Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Suffering Question: Is God sending wrathful judgment today?

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.                      Psalm 107:1 NLT
The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all: and his tender mercies are over all his works. Psalm 145:8-9 KJV

 We've begun a new series of study on the suffering question. In a fallen World there will be situations and circumstances and conditions we see all the World round that beg the question why? In this study, we are looking at God's hand in the midst of suffering and loss. 

 Is God the source of evil and tragedy? To sum up this entire series of study this is the question we will be addressing over and over. Why? Because there are situations that differ and each time the question will arise, is God responsible in some way? 

 Today, I sensed the leading to address the concept that God is sending wrathful judgment on cities, states, or nations of the World.  What do I mean by this? A major storm hits a city, flooding occurs in a region, an earthquake strikes in a nearby country, and some religious voices rise up declaring God sent judgment on that place for their sins.

 Is this true that God sent some type of catastrophe to punish people? Does God still send judgment in the form of disasters, disease, and death? Is God sending tsunamis and earthquakes and storms to punish mankind? 

God's going to get you?

 What is interesting is this concept of punishment so many Christians cling to. Many see the cruelty that humans inflict on one another. They see the blatant immorality celebrated by many. They see the apathy many cling to in response to living contrary to how God instructs us to live. As a result, this indignation arises and the need to see immediate consequences seems to go unquenched. 

 Therefore, they "rest" in the "hope" that God will get these sinners one day. So when a tornado strikes, an earthquake hits, a tsunami occurs unconsciously there is a slight celebration that those sinful people got their just "reward". Yet, in the midst of this, emotions aside, their heart, their spirit man where the love of God abides rises up and they quickly want to send relief and help. 

 This is why we cling to ideas that God is sending judgment. Are there sinful darkened hearts who engage in unspeakable acts and inflict cruelty? Absolutely. Is immorality rampant and even celebrated in this World? Again the answer is a resounding yes. When it seems that injustice is prevailing you must remind yourself of the Finished Work. 

 But it isn't fair you may think. What about the evils this one has done or that immorality they are engaging in? It would seem when we see evil and injustice we want people brought to justice. That's good and just but what I want you to focus on is that the price for the sins and evils of mankind has already been met with justice. 

 What? You mean the bigotry, the immorality, the murder, the abuse, the vilest acts of men have all been dealt with? Yes. Jesus hung on a tree. He was bruised for our transgressions. He was pierced for our sins. Look to the Cross when you see injustice. The price has been paid.

How to win hearts and influence lives...

 We are charged by God to win the lost. To preach this Good News Gospel of Grace. We are to win lives to Christ. 

 So, when we proclaim that God sent that tornado to your town does that win hearts and minds? Think of this. A devastating disaster strikes. Then Christians proclaim God sent this destruction because of this sin or that. That God "got you." God punished you. 

 Then we say now come to God, He has a new life for you. Of course, we are met with anger and outrage. We as the Church are in essence saying, hey God killed your loved ones, destroyed your home and business, left you with nothing, now don't you want to come have a relationship with this God? 

 It deeply grieves me to hear believers proclaim these things about my Father. God is a Good Father. Just read our texts for this study. He is full of compassion and His tender mercies are over all His work.

God is not sending evil

 In 2011, Japan suffered a terrible tragedy. An earthquake and tsunami struck. Many lives were lost. Much damage occurred. Where was God? If you listened to some religious minded Christians, God's hands were the one bringing the destruction. 

 Again, the mindset was God sent the destruction because of their sin. God sent the destruction so they would repent. God sent the destruction so they would then accept Jesus. 

 Where was God's hand in this tragedy? I saw God's hands in the recovery. I saw God's hands in the relief efforts. I saw God's hands in the love poured out to those who were suffering.  You want to know Jesus' attitude on this subject?

53 But they did not receive Him, because He was traveling toward Jerusalem. 54 When His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” 55 But He turned and rebuked them, [and said, “You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; 56 for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.”] And they went on to another village. Luke 9:53-56 NASB

This is the truth. Jesus came not to destroy men's lives. God sent His Son to save. Jesus paid the price in full. Jesus bore all the wrath and judgment of God. He bore the full punishment for sins. There is no more judgment for sins. God is pleased with the final sacrifice of Jesus. God isn't punishing you for your sins after His Son already bore the punishment of all the sin of mankind. 

 We live in a fallen and fractured World. This is where disease, disaster, and death find their root. Sometimes the enemy tries to afflict but he has been totally defeated and rendered helpless in Jesus name. In Christ, there is help, hope, and healing. In Jesus, there is total deliverance. God is the source of our strength and a present help in time of need, He isn't the one causing affliction or pain. 

