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Monthly Archives: September 2012

WHEN YOU ARE MISUNDERSTOOD ! ~ 2 CORINTHIANS 1:12-2:4 ~

Are you guilty of assumicide?
That’s a word I discovered this week. It’s what happens when you make false assumptions about others so that you can portray them in the worst possible light. Michael Andrus says we do this all the time:

We are so prone to be suspicious. When we become offended or hurt, we immediately begin to look for evidence that someone did us wrong. I can’t tell you how many times I have done that in my marriage or in my parenting. But I can tell you how many times it’s been done to me; I keep track of those things. I’m being a bit facetious, but not much. It’s really amazing to me how often I am quick to assume that someone has it in for me (from the message “When Your Integrity Is Impugned”).

Assumicide leads to the death of relationships because we end up believing the worst about others. We’ve all been guilty of drawing wrong conclusions on the basis of tiny scraps of evidence:
He didn’t call back so he must not want to talk to me.
I think she’s trying to ignore me.
They never hire people like me.
That church is so unfriendly.
How could he be a Christian and act like that?
I saw her in a bar. She must have a drinking problem.
I’ll bet they are sleeping together.
He’s probably a jerk at home too.
I don’t like him. I don’t know why. I just don’t like him.
She’s full of herself.
You can’t trust someone who dresses like that.
He’s a hypocrite.
On the other hand, if you are the victim of assumicide, it’s very hard to fight back against false assumptions. Few things hurt more than being misunderstood by our close friends. The closer they are to us, the greater the pain. When that happens we discover a lot about ourselves. How we respond when we’ve been misunderstood tells a great deal about the depth of our Christian faith.

We’ve all been guilty of drawing wrong conclusions on the basis of tiny scraps of evidence. 

Our passage brings us face to face with a strange situation that at first glance doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal. The apostle Paul found himself in trouble with a church he had founded in the Greek seaport of Corinth. From Acts 18:1-18 we know that he spent 18 months in Corinth winning people to Christ and establishing the church. After he left a faction arose in the congregation that questioned his leadership. They challenged his authority, insinuated that he wasn’t a “real” apostle, attacked his character, and accused him of using the Corinthian church for his own gain. The troublemakers succeeded in turning most of the church against him.
And their chief complaint was this. Paul couldn’t be trusted because he had changed his travel plans-not once but twice. He hadn’t come back to visit the Corinthians as he said he would. That proved he was a fickle man whose character and message could not be trusted.
Just remember this. It started over something small. That’s how it usually happens. Someone didn’t greet us in the hallway, they didn’t answer our email, they didn’t invite us to their party, they didn’t show up for an appointment. Or we heard they said something negative about us. Or they didn’t laugh at our jokes. Or they suddenly seem cold when they used to be glad to see us.
Little things.
Small stuff.
Petty complaints.
From a tiny spark of discontent a mighty flame of unhappiness grows. That flame soon becomes a wildfire that threatens to destroy a relationship. Congregations have split and friendships have ended over things that started very small but grew all out of proportion.
Let’s check out this passage to see how Paul responded to a misunderstanding that threatened to destroy a friendship and a local church.

I. Our Actions May Be Questioned.

From a careful reading of 1 and 2 Corinthians it appears that Paul made three different decisions about his trip to Corinth:
1. He planned to go to Macedonia and then to Corinth. We find that in 1 Corinthians 16:5-7. He plans to pass through Macedonia and hopes to spend the winter with them in Corinth. He doesn’t want it to be a brief visit but a longer time so that he can minister to them. He qualifies it all by saying “if the Lord permits” (1 Corinthians 16:7). But that trip never took place.

From a tiny spark of discontent a mighty flame of unhappiness grows. 

2. He later planned to go to Corinth, then to Macedonia, and then back to Corinth. He mentions this in 2 Corinthians 1:15-16“I planned to visit you first so that you might benefit twice” (v. 15).
3. Finally, he decided to postpone his trip altogether. “I decided that I would not bring you grief with another painful visit” (2 Corinthians 2:1).
What’s going on here? That question is hard to answer because we don’t have all the details regarding the trouble that threatened to overwhelm the church in Corinth. But this much is clear. Paul’s opponents used his changing plans as a way to attack his credibility. “See, you can’t trust him. He calls himself an apostle, he says he’s coming but he never shows up.”
Well, that is a problem, isn’t it? Keeping your word is hugely important for all us, but especially for spiritual leaders. It’s all about integrity, consistency, proving yourself trustworthy, showing up on time, and doing what you said you would do. If people feel like they can’t count on you, how will they ever listen to what you have to say?
Paul’s answer comes in three parts:
1. My conscience is clear (v. 12).
2. 
I haven’t hidden anything from you (v. 12).
3. 
I haven’t tried to deceive you (v. 13).
In his comments on this passage, William Barclay says we might add a new beatitude to the list: “Blessed is the man who has nothing to hide.” Sometimes all you can do is to simply speak the truth about your own heart. If that’s not enough, talking for hours isn’t likely to make a difference. In times of trouble I have often prayed this way, “Lord, let your will be done and let the truth come out.” That prayer satisfies the heart because it is a prayer for God’s will to be done, not my will. I usually have an idea of how I think things should work out, but my ideas do not equal God’s will. So in praying that prayer, I am implicitly admitting that my understand is flawed, that I see things from my point of view, and that God’s will is very likely to be different from my own perception. And it’s a prayer that God will bring the truth out by any means he chooses.

II. Our Words May Be Twisted.

Paul doesn’t try to hide his change of plans. It’s true that he had changed his mind several times, but whether or not the Corinthians could understand it, his only concern was for their welfare (“Not that we lord it over your faith, but we work with you for your joy, because it is by faith you stand firm” 2 Corinthians 1:24). He wanted to come and see them but only if his visit would bring about healing and spiritual growth.

“Blessed is the man who has nothing to hide.” 

But what about the charge that he is inconsistent? Did he just say “Yes, yes” and then “No, no” just for the fun of it? (v. 17). Paul says, “Check out my message. It comes from God and he never changes. His message to us is always ‘Yes,’ and we his people say ‘Amen’ to all of God’s promises.” Everything God promises will come true.  As D. L. Moody said, “God never made a promise that was too good to come true.” Look at the amazing things God has done for us in Christ.
1. He anointed us (v. 21).
2. 
He sealed us (v. 22).
3. 
He gave the Holy Spirit as a deposit (v. 22).
He did this so that we might stand firm in Christ, never wavering, never blown away by the winds of adversity, never swept away by the changing tides of life. It happens that I am writing these words on a Sunday night. Two days ago Matt Chandler, pastor of the Village Church, a large multisite church in Dallas, underwent very serious surgery to remove a tumor from the right frontal lobe of his brain. I mention this in part because Matt is a rising star among the younger pastors in the United States. In just seven years he has led the Village Church from 150 to over 6000 in attendance. And he has done it with very strong preaching that is authentic, biblical, accessible, and drenched in the sovereignty of God. Before he went into surgery, Matt (who is only 35 years old) recorded a brief video that was played in all the services this weekend. You can watch it on the Internet. I would summarize it as a ringing statement of his confidence in God. After talking about Hebrews 11 and the life of faith with its glorious victories and its difficult trials, Matt says that he knows some people have always said, “What do you know about suffering?” But now he can speak directly to those people and say, “I am so glad he counted me worthy of this.” A man in his position might lose it all. There are no guarantees for him or for any of us when we go under the surgeon’s knife. Matt acknowledged that he and his wife wept and prayed together before the surgery. He has hugged his children and kissed them. And with what faith did he approach his surgery on Friday?

“I get to show that he is enough. I get to praise and exalt him and make much of him.”

“God never made a promise that was too good to come true.”  

He added that he would love to live to be 70 and drink coffee with his wife. He would love to walk his daughter down the aisle. He would love to see his son grow up.

“But none of those things is better than him.”

He closed by expressing his love for the church, and then he simply said,

“I am not afraid . . . My hope is that you would see that he is good in all things . . . He would never send us anything that he does not provide strength for.”

That’s a man standing firm in Christ. That’s the difference that comes from knowing Christ deeply and intimately and walking with him daily. That’s exactly the sort of foundation God wants to build in the lives of all his children.
What difference does it make to know all these things? It certainly matters when we face a life-changing crisis, but it matters just as much when we are misunderstood and our honorable words are twisted and our changing plans are made to appear sinister in some way.

My hope is that you would see that he is good in all things 

Some people will choose to misunderstand no matter what we say or do. To them we have no answer except to say, “Our conscience is clear. We have done what we could. And we rest our reputation with the Lord.

book graphic fade

RELATED BOOK
The Healing Power of Forgiveness
When we learn to forgive in the way
God – the Supreme Forgiver – forgives,
then well know true freedom, peace,
and emotional healing

We will never “stand firm” in our own strength when trouble comes our way. I’ve often said that “good theology will save your life,” and this passage amply proves it
Get to know the Lord.
Make God’s Word the standard for your life.
Rest in his love.
Revel in his righteousness.
Think about his greatness.
Give glory to his name.
When others twist your words, do not despair. Speak the truth, explain yourself clearly, and then entrust your future with the God who knows you through and through and in Christ who has anointed you, sealed you, given you the Holy Spirit, and promised to guide you.
If we trust in him, the time of chaos will pass, and we will be stronger for having gone through the struggle.

III. Our Motives May Be Challenged.

His critics thought Paul was some sort of fickle, fly-by-night preacher, the kind who is always on a power trip, a control freak who enjoys having his acolytes sing his praises. When he didn’t show up when they expected him, what else could they conclude but that he didn’t love them?

If we trust in him, the time of chaos will pass, and we will be stronger for having gone through the struggle.  

To that Paul says, “I call God as my witness that it was in order to spare you that I did not return to Corinth” (v. 23). He stayed away so as not to have an angry confrontation. That’s why he made up his mind not to make another painful visit to them (2 Corinthians 2:1). He wrote them a tough letter (apparently lost to history) in which he boldly confronted his critics. Now he says, “I said what I needed to say and I wrote what I needed to write so I won’t do anything right now.” Then he adds a surprising revelation of his own heart for these young believers who viewed him with suspicion:
“For I wrote you out of great distress and anguish of heart and with many tears, not to grieve you but to let you know the depth of my love for you” (v. 4).
As hard as it may be for some of us to hear, we can’t always solve every problem in the world.
Some people won’t listen.
Some people love to argue.
Some people have already made up their minds.
Some people have an answer for everything.
Evidently that was the situation in Corinth. Because the church was so rent with factions, and because Paul had already sent them a very stern and painful letter, writing with tears streaming down his face, and because he knew the situation was inflamed, he decidednot to come to Corinth.

We can’t always solve every problem in the world.  

Talk about countercultural wisdom from the Lord. Paul knew that his personal presence in Corinth at that moment and in that situation would only make things worse. This isn’t a blanket rule for every time and place. It’s a principle to keep in mind. Sometimes you need to meet and hash it out. Sometimes you need to back off, give people space, give them time to think and pray and discuss, and give the Holy Spirit time to soften hearts.
I’m fascinated by the way this passage ends. Speaking of the difficult letter he wrote to the Corinthian church, he says, “I wrote that letter in great anguish, with a troubled heart and many tears. I didn’t want to grieve you, but I wanted to let you know how much love I have for you” (2 Corinthians 2:4).
It was a hard letter that Paul didn’t want to write.
It was a hard letter that the Corinthians didn’t want to read.
But he did and they did.
Here’s the mind-blowing part. He wrote the letter so they would know how much he loved them. I’m not sure they “felt the love” as they read his stern words. But love must be both tough and tender. In this case, Paul’s tough letter proved how much he loved them. If I shout at my son, “Watch out!” to keep him from being hit at a car, do I love him or do I hate him? I love him so much that I will risk raising my voice and scaring him in order to save his life. That’s love just as much as hugging my son and saying, “I love you.”

Love must be both tough and tender.

So now Paul decides to wait for God to work. In order not to stir up trouble, he decides not to come to Corinth at this moment. Here we see true Christian maturity at work. He has no desire to stir them up further. He only wants to share in their joy when he does come. And he does plan to visit. He says so in verse 2 (“when I do come”).
But for the moment he will wait.
Waiting can be hard, perhaps the hardest discipline of the Christian life. When I look back at the mistakes I’ve made in the ministry, many of them have come because I would not wait. Too many times I’ve jumped in like the proverbial bull in a china shop, trying to fix everything according to my own vision of right and wrong. This is not an argument for apathy or disinterest but rather an argument for “active waiting,” which is what David meant when he said, “Refrain from anger and turn from wrath;  do not fret-it leads only to evil” (Psalm 37:8).
If God is God, he can be trusted to do right.
But he doesn’t work on my timetable.
It’s worth noting what Paul doesn’t do in this passage:
He doesn’t avoid the problem.
He doesn’t call names.
He doesn’t assume motives.
In short, he doesn’t commit assumicide. He doesn’t do to his critics what they had done to him. He simply and clearly explains himself, his change of plans, and in the process he reveals his heart to his readers. That’s all any man can do in a situation like this.

