Our Salvation Is Quite Sure

My favorite of all the apostles is John, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” I love his Gospel, and the three epistles that he wrote, and of course,  Revelation.

There are a couple of things I love about John’s writings:

  1. He reminds his readers that he was an eye witness to Jesus life, death, and resurrection.
  2. He clearly sets out the evidence for Jesus’ divinity.
  3. He focuses, particularly in the epistles, on the love of God.
  4. He reveals the power and purpose of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers.
  5. He provides believers with an assurance of salvation.

It is this last point that I want to write about today. Early in the history of the Christian faith, deceivers had come into the church who taught that one had to achieve sinless perfection to be saved. John wrote his first epistle to combat this heresy. The same type of heresy has crept into many legalistic denominations even today. By outwardly following the rules, such people claim to be without sin. But as John writes:

If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word is not in us.

1 John 1:8-10 (NIV).

John here provides assurance that the fact that the believer sometimes sins does not negate their salvation, because Jesus is faithful and forgives our sin. One of the definitions of assurance on Dictionary.com is “full confidence; freedom from doubt; certainty.” Throughout this epistle, John provides further assurance that those who trust in Jesus can be assured of their salvation even though they are not sinless and perfect.

The word “know” appears 42 times in this short epistle because John wants to make sure believers know that God loves them and that they can rely on His promise of salvation. In each of the chapters of the epistle, John includes his assurance:

I am writing to you, dear children,
   because your sins have been forgiven on account of his name.
I am writing to you, fathers,
   because you know him who is from the beginning.
I am writing to you, young men,
   because you have overcome the evil one.

1 John 2:12-13 (NIV).

 

“Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases him. And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to love one another as he commanded us. The one who keeps God’s commands lives in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.”

1 John 3:21-24 (NIV).

 

“If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in them and they in God. And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.”

1 John 4:15-16 (NIV).

 

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life. This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.”

1 John 5:13-14 (NIV).

 

None of us is perfect and completely sinless. If we were, we would not need a Savior. But we do need Him, and we thrive best knowing that He is faithful in His promise of salvation for those who believe.

John does not advocate living a life in which we sin ‘willy-nilly’ simply because we know we can be forgiven.

Now don’t get me wrong. Those who truly believe in Jesus, and trust in Him for salvation, will desire to keep God’s commands. His Spirit living in our hearts will help us to overcome the temptations of the world and to love as He has commanded.

You may be struggling today with worries that you are not good enough, or that God will give up on you and you will lose your salvation. But remember – God is faithful in His promises and He has promised eternal life to all who believe in Jesus and allow His love to live in them. He has not hidden the truth from us, but has made Himself known through His Son and the witness of the apostles so that we can be assured of our place in His Kingdom. Your salvation is sure.

aasignLinda

 

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Feet Finders, [Intimacy]

JesusFeetOne of the more amazing studies you can do in the New Testament (Matthew-Revelation) are the people who found themselves at the feet of Jesus. Actually there is probably more than you think.

There are some common dynamics that take place by these “feet finders.”

  1. A great need- “desperation”
  2. To emphasize one’s need and true condition
  3. To ask for a healing (for self or family)
  4. To honor Jesus as God
  5. To worship more authentically
  6. To be more receptive to His teaching
  7. To witness to others

“Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them.”

Matthew 15:30, NIV

“In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet.”

Mark 7:25

“And the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.”

Luke 8:35

In fact, there are several other instances where people came to Jesus’ feet.

  • Mark 5:22-23, Jairus, a leader in the local synagogue
  • Luke 7:37-38, a sorrowing mother for her daughter
  • Luke 8:41, also Jairus
  • Luke 10:39, Mary, when Jesus was teaching
  • John 11:32, Mary, meeting Jesus entering Bethany
  • John 12:3, Mary, with her perfume
  • Revelation 1:17, John to express what he was seeing (also 19:10)

In every case we find people consciously coming and kneeling at the feet of the Lord Jesus. It was a deliberate action coming from their hearts. Each had a need, custom built for this precise moment in time.