 In summation, know God is always good. He is the merciful, loving, kind and benevolent Father. He is not sending evil, storms, disasters. Jesus is the hope of mankind. He isn't the destroyer of mankind. Because He is so loving and kind we can put our complete trust in Him. 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Suffering Question: Is God really Good?

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever.                      Psalm 107:1 NLT

 We're beginning a new series of study. We want to take a closer look at God's goodness, mercy, and love. We want to examine the suffering question in the light of God's Grace and Finished work. 

 So the first truth we need to establish is that God is indeed a Good Father. God's goodness is a foundational truth all believers need to establish. If not the enemy and traditional religion will bring much confusion and misery in this life. The enemy will bring his deceptive attacks and will lie saying God is doing this to bring maturity and perfection and the religious will concur.

 When we say God is good, the skeptic and the atheist will point out all the judgment and death seen in the Old Testament. They will say how can God be good and yet sanction the killing of people's with the wars Israel fought in taking the land and keeping the land?

 First, we must know there aren't two Gods. God wasn't some harsh heavenly tyrant under the Old and then a good God appeared in the New Testament. God didn't get a new heart and mind when Jesus was sent to Earth to be our substitute. God has always been good and the God of love and mercy. 

The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy.
The Lord is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works. Psalm 145:8-9 NKJV

“For I am the Lord—I do not change. That is why you are not already utterly destroyed, for my mercy endures forever Malachi 3:6 TLB

 These are Old Covenant passages. God has always been good, merciful and compassionate. Under the Old, however, God had not yet sent Jesus. God had no choice but to send judgment for sin. When He instituted the Law and sacrifices He was able to still much judgment for the sins of people. 

 Also, when looking at the cultures of the people's the Nation of Israel warred against and defeated to take the land were barbaric in nature. Apart from God they worshipped idols and sacrificed their own offspring at times. Was God desiring to kill humanity? Of course not, but Jesus hadn't yet paid the sin debt of humanity. Going further back, when we see Noah and the flood people omit the level of sinful and wicked degradation man had sunk to. 

 God in these times prolonged judgment because of His goodness. Had mankind repented, changed their minds, and changed their actions to align with new thinking and asked God for mercy do you think there would have been a flood? 

 God is a Good Father. If people actually read the Old Testament in its entirety they'd see God's wrath and anger is a drop in the bucket compared to His loving kindness and mercy. True God isn't some "Hippy" who winks at sin and rejects any values and says whatever feels good do it. Sin is destructive. Doing your own thing, that is satisfying your selfish whims and lusts at any moment, is not profitable. God gave us values and standards of living because He loves us and wants us to live abundantly blessed not in the misery of poor choices.

Contributing factors

 One area of the suffering question and God's goodness that is highly controversial and brings about passionate emotional responses is the idea that we ourselves may have contributed to our own circumstances. To even suggest that we contribute to our own misery in some situations is almost blasphemous. It also seems as to suggest that it means you're a cruel, heartless, judgmental and uncaring individual.

 Before we elaborate on this point let's establish some New Covenant identity truths. Introspection motivated by guilt and fear is of the enemy and the condemnation he brings. Introspection rooted in shame is a tool of the enemy and wielded like a weapon by religious tradition against God's people. 

 So when it is said there are possible situations we bring about by our own choices or make our condition worse by our thinking or words or actions it is not designed to cause one to revel in shame or guilt or condemnation. In fact, no matter what the situation, rejoice in your righteousness in Christ. Knowing who you are is the biggest step to bring deliverance or receiving the strength to get through whatever you're going through.
 The point in addressing this aspect is because when we say God is good, some would say well look at my situation, how can He be good? I am not speaking of events like war-torn lands or plagues or natural disasters or situations that appear beyond our control. Yet even in those situations, Father God's hand is not too short to rescue or preserve people.

 I am speaking of events we do have some control over. Things like getting terminated from your job, or your spouse committed infidelity, or you are experiencing financial troubles or had a traffic incident. This list of events may seem beyond your control but if you pause and reflect that isn't always the case.

 If you are not a good and faithful employee why blame God for losing your job? If you show up late often or shirk your duties to waste time is it really strange that you lost your job? God is good and His hand of favor is on His children but if you work against God and reject wisdom then you may find yourself without work, don't blame God and again don't get under guilt but remember who you are and live out of that identity.

 What about relationship struggles? Well, if you find yourself friendless, but omit the fact that you always berate or talk down to people, or continually gossip about people do you really think people want to fellowship around that behavior? Again be who Christ made you walk in the Love He has bestowed on you, showing yourself friendly and friends will come.