When I look back at the mistakes I’ve made in the ministry, many of them have come because I would not wait. 

How to Respond to Misunderstanding

Let’s wrap up this message with a few points of application:
1. Sometimes we will be misunderstood by our close friends. Paul clearly loved the Corinthians and knew them well. And they clearly knew him well. Yet a rift had grown between them. The same thing happens in marriage, in families, among friends and co-workers, and it certainly happens in every church. If you haven’t been misunderstood lately, don’t worry. It’s bound to happen before long. That’s part of the price of living in a fallen world. What happened to Paul happens to all of us sooner or later.
2. The best defense is an honest, clear, non-defensive explanation. Remember Joe Friday from the old Dragnet TV series? He was famous for saying, “Just the facts, Ma’am.” Paul doesn’t complain, doesn’t blame, and doesn’t point fingers. He isn’t long-winded. He lays out his explanation so his readers can decide for themselves why he had not come back to Corinth.
3. We can’t control how people respond to us. Rarely will our explanations convince everyone. Sometimes even our close friends will choose not to believe us. At some point we must decide to leave our reputation in God’s hands and walk away from the controversy. “If you live to please people, misunderstandings will depress you; but if you live to please God, you can face misunderstandings with faith and courage” (Warren Wiersbe).

At some point we must decide to leave our reputation in God’s hands and walk away from the controversy.  

4. Pray for those who misunderstand you. In Sunday School recently our teacher exhorted us about reaching out to the “lepers” around us, the people who cause us difficulty or pain, the folks we normally avoid as much as possible. Then he asked, “Who are the lepers in your life?” An uncomfortable silence filled the room. No one wanted to answer that question. Finally a man spoke up and said there were some people he found it difficult to be around. Referring to the call to reach out to the “lepers,” he commented, “That’s good preaching but hard living.” Very true. It’s easy to say “Love the people who misunderstand you,” it’s hard to put it into practice. But we must do it anyway.
5. We must not return evil for evil. This is also hard, especially when your motives are repeatedly attacked. But in this we are to be like our Lord who when he was reviled did not return evil for evil. When he faced the shouting crowd, he did not trade insults, he did not try to get even, and he did not make accusations. I submit to you that this is not a natural way to live. When we are insulted, our natural inclination is to return an insult for an insult. But Jesus chose another way. As the old spiritual puts it, “He never said a mumblin’ word.” “As a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He opened not His mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). When he stood before Pilate and Herod, and when he faced the jeering mob, he uttered no insults, he made no threats.

When they swore at Jesus, he didn’t swear back.

When they scourged him, he didn’t retaliate.
When the soldiers pushed the crown of thorns on his head, he didn’t curse at them.
When they drove the nails in his hands and feet, he didn’t threaten them.
When the bystanders spat at him, he didn’t spit back.
When they swore at him, he didn’t swear back.
This will happen to you too. And that’s the real test of your faith. You find out what you really believe when others mistreat you.Sometimes the real test of your faith is what you don’t do. Sometimes you’ll be a better Christian by not saying anything at all.
What was his secret? How did he do it? The answer lies in the final phrase of 1 Peter 2:23, “He entrusted himself to him who judges justly.” In our day we hear lots of talk about claiming our rights. That spirit comes into the church and we hear people getting angry and saying, “How dare you trample on my rights?” Most of our problems stem from claiming our rights. But the Bible turns that upside down. You aren’t to think of your rights first. You are to think of others first.

Sometimes the real test of your faith is what you don’t do.  

When you are misunderstood, repeat these four sentences:
It’s not about me. It’s not about now.
It’s all about God. It’s all about eternity.

As you read these words, I encourage you to stop right now and say those four sentences out loud. Write them down on a card, and put the card where you can see it. Try repeating those sentences every day for a week so that the truth will be tattooed on your soul.
The followers of Jesus will sometimes be misunderstood not only by the world but by other Christians. May God give us the spirit of Jesus that we might walk in his steps.

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Posted by on September 11, 2012 in #BIBLE, #CHRISTIAN, #FAITH, #GOSPEL, #LIVING, #TRIALS

 

WHY IS LIFE SO HARD ? ~ 2 CORINTHIANS 1:1-11 ~

The call came at about 10:30 P.M. Someone had died. Would I please call the family? Before I could pick up the phone, the mother called me. Her son had taken drugs and had died earlier that evening. As I got dressed to go to the home, I wondered what I would say. When I got there everyone was milling around in a state of confusion. At length, the mother took me aside and through her tears asked me the inevitable question, the question I had known was coming. Why? Why did God let this happen to my son?
It was not the first time I have had no satisfactory answer to that question, and it won’t be the last. For when you look at the questions of life and death, and when you consider the problems of this death-sentenced generation, even the most fervent believer looks up to the heavens and cries out, Why? Why me? Why now? Why this?
Why? The question rings across the centuries and through every generation. All of us ask it sooner or later. If you haven’t yet, you will. It’s a question that does not admit of an easy answer. Indeed, the most godly believers have sometimes wondered about the ways of God. And if Job never got a complete answer, what can I expect? As I read the Bible, I don’t think there is one single answer to that question.

An Unexpected Answer

But there are answers. And men and women of faith have found them true throughout the centuries. One answer tucked away in the Bible may surprise you. It is found in a New Testament book we don’t read very much: Second Corinthians. In the first verses of the first chapter, we discover a perspective on the heartaches of life that may help us. After a brief greeting to his readers (vv. 1-2) in which Paul (along with Timothy) wishes grace and peace to his readers in Corinth and throughout the surrounding region, he immediately begins to talk about the comfort he had received in the midst of much hardship he had endured as an apostle of Jesus Christ. Verses 3-11 set the stage for the whole book by plainly saying that no matter what he had suffered, it was more than worth it.
Here we learn right up front an important principle for all of life. It’s not what happens to us that matters; it’s how we react that makes all the difference. Years ago a friend told me, “When hard times come, be a student, not a victim.” Think about that for a moment.

Be a student, not a victim. 

Be a student, not a victim.
A victim says, “Why did this happen to me?”
A student says, “What can I learn from this?”
A victim believes his hard times have come because God is trying to punish hm.
A student understands that God allows hard times in order to help him grow.
A victim believes God has abandoned him.
A student sees God’s hand in everything, including the worst moments of life.
That’s the true Christian position. We believe so much in the sovereignty of God that when hard times come, we believe-no, we know!-that God is at work somehow, somewhere, in some way for our good and his glory. Paul says as much in Romans 8:28. As he begins this letter to the Corinthians, he spells out the same truth in a slightly different way. Here we discover how affliction works four positive benefits for us.

I. It Draws Us Closer to the Lord. 

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.” (vv. 3-5).
There is a divine purpose at work in your life and in mine, and that divine purpose begins with God. Paul calls him the “Father of compassion.”  I learned about this many years ago. When our oldest son was still an infant, he often didn’t want to go to bed at night. We would put him in his crib, and then Marlene would go to bed exhausted from the cares of the day. About thirty minutes later Joshua would begin to cry. I would roll over in bed and put the pillow over my head, hoping that the noise would go away. Eventually I would go to Joshua’s room and pick him up. Holding him with his head on my shoulder, I would walk around the house singing to him. Sometimes I would sing familiar songs, and sometimes it would be “Good little boys don’t cry, cry, cry.” We would walk back and forth through the night. I wasn’t a good singer by any means, but my singing seemed to help settle him down. After thirty or forty-five minutes, Joshua would finally fall asleep. I would put him back to bed and go back to bed myself. Now I’m not a perfect father, but I would do that for my son. Would God do any less for me? No, he would do far more. He is a Father of Compassion.
Notice what verse 4 says: “Who comforts us in all our troubles” (italics added). That means that when I am sick, he is there by my bedside. When I run out of money, he is there with me in my poverty. When I am hated and despised, he stands by my side. And when I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, he takes me by the hand and he leads me on through.

When I am sick, he is there by my bedside. 

We never discover the depth of God’s compassion until we get in a place where we need God’s compassion desperately. You don’t receive mercy until you are in real trouble. During a dinner conversation with another couple, the husband mentioned that he had been diagnosed with a very serious form of cancer. As sometimes happens, the cancer came despite the fact that he kept himself in very good physical condition. It started with a pain that seemed like a pulled muscle. When the doctor made the cancer diagnosis, my friend was told that he was almost at Stage 4. After a harrowing round of chemotherapy, he seems to be in remission. But it’s the sort of cancer that often comes back so you never feel totally at ease. When I asked how the cancer had impacted him spiritually, he said that now he feels more relaxed. Things that used to bother him don’t bother him as much. Cancer, it seems, has clarified the priorities of his life. He also remarked that he has become a much stronger believer in the sovereignty of God, that God is in control of all things, right down to the tiniest details of life. He concluded by saying, “I’ve come to see that sickness can sometimes be a blessing.”
The Apostle Paul would no doubt agree. Cancer is not easy or fun and it is not “good” in and of itself. But cancer can be the channel for much good if in your sickness you figure out what matters and what doesn’t. And it will be a very deep blessing if through your sickness you discover that God’s comfort is greater than your sorrow.
And that comfort leads on to the second benefit from our affliction . . .

II. It Equips Us to Minister to Others.

“If we are distressed, it is for your comfort and salvation; if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which produces in you patient endurance of the same sufferings we suffer. And our hope for you is firm, because we know that just as you share in our sufferings, so also you share in our comfort” (vv. 6-7).
Paul looked at his sufferings– the hardship, deprivation, imprisonment, the unrelenting opposition he faced, and he concluded, “This isn’t just for me. God is doing something in me for the benefit of others.”
We never suffer alone.
Someone else is always watching. Our friends watch to see how we will respond to tragedy. They want to know if what we say we believe is really enough for us in the hard times.  And further in the distance, others watch what we go through. Many of them are unbelievers who wonder if Christ is real. They don’t know, they aren’t sure, maybe they’ve read the Bible, maybe they haven’t, but they’re watching how we respond to mistreatment, malicious accusations, sickness, the loss of a job, the end of our marriage, a career setback, a financial collapse, and from the shadows they peer out to watch the suffering saint to see if what he has is real or not.

“I’ve come to see that sickness can sometimes be a blessing.” 

That’s exactly what Paul is talking about. Our afflictions soften our hearts so that when we have received the comfort of God, it is easy for us to pass it along to someone else. Oh, how we need this in the church of Jesus Christ. It is so easy to be callous. It is so convenient to be unkind. It is so easy to look down our noses at weaker brothers and sisters who go through hard times. We say so carelessly, “Why don’t they just get tough? Why don’t they show some backbone? Why don’t they quit complaining and get on with life? Why can’t they be strong like the rest of us?” God lets us go through hard times to break us of that attitude and soften us so that we are able to minister in the name of Jesus Christ to other hurting people.
Chuck Colson went to prison and out of that harrowing experience he founded Prison Fellowship. Joni Erickson Tada was paralyzed during a diving accident and out of her suffering came a worldwide ministry to the hurting called Joni and Friends. This should not surprise us because the Lord’s strongest weapons are forged on the anvil of adversity.
This mighty principle answers many questions. Many of us have hardened places in our lives that will not become tender until we go through the fires of affliction. God lets that happen so that we might reach out to others and comfort them.
Our affliction produces a third benefit . . .

III. It Empties Us of All Self-Reliance.

“We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about the hardships we suffered in the province of Asia. We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life. Indeed, in our hearts we felt the sentence of death. But this happened that we might not rely on ourselves but on God, who raises the dead. He has delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will continue to deliver us” (vv. 8-10).
We don’t know the exact nature of the hardships Paul suffered in Asia (modern-day Turkey). It might have been extreme opposition from the Jewish leaders. It might have been some sort of serious physical ailment. Whatever it was, the Corinthians knew about it and they understood that Paul thought during his ordeal that he was going to die. He writes to tell of God’s deliverance and to ask the Corinthians for their prayers.

It is so easy to be callous.  

