Sunday, February 26, 2012

Another Gospel 2

However, then, when you knew not God,
you did service to them which by nature are no gods.

But now, after that you have known God,
or rather are known of God,
how turn you again to the weak and beggarly elements,

whereunto you desire again to be in bondage?
You observe days, and months, and times, and years.
Galatians 4:8-10

What was Paul referring to here as “weak and beggarly elements”
... that which he said were leading some back into bondage?

Are we in danger of falling into this same deception today?
Of course we are ... in a thousand different ways.

Well, I would think that this would be apparent to all, after my previous post entitled “Another Gospel”
but there are many sincere teachers out there and I fear some are confused.

I will attempt to help clarify this dispute that has arisen among some followers of Christ in a men's Bible study that I attend.

Here is what one Christian friend wrote this past week in questioning the verse above.

"Is the verse in Galatians 4:9 calling the Sabbath, one of God's 10 Commandments - weak and beggarly? Simple question; and the answer is either yes or no. If Paul is classifying scripture - God's Word - as revealed in the Old Testament as weak and beggarly; then I think we need to really understand how scripture, which is what the feasts are, and what the Sabbath is derived from has become known to be weak and beggarly. It doesn't rationally follow in my mind. Paul must be talking about other things. I don't think Paul would call Scripture weak and beggarly."
(end quote)

I can only imagine the Galatians getting off track here as well. Men have been attempting to understand the things of the Spirit logically since the beginning of time. It is how we are wired. But logic and rationale are not the ways of the Spirit.

The things of the Spirit at times make all the sense in the world, but all of God’s Word is Truth; and Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit are eternal Truth, whether we understand or believe or follow; or not.

Whenever anyone adds anything to the Gospel of Christ, it becomes “Another Gospel” which leads followers away from Christ and the Truth. The problem here was: the adding of Old Testament law which had been replaced by the Gospel, together with the new Gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Christ; and the result being: Another Gospel. This new false man-made gospel is that which is weak and beggarly. The law is still God’s Truth but God through Paul gave clarification to understanding the Gospel of Christ.

Men get hung up on rationale and logic when trying to understand the things of the Spirit. I could name hundreds of things of the Spirit that make no sense to me at all, from a worldly point of view; but on the other hand, they make all the sense in the world when I simply accept them as God’s Truth. This is the meaning of accepting Christ; and the Truth and Promises of His Word by faith.

Some things of the Spirit will never make sense to us rationally or logically. Our minds are limited and one dimensional. Most things of the Spirit are beyond our rational comprehension. For example, we are told: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast." Ephesians 2:8-9. And this: "And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work." Rom 11:6.

From a human perspective this is totally illogical. It only makes sense that we go to heaven because of the good things that we have done, but God has given us a new gospel that we are saved through faith in Jesus Christ; not works. The only deeds that save us were performed by Jesus on the cross at Calvary.

Without Christ, man's condition is hopeless; our rational thinking is foolishness.

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. And there is none that calls on your name, that stirs up himself to take hold of you: for you have hid your face from us, and have consumed us, because of our iniquities. Isaiah 64:6-7

What a friend said here is Truth: "We don’t obey God’s Law to be saved; we obey God’s Law because we are saved!" In order to be Ambassadors for Christ with a ministry of reconciliation we should all do the best we can to not be a hypocrite and to follow Christ. But this is accomplished not by rigidly following the Old Testament laws but rather by standing upon this undeniable New Testament Truth."

"Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. 9For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. 10Love worketh no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." Rom 13:8-10

The all-inclusive truth is: "and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."

Only God knows our hearts and minds and gives us understanding through the guidance and power of His Spirit and his Holy Word. At times, we are not even able to understand the motives of our own heart. Only God knows: "The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings." Jeremiah 17:9-10. The things of the Spirit are never-ending; beyond our human comprehension, and they are impossible to understand ... logically.

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. ... And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." John 1:1, 14

All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works. 2 Tim 3:16-17

On the basis of this truth, all of God's word is Truth including all of the law and all of Paul's letters and therefore, context is the key. In the context of the "gospel of salvation by grace through faith" the 613 Mosaic laws including the Sabbaths and feast days are weak and beggarly when added to the Gospel of Christ unto salvation and righteousness. This is about context and does not change that all of God's Word including the Old Testament which remains forever God’s eternal Truth.