 Marriage issues? Divorce? That is tragic. Divorce is an incredibly harrowing and emotional draining experience. It is not God's best for couples to divorce but sometimes necessary. 

 Let's get real, there are people who are abusive verbally and physically and sadly even sexually. For many years, spousal abuse went unchecked in this nation and sadly still does in other parts of the World. If you're a believer, then there is no excuse ever to verbally or God forbid physically abuse anyone. That's not the God kind of love leading you and you need to repent, change your thinking, into God's way of thinking. If the abuser finds themselves suddenly alone don't blame God, instead turn to Him.

 Divorce can be the way of escape from abusive spouses and the one who commits adultery. Speaking of adultery, I am going to make a controversial point. Before I do, let me be clear, adultery is inexcusable. No matter what the situation, one issue doesn't excuse another poor choice. If you commit adultery, don't blame God if you find yourself divorced.

 As for adultery, let me be controversial, not that I am intending to be, but just want to be real clear. There are contributing factors to some situations we face. Let's not forget that when dealing with this situation as well. If one spouse refuses to take care of the other then the Word tells us the enemy will come and bring temptation. The Word tells us there is a step one can take to affair-proof their marriage

 Again, infidelity is the sole fault of the one engaging in the act. However, there are some contributing factors that need to be addressed. In Christian circles, I have seen women who almost brag about their lack of sexual relations with their husbands. I do blame religious tradition which makes it seem sex is dirty or some chore the wife must endure. If you as the wife repeatedly refuse the advances of your husband why be shocked when the enemy accommodates him? 

 The rage from the ladies must be strong now. They would say well he doesn't do this or that, or he doesn't respect me. He doesn't talk good to me. Ok, that may be true. But under Grace, do we treat the other how they deserve to be treated or how we want to be treated? How does God treat you? Does He say well sorry you have done this wrong and that not correctly and therefore I withhold my love and goodness from you? 
 I am by no means excusing poor behavior from husbands. But by showing Grace to the undeserving, and through prayer and Faith, and God's love isn't it possible that God will deal with that husband? Could it be by showing Grace he may change his stubborn, stupid acting, stupid talking, stupid impatient ways? We men are sometimes clueless about how we are being perceived. Pray Jesus' love within our hearts keeps guiding us to more and more truth. 

Financial difficulty? This can be due to us mismanaging our finances and not making wise decisions. The contributing factor could be a lack of wisdom. Not properly budgeting or making foolish choices with our funds. Again no condemnation but seek for wisdom and God's favor but don't blame God for the mess we make.

 Traffic accidents and other incidents should cause us to reflect on our driving skills not blaming God. If you text and drive and get into an accident don't say God had some purpose in wrecking your car. Don't get a traffic citation because you chose to disregard the speed limit or other rules of the road and think God must be punishing you. 

 My point is clear, there are some circumstances that we create, or exacerbate by our choices. We can't blame God, and yes in some cases we can't even blame the enemy. I know the enemy comes to steal and kill and destroy but as we see sometimes our choices bring us tough times.

 I recall a couple at a church years ago give a "testimony" that they went to a conference even though they didn't have the funds and they said their faith saw them through because their bank card wasn't rejected the whole five days they stayed at a hotel. When they came back they were shocked to discover that when their paycheck came into their checking account it was immediately taken by the bank putting their account to almost zero. They cried out the devil took their offering money and such but he was gonna restore what he stole.

 No dear ones, you didn't understand overdraft protection banks offer. The bank deposited money into your account that y'all had overdrawn and when your paycheck arrived the overdraft amount was taken from that paycheck to repay the bank. The devil didn't take your paycheck, your ignorance and foolishness in the name of faith took your pay.

 God is a good Father. He is loving and merciful. He is not a harsh taskmaster and He isn't the heavenly tyrant tradition make Him out to be. He always has our best in mind. He is always for us and never against us.

 In summation, we must know God is always good to walk in triumphant victory. We must understand His character has never changed. We also must understand the place our choices and actions and wrong thinking have in negative situations we may be facing. We must never blame God, He isn't the source of our trouble but the solution to our troubles. 
Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

The Gospel of Grace: The Reality of Our Eternal Redemption

I am shocked over how quickly you have deserted the grace gospel and strayed away from Christ who called you to Himself by His loving mercy. I’m frankly astounded that you now embrace a distorted gospel of salvation by works! 7 That is a fake “gospel” that is simply not true! There is only one gospel—the grace gospel! Yet you have allowed those who mingle law with Christ’s grace to confuse you with lies. Galatians 1:6-7 TPT first edition

 We've been in an ongoing study of the Gospel of Grace, the Good News of Jesus Christ and all He has accomplished for us in the Finished Work. We've seen that this Gospel isn't about religion. We've seen the reality of the New Covenant. We've seen the reality of the New Creation, what it means to be New in Him. We've seen the reality of our Righteousness in Christ. 