One of the classic scenes in the Gospels is when Mary meets Jesus. She doesn’t understand His delay, she is grieving and confused. But she only has one posture and one place in her heart to be– at the feet!

“When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

John 11:32

Being at the feet is not supposed to be a mindless exercise. She maintains her issues with Jesus re: Lazarus. But this questioning came from her knees. The issues could never take the place of her love and her honor. But I think she is an example of how our problems can coincide with a real faith.

One might say that she had every right to take up an issue of incompetence and neglect with Jesus. Much should be made of the fact that Jesus been briefed on Lazarus’ illness much earlier. And yet He purposefully delayed going to Bethany. Maybe Jesus never responds to crisis; but people in need.

To be honest with you, I have my own occasional controversies with God. I have gone through hard things that really needed His attention. I have cried and begged to no avail. I’ve tried to negotiate and manipulate and it doesn’t work.

But even there, there is found a place for me at His feet. It is where I belong. I love Him.

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Overcoming Fear of Death [GotQuestions.org]

Question: “How can I overcome the fear of death? How can I stop being scared of dying?”

Answer: Even the most secure, devout believer can have occasions when they fear death. It is hard-wired into our systems to avoid death. And death was not an original part of God’s plan for His creation. We were made to be whole and holy, living in paradise in communion with Him. The introduction of death was a necessary response to the admittance of sin into the world. It is a grace that we die. If we didn’t, we would have to live in a sinful world for all eternity.

Knowing that in your head doesn’t necessarily counteract the visceral reaction to the thought of your own mortality. The fragility of our physical bodies and the sudden cessation of life are violent reminders of our lack of control in a large, dangerous world. We do have a great hope, that He Who is in us is greater than he who is in the world (1 John 4:4). And He did go to prepare a place for us so that we can join Him (John 14:2). But it might help to consider the more immediate, practical considerations we’re faced with.

Beginning with, what is the actual fear? There are several aspects of death that can potentially cause fear. Fortunately, God has an answer for each of them.

Fear of the unknown
What exactly does it feel like to die? What can you see as your life leaves your physical body? How will it come about? Is it anything like people have reported—a bright light? A group of relatives?

No one knows for certain what it feels like, but the Bible does describe what happens. 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 and Philippians 1:23 say that when we leave our body, we are at home with the Lord. What a reassuring thought! We will stay in this state until Christ comes and resurrects the believers (1 Corinthians 15:20-226:14) when we will be given a new, glorified body.

Fear of loss of control
By the time humans reach adulthood, they have a pretty good idea how to interact with the world around them. They know how to find what they need, get to where they want to be, and interact with others in a way that fulfills their intent.

Many though, even those who profess a trust in God, are so fearful of not getting what they need that they feel they have no choice but to manipulate their surroundings and the people around them to their benefit. We have all met men and women who abuse and grasp out of fear. They don’t trust God to provide for their needs, so they take care of things themselves. They don’t trust others to give them consideration, so they demand what they think they need.

How much more they must fear the loss of control upon their deaths. As Jesus said to Peter, describing how he would die, “Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to gird yourself and walk wherever you wished; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will gird you, and bring you where you do not wish to go” (John 21:18). Before Peter got this warning, he denied Jesus out of fear. Directly after, he reacted by demanding to know how John was going to die. But after Jesus returned to heaven, Peter took the gift of the Holy Spirit and became a new person—one whose passion for Christ’s message far out-stripped his need to control his surroundings (Acts 5:17-42). The Holy Spirit alone gave him the strength to face whatever challenges he might face.

Fear for those left behind
The Christian view of death is “separation.” Ultimate death is separation from God. With physical death, we will be separated from our loved ones on Earth for a time. If they are also Christians, we know that the separation will be a short blink of an eye compared to the eternity we’ll spend with them in heaven. If they are not Christians, that will not be the case. Our commission, then, becomes to use this time together to talk to them about where they will go when they die. Ultimately, however, the decision rests with them. Just as God gives them the room to choose, we must also.