When tragedy strikes or when hard times come or when friends turn against us or when the bottom drops out of life, we wonder why things happen the way they do. Here we find one important explanation. Hard times come to teach us not to trust in ourselves but only in the Lord who raises the dead. Most of us are adept at handling the “moderate” problems of life. We can deal with cranky children or a prickly boss or a bad case of the flu or a pile of work that gets dumped on our desk. We understand normal pressures and we learn how to deal with them. But sometimes things happen that “strip the gears” of life and force us to our knees and sometimes all the way down so that we are flat on the ground. At that point, when all human options are foreclosed, our only hope is the Lord. We cry out to God in desperation, knowing that if he doesn’t help us, we’re sunk. That’s a lesson we have to learn over and over again.
There is one final thing that affliction does for us . . .

Most of us are adept at handling the “moderate” problems of life.  

IV. It Reveals the True Power of Prayer.

“As you help us by your prayers. Then many will give thanks on our behalf for the gracious favor granted us in answer to the prayers of many” (v. 11).
I love that phrase, “You help us by your prayers.” Paul uses a Greek word that occurs only here in the New Testament. It’s a compound word that comes from three other words meaning “with,” “under,” and “work.” It what the Amish do when they have a barn raising. They literally get under the frame, lifting it up together, and holding it up so that it can put in the right place. In the same way we join together and lift the burdens of life as we pray for each other.
Many times we view prayer as the last resort when it ought to be the first resort. I know that prayer sometimes seems futile because we think we need to “do something.” Praying is fine, but how about if we bake a cake? Well, that’s fine too. But don’t fall into the trap of separating life into the “spiritual” and the “practical,” as if baking a cake is “real help” while prayer is just something spiritual we do when we can’t do anything else. Very nearly the opposite is true. Through prayer we unleash the power of heaven for the problems we face on the earth. So we ought to pray more, not less in times of trouble.
An email arrived from a friend whose child has suddenly been diagnosed with an extremely rare form of cancer that seemed to come out of nowhere.

Two weeks ago, we thought she had a hernia.  This has all been very unreal and we are leaning heavily on God and all the people He has placed around us to support us as we walk this road.

Knowing that others are praying for us gives us strength to keep going. God has ordained that our prayers matter. Pause over that thought for a moment.
Our prayers matter.
It makes a difference whether or not we pray. Paul is saying, “When I thought I was going to die, you prayed and God delivered me.”We will never know until we get to heaven how many times the prayers of others rescued us. But I believe in that great day, when all the secrets are revealed, we will discover that we would have fallen but someone prayed for us. We would have given up but someone prayed for us. We would have made a stupid decision but someone prayed for us. We would have given in to temptation but someone prayed for us. We would have retaliated but someone prayed for us. We would have crumbled under pressure but someone prayed for us. When all is said and done, we will learn that God used the prayers of others to enable us to make the journey from earth to heaven, and we will discover that without those God-inspired prayers, we never would have made it.

Our prayers matter. 

I have a friend who pastors in a difficult area of the world where there is much opposition to the gospel. He has recently received some pressure from various officials about his ministry. When I wrote to tell him that many people were praying for him, he wrote back an email with his thanks. I will simply replicate the first and last sentences of that email (including the all-caps of the last sentence):

I am so honored to receive your 2 mails about loving and caring for me and my situation! Surely that touched my heart and my spirit greatly!

IN HIS LOVE THANK YOU ALL WHO ARE PRAYING FOR ME, AND YOU SHOULD KNOW THAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT HELP TO ME IN THIS SITUATION!

He is living out the truth of this passage.

Pebbles in the Water

We ought to pray for others, and we ought to give thanks together when our prayers are answered. When we pray, we join hands with God to bless others and to advance his cause on the earth. Through united prayer we knock holes in the darkness to let the light of Jesus shine in. This is why “the devil trembles when he sees, the weakest saint upon his knees.”

We would have given up but someone prayed for us. 

In many of my sermons I have commented that no one is exempt from the trials of life. Becoming a Christian is wonderful but it does not free you from the burdens of life. In many ways becoming a Christian may increase your troubles because of spiritual opposition you face. When hard times come, we only have two choices:
We can suffer with God, or
We can suffer without God.

That much I have said many times. But now I want to add something to that. When hard times come . . .
We can suffer by ourselves, or
We can suffer with the people of God.

As we receive comfort, we are equipped to minister to others. We then pass along to others what God has given to us. This is the very essence of Christianity.
From God
To us
To others

Have you ever gone to a pond out in the country and thrown a pebble into the water? What happens? From the point where the pebble enters the water, ripples spread out farther and farther. What starts as a ripple from one small pebble soon affects the whole pond. That’s a picture of what God is doing in your life. He comforts you in your trials so that you might comfort another who may comfort another who may comfort another. And the ripple effect spreads out from you to people you may never even meet.

From God to us to others 

Some believers never discover this truth. They are perpetual gripers when things get difficult. Life is never fair, they always get the short end of the stick, God has singled them out for punishment. Such people never have a ministry to others because they constantly fight against God’s perspective on their trials and remain tough and hardened when they ought to be soft and tender. As a result, they have nothing to pass along to anyone else.

Missionary Eyes

May I suggest one simple step of application? Many of us would like a personal ministry, but we don’t know where to begin. This passage suggests that our personal ministry begins as we share with others what God has shared with us. That means there are people in your life who need the help only you can give. Some of them need a word of encouragement, and you are the only one who can give them that word. Some of them are staggering beneath a heavy load, and you are the only one who can lift that burden from their shoulders. Some of them are about to quit, and you are the only one who can keep them in the race. Some of them have been hit with an incredible string of trials, and you are the only one who can help them keep going.

Pray that God will give you Missionary Eyes. 

Those people are all around you. Your only problem is that you don’t see them. Pray that God will give you Missionary Eyes. Those are eyes that see the real needs of the people you meet. Pray that God will bring at least one person across your path who needs the help only you can give. That’s a prayer God will answer, for there are folks all around you who are just barely making it. You see them where you work, and you live next door to them. Your children go to school with their children. They are out there waiting for someone to give them help. And we have experienced the goodness of the Lord. God has helped us for a purpose: that we might take what we have received and share it with those who desperately need it.
You may have heard the term “wounded healer.” We are all wounded with the failures of life and the burdens that weigh us down. And it is to wounded men and women that God has committed the great ministry of sharing his love with others.
Don’t waste your pain. Use it to grow closer to the Lord and to his people. Use it as a means to minister to others. May God raise up an army of “wounded healers” who will take the comfort they have received and in Jesus’ name offer it to a hurting, waiting, watching world. Amen.

 

THE GOD DEPENDENT LIFE ~ 2ND CORINTHIANS 3:4-6 ~

Do you know why God put you where you are right now?
That’s a tough question for some of us to answer. Have you wondered about that? Why has God put you right where you are right now? Do you think it happened by chance that you are single (or married), with children at home (or long since moved away), with a good job (or stuck in a bad situation)? Or is there a larger purpose at work in your life?
Let me ask that question from a completely different perspective. What will you have to show for your life when you stand before Jesus Christ?
A good job?
A college degree?
Money in the bank?
Lots of friends?
A large reputation?
A successful career?
The praise of others?
A winning record?
A bagful of awards?
Departmental chairman?
President and CEO?
If that’s all you’ve got to show for your life, then you really don’t have much going for you. Sooner than you think, you’ll be lying in a box six feet underground with grass growing over your head. And the things you worked so hard for won’t matter at all. Someone else will have your money and your job. Your fame will fade, your glory will disappear, and everything you now own will belong to others (and someone else will be sitting in your pew at church). You will eventually be forgotten except by those people who stumble on your gravestone 100 years from now and say, “I wonder who this guy was.”

What will you have to show for your life when you stand before Jesus Christ?  

Howard Hendricks said it this way: “Only two things in this world are eternal-the Word of God and people. It only makes sense to build your life around those things that will last forever.” The Word of God will last forever. People last forever. Everything else disappears.

The Missionary Village

It happens that I am writing these words at the SIM Missionary Village in Sebring, Florida. This week I’ve been speaking to a group of retired missionaries, most of whom spent 30 or 40 or 50 years on the mission field. And nearly all of them were in Africa, in countries like Nigeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, Liberia, Ethiopia and Ghana. Someone commented that most SIM missionaries have a stubborn streak about them. You have to have deep-down, gritty determination or you would never make it on the mission field. Being a missionary may seem a bit romantic but these dear folks (average age 83) would tell that while it pays to serve the Lord, there is nothing romantic about mission work.

Build your life around those things that will last forever. 

One day as I arrived at the chapel for the morning service, a short, wiry man with a crew cut told me how glad he was to hear my message that “God is not finished yet,” that there are multitudes yet to be saved who today are far from Christ but one day will come to the Lord. “I served in a Muslim country for 30 years,” he said. “We saw almost no converts.” That was true for many of the missionaries who served in Muslim lands in the 20th century. For various reasons Muslim evangelism has been very slow work, often encountering strong opposition.
But the man with the crew cut was smiling because, he said, thousands of Muslims are coming to Christ today through satellite TV that reaches into homes all over the Middle East. Because it comes in by satellite the various governments can do little to stop it. Many Muslims are not only hearing the Good News for the first time, they are responding to it. The man who told me this showed not a trace of regret for the 30 years he spent with almost no converts. He is rejoicing that he lived long enough to see God move in a mighty way in bringing Muslims to personal faith in Jesus Christ.

There is nothing romantic about mission work.  

What will that man have to show when he stands before Jesus Christ? He will be revealed in eternity as a great hero of the faith because his labors for Christ were not in vain. He (and hundreds like him) sowed the seed faithfully for the harvest that we see today.
What is the secret of a life like this? I assure you that it is not natural to spend 30 years as a missionary with few converts and yet still be cheerful and optimistic. In 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 the Apostle Paul offers a very simple explanation:
It’s all about God!
In fact he invokes all three Persons of the Trinity to show us how a God-centered, God-directed, God-saturated life functions. The first factor involves the source of confidence. It’s not about self-confidence or a positive self-image.

Confident Through Christ

“Such confidence as this is ours through Christ before God” (v. 4).
You can tell a lot about a man by the way he talks about himself. In ministerial circles we talk a lot about our degrees and where we went to school. We have the BA, the MA, the DMin and the PhD. Paul refused to play that game. He said things like, “I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength,” (Philippians 4:13 NLT) and “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me” (Gal 2:20 NIV). He even said that his own accomplishments were “dung” compared to knowing Christ (Philippians 3:8).
The words of James Denney ring true to me: “No man can give at once the impression that he himself is clever and that Jesus Christ is mighty to save.” You can impress people with your cleverness or you can impress them with Jesus, but you can’t do both.

You can tell a lot about a man by the way he talks about himself. 

Sufficient From God

“Not that we are competent in ourselves to claim anything for ourselves, but our competence comes from God” (v. 5).
This is an amazing statement coming from Paul , a brilliant man who was trained in the Old Testament, able to communicate in several languages, at home in Jerusalem, Athens and Rome, a Jew through and through and also a true follower of the Lord Jesus.  Surely if any man had reason to brag, it was PaulBut he says he is not even competent to make any claim for himself. Whatever good he has done, it all comes from God.
Charles Spurgeon (in his sermon “Not Sufficient, and Yet Sufficient”) speaks a powerful word when he says, “Trust no man who is self-sufficient.” He goes on to describe this sort of preacher:

Oh, yes, he can do it! It is easy to him to preach fine sermons. Bless you! He can do it at any time, and anywhere. He can convince and convert souls in any quantity. Did you read in the paper, “Glorious meeting! Eighteen souls out for salvation”? He was speaking that evening. He can fetch them. Certain other preachers doubt him; but that is all jealousy. He can do it – that he can. Let such a man go where pride is at home. Our lowly Lord will not have him.

Then he talks about the man our Lord prefers:

Christ’s men are more apt at weeping than at bragging: they feel their inability rather than their ability. The man who does everything for the Lord is the man who cannot do anything without the Lord. The man that knows he is nobody, God will make somebody

I think Paul would heartily agree. A man who has to tell you how great he is, how great can he really be? Greatness needs no introduction. When God does the introducing, all the world will take notice.

Empowered By the Spirit

“He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant-not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (v. 6).
The “new covenant” refers not to what we call the “New Testament” but to God’s eternal plan of salvation whereby he sends his Spirit to write his law in our hearts (Jeremiah 31:31-34). That’s the fundamental difference between the “letter” and the “Spirit.” Paul doesn’t mean to say that God’s law is bad or useless. Far from it. The law serves many good purposes. It restrains sin, shows us the way of holiness, and reveals to us our own sinfulness. But the law by itself can never change my heart. The law functions like a CAT scan that reveals my cancer but does nothing to cure it. The law can tell me “Do not commit adultery,” and if I fear the penalty, it may even keep me from committing adultery. But it can’t change my inner desires.

Greatness needs no introduction. 

