone to pray for or something to pray about?
My co-workers who don’t know the Lord except as a curse word.
• Is there a verse or passage on which to memorize or meditate?
Hosea 13:7, I am to them like a ion; like a leopard I will lurk beside the way.
• Who can I share this with?
Duh, my blog.