 To conclude this study of the true Gospel it seems good to focus on one of the greatest aspects of this Finished Work. That is the truth of our eternal redemption. I am certain you're aware there exist some controversial theological points in Christian circles. 

 Of the many issues, I like to refer to the major ones as the three "Ts". That is Tithing, speaking with Tongues, and the End-Times. Want to start a war with words if you will? Bring up these three topics. Though these are controversial points, nothing it seems is more hotly debated than the question of our eternal redemption. That is, is our redemption or our salvation of an eternal duration? To be more clear, can you lose or forfeit your salvation?

 This question elicits many responses. Tradition will respond with "no, but..." or "no, only if..." and the more works centered minded will respond with a resounding yes. Some sincere believers will respond with uncertainty. Instead of opinions let's allow the Word of God to settle the debate.

12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. Hebrews 9:12 NKJV

allow another version to make it more clear;

12 And he has entered once and forever into the Holiest Sanctuary of All, not with the blood of animal sacrifices, but the sacred blood of his own sacrifice. And he alone has made our salvation secure forever! Hebrews 9:12 TPT

 Some key points this passage makes clear. Christ shed His perfect Blood once for all time. This is the final sacrifice. There is no other sacrifice. There isn't His plus yours that completes this redemption. When Jesus was hanging on that tree, I note there was not two or three other "good" men who were helping Christ bear the nails or holding Him up on the Cross. Jesus sacrifice was the only one that worked. It was offered once for all time. 

 Another point is inferred. Jesus once for all sacrifice was accepted by the Father. God the eternal judge is satisfied with the once for all sacrifice of His Son. The Finished Work has been accepted and approved. Therefore there is no more work or sacrifice to bring to God to deal with our sins, shortcomings or failures. 

 Another point made based upon the last point made is that this accepted sacrifice means sin has been forgiven. This means we who received Jesus are forever forgiven. 
18 And when sins have been forgiven, there is no need to offer any more sacrifices. Hebrews 10:18 NLT
 So this concludes the debate if we are eternally forgiven or we need to confess our sins in order to be forgiven. The shed blood procured our forgiveness. It is done. We are eternally forgiven. Look, Jesus isn't coming back shedding His Blood each time we screw up. We are eternally redeemed and forever forgiven.

 The last point I see made in this passage is that Jesus has obtained eternal redemption for all who receive it. He did it. He obtained it. He purchased us for eternity. We are eternally redeemed. 

 What does the word eternal mean here? Thayer's Greek dictionary says, without end, never to cease, everlasting So our redemption is without end. Salvation is receiving this free gift of redemption. So our salvation then is without end, never to cease, is everlasting!

 Can we then lose our salvation or "walk away" from salvation? If salvation is without end, never to cease, everlasting, then you tell me? If something is without end, then the answer is plainly clear. Salvation is without end, never to cease and everlasting. 

 The reason for the major controversy surrounding this amazing truth is believers want to make the Gospel and salvation and Grace so complicated. The reason being, they must make room for their tradition, for their performance, for their pet doctrines or better stated, their specific theological persuasion or denominational creed. 

 Now the objections are racing through the minds of the religious. They will cry out, we never disagreed that salvation is eternal. What they will say is though salvation itself is eternal, our actions, our unbelief or unfaithfulness disqualifies us from salvation. 

 Think of that reasoning. When a person in competition wins the prize, but through some misdeed or unfaithful action causes a committee to strip the person of the prize. We've seen music awards, Olympic medals, etc stripped away because of the actions of the winner. 

 Here is the truth, though that is how it is on Earth we are dealing with eternal issues. The real truth is we as fellow believers or leaders, or even ministers are not on the committee if you will. We aren't the ones who awarded salvation to a person and we don't get to judge whether that person, due to their unfaithfulness, gets to keep the "prize" or not.

 The Good News is the "committee" members are God our Father, Jesus our Savior, and the precious Holy Ghost. They made it known already. They already judged Jesus' sacrifice as accepted and fulfilling all demands of eternal justice. They already made it clear, simply believe and you are eternally saved. They aren't stripping away salvation from the unfaithful. God is faithful when we are faithless.