But Living out the Old Testament laws has nothing to do with our salvation or our righteousness as born again believers. That thinking is out of context with the Gospel. We have a new Gospel and a new covenant. It is now, natural for us in the Spirit to not want to do the things of the flesh as born again believers because: "the old things have passed away and new things have come"

"For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead: 15And that he died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto him which died for them, and rose again. 16Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we him no more. 17Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold all things are become new. 18And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. 20Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be ye reconciled to God. 21For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. 2 Corinthians 5:14-21

We cannot live out the law ... the Love of Christ is the answer to any and all other commandments. Only His Spirit and His Word can result in His Righteousness coming alive within each of us. Any Good works that we might gain credit for are a result of what the Savior did for us at Calvary.

God Bless you my friends, Bob

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Another Gospel

I marvel that you are so soon removed
from Him that called you into the grace of Christ,

to Another Gospel.

... but there be some that trouble you,
and would pervert the gospel of Christ.

But though we, or an angel from heaven,
preach any other gospel to you
than that which we have preached to you,
let him be accursed.

As we said before, so say I now again,
if any man preach any other gospel to you
than that you have received,
let him be accursed. Galatians 1:6-9

Here is the problem we face today: Religions have corrupted the Truth of God.
Thousands of religions and denominations are teaching Another Gospel.

Have you been misguided by Religions created by men; or is your belief system centered in the Truth of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

Paul confronted this problem nineteen hundred years ago, and the deception has now grown to 
thousands of potentially false religions and hundreds of deceptive denominations. These other gospels keep followers busy following man-made rules, rites, rituals, and false teachings. But the Truth, according to the Gospel of Christ is that men can do NOTHING in order to be worthy of salvation, and eternal life. It is the free gift of God: “that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16

These teachers of another gospel were challenging the truth of Paul’s teaching and so first, he clarifies his apostleship to the gentiles, and points out that he was called directly by Jesus Christ; transformed by the renewing of his mind; and then sent out by Christ to proclaim the gospel. This was his ministry to the lost gentiles. Paul had a divine appointment and was not merely a teacher appointed by men, and he was not stating his personal opinions. Christ was speaking through Him. Paul was carrying out the mission Christ had given him.

Paul then explains in verses 6-9 that men were preaching another gospel and he made it clear that if any man was preaching a gospel contrary to salvation by grace alone … let him be accursed. This false teaching was a step backwards into the false teaching that Christ has delivered us from; and even some of the church leaders including Peter were being influenced.

For emphasis, Paul repeats: let him be accursed. The Greek word anathema used here for accursed means: estrangement from Christ and His salvation, and being given over to a divine condemnation. To take the stand Paul took back then would be like standing up in church and telling those who are perverting the Truth of Christianity: you are anti-Christ; or you are teaching doctrines of demons. Can you imagine the reaction a Christian would get in response to those words today?

So much for the left's call for tolerance and political correctness.

Now can you understand why those promoting another gospel in today's world ...
would also be so totally devoted to the doctrines of tolerance and political correctness?

We should always be respectful and loving to others and support everyone's right to freedom of religion ... 
but all religions are not truth, and are surely not equal, and false Christianity absolutely deserves: NO RESPECT or tolerance.

Don’t be confused here though. Once a person believes on the name of the Son of God, he may "know" that he has eternal life. This salvation is past tense. The danger is for someone to believe on the gospel of Christ … and then add any other conditions. "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. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain." Galatians 2:20-21

For Jewish Christians this meant adding circumcision. A common teaching of men today would be that a Christian would need to believe in Jesus ... plus also follow the Ten Commandments in order to receive eternal life. This is also another gospel. The Ten Commandments are God's eternal truth and we are to follow them to become the righteousness of Christ in Him; but they are not conditions to salvation.

The point is that Jesus death on the cross releases us from the curse of the law. To add any part of the law to the good news is the same as adding circumcision to the gospel. Let that man be accursed.

Well, does this mean that I am saying we don't need to follow the Ten Commandments? Never! 

That would be the path of a hypocrite. For one to follow that path diminishes the mission, and witness that Christ has given each of us.

For by grace are you saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. 
For we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus to good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:8-10

Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ's stead, be you reconciled to God. For he has made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. 2 Corinthians 5:20-21

What was different about this other gospel? They were teaching that in order to be a true believer, the new gentile converts needed to be circumcised. Now how does this translate to our society today? Answer: in a thousand different ways. Some say you must go to church on Sunday to be saved, and others might say Saturday. Some give testimony of another prophet or an angel. Others believe you must continually be forgiven of your sins by their minister or priest. Others teach that you must be a member of a certain denomination, and agree to religiously follow their teachings. Others may say we just practice loving other people. Some say you must be baptized to be saved. It really doesn’t matter what new condition a religion or denomination adds to their belief system … according to Paul they are all the same when they do it: accursed.