For instance, the law tells me I must not drive while under the influence of alcohol. That’s a very good law that saves many lives. Now suppose I violate that law by driving while I’m drunk. And let’s further suppose that I’m pulled over by a highway patrolman who sees me weaving all over the road. He can give me a ticket and confiscate my license. The judge may order me to go to jail. Has the law in that case done its job? Yes. But there’s one thing the law can’t do. It can’t stop me from drinking and driving next weekend when I get out of jail. The law by itself is powerless to change my heart. It punishes but it cannot transform.
And here we see the vast difference the gospel makes. The Holy Spirit gives me new life and new desires. Now I am changed from the inside out. While trying to explain this to a class many years ago, I came up with a rather corny illustration. I took Hershey’s Kisses and labeled them with various Commandments: “Do not steal,” “Do not kill,” “Do not bear false witness,” “Do not covet,” “Do not commit adultery,” and so on. I asked a volunteer to stand in front of the class and stretch out his arms. Then I placed the Hershey’s Kisses on his arms and shoulders, signifying his outward obedience to the law of God. “Now try to move,” I said. When he did, the Hershey’s Kisses fell off, signifying his inability to keep those laws. Then I asked him to eat the candy, which he did with great relish. Now that the “law” was internalized, he could move about the room freely. That’s the difference the gospel makes. Under the old covenant, the harder you tried, the more you failed. Now in Christ the Holy Spirit lives within us, creating a new desire to obey the law from the heart.

Two Practical Applications

Let me suggestion two very practical lines of application for those who live the God-dependent life.

1. We will not brag.

Nothing is more unseemly than a minister who has to brag to prove his worth. If a man has to tell me repeatedly how much he is doing, how true can it be? Recently I’ve been reading a fine book for young pastors called Quiet Hints for Growing Preachers by Charles E. Jefferson. Written in the early 1900s, and out-of-print for many decades, the book contains some very practical advice for those just entering the pastorate. Near the end of the book, Jefferson writes a short chapter called “Eagles, Race-horses and Plodders,” in which he says that the minister must have a “genius for plodding” because so much of a pastor’s work is routine. He studies and prays and reads and visits and plans and organizes and visits some more. One day tends to blend into another. Many men, Jefferson says, cannot survive the pastoral routine. Some pastors constantly compare themselves to their (supposedly) lesser brethren:

They will lie about the size of their congregations and pad the roll of their church membership, and drop subtracting insinuations about the man ahead of them, and carry into the pulpit a heart full of envy and bitterness, and become a hypocrite as deep-stained and damnable as were the hollow-hearted miscreants at whom the Lord hurled thunderbolts nineteen centuries ago (p. 205).

It is a terrible thing, this temptation to brag about our size, to throw around numbers as if our worth is measured by the size of our Sunday School. I can say it is a terrible temptation because I have felt it and feel it still. We all have a need to prove ourselves, don’t we?And we are all constantly being measured, weighed, evaluated, and put on a scale somewhere in the great pecking order of life. We can’t escape this fully, and we certainly can’t stop others from judging us, ranking us, comparing us, and so on. But we can do this. We can remind ourselves that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have together given us whatever we need to do whatever God calls us to do. That much is certain. And whatever we accomplish, be it small in the eyes of our ministerial brethren or should it be the sort of thing that ends up in bright lights and wins us great acclaim, it all comes from the Lord. And without him nothing good would ever be accomplished.

We all have a need to prove ourselves, don’t we?  

Jefferson (who himself pastored an influential church in New York City in the early 1900s) sums it up rather nicely when he says,

Fame is nothing, publicity is nothing, popularity is nothing, serving God by helping men is all (p. 205).

Anyone care to argue with that? If we are serving the Lord, we don’t need to brag and we certainly don’t need to try to put down anyone else to make ourselves feel better. When we get to heaven, the Lord can sort out the real differences between us, and we may in that great day be surprised to see that those who seemingly accomplished little on this earth receive a great reward from Him who valued the widow’s mites above the noisy offerings of the religious professionals.

2.   We will not give up.

This is Paul’s exact application in 2 Corinthians 4:1“Therefore, since through God’s mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.” As New Covenant ministers, we have everything we need, all the time and in every circumstance, to do what we need to do. Just as I wrote those words, I was reminded of something that Peter Wang, my Chinese pastor friend, has told me more than once. While discussing the ministry together, he has said, “We are not Supermen.” That’s a good reminder. While living in this flesh, we face the same limitations as other men. We get tired and sometimes we get discouraged. Often we face situations for which there is no easy solution. We have questions we can’t answer. We may face daunting opposition or outright persecution. Sometimes the struggles of life threaten to overwhelm us.

“We are not Supermen.”  

But we do not give up.
That’s the whole point. We keep going because our confidence is on God, not in ourselves. During my visit to the SIM Missionary Village, I ate supper with John and Anne Ockers. John went to Niger as a missionary in the late 1940s. When we asked him what he did 60 years ago in Niger, he said he spent his first two terms doing “gospel treks” where he and several local believers would drive across the desert in an old Jeep, finding villages filled with people who had never heard the gospel. “They were always glad to see us. So we showed filmstrips about Bible stories and then I preached the gospel.” Years later he opened a “farm school” in Niger so the young men could learn how to make a living. Then after 15 or 16 years, his first wife Evelyn died on the field. She is buried in the missionary cemetery at Miango Rest Home in Nigeria. John was in his early 40s when she died. Looking back at that difficult time, he said simply, “But God gave grace.”
What sadness and what hope are contained in those four words. “But God gave grace.” This is what it means to sorrow but not as those who have no hope.
Was it worth it?

We keep going because our confidence is on God, not in ourselves.  

It depends on what you are living for. If you live for the world’s applause, then perhaps these great saints should have done something else with their lives. No doubt some family members felt they were wasting their lives following God’s call to Africa. Certainly the missionary doctors could have made much more money staying in the States.
No regrets.
That’s what I found at the SIM Missionary Village this week. Besides the “no regrets,” I noticed all week long a very definite “gladness of heart.” As in, “Serve the Lord with gladness; come before his presence with singing” (Psalm 100:2). That’s the other side of it. Visible joy, deep satisfaction with how things have turned out. It is bracing and good for the soul to be around saints of God who have no regrets and gladness of heart. The missionaries have known their share of hardship, discouragement, opposition, sickness, loss, frustration, loneliness, physical suffering and spiritual warfare. But they do not dwell on these matters. They speak with excitement of seeing God at work changing hearts, lives, families, villages and whole tribes by the power of the gospel. They have “counted it all joy” for the sake of serving Christ. And each morning they eagerly pray that God might grant further victories for the gospel around the world. It is inspiring and humbling to be around them. The world barely knows they are here. In heaven their names are written in gold.
One gets the feeling that if these aged saints could do it all over again, they would do the same thing and do it gladly.

If my sufficiency comes from God, I am truly free.  

So I’ve been thinking about my own life this week. I’m 57 and, as I told them on the last night, I’m in the “junior high department” compared to most of them. That drew an appreciative laugh. “But I’m headed in your direction,” I added. I like their “care-less” approach to the Christian life. I suppose it is typical for men in my category-which I would call not young anymore but not a senior adult yet-to be very careful and cautious about everything. If I am in charge of my destiny, then I have to play it safe. But if my sufficiency comes from God, I am truly free.
I am immortal until my work on earth is done.
I have everything I need to serve the Lord right now.
So then let us press on to serve the Lord with joy, with vigor, and with unlimited confidence in God. We can risk it all for Christ, living with no regrets and with nothing held back, knowing that when our time on earth is done, the Lord himself will take us home to heaven.
In the meantime, no confidence in ourselves.
Our hope is in the Lord. Amen.

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2012 in #BIBLE, #FAITH, #GOD, #GOSPEL, #GRACE, #JESUS, #LIVING, #PREACHING

 

GOD’S FREEDOM ~ ROMANS 9:6-18 ~

 While studying Romans 9, I was struck by Paul’s question in verse 14: “Is God unjust?”
In our hearts we already know the answer. God is not unjust. But oftentimes he seems inconsistent. The very examples Paul chooses seem to uphold that inconsistency.
He chooses Isaac over Ishmael.
He chooses Jacob over Esau.

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He loves one.
He hates the other.
He chooses one.
He doesn’t choose the other.
To make matters worse, Paul says God does what he does wholly apart from human merit:
He chose Jacob over Esau even though they had the same father.
He chose Jacob over Esau before the twins were born.
He chose Jacob over Esau before either boy had done good or evil.
He chose one and he didn’t choose the other, and it had nothing to do with anything either one of them did. Why does God do things this way? “That his purpose in election might stand”(v. 11). Then Paul says, “She was told,” meaning that God told Rebekah, “The older will serve the younger.”
She was told.
That’s pretty blunt, isn’t it? Not, “She was consulted,” or “God sought her opinion,” or “God inquired of Rebekah which son she thought he should choose.” Nothing of the kind.
She was told.
Before going any further, let me point out that Romans 9 is heavy with emphasis on God’s sovereignty. Paul goes to great lengths to demonstrate that the problem of Jewish unbelief (a huge issue in the first century) can only be understood in light of the character and promises of God. Romans 9 is all about God’s activity, what he does, how he chooses. In Romans 10 we will come to the other side of the story—Israel’s unbelief and the Christian call to preach the gospel to the nations. But we must not rush ahead of ourselves. We must led Paul speak for himself, and in our study of the text, we must trace his argument and let the chips fall where they may. If we wish to argue with the text, let’s at least make sure we understand what it is saying.

The Decider

A few days ago President Bush was asked what he thought about the criticisms of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. The president said he was aware of the criticisms, but that he had no intention of replacing Mr. Rumsfeld because he was doing a good job. Then the president asserted his authority directly: “I’m the decider.”
I’m the decider.
It has an odd ring to it, but no one can deny the truth behind those three words. The president alone decides who will serve in his cabinet. As the CEO of the country and the Commander in Chief, the president is indeed “the decider.”
God is “the decider” of the universe. And unlike the president, he cannot be impeached and no one can override his vetoes. God chooses Isaac, and nothing in the universe can replace him with Ishmael. God chooses Jacob, and Esau can’t do anything about it.
Then Paul brings up Moses to whom God showed his mercy. To prove his point, he quotes from Exodus 33:19, when Moses pled for mercy after the children of Israel had sinned. Here is God’s answer to Moses: “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” That meant good news for Israel because God chose to show mercy instead of judgment when his people turned to idolatry.
Finally there is the case of Pharaoh whose heart the Lord hardened (vv. 17-18). But ten times in Exodus we are told that Pharaoh hardened his own heart. Nowhere in the Bible does God ever harden anyone who did not first harden himself against the Lord. It is not as if Pharaoh was on the brink of turning to God when God “hardened” his heart. No, not at all. The ten plagues, which were a sign of God’s judgment, should have awakened Pharaoh to his own sinful rebellion, but instead he continually hardened his own heart against the Lord. To say God “hardened” his heart means that God did not intervene but allowed him to go his own way in continued rebellion.
John Stott offers this helpful analysis:

If therefore God hardens some, he is not being unjust, for that is what their sin deserves. If, on the other hand, he has compassion on some, he is not being unjust, for he is dealing with them in mercy. The wonder is not that some are saved and some are lost, but that anybody is saved at all. For we deserve nothing from God’s hand but judgment. If we receive what we deserve (which is judgment), or if we receive what we do not deserve (which is mercy), in neither case is God unjust. If therefore anybody is lost, the blame is theirs, but if anybody is saved, the credit is God’s. (Romans, pp. 269-270).

This one sentence comes to the heart of the matter: “The wonder is not that some are saved and some are lost, but that anybody is saved at all.” The Apostle Paul would surely agree with that.

Seven Short Statements

Paul’s argument brings us face to face with the truth of God’s freedom. Although we talk a great deal about freedom, it’s usually our personal freedom in view. We rarely think about God’s freedom, yet that is the major point of Romans 9. When you come to the bottom line, God’s freedom is the only true freedom in the universe. Every other “freedom” is derivative from his freedom in one way or another.
Here are seven short statements that flesh out the meaning of “God’s Freedom”:

A. He is absolutely free to do whatever he wants to do.

Because God is God, he can do whatever he wants to do whenever he wants to do it. If he wants to create a planet, or a galaxy, or even another universe, he just says the word and it happens. He is truly “free” in the absolute sense of the term. This is why he announced himself to Moses as“I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3:14). God is eternal, self-existent, and entirely self-sufficient. He exists entirely apart from the universe he created.

B. He has the right to deal with us any way he chooses.

By this I mean that God was under no obligation to create you or me or anyone else. And he is under no obligation to keep us alive even one more second. He is under no compulsion to save a single member of the human race. No one has a claim on God. He can do what he wants with any of us and no one can successfully second-guess him.