 In summation, believer you are eternally secure in Christ. Jesus paid the price in full. God our Father accepted the price, accepted the final sacrifice, the sin debt has been paid in full. We are forgiven and made Righteous and eternally redeemed. No man, no tradition, no denominational creed, no minister gets to decide whether you're saved or can lose your salvation. God's Word declared we are eternally secure and that settles the issue. 
Image by Frank Oschatz from Pixabay  

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

The Gospel of Grace: The Reality of Our Union in Christ

I am shocked over how quickly you have deserted the grace gospel and strayed away from Christ who called you to Himself by His loving mercy. I’m frankly astounded that you now embrace a distorted gospel of salvation by works! 7 That is a fake “gospel” that is simply not true! There is only one gospel—the grace gospel! Yet you have allowed those who mingle law with Christ’s grace to confuse you with lies. Galatians 1:6-7 TPT first edition

 We've been in an ongoing study of the Gospel of Grace. That is the Good News of Jesus Christ and all He has accomplished for us in the Finish Work. We've seen the Reality of our Righteousness. We saw the Reality of the New Creation, what it means to be made new. We've also exposed the dangers of Religious Traditions and mixture. 

 Today, I sense the leading to share on another reality of this great Gospel. Our perfect union with Christ. We are united with Him. We are in Christ. This is a powerful truth. Under the Old, those who knew God had the benefit of God being with them. That is good knowing God is with you. 

 The New Covenant though goes further. Not only is God with those who believe, But He is also in those who believe. This is this Union with Christ. God is dwelling within His people. Becoming more God inside minded produces boldness in our relationship with the Father. 

 This Union with Christ is seen many times in the New Covenant. Romans 6 declares we are united with Him in Resurrection life. Ephesians tells us Christ dwells within by Faith. Paul shows we are found in Him, having a Righteousness of Faith and not of works and performance.
and become one with him, no longer counting on being saved by being good enough or by obeying God’s laws, but by trusting Christ to save me; for God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith—counting on Christ alone. Philippians 3:9 TLB 

 This is this Union with Christ. Being in Christ, not just walking with Him. With this powerful revelation of what Christ did for us in the Finished Work, it leads us to eradicate an enemy to mankind that plagues so many especially in our fast-paced, social media driven world. The scourge that plagues many, loneliness, feelings of isolation, being disconnected, especially in your relationship with God. 

 I want you to hear the words of Jesus Himself, the Person of Grace. 
32 Indeed the hour is coming, yes, has now come, that you will be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. John 16:32 NKJV (Emphasis mine)

 This truth needs to be rooted and grounded in our hearts and renewed thinking. We are NEVER alone, for the Father is with us. We've seen already just a few passages that reveal God is not just with us but in us. How can we ever say that we are isolated and disconnected?

 You see, the enemy has a scheme. The tactic this defeated foe uses is to place a question mark where God places a period. When he first appeared his words to Eve were to question what God said. 

 So he uses trying circumstances and difficult seasons to try and convince you that you are isolated. That you are alone, and apart from everyone. That your situation is unique and not like any other. That no one will understand what you're experiencing or rather what you're going through. 

 The tactical assault will come this way, hath God really said He is with you? The defeated devil will lie trying to convince you that God is not with you. The defeated enemy will utilize his most powerful ally, religious tradition to move you into thinking God is so far from you and that your brothers and sisters in Christ want nothing to do with you. 

 The defeated foe likes to remind you of your failures and shortcomings. Thoughts of past failures or present struggles come in waves and the defeated devil using tradition says you've sinned once too often. You've messed up too often. Or will lie saying no one likes you. You're too different. None of the brethren want to fellowship with you. The enemy wants to discount Grace, the precious Blood, and the Finished Work, by speaking religious traditional concepts to you repeatedly. Don't believe the lie, Jesus' perfect redemption perfectly cleansed us and made us righteous once for all time. 

 The devil is a defeated liar. Jesus triumphantly defeated him in the glorious Finished Work. Jesus tells us the Father is with Him. He is not alone. Are we not in Christ Jesus? Are we not hidden in Him? Is He not found in Him? If Jesus and the Father are not separated, then neither are we. 
13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who has made both one, and has broken down the middle wall of separation, Ephesians 2:13-14 NKJV

Under this New Covenant, because of the Finished Work believer, you are not apart from Christ, ever. You are not far from Him. There exists no disconnect between you and God. There is no time or place wherein God leaves or turns from you. God is with us and abides within because of the precious Blood of Christ. God has, nor ever will, turn His back on you.

 In this perfect Union with Christ, we are never alone. We have God with us always. Loneliness, feelings of isolation, sensing a disconnect are all the lies of the World, wrong thinking, and the defeated enemy. The Father is with us, Christ is in us through His Spirit, we are never alone!
Image by Alexas_Fotos from Pixabay