Paul pointed out that we are justified through faith in Jesus Christ and not by works of the law. Adding any works of the law changed the gospel of grace since by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor. For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live to God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives 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. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. Galatians 2:18-20

A key point that many believers have yet to understand is that when we trusted Christ as Savior … at that moment, we are one with him eternally. We are saved eternally. He sacrifice has paid the price for our sins. We are forgiven. It is finished. We are still here in our earthly bodies but He is now living through us so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

We are justified on the basis of his payment for our sins ... past, present, and future for eternity.
Nothing can ever separate us from His Love. He bought us for an enormous price at Calvary.

This Truth is clarified further here:
Wherein God, willing more abundantly to show to the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong encouragement, we who have fled for refuge to lay hold on the hope set before us: Which hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast. Hebrews 6:17-19

God Bless you my friends, Bob

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Core Values 2

Then said Jesus
to those Jews which believed on him,

if you continue in my word,
then are you my disciples indeed;

and you shall know the truth,
and the truth shall make you free.
John 8:32

A Christian Worldview

A couple of days ago I got a call from an out of town visiting friend asking me if I would like to join him for a free round of golf. I explained that I don’t play golf much anymore and my game has suffered greatly; but the chance to spend the day with him, and talk all about the good old days would be a thrill for me.

We had a great time, and I actually hit a few good shots. For the most part we talked about basically everything except Christianity. My friend has made it clear that he is Jewish and has no desire to discuss religion. I am sensitive to this; but after a couple of hours he began talking about Palm Desert and retiring here. I told my friend that we are planning to move back to Orange County. Why would you do that he asked … just when I am planning on retiring here. I explained we want to be close to our family, and then I explained that I can’t find a church here that I am encouraged about.

He asked; “well aren’t there a lot of Christian churches here?” And I replied; “yes, but most of them are committed to teaching that I can't help but find exception with. Personally, I would rather listen to sound teaching online; but we miss the fellowship with other like-minded Christians here.” He then asked; “what is the difference?” I then explained that many of the churches were following a seeker friendly, or Saddleback Church model. My friend lives a few miles from Saddleback Church and this talk raised his curiosity, and he asked me to explain.

I simply said; “you are a conservative, how would you describe Arnold Swartzenneger?” “He is a liberal was his quick reply.” “Yes I said; but worse yet, he pretended to be a conservative to get elected ... and this is the same problem that has infected the church.” “They have dumbed the teaching down to be politically correct and tolerant and the result is like a Swartzenegger.” My friend clearly understood.

Next I explained; “The new gimmick is called the emerging church which they are also calling the new reformation.” The idea is that believers are divided over men’s various religions and views; and that now they think we can solve all of the world’s major problems by bringing the religions together around good principles that good people can all agree upon.”

“That will never happen,” my friend quickly replied. “And more importantly, it is contrary to the clear teachings of Christianity,” I said.

Nowhere in the Bible are we instructed to join together with false religions, and nowhere in the Bible are Christians encouraged to replace the gospel of salvation with a ministry of solving all of the major problems of the world. The mission Jesus gave all Christians is clear and simple.

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, all power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatever I have commanded you: and, see, I am with you always, even to the end of the world. Amen. Matthew 28:18-20

This was as far as we talked about religion but I clearly made a point with my friend. All Christians do not believe the same, and I reinforced a point he already knew; I have very little tolerance for hypocrisy, regardless of the good intentions. But don’t these churches have good intentions, you ask? Well I imagine they do but they have allowed the teachings of men and their religions to become more important than God’s eternal truth, and the leading of the Holy Spirit. A totally worthy goal for a politician can easily be the worst kind of hypocrisy for a Christian and especially a teacher or pastor of others.

So what should the worldview of Christians be? What should be the most important things that Christians should be focused upon? That is why I intend to spend the majority of this year on core values. These are truths Jesus and His Holy Word teach us that are not negotiable. If we believe the truth that God is the Word; and the Word is Truth; and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us then you understand three core values.

Now our Lord and Savior has given us a promise: This is also a primary core value that I will focus on here briefly. It is foretold in the Old Testament and promised again in the New Testament.

What is it; you ask?

“For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.” 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17

God will Rapture all believers in Christ.

This is a most important Truth that is at the heart of a Biblical Christian Worldview. It is a Core Value... Christians need to be reminded of it continually so that they are better able to keep their thinking and priorities in context. Our life here is only a momentary stop on an eternal journey as children of the Creator of the universe. He has a mission for each of us while we are here, these are core values.

Be honest about this. When was the last time you heard teaching in your church about the rapture or the mission Christ has for you here on earth? Well that explains my frustration with organized religion.