Fear of the act of dying. Few of us know how we will die. Quick and painless, in our sleep, a long drawn out illness—the mystery of it, the inability to prepare, can be frightening. If we do know, if we’ve been diagnosed with a terminal illness, it can still be scary.

But it is only a moment. A moment nearly everyone has gone through or will go through. And, when that moment is over, we can claim Philippians 3:20-21: “But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ, who, by the power that enables him to bring everything under his control, will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body.

Often, being informed and actively participating can help assuage fear. You can take steps to prepare yourself and those around you.

Overcoming the fear of death – Practical steps
Many people believe they shouldn’t die because they have too much to live for. Often, this means they have responsibilities and unfinished business that wouldn’t be taken care of if they were gone. But having people and things you are responsible for won’t keep you from dying if it’s your time. Doing what you can to make sure they’re seen to can alleviate fear.

If you have a business or children or other dependents, consider their care. Decide who will take over your role and work with that person to come up with a plan. Look into a will or a trust. Make sure all of your necessary paperwork is organized and easy to find. Reconcile broken relationships before you’re unable to. But don’t live for dying. There’s a difference between taking reasonable steps and obsessing.

Overcoming the fear of death – Physical steps
If you have strong feelings about what you want to happen to you should you become incapacitated, express them now. It’s entirely possible that during the course of an illness or injury, you’ll lose control over the situation and be unable to make your wishes known. Get a living will. Let those closest to you know what you want—or at least tell them where it’s written down. Choose someone you trust to be authorized to make decisions for you should you become unable.

Overcoming the fear of death – Spiritual steps
These are all steps to keep up responsibilities or maintain a measure of control in the worldly realm, but they don’t get to the meat of the matter. The most important thing to remember regarding death is the truth about life. You love your family and care for them, but God loves them more. You may worry about your Earthly legacy, but God’s more concerned with a kingdom perspective. All the paperwork in the world won’t bring the peace of mind of once simple action: abide.

In the middle of living this life, with these people, in this world, it’s difficult to keep in mind that this is just a temporary condition, and not a very good one at that. 1 John 2:15-17 says, “Do not love the world nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life, is not from the Father, but is from the world. The world is passing away, and also its lusts; but the one who does the will of God lives forever.” How we remember this is by abiding (1 John 2:24). Staying in the truth of His Word, believing what He says about us and the world around us, will give us the proper perspective regarding this life and the one we will receive.

When we are able to keep that kingdom perspective, we’ll be able to fulfill 1 John 3:1-3: “See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are, for this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.” It will be so evident that we do not belong in this world that others will see it, too. We will so take ownership of our position as children of God that we will actively seek the day we can be like Christ and see Him as He is.

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Recommended Resource: One Minute After You Die, Updated Edition by Erwin W. Lutzer.

This is derived from a wonderful site– gotquestions.org. I rarely share something this bold or lengthy but this sort of connected and so I simply pass on what I’ve received. No editing, crimping or adjusting.

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Becoming a Part of What is Really Real

 

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“Six days later, three of them saw that glory. Jesus took Peter and the brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain. His appearance changed from the inside out, right before their eyes. Sunlight poured from his face. His clothes were filled with light.”

Matthew 17:1-2, The Message

These three disciples belonged to the inner circle of our Lord’s friends. There must have been something in them that peculiarly endeared them to Him. We know that Peter was a leader among the apostles, and also a bold confessor; that John was “the disciple whom Jesus loved;” and that James was the first of the band to die as a martyr.

It is very encouraging to look at Peter who was admitted to such high privileges; a man with so many faults, who made so many mistakes, who even at the last shamefully denied Christ, and yet we remember that he was one of our Lord’s closest friends. It gives encouragement to us that, with all our faults, we may yet be very dear to Christ.

It does not seem so strange that John was allowed to enter the inner circle. His disposition was gentle and amiable, very much like the Master’s. Yet it is probable that John owed his sweetness and gentleness of character to his being with Jesus. It could be he was not always a man of love.

rose-little1There is a Persian fable of a piece of clay made fragrant by lying on a rose; the perfume of the rose passed into the clay. So it probably was with John. He crept into his Master’s bosom, and lay close to His heart; and his Master’s spirit of love and gentleness passed into his life and transformed it. Thus we have a lesson, too, from John: constant and loving communion with Christ will change us into His likeness.

The lesson from this choosing of three out of the whole band for peculiar privileges is that while Jesus loves all His friends, there are certain ones whom He takes into closer confidence than the others. There are degrees of nearness to Him, even in this world. Should we not strive to be among those who, by disposition and by service, win their way to the closest places? We must remember that those who serve most are chiefest. –JRM

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kyrie elesion, Bryan

(Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner)
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The Tabloids Were Scandalous!

scandalous‘Scandalizing is celebrated openly today. We’ll manipulate and defame so all will pretty much see our enemies as disgraceful or hypocritical. It makes me want to cry when I hear of this intimidation inside the Church. Jesus told us that this would really, truly happen. We shouldn’t be at all disturbed. To be hurt this way is very much part of being his disciple.

In Matthew 11:2-6, 2 Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples 3 and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 

4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Offended. The word in our Greek N.T. is “skandalon.” It’s used in many ways, but the most amazing one is defined as, “the trigger of a trap, to kill an animal. To be the trap wire or stick used to catch prey; a snare.” We have the word scandalous, or to be involved in a vicious manipulation, scandal. Another metaphor is that it’s like the “fly paper” that’s hung up in the barn to catch those big nasty flies. 

Jesus dug up his dictionary, and chose this very specific word to communicate what he wanted. Of men and women, boys and girls caught in something they can’t get out of without help. John the Baptist, languishing in a dark place, wants to understand Jesus. John seems to expect Jesus to hop on a white stallion, and forcefully exert his messianic role.

Jesus will send his message. “You’re blessed indeed, if you do not stumble” (or get trapped) by the misconceptions. John confined in Herod’s dungeon, would be meticulously praised by Jesus. The Lord honors his own openly.

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It is easy to take up offense, (whether right or wrong.) When we hear a message causing shock, anger, repulsion, or disgust; that is a pretty good indicator that you are being “scandalized.” And turn-around is fair play. We might be the scandalizer, or the victim. It happens all the time.

Are you trapping– or are you trapped? Either way we need to stop it. We can’t continue to trip others up– nor can we allow others to foist their trap on us either. The Gospel regards itself as a ‘stumbling block. For some agnostics’, Jesus is someone they keep tripping over. But for the believer, Jesus is a ‘climbing up’ stone!

Worship is the finest defense. People who stumble, or cause another to stumble are usually…

  • grim,
  • guilty,
  • and grouchy.

They become graceless and sterile in the important matters of the heart. They become rigid and bitter.

The man or woman who stands up for their faith, and who doesn’t fall away or let their zeal ‘leak away,’ is incredibly blessed. God however is ready to forgive all those who backslide and then repent, but is especially pleased with those– like John, who hold firm to the faith.

 

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Mending Your Nets

The Ancient Tools of Net Mending (Still Used Today)

“And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them.”

Matthew 4:21, ESV

“And immediately they left their nets and followed him.”

Mark 1:18

Fishing takes considerable effort. There is always something that needs to be done. To be honest, there is very little relationship between the 1st century commercial fisherman and our modern day guy on a new bass boat (with a big fridge for his beer.)

To mend nets was tedious but necessary. You would take your net and spread it on the ground in a open space. Every knot would be carefully examined. All holes would be repaired. Nothing was overlooked. Fishing nets were painstakingly maintained. Everyday, without fail.

Fish would school, and if your gear was right, and you were in a prime place, you could catch a lot. But at the same time, you could let hundreds of fish escape through a hole in your net. Each fish that escaped meant money lost.

Jesus walking along the beach surveyed the boats and crews. Since most of these guys had worked through the night, they were tired and maybe a bit “punchy.” Some had gotten somewhat lucky, while others had very little to show for working so hard. Most likely the different crews teased each other as they unloaded.

Jesus walked through the bunches of fisherman. He looked at their hauls to see what they had caught. But it wasn’t the catch He was looking at, it was the men. It was from these laboring fishermen that He would choose. These men were rough and tumble rednecks.

He stands and looks, and then commands. “You! Come and follow me, now.”

Now if you are looking for disciples– future apostles and leaders, the seashore is not the best place to recruit. They really have a rudimentary education. No theology, and just a meager understanding of Jewish ritual and religion. Essentially there was no time for them to think outside their occupation. Sure there just might be one, or two that possessed more, but that would be the exception.

But Jesus had no desire to interview them, and take the best of the lot. He didn’t have a Human Resources Department, there were no tests, and no forms that had to list references. He simply commanded, and those who understood followed. Only after they left it all did He get their names and addresses. I think that it is the same today.

Will we leave our boat, with the nets? Really, you can keep mending or you can follow Him– it’s your choice. Most of the time though, decisions have a tendency to be irrevocable. You have a moment, an instant of time to decide. Mending nets can be back-breaking and quite tedious. But following the Lord Jesus is an unknown. Many choose to keep mending. Others are launched into something new, and eternally significant.

The glaring truth is the necessity of obedience to Jesus’ command. There is no other voice we must hear. As a matter of fact, hearing (and really apprehending) is the only foundation we can trust to make our obedience true. You can keep mending your nets and preparing for another night on the water. That is always your prerogative. But if you decide to follow you will need to leave what you know behind. That is authentic discipleship.

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Emails from Almighty God

eat fresh bible

Often, we will benefit from reading the Word in a fresh new way. We approach it much in the same way every time, and we just as often will get the same sense. But the Bible is alive, and it will declare to us its vitality and relevance.

The author of the letter will determine its value. If it’s coming from a Nigerian Lottery, you quickly dismiss it. From your grandparents, not so much. When we read we look for wisdom and joy, and peace for our souls. When you get an email from a close friend, you just want to find a place and time to sit and read. This is perhaps the first step. You don’t want to be distracted, but really just want to enjoy the read. If the letter is very good, we will save it to reread later.

We value the message when we seek to make it permanently available; printing it would the first step to that end. And memorizing it would be a next step, especially if the note was of a very important significance. Sometimes, you may read it out loud to others! The New Testament is the Church’s collection of letters which we deem as “inspired” to speak to us. These “emails” were saved and treasured as coming from the Spirit of God to us by association. they are infused with a a living presence, They can be like a sponge saturated with God Himself.

Some “letters” are read quickly– these are read in just 10 minutes or less.

  • 2 Thessalonians,
  • Titus,
  • Philemon,
  • Jude,
  • 2 & 3 John.

Others can be read in less than 20 minutes or so.

  • Galatians
  • Ephesians
  • Philippians,
  • Colossians,
  • 1 Thessalonians,
  • 1 & 2 Timothy,
  • James,
  • 1 & 2 Peter,
  • 1 John.

The following letters can be read in about an hour, or more.

  • Romans,
  • Hebrews,
  • 1& 2 Corinthians.

Trust and read, there is no other way…  Try other versions, or an old favorite. All are excellent, if the Holy Spirit speaks to you. (I’m reading the NLT– the New Living Version, lately.) But I do remind myself, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. 17 God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work.”

2 Timothy 3:16-17, NLT

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Alwyn Wall, Jano Wall and Tom Hooper at Calvary Chapel Melbourne, Florida, playing “Fool’s Wisdom.”

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“The Bible is alive; it speaks to me. It has feet; it runs after me. It has hands; it lays hold of me!” – Martin Luther

“The Word of God is creative. It is a hammer that crushes the hardness of our insubordination. It is medicine that heals the broken-hearted. And it is light that gives us guidance and hope on our way.” — John Piper