C. He doesn’t have to treat me the way he treats my next-door neighbor.

Many people struggle with this concept because they think that because God did something for a friend or a neighbor or a loved one, then God must be bound to do the same thing for them. But it doesn’t work that way. God can deliver your neighbor from cancer and you may die of cancer. Or vice versa. Envying your neighbor because he has something you don’t have is a waste of time because God treats us as individuals, not as groups. The truth is, he might do for you exactly what he’s done for someone else, or he might do more or he might do less or he might do something entirely different. He’s God. He can deal with us the way he wants.

D. He doesn’t have to treat me today the way he treated me yesterday.

This principle needs to be stated carefully. Since God’s character never changes, we know that he is the same yesterday, today and forever. He is always gracious, always loving, always holy, and always just. His ways are always perfect. However, that doesn’t mean that what happened to me yesterday is a pattern or guarantee for what will happen tomorrow. God’s character and his love for me will never change. How that grace and faithfulness and love is expressed varies widely from moment to moment. One day I may need a remarkable answer to prayer. The next day I may be in the valley of suffering, waiting on the Lord to deliver me. He’s always the same God but he does not display himself in my life the same way all the time.

E. He can answer my prayers any way he chooses.

Everyone who has prayed very much understands this truth. One night we fish and catch nothing. The next day our nets are filled to breaking. I may be in prison one night and an angel may come to set me free. Or God may send an earthquake to deliver me. Or I may die in prison as many Christians have over the years. A loved one with a dread disease may be spared by God for several years, only to die from that disease eventually. One day I may sense God’s Spirit working powerfully in my life. Another day I may plod through the doldrums. So it goes for all of God’s children. Our God is infinitely creative in the way he deals with us as he brings us to spiritual maturity. There are bright days and dark nights, and both are from the Lord.

F. He will not tolerate any rivals to his throne.

This is one of the clearest themes of the Bible. There is only one God and he demands our exclusive worship. After reminding the Jews that he had delivered them from Egypt, God made this the First Commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3 ESV). That’s clear, isn’t it? No other gods, period. God is Number One. And there is no Number Two.

G. He is not obligated to live up to my expectations or to explain himself to me.

This may be the most important statement regarding God’s freedom. He doesn’t bind himself to do what we expect him to do. As a matter of fact, God continually surprised his people in the Bible. He cast Adam and Eve out of Eden and then made garments to cover their nakedness. He sent a flood and gave Noah a rainbow. He parted the Red Sea, arranged for daily delivery of manna and quail, and then had the sons of Korah swallowed up by the earth. Jesus rebuked Peter, allowed him to see the Transfiguration, predicted his betrayal, restored him, and then predicted the way he would die. Everything happened just as God promised, but nothing worked out the way people expected. He’s the God of great surprises.
And he doesn’t have to explain himself to us. There are many questions we would all like to ask. I have a handful of my own. Almost always our questions revolve around suffering, sadness, the death of loved ones, and times of personal disappointment. I have found that the greater the sadness, the less likely we are to fully understand it. Small things we can figure out on our own. Great losses are hidden in the mind and heart of God. “The secret things belong to the Lord our God” (Deuteronomy 29:29).
He is far bigger than we imagine, his presence fills the universe, he is more powerful than we know, wiser than all the wisdom of the wisest men and women, his love is beyond human understanding, his grace has no limits, his holiness is infinite, and his ways are past finding out. He is the one true God. He has no beginning and no end. He created all things and all things exist by his divine power. He has no peers. No one gives him advice. No one can fully understand him. He is perfect in all his perfections.
There is nothing we have, not even our praise and worship, that adds in the least to who God is. He did not create us because of any lack in himself, as if we were created because God was lonely. To paraphrase A. W. Tozer, were every person on earth to become an atheist, it would not affect God in any way. The belief or disbelief of the human race cannot change the reality of who God is. To believe in him adds nothing to his perfection; to doubt him takes nothing away.

Time is God’s Brush

He rules all things everywhere at all times. Nothing escapes his notice. Nothing is beyond his control. He is beyond time and space, yet he controls them both. Ravi Zacharias put it this way: “Time is the brush with which God paints his story on the canvas of human history. Eternity is the perspective from which we view the painting.” This is our God!
As we consider who God is, we are eventually led to a very humbling truth, one that is not mentioned often and is hardly believed when it is taught: God does not need us for anything. If any concept flies in the face of contemporary Christianity, this is it. Down deep inside, most of us want to feel that we are important and necessary. And we like to think that God must have needed us, or else why would he have created us? In the absolute sense, God doesn’t “need” anything or anyone. He didn’t create us because he was lonely and he didn’t save us because heaven was empty. He does not need our worship or our obedience or our missionary service or our prayers or anything else we do in order to be God. There is no lack of any kind with him. This is a very humbling, and for some people, a very frustrating truth. But ask yourself this question: Do you really think God can’t get along without you? What if you and I just disappeared, poof, just like that? What if we had never even existed? Do you think the universe depends on us for its survival? Hardly. When the Pharisees told Jesus to rebuke his cheering disciples as he entered Jerusalem for the final time, he replied, “If they keep quiet, the stones will cry out” (Luke 19:40). If he wants to, God can cause the trees to clap their hands and the mountains to sing out his praises. He can make the rocks sing his praises if he wants to.
That God created us is an act of his sovereign will. That we are saved is a miracle of sovereign grace. That he accepts our worship and rewards our obedience is a miracle of sovereign love.

Before going on, I should add one or two clarifying points. The result of the teaching just given is to destroy all human pride and to leave us lying in the dust. We must come to the place where we understand that there is nothing good in us. Apart from God’s kindness, there is no reason for him to use us at all. If God “needs” us to do his work, it is only because he has ordained to work through us to accomplish his will. We are blessed beyond measure that God should allow us the honor of praising him, serving him, and proclaiming his glory to the nations.

I recognize there is much more we need to know about who God is than what I have said here. The Bible is filled with rich truth about our Heavenly Father. As we move through Romans 9-11, we will talk a great deal about his mercy and grace. Chapter 10 deals specifically with the issue of human responsibility. However it is crucial that we get ourselves firmly grounded in the truth of God’s absolute, unquestioned, totally free sovereignty. God does exactly as he pleases, all the time, everywhere, in every situation, in all parts of the universe. Always has, always will. In a profound sense, his ultimate will is always being done. He’s God. That’s the way it has to be.

Our Response

As I have pondered this truth of God’s freedom, many applications come to mind. Properly understood, it ought to lead us to a calm confidence in God even in the midst of unspeakable tragedy. And it should make us bold in our witness and strong in our prayers. And if we believe this, we will find the strength to persevere over the long haul, knowing that even our foolish mistakes cannot cancel God’s plans for us.
All of that is true, but it does not seem to touch the core issue. There is a fundamental choice that each of us must make every single day. It goes something like this. We can reject God’s sovereignty and decide to fight against it. But that rebellion leads inevitably to anger, bitterness, despair and finally to a hardened heart. I know a few believers who have chosen this path. Some end up dropping out of church altogether because they are so angry they cannot come to worship anymore. In my experience, however, most of the people who choose this path stay in church and end up as very angry Christians. They are hard to talk to because they are secretly (or not so secretly) fighting against the Lord. Usually they have suffered an enormous personal loss and cannot find a way to reconcile what they lost with the God they have always worshiped. So they come to church Sunday after Sunday, sitting in the pews, singing the hymns, praying the prayers, going through the motions, but their hearts are not in it because down deep, they are angry at what God has done. They have the “wounded spirit” spoken of in Proverbs 18:14. It is very difficult to help them unless God’s Spirit softens their heart.
There is another choice we can make. If we accept God’s sovereignty as true, and if we submit ourselves to God, and if we acknowledge that he is free do what he wants to do, that submission leads on to joyful praise. The truth of God’s freedom ought to lead us to praise and worship. If it doesn’t, then we haven’t fully understood the biblical teaching. It is not that we will praise God directly for the pain and sadness around us or for the sinful acts of others. But we will praise God that he is able to work in, with, and through everything that happens, both the good and the bad, to accomplish his will, to make us more like Christ, and to bring glory to himself. To say that is to say nothing more than what Romans 8:28 clearly teaches.
So these are our choices with regard to the truth of God’s sovereignty:

Rejection and Anger
Submission and Praise

Peter Blakemore

Shortly before my friend Peter Blakemore died, I saw him for the last time at a pastor’s prayer meeting on the National Day of Prayer. I hadn’t seen Peter in a while because he had been struggling with cancer. I knew he had been through an awful ordeal, but I had no idea how bad it was. When I arrived at the prayer meeting, I knew almost everyone there because they all pastored churches in the same area. There was one man sitting in a wheelchair with two young men around him. Because his back was to me, I didn’t know who it was till I sat down in the circle. Then I saw it was my friend Peter Blakemore. Peter was the pastor of the Harrison Street Bible Church in Oak Park. Before Peter was the pastor, his father had pastored that church for over thirty years. Except for his years in college and graduate school, Peter spent his whole life in Oak Park. When he completed his education, he came back to Oak Park to join his father at Harrison Street Bible Church. And when his father died, he took over the pastorate in his father’s stead. Peter Blakemore was one of the gentlest, kindest, most gracious men I have ever known. He was about forty years old when he died. He left behind a wife and seven children. He was stricken with an extremely rare form of cancer. They sent samples to various places around the country, hoping to find a cure. He had gone through a variety of treatments but nothing worked. The cancer finally had taken over his body with a vengeance. And there he was at the National Day of Prayer with two of his sons.
We bowed our heads and as we prayed, I noticed a strange sound, a sort of rubbing or thumping in a rhythmic fashion. I didn’t know what it was. Peter Blakemore was the last one to pray that day. And he said, “Lord, you know I’ve asked you to heal me of this cancer. And if you do heal me, I will stand up and give you the glory. But if you decide to take me home to heaven, Lord, I’m going to be faithful to you by my life and by my death so that in all things you might be glorified.”
When the prayer meeting was over almost everybody left the room. There were just four of us left–Peter, his two sons, and me. We talked for a while. He told me a little bit about the treatments. Just recently they had heard from the doctors that there was a new kind of tumor growing in his lungs, and the doctors couldn’t even figure out what it was. They said it’s one of two things. If it’s one thing, you’re going to live one to three weeks. If it’s another thing, you’re going to live two or three months. The tumor had grown inside his lungs to the point that it had broken two or three of his ribs. While he was praying, he was hunched over in the wheelchair. The rhythmic thump I heard was the sound of his oldest son rubbing his father’s back to lessen the pain a little bit. Peter told me that the previous Sunday he had preached at his own church for the first time in eight weeks. He preached from the wheelchair on Romans 11:33,“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” “Do you know what that means, Ray?” Peter said it’s like tracing the stars in the skies. When you look up at night and see a star, you know that it is on a path, but if you just look at it, all you can do is see where it is now. You can’t really tell where it has come from or where it’s going to go. And he said, “So it is with the Lord. No one can tell where he started out. No one can tell where he’s going to go. All you know is he’s right there and you’re right there with him, and the future is in his hands.” Then he added, “I told my people last Sunday ‘I have shown you how to live. I’m now going to show you how to die.’” These were his final words to me: “All my life I’ve preached about the grace of God. I’ve had a hard time getting people to listen. Now I don’t have any trouble because they’ve seen the grace of God at work in my life.”
We said farewell and his sons wheeled him out of the room. It was the last time I would see him alive. Two or three weeks later he passed from this life into the presence of the Lord Jesus Christ. I thought about what he said and I’ve thought about it many times since then. Who can trace the path of the Lord? You can’t. I can’t. No one can. It is enough to know that we belong to him. He knows what he’s doing. He knows where we are. And when it’s all over, we will be exactly where he wants us to be, with him forever in heaven.
What’s going to happen today or tomorrow? I don’t know. What’s going to happen next week or next month? I don’t know. What’s going to happen next year or ten years from now? I don’t know. But I know someone who does.
Nothing happens anywhere in the universe by accident. There is no such thing as luck or fate or chance. God is at work in all things at all times to accomplish his will in the universe. He does whatever pleases him. I understand why some people rebel against a high view of God’s sovereignty. The paradox is this. People who rebel against God usually do so in the name of freedom. They want the freedom to go their own way, follow their own desires, do whatever they want, when they want, with anyone they choose to do it with. Ironically, this sort of “freedom” leads only to slavery. They end up enslaved to sin, chained to addictive behaviors, and locked in the prison house of unrelenting guilt and shame. There is no freedom in rebellion against God. There is only slavery
But when we submit ourselves to our Heavenly Father, when we finally say, “Lord, you are God and I am not,” when we bow before him, through our tears if necessary, then (and only then) do we discover true freedom. This is what Jesus meant when he said, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32). Those whom the Son sets free are free indeed.

Our basic problem is that we have allowed God to be everywhere but on his throne. No wonder we are unhappy and frustrated and unfulfilled. No wonder life doesn’t work right. How much better to say with the psalmist, “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the LORD our Maker!” (Psalm 95:6). There is coming a day when “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father” (see Philippians 2:9-11). If that day is coming, then why not get a head start and bow your knee and confess that God is God and Jesus Christ is your Lord?
Here is a simple phrase that captures this truth: “The Lord is God and there is no other.” Can you say those words? I challenge you to say that sentence out loud right now. Make it a public affirmation of your faith.
The tragedy is that it takes us so long to learn this basic truth. Greg and Carolyn Kirschner, who served for many years as missionaries in Jos, Nigeria, wrote about the importance of prayer in the Nigerian culture. They pointed out that the Nigerians seem more naturally aware of God than most Americans. They saw this sign painted on the side of a bus: “Man no be God.” That sums it up, doesn’t it? You aren’t God, you never were, and you never will be. The sooner we realize that fact, the better off we’ll be. And here’s the good news. If you really mean it, then you can take a deep breath. Now go and rip that big G off your sweatshirt. You don’t have to be God anymore. Let God be God and all will be well. Perhaps some of us need to say, “Oh God, you win. The battle is over. I’m going to stop fighting you.” If you need to say that, do it right now. There is abundant joy for those who will admit the most fundamental truth in the universe: He’s God and we’re not. Amen.

 

PROOFS FOR PRE-TRIBULATION RAPTURE

Jesus is coming in the clouds to rapture His Church

By Don Koenig

Does the Bible teach that the Church will be supernaturally removed (rapture)? Will the Church escape the tribulation? Is the rapture pretribulation pre-wrath, or post tribulation?
The best way to find out the truth is to correctly interpret God’s word. In some cases this is easier said than done. Finding and correlating deep truths in some scriptures can be like mining for gold. It is hard work but it sure is worthwhile when you sift out a few nuggets. I expect God wanted it that way so that some things would be hidden from the adversary. The parables are prime examples of how Jesus gave truth to the children of the promise but the sons of darkness could not understand what He was talking about. Some of God’s truths take scholarship and enlightenment by the Holy Spirit. Sometimes there may be more than one level of truth in a passage with insights that are revealed in time by the Holy Spirit as He deems appropriate. This is apparently the case with the truth about the rapture of the faithful Church.

Some teachers are blind about the rapture and Bible prophecy.

There are many theologians in some of the denominations who do not see that we are in the prophetic years because they allegorize or spiritualize all scripture dealing with the end times and the restoration of Israel. Unless there is clear indication for allegory, even common sense dictates that scripture writings should be taken in a literal sense. By allegorizing prophetic scripture these theologians can make it say just about anything they want. By applying the promises of God for Israel to the Church, they can do away with any literal fulfillment on earth. Scholars such as these really need to review why it is that they use human rationalization to distort the plain teaching of God’s word.
I believe they do this either in ignorance due to their seminary training or because they do not wish to believe what God said about a literal fulfillment that includes a final world-wide judgment and thousand-year reign of Christ on earth from Jerusalem. They do not understand that the body of Jesus rose very early on the third day and that the body of Christ (the Church) will also rise very early on her third day – a day with the Lord is as a thousand years (2 Pe 3:8).

Liberty taking with the literal interpretation of prophetic scriptures in the past was not as critical a problem to the Church as it is today. In the past the Church in general had less knowledge of the scriptures and the Church was not near the prophetic years. Today, there is widespread access of scripture in the Church, so we do not have that excuse. In addition, there is more danger in applying scriptures meant for Israel to the Church. The theology that the Jews killed Christ and that God has cursed the descendants of Israel and given her promises to the Christian Church in recent times opened the door for the Jewish holocaust under Hitler. Those in replacement theology today may be opening a new door for the predicted worldwide holocaust against the Jews under the Beast Antichrist.

The Church is the body of Christ and is the firstborn into the promise of a new covenant. The Gentiles were grafted into that promise and that covenant because most of Israel rejected their Messiah and the natural branches were broken off so that wild branches could be grafted in (Gentiles). However, that promise and covenant was actually given to the house of Jacob and Judah without any conditions (Jer 31:31). When the nation of Israel acknowledges its offense, all in Israel who call on the name of the Lord will be grafted back in and receive their new covenant promise.
When the Father determines that the time has come, He will remove the faithful Church to heaven where she will become one with His Son. The earth at that time will be cleansed of evil doers prior to the return of Jesus in glory with His bride. At that time, He will set up the promised thousand-year reign on earth ruled from Jerusalem. When this occurs the promise of a new covenant to Israel will be fulfilled as the prophet Joel foretold.

Joe: 2:28 And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions:
29 And also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.
30 And I will shew wonders in the heavens and in the earth, blood, and fire, and pillars of smoke.
31 The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and the terrible day of the LORD come.
32 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall call on the name of the LORD shall be delivered: for in mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call.
3:1 For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem,

2 I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.

Is pretribulation rapture theology a new Church doctrine?

Some say there is no rapture of the Church prior to the tribulation and point out that it was not even taught to the Church until the 1800’s.
In Grant Jeffrey’s book “Triumphant Return“, he writes that about 373 AD Ephraem taught in a sermon that there was a pre-tribulation rapture. This writing can be found in Ephraem’s sermon “On the Last Times, the Antichrist, and the End of the World.“, Ephraem said in this sermon, “For the saints and Elect of God are gathered, prior to the tribulation that is to come, and are taken to the Lord lest they see the confusion that is to overwhelm the world because of our sins”.

Ephraem also taught in this same sermon that the war of Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38-39 would precede the tribulation and he taught the imminent return of Jesus.

Is the pretribulation rapture secret?

The rapture will not be secret. In fact the world has been informed that it will happen through many popular writings like the “Left Behind” series. The rapture event itself will be known to all who will witness the missing people. The “New Age” pagans have even pre-prepared explanations for the rapture in some of their writings.

Is there a pretribulation rapture?

In the rapture, the true Church of God is removed so they will not go through the trial that will come upon all the earth to try men’s souls (they have no need to). Christ does not come back to take possession of the earth at that time. The rapture is just another phase of the first Resurrection that began with Jesus Christ. Jesus is the body of Christ and the true Church is also the body of Christ. The total membership making up the body of Christ must arise like Jesus to unite with Jesus. We must go before the bema seat judgment to be given the crowns that will allow us to rule and reign with Jesus when we return. If the rapture and second coming were at the same time you would have to make this judgment and the giving of the crowns an instantaneous event in the clouds at the second coming of Jesus. In the Jewish harvest, you have the first fruits, the general harvest and the gleaning. The harvest is not one event and neither is the resurrection of the saints. Revelation makes it clear that the 144,000 Israelites who have a ministry in the tribulation are still first fruits, so this would indicate that those in the true Church before the tribulation are also first fruits of this harvest.
There are well over a score of biblical passages that indicate that the return of Jesus for the Church is imminent. An imminent return is quite impossible if the tribulation has to happen first. Why would Jesus direct his people to be always ready and watching for His coming if they were meant to go through the tribulation and thus would be aware of His coming as much as seven years before He actually came?

After the letters to the seven churches of Revelation and what is seen in heaven, the focus of the book of Revelation on earth is on the Israelites again. We see the Jews fleeing into the wilderness, the rebuilt temple, the two prophets, the 144,000 Jewish witnesses, and all nations coming to fight against Israel.

The rapture of the faithful in contrast to the Revelation of Jesus at His coming*
Christ comes for His own 1Th 4:13-18 ——————–Christ returns with His own Rev 19:14
Believers taken to Father’s House Joh 14:3 —————-Believers come with Jesus to Earth Mat 24:30
He is seen only by believers 1Co 15:52 ——————–Every eye will see Him Mat 24:30
Earth not judged ———————————————–Earth judged Rev 20:4-5
A Mystery – 1 Co 15:51 ————————————–Foretold in OT Zech 12:10
Christians taken first 1Th 4:13-18 3 Mat 13:28-30 ——-Wicked are taken first Mat 25:1-13; Rev 3:8-10; Rev 4:1,
He comes to present the Church to Himself 2 Co 11:2 —He comes with His Church for judgement and to set up his Kingdom Rev 19:6-9, Zec 14:3-4; Jud 1:14-15; Rev 19:11-21
Casts Satan out of heaven to earth Rev 12 ——————Binds Satan for a thousand years Rev 20
Occurs in the twinkling of an eye 1Co 15:52—————Comes to earth to do battle at specific locations Isa 63:1-3, Rev 16:16, Zec 12:9-10
Jesus descends with a shout. 1Th 4:16 8 ——————–No shout mentioned Rev 19:11-21
Jesus comes as a thief in the night 1Th 24:43—————Jesus comes at the end of 7 years of tribulation Dan 9:24-27, 12:11-12; Rev 11:2, 12:6,14, 13:5
*much of the above info was obtained from:http://www.linkjesus.com/15differences.htm 

Sixteen scriptural proofs that the rapture is pre-tribulation *

Proof #1: Revelation 19:11-21 doesn’t mention a resurrection.
The rapture is a resurrection of those “in Christ” (1 Thess. 4:13-18). Isn’t it a little bit odd that in Rev. 19:11-21, which is the clearest picture of the second coming of Christ, there is no mention of a resurrection? The rapture will be the biggest event since the resurrection of Jesus where hundreds of millions of Christians will be resurrected and translated, yet there isn’t any mention here. Don’t you think it deserves at least one verse? The rapture isn’t mentioned because it doesn’t happen at the second coming.

Proof #2: Zechariah 14:1-15 doesn’t mention a resurrection.
This is an Old Testament picture of Jesus returning to earth at the second coming. Again, no mention of a resurrection.

Proof #3: Two different pictures are painted.
In the Old Testament, there were two different pictures painted of the Messiah—one suffering (Isa. 53:2-10, Ps. 22:6-8, 11-18) and one reigning as King (Ps. 2:6-12, Zech. 14:9,16). As we look back on these scriptures, we see they predicted two separate comings of the Messiah—the 1st coming as a suffering Messiah and the 2nd coming (still future) as a reigning King.

In the New Testament, we have another picture added. Again, we have two pictures painted which don’t look the same. These two different descriptions of Jesus’ coming point to two separate events we call “the rapture” and “the second coming.”

Proof #4: The Known Day and the Unknown Day.
Concerning the return of Jesus, the Bible presents a day we can’t know and a day we can know. Matthew 25:13 says Jesus will return at an unknown time, while Revelation 12:6 says the Jews will have to wait 1,260 days for the Lord to return. The 1,260 days begins when the Antichrist stands in the Temple and declares himself to be God (Matt. 24:15-21, 2 Thess. 2:4) This event will take place at the mid-point of the seven year Tribulation (Dan 9:27). The Antichrist has authority to rule for 42 months, which is 1,260 days (Rev. 13:4) and will be destroyed by Jesus at His second coming (Rev. 19:20, 2 Thess. 2:8). The known and unknown days must happen at different times, meaning they are two separate events.

Proof #5: A door open in heaven (Revelation 4:1).
The door in heaven is opened to let John into heaven. We believe John’s call into heaven is prophetic of the Church being caught up at the rapture (see proof #6). In Revelation 19:11, heaven is opened again, this time to let the armies which are already in heaven out. This is the Church, which has been raptured at a previous time, following Jesus out of heaven at the second coming.

Proof #6: “Come up here.” (Revelation 4:1).
A voice called for the apostle John to “Come up here,” and immediately he was in heaven. This could be a prophetic reference to the rapture of the Church. The words “Come up here” are spoken to the two witnesses who are killed in the middle of the Tribulation, who are resurrected and ascend into heaven (Rev. 11:12). Therefore, the phrase “Come up here” could mean the Church is raptured in Rev. 4:1. The word “Church” is mentioned 22 times in Rev. 1-3, but is not mentioned again until Rev. 22:17.

**Proof #7: The 24 elders have their crowns.
After John is called up into heaven, he sees the 24 elders with their crowns (Rev. 4:4-10). We know that Christians will receive their rewards (crowns) at the rapture (2 Tim. 4:8, 1 Pet. 5:4). We will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous (Luke 14:14). The elders couldn’t receive their crowns unless the resurrection (rapture) has taken place.

Proof #8 Holy ones are already with Jesus in heaven (Zech. 14:5, Rev. 19:14).
The armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, follow Jesus out of heaven at His second coming (Rev. 19:14, Zech. 14:5, Col. 3:4). These are not angels because Rev. 19:8 tells us the fine linen is the righteousness of the saints. In order to come out of heaven we first have to go in, indicating a previous rapture.

Proof #9: Kept from the hour of testing (Rev. 3:10).
Revelation 3:10 says we will be kept out of the hour of testing which will come upon the whole earth (the Tribulation). Some have wrongly believed “keep” means to keep through, or protect through the Tribulation. Suppose you approach a high voltage area with a sign that says, “Keep Out.” Does that mean you can enter and be protected? No, it means you are forbidden from entering the area. But this verse also says He will keep us from the hour of testing. It is not just the testing, but the time period. If a student is excused from a test, he still may have to sit in the class while others take the test. But if he is excused from the hour of testing, he can go home. The Church will be called home before the hour of testing.

Proof #10: Angels don’t resurrect people when they gather them for judgment.
When the angels are sent forth to gather the elect at the second coming (Matt. 24:29-31), some have wrongly interpreted this as the rapture. There is one huge problem with this interpretation. If we are resurrected at this time, why would we need angels to gather us? In the resurrection, we will be like the angels (Matt. 22:30), able to travel in the air at will. Obviously, these people who are gathered are not resurrected, therefore it can’t be the rapture. No one would claim the wicked are raptured at this time, yet Matthew 13:39-41, 49 says the angels will not only gather the elect, but also the wicked. This gathering is not a resurrection.

Proof #11: Both wicked and righteous both can’t be taken first.
First Thessalonians 4:13-17 says the righteous are taken and the wicked are left behind. Matthew 13:30, 49 says the wicked are taken first and righteous are left behind. This points to two separate events, the rapture and the second coming.

Proof #12: Jesus returns from the wedding.
When Jesus returns to earth at the second coming, He will return from a wedding (Luke 12:36). At the rapture, Jesus is married to His bride, the Church. After the wedding, He will return to earth.

Proof #13: Jesus will receive us to Himself, not us to receive Him (John 14:2-3).
Jesus said He would prepare a place for the Church in heaven, then He would come again to receive us to Himself. Why would Jesus prepare a place for us in heaven and then not take us there? At the rapture, He will come to receive us to Himself, “that where I am (heaven), there you may be also.” If the rapture occurred at the same time as the second coming, we would go up to the clouds and then immediately come back to earth. That would contradict John 14:2-3.

Proof #14: The one who restrains is taken out of the way.
In 2 Thess. 2:6-7, Paul says “the one who restrains will be taken out of the way” before the Antichrist can be revealed. We believe this refers to the rapture because the Church is clearly the biggest obstacle to the Antichrist becoming a world ruler.

Proof #15: The separation of the sheep and goats (Matt. 25:31-46).
If the rapture occurred at the second coming, why would the sheep and the goats need to be separated immediately after the second coming? A rapture at the second coming would have already separated the sheep and the goats. With a Pre-Tribulation rapture, the people saved after the rapture will need to be separated after the second coming.

Proof #16: Who will populate the Millennium?
If the rapture occurs at the second coming and the wicked are cast into hell at that time, who will be left to populate the millennium? Only people in their natural (non-resurrected) bodies will be able to have children (Matt. 22:30). With a Pre-Tribulation rapture, the people saved after the rapture who are alive at the second coming will populate the earth during the Millennium
*16 proofs are from Cornerstone Church garden city Kansas website **(I do not think proof 7 is valid since I do not believe the 24 elders are the Church)
http://www.fellowshiponline.org/bib.html


There are seven supernatural translation events in God’s plan:

(God does many things in sevens – the number of completion.)

The seven supernatural translation events:

      • The translation of Enoch before the flood
      • The taking of Elijah in a whirlwind in the early times of Israel
      • The resurrection and ascension of Jesus
      • The rapture of the true Church
      • The resurrection and ascension of the two witnesses
      • The resurrection of the saints at the end of the great tribulation
      • The final resurrection and judgment after the thousand year reign

Selected references 1:


The letters to the seven churches are prophetic about the Church ages

Some insight can be found by close examination of what God has to say to the seven churches in the book of Revelation:
Those that wish to allegorize this book should read my article on amillennialism and my Revelation Commentary
The Revelation of Jesus Christ given to John is the unveiling of Jesus until He turns over the kingdom to the Father. These are the things that must shortly come to pass. In a nutshell, the book of Revelation is the story of Jesus interacting with His people through time.
Some highlights of the book of Revelation are:

      • The story of the risen Savior.
      • The letters to the seven churches and the prophecy of the seven Church ages on earth
      • The tribulation period and God dealing with Israel again after the Church age is complete.
      • The second coming of Jesus.
      • The thousand year reign of Jesus on earth.
      • The final rebellion led by Satan.
      • The great white throne judgment.
      • Jesus turns over the kingdom to the Father after all enemies are defeated.
      • A new heaven and earth in a perfect new creation.

The seven Church ages

The messages to the seven churches were to seven actual historic churches that existed in John’s time. They were not the most prominent churches but they were picked because God has a message to give to all the believers who will ever live during the Church age. We see here in these letters that He is working with His Church until the end of the Church age. The entire Church age is from the time of the giving of the promise of a new Covenant at Pentecost until she unites with Jesus in heaven.
There are seven periods within this age. The first three periods in Revelation have been fulfilled historically. We know this because each of the first three were replaced by a successor and there is no mention of the Lord’s coming in the first three.
Ephesus – the Apostolic Church – until the death of John 32 – 100 ADSmyrna – The martyred Church – until Christianity became the religion of the Roman Empire – 100 – 312 AD.Pergamum – – The Church that joined the state – until the Papacy – 312 – 600 AD (approx.)

The messages to all seven churches are still valid to all who live on the earth today but only the last four letters deal with the historic assemblies that are still dwelling on earth until Jesus returns for them.

To avoid confusion, it is essential to understand that the letter was addressed to seven assemblies in existence at the time of John. Not all people in any of the original assemblies were truly Christian. The message content from Jesus to the seven churches should makes this clear as does the New Testament epistles to the churches. If there is a prophetic application with the Church through time as I believe, it also is critical to understand that the message from Jesus to the last four assemblies is to true believers and traditional cultural Christians alike. Just like their were believing descendants of Israel and unbelieving descendants of Israel. The letters in Revelation to the Churches are to all who identify with these Christian assemblies and not just to the true believers within them.

The last four remaining churches on earth:

Thyatira is the Roman Catholic Church and the eastern Orthodox Churches. At the end, this assembly will be tried by death. The passage seems to imply that most in this assembly are cast into great tribulation and that the descendants of this Church are killed in the tribulation. This Church has good works but most were in adultery with mystery Babylon.
Sardis is the Churches of the reformation that have become spiritually dead. They are the liberal and ritualistic churches that have no good works. This includes many main line Protestant denomination churches in the world today, and certainly includes most of the state churches of Europe. God says they will not know the time of his coming and that they will not be ready when He comes. They will go through great tribulation.
Philadelphia, like Enoch, was pleasing to God. This assembly has an open door (world evangelism) that no one can shut (not even Satan). She has some power (God’s Spirit), she kept the word (the Bible) and does not deny the name of Jesus. This Church also kept the word of His patience (Jesus coming for the Church) and because of this she, like Enochwill be removed from the earth before the judgment on earth (great tribulation). The Church of Philadelphia is many of those in the Evangelical and Pentecostal assemblies.
Laodicea is the wealthy Protestant churches of today that are self-centered country clubs. It could also be those that “say” they are rich in spirit but are full of dead works. She is spit out of Jesus’ mouth and becomes identified with the harlot of RevelationShe is rich in material goods but she is poor spiritually. God is outside looking in (no indwelling spirit).This assembly will be chastened in the tribulation but those individuals that seek Jesus will find Him. This group probably includes most “possibility thinking” and “Word of Faith” churches. It certainly includes some “seeker friendly” churches that have watered down Christian doctrine and worship to make it appealing to the world It would also include the emerging and emergent church movement that redefines essentials truths of Christianity. It may also include some charismatics who think they are rich spiritually but have gone off into new age theology and doctrine of demons. It could even possibly include some cults that are in great heresy but who do not deny that Jesus is Lord.

Many will be saved in the tribulation
The scripture says all who endure to the end will be saved (all who hold on to the testimony of Jesus during the tribulation).
That word “all” should nullify any doctrine that says there will be no second chance of salvation for those who heard the gospel but were not part of the spiritual body of Christ before the rapture or tribulation. The passage clearly excludes no one and we see that true repentance leads to salvation throughout scripture.

Rev 12:11 And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony; and they loved not their life even unto death.

Selected References 2:


There is still time for the blind to see:

Those that allegorize and spiritualize scripture that should be taken literally sometimes do not believe in the infallibility of scripture either. They need to look at the foundations of their faith.

Some in the Church lack diligence and scholarship and only believe what they were taught in liberal seminaries. These need to study to show themselves approved.

Some hold a warped view in ignorance, such as Christians who think the Church replaced Israel or that think we are living in the kingdom now. These members are blinded by darkness and need to be enlightened by the word and the Spirit.
Those open to demonic deception in Thyatira need to look to the word of God and follow Jesus instead of following traditions of men and pagan mysticism.

Those that are sleeping in Sardis need to WAKE UP or they will be left behind.

Those that are deceived by materialism and doctrines of demons like those in Laodicea need to find true spiritual riches from God.
Those in all the assemblies who think we cannot know the general time of His coming need to remember that Jesus admonished the Pharisees for not knowing the time of his first appearing and that Paul told the Church that we are not in darkness that this day would come upon us as a thief.

More insights on the rapture of the Church:

Those who are born of the Spirit and who are ready, will go in the pretribulation rapture and escape the time of the tribulation. People who identify themselves as Christians by tradition and culture but who do not have the indwelling Holy Spirit will go through the great trial on earth. Going through the tribulation will cost most of those who continue to identify with Jesus after the rapture their lives. It will be a trial by fire; those who overcome by losing their life for His namesake will be saved. Those cowards that seek to save their lives by denying Him will lose their souls.
Some say the partial rapture of those who claim they are Christian is equal to a Protestant purgatory. However, what if the real fires of purgatory (if you wish to call it that) is the awareness of the departed believers that their lives were displeasing to Christ? Thus, they now wait in anguish under the altar for the future judgment seat of Christ to take place. This judgment is not about salvation; it is about the public giving or taking away of positions of authority based on faithful or unfaithful service.
All prior believers have tasted death of the flesh. Will Jesus actually deliver those who are living in spiritual adultery and who are faithless from physical death? Enoch, as our example, was taken and did not taste death because he pleased God, but without faith it is impossible to please God. Jesus tells us to remember Lot’s wife. Lot’s wife looked back to Sodom. Israel also looked back to Egypt after God delivered them out of Egypt. Those who did so were not spared, so why should the Gentiles be spared who are displeasing to God? Those in the Church that look back and get entangled in the world will not be watching and waiting for His return and they also will not be delivered in the rapture of the faithful that are identified as Philadelphia.
The real question might be, are carnal Christians even part of the Church? A strong case can be made that those who say they are Christian but have no works are not part of His Spirit indwelt body at all. Those who are born of the Spirit and are pleasing God by real faith with evidence of works of the Spirit will certainly be among those taken in the rapture.

How can a Church that is kept out of the trial go through the trial?

If the Philadelphia Church is kept from the hour (time) of the tribulation then how can she possibly go through part or all of it? She is also given crowns. The crowns are given at the judgment seat of Christ in heaven after the rapture but before the second coming.
Enoch – the 6th from Adam – walked with God for 300 years, was taken, and did not see death. Could this be a picture of the sixth church being raptured after a similar period of evangelism? Enoch knew when the judgment would come. He named his son Methuselah. The meaning of the name Methuselah is “when he is dead it will come“. The year Methuselah died is also the year of the great flood. When the Church is taken out the judgment will shortly follow.

The ancient Jewish marriage ceremony proclaims a pretribulation rapture picture.

      • The groom goes to the bride’s house and is betrothed to the bride (the faithful on the earth)
      • He pays the purchase price (his blood)
      • He returns to his father to prepare a place for the bride (“I go to prepare a place for you”)
      • Later the groom comes for the bride (rapture)
      • He takes her to his father’s house and gives her gifts where she is adorned and prepared for the wedding (judgment seat of Christ where crowns are awarded)
      • The wedding then takes place before the father and the witnesses (in the father’s house)
      • The groom appears with his bride (second coming in glory with his saints)
      • Then the wedding feast takes place (on earth with invited guests of the bride and groom)

The Song of Solomon 2:08-14 could have a picture of the rapture.

Sol 2:10 and 14 – He tells his beloved to arise and come away (rapture)
11 – in late spring (Resurrection Day, Ascension Day or Pentecost?)
12 – rain is over and past (In Israel this is the month of May (Ascension Day or Pentecost?)
13 – the figs are ripening (Israel is God’s fig tree – it is time for Israel to become fruitful)
14 – She is hid in the cleft of the rock (hid in Christ – Jesus is the rock)
15 – Take the foxes that do damage to the vines (time to deal with evil people)
16 – My beloved is mine, and I am his (marriage of the Church to Christ)

Jesus said it would be like in the time of Noah and Lot.

      • Fire destroyed Sodom the day Lot was led out by angels
      • The flood came after Noah entered the ark
      • God’s wrath for the world in the future will come after the believers are removed.

There are also other picture stories worth finding in scripture that proclaim a removal of God’s people before the judgment.
Selected References: 3


Is the rapture of the Church in scripture?

There are many hints in scripture about God hiding his people during a time of judgment on the earth. Since it is clear that this has not happened yet, it is a future event:

Isa 26:20 Come, my people, enter thou into thy chambers, and shut thy doors about thee: hide thyself for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast.
Psa 27:5 For in the day of trouble he will keep me secretly in his pavilion: In the covert of his tabernacle will he hide me: He will lift me up upon a rock.
Psa 50:5 Gather my saints together unto me, Those that have made a covenant with me by sacrifice.
Psa 58:9 Before your pots can feel the thorns, He will take them away with a whirlwind, the green and the burning alike.
Joe 2:16 gather the people, sanctify the assembly, assemble the old men, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts; let the bridegroom go forth from his chamber, and the bride out of their closet.
Zep 2:3 Seek ye Jehovah, all ye meek of the earth, that have kept his ordinances; seek righteousness, seek meekness; it may be ye will be hid in the day of Jehovah’s anger.
Joh 11:25,26 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth on me though he die, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth on me shall never die. (Here Jesus in part is talking about the believers who are translated at his coming.)

Joh 14:1,2 Let not your heart be troubled: believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

1 Co 15:51,55 Behold, I tell you a mystery: We all shall not sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. But when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?
1 Th 1:10 and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead. Even Jesus. Who delivereth us from the wrath to come.
1 Th 4:14-18 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also that are fallen asleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we that are alive, that are left unto the coming of the Lord, shall in no wise precede them that are fallen asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven, with a shout, with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we that are alive, that are left, shall together with them be caught up in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.
1 Th 5:1-6 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that aught be written unto you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night when they are saying, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child: and they shall in no wise escape. But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief: for ye are all sons of light, and sons of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep, as do the rest, but let us watch and be sober. For they that sleep sleep in the night: and they that are drunken are drunken in the night. But let us, since we are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God appointed us not into wrath,but unto the obtaining of salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him. Wherefore exhort one another, and build each other up, even as also ye do.

2Th 2:1-12 Now we beseech you, brethren, touching the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together unto him; to the end that ye be not quickly shaken from your mind, nor yet be troubled, either by spirit, or by word, or by epistle as from us, as that the day of the Lord is just at hand; let no man beguile you in any wise: for it will not be, except the falling away come first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, he that opposeth and exalteth himself against all that is called God or that is worshipped; so that he sitteth in the temple of God, setting himself forth as God. Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? And now ye know that which restraineth, to the end that he may be revealed in his own season. For the mystery of lawlessness doth already work: only there is one that restraineth now, until he be taken out of the way. And then shall be revealed the lawless one, whom the Lord Jesus shall slay with the breath of his mouth, and bring to nought by the manifestation of his coming; even he, whose coming is according to the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceit of unrighteousness for them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God sendeth them a working of error, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be judged who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.

Tit 2:13 looking for the blessed hope and appearing of the glory of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;
Heb 11:5-6 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and he was not found, because God translated him for he hath had witness borne to him that before his translation he had been well pleasing unto God and without faith it is impossible to be well pleasing unto him; for they that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him.
1 Joh 2:28 and now my little children, abide in him; that, if he shall be manifested, we may have boldness, and not be ashamed before him at his coming.


Note…
 Matthew chapters 24 and 25, Mark chapter 13, and Luke chapters 17 and 21 also deal with the end times. They also are the most used references for those who believe the Church will go through the tribulation but in these scriptures what we really see is Israel going through the tribulation and the gathering of tribulation saints to Israel.
For more information on this see my article on distinctions between the rapture, the gathering and the second coming
Rapture myths, by Dr. Thomas Ice  (Have you been told that the Rapture is not found in the Bible or that we teach a secret Rapture?)
The second Coming—in two part harmony, by Jack Kinsella  (One of the best articles I have read that puts the Rapture and Second coming to earth in proper perspective.)

For more information about the pre-tribulation rapture that answers all the critics of the pre-tribulation rapture check the many topics on this site.

 

ROB BELL VS THE WORD OF GOD : LOVE WINS AND THE BIBLE LOSES ?

 

FREEDOM ! GOD’S PLAN FOR YOUR SALVATION

The following is written by Dr. Douglas Stauffer, author of
Freedom’s Ring: Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Salvation.More information about Dr. Stauffer and his minstry can be found at BibleDoug.com.

“Salvation as a gift from God seems unimaginable.”

It has been said that the gospel is such a simple message that even the very young can understand it, but so profound that the most learned theologians can never reveal the depths of its riches. Although the gospel is easy to understand, many opposing views exist because eternal salvation seems far-fetched, and salvation as a gift from God seems unimaginable. The gospel answers these paradoxical questions: How can an unholy person become holy and how can a fallen creature have fellowship with a holy God?
These transformations seem impossible, but the Bible says that “with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26). Sadly, the truth of the gospel is rejected by many persons. They cannot reconcile their image of a loving God with the idea of a just God’s eternal condemnation of unforgiven sinners. Regardless, without an Almighty pardon for sin, the sinner stands eternally condemned without hope.
Although God is omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent, contrary to widespread misconceptions, He does not make anyone go to heaven, nor does He force anyone to end up in Hell. That determination is a choice made by each person on earth. In fact, God’s will is for every person to repent, trust in Christ as Saviour and be saved.

The Lord is …not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9)
For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. (1 Timothy 2:3-4)
“Regardless of how decent and moral you try to live your life, the gospel reveals your true state and dire need.”

The gospel reveals the lost and sinful condition of each and every person apart from Jesus Christ. Regardless of how decent and moral you try to live your life, the gospel reveals your true state and dire need. Using the gospel, the Spirit of God opens your heart, eyes and ears to bring conviction of sin into your life, while the Father draws you to Himself.
God provided many pictures and types throughout the Old Testament as a witness of His desire to fellowship with man. He provided shed blood and animal skins for Adam and Eve, the ark for Noah and his family, the ram in the thicket for Abraham and Isaac, and the brazen serpent on the pole for Moses and the nation of Israel. God has now provided His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, for the entire world. Thus, the message of Christ and His cross, having its foundation throughout the Old Testament, is the message that must be presented to a desperately needy world today.

“Jesus Christ, the Son of God, paid the penalty for sin by shedding His precious blood.”

The most spectacular message ever told concerns the work of Christ and how it can change a person’s life for all of eternity. In fact, it is the greatest messageever told, the greatest theme in history, and the greatest work ever performed by the greatest Person who ever lived. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, paid the penalty for sin by shedding His precious blood on the cross of Calvary.
The blood shed on Calvary’s cross was the blood of God! It was the blood of Jesus, and He is God’s Son—God manifest in the flesh (1 Timothy 3:16). Thus, the Creator of the universe justly satisfied the judgment for sin on our behalf through the shedding OF HIS OWN BLOOD.

Twelve scriptural proofs that God shed His own life’s blood for our sin:
  1. “church…purchased with his own blood.”
  2. “a propitiation through faith in his blood
  3. “justified by his blood
  4. “made nigh by the blood of Christ
  5. “having made peace through the blood
  6. blood of Christ…purge your conscience”
  7. “boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus
  8. the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin”
  9. “washed us from our sins in his own blood
  10. “redeemed us to God by thy blood
  11. “made them white in the blood of the Lamb
  12. “they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb
“By God’s very nature, He must judge sin.”

Only God could devise such a wonderful plan of redemption. God Himself became the sacrificial Lamb, but why? By God’s very nature, He must judge sin. Through His Law, the sinner must be judged guilty and condemned forever. However, through God’s Son, every man, woman or child ever born has a way out. This is the essence of the gospel!
The truly repentant sinner is saved from the penalty of sin when he realizes his desperate need and acts on his desire for God to forgive his sinful soul. Because Christ sacrificed Himself, His blood is able to clear the guilty of ALL judicial condemnation and the fiery wrath and indignation of God. God accepted Christ’s payment, making redemption possible for all those who would receive Him as their Saviour.
Everyone should ask the same simple question that the Philippian jailer posed to his two prisoners. “…Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” Only two answers to your appeal exist—one right and one wrong.
God saves man or man saves himself. The premise that man saves himselfimplies that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross was somehow inadequate. God’s saving man denotes salvation by grace—the unmerited favor of God.

“There is a day coming when God will judge the world in righteousness.”

If one adds anything to Christ’s work, this places the works of a mere mortal as equal to the sacrificial work of the Son of God on the cross of Calvary! Our greatest works could never be placed equal with what Christ did for us, and there is a day coming when God will judge the world in righteousness. The standard for that judgment will be Christ’s righteousness because we have all individually fallen short of God’s perfect standard.

“Everyone has broken God’s laws; all sinners need God’s forgiveness.”

Christ’s righteousness is the benchmark that everyone must meet; therefore, the Lord commands every sinner to repent! However, some people find it difficult to admit that they are even a sinner. Sin is simply the transgression of God’s law, of which, all are transgressors. Consider this: Have you ever lied? That makes you aliar. Have you ever stolen anything, even time from your boss? That makes you athief. Have you ever lusted after a woman? That makes you an adulterer in your heart. Everyone has broken God’s laws; all sinners need God’s forgiveness.

“God’s righteousness is offered unto all, but is imputed only to those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The assertion that God saves man requires God to impute His righteousness to the believer, which is precisely the arrangement proclaimed by the Bible. “Even therighteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe” God’s righteousness is offered unto all, (everyone), but is imputed, (or accredited), only to those who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, (just like the Philippian jailer).
What does the Bible teach concerning the way to be saved? The following chart illustrates what every sinner should personally acknowledge to God based on the scriptural declarations provided.
In so doing, the individual will better understand the Gospel of the Grace of God; however, this chart is not meant to be used as a formula for prayer.
No single magic prayer for salvation exists. One must simply believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and call upon Him in order to be saved. The Bible says, “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” Repeating these “personal acknowledgements” without the heartfelt conviction of trusting in Christ will simply be an act of futility.

“No magic prayer for salvation exists.”
Scriptural Declaration Personal Acknowledgement
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). 1. Realize that you are a sinner:
“I know that I have broken the laws of God and am a sinner, and my sin causes me to come short of God’s perfect standard.”
He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God (John 3:18).
He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him (John 3:36).
2. Recognize that you are currently under God’s wrath and deserve to end up in hell because of your sin:
“I believe the Bible which says that I am currently under the wrath of God and condemned to hell. I justly deserve to be eternally punished for my sin and know that I am simply awaiting the execution of my sentence by the eternal Judge once I die.
“Thankfully, the Son of God has paid my sin debt by dying and shedding His blood in my place so that I could have eternal life by believing on Him.”
But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). 3. Believe that the Lord Jesus Christ died for your sins:
“I believe that Christ died for my sins and also rose from the dead for my justification” (see1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God (Romans 2:4-5). 4. Repent of trusting in anything else to save you:
“In believing on Jesus Christ, I know that I must trust in Him and Him alone. If I try to add anything (good works, baptism, church membership, etc.) to Christ’s payment then I am saying to God that His Son’s sacrificial death and blood shed on the cross was not sufficient to pay for my sin.”
For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23). 5. Accept God’s gift of salvation:
“I believe that Jesus died for my sin and I accept His gift of salvation freely given to me based on the promise of God.”
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation (Romans 10:9-10).
For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13).
6. Ask the Lord to save you by simply trusting in Him and His word:
“I believe that God wants to forgive my sins and has graciously provided the way for me to receive that payment on my behalf.”
Now in your own words, if you are ready to trust in Christ, ask Him to forgive you and save you.Ephesians 1:13 says: “In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also, after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.

Final Appeal

God’s justice requires sin to be judged. This is the only way that His righteousness can be satisfied. Judgment must be poured out upon the sin of that sinner, but Jesus said, Father, put it all on Me. God then saw the wrath placed on the Son and the Father said, Justice has been served. Righteousness has been fulfilled. Now I can receive any sinner through this payment.

“God’s perfect system of justice rightfully declares all