Some would have us think that we need to have a new reformation, and that Protestants and Catholics, and many other false beliefs should join together for the good of all. That is heresy. This would only work if all converted to become followers of Christ and humbled their religions to the Truth of God’s Word. And that will never happen, as my agnostic Jewish friend stated. But, there is one key exception to my friend’s statement, that God's Word makes clear.

“For it is written; As I live, said the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.” Romans 14:11

Let’s talk briefly about the Rapture.

The Rapture is a moment in time when the Church (The Body of Christ) will be instantly removed or transported from the earth to heaven sometime before the Great Tribulation is brought upon the earth.

Why is it important for Christians to have an understanding of and strong belief that Jesus will rapture the church? When you have an understanding of the rapture and believe that it will and can happen at any moment, everything of this world is humbled to the context of this coming reality. This anticipation should enter every area of life. Even death is humbled to this teaching. Those who don’t believe in Christ or the Truth of His Words think it is foolish; and therefore Christians will have a foolish and ineffective witness if they do not believe.

You are called to share the gospel. Your witness would greatly lose its power without understanding and faith here.

The Rapture of The Church will be the next big event on God's Calendar? Those who have not believed on Jesus Christ and been born again spiritually ... will be left behind. Therefore, those of us who have Christ’s love for others in our heart would surely want for all to know the Truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ and to be saved, rather than lost.

Some would say ... how can you be so sure? I say, how can we be born again and not be sure. Either Jesus Christ is the Truth or He lied. If he lied, my faith is destroyed, plain and simple. Jesus is eternal Truth and therefore can never lie. Everything he teaches is Truth. Eternal Truth is never changing.

The Rapture will include all living Christians regardless of their spiritual temperament. The test on whether a believer will be raptured is not in the believer’s present behavior ... it is solely in the finished work of the Savior at the cross. It is not one's spiritual condition ... but their spiritual position in Christ that assures their inclusion in the rapture of the Church.

When was the last time you shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with an unbeliever? There may be only one person or a thousand that God wants to speak to through you. Sometimes the conversation comes easy and at other times, there could be a closed mind, like my friend. But God spoke to my friend while we were golfing; make no mistake about that. Without my unwavering conviction and stand against false teaching and hypocrisy, my words would have had no credibility with him whatsoever.

Jesus Christ is coming! The Rapture of the Church will happen in the twinkling of an eye. This truth is critical when sharing the gospel to the world in which we live with a greater sense of urgency. Biblical Christians are not here to focus on the cares of the world, we are here as ambassadors for Christ with a ministry of reconciliation, and the two different sets of priorities will always conflict with one another. We are to: “Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth." Colossians 3:2.

We are to abide above.

When will the rapture happen? It is imminent. This means it could happen at any moment. Everything that needs to occur prior to the Rapture of the church has already occurred.

Who will be caught up in the Rapture? First the dead in Christ, and then the living in Christ will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. These believers are the church. This church is not subject to the various organized religions and their teachings. All religions are subject to Christ and His Word.

Who will be left behind? All who rejected the gospel of Jesus Christ.

So what are we Christians to do now until the Rapture occurs?

“You are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep; sleep in the night; and they that be drunken, are drunken in the night. But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.”
1 Thessalonians 5:5-10

First we must understand who we are. As children of light, we must know God’s Truth. We are not of this world or "the night." We must not be asleep regarding the gospel and his imminent Rapture of the church.

“The word rapture is an old English word which means to be caught away. The word itself is not in our King James Bible, but the definition of the word is there. “and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain SHALL BE CAUGHT UP together with them in the clouds”

To fall asleep to this promise, leads to apathy, which compromises our faith, and our witness. Disillusionment sets in as we focus on the affairs of the world and strive for personal accomplishment. The Doctrine of the Rapture sets our mind on the things above and helps reorders our priorities.

The question we must all answer is this: Do you want to be characterized by the deeds of the flesh or the fruit of the Spirit? The Rapture of the church is not just a minor doctrine. It is at the heart of a Christian’s belief system. If proven untrue, my faith would be destroyed. When we allow for our focus to drift … unconsciously our priorities easily become compromised and our faith weakened. The next thing you know, one is following a well-meaning … but a doctrine of demons, nonetheless.

Is your mind set on the things of the world or on the things above? The rapture is our supernatural entry into the eternal things above. For now our mind is to be transformed by renewing it with God’s Truth by the power and leading of the Holy Spirit and God’s Word.

God bless you my friends, Bob

Reference: College of the Open Bible; Dr. Arthur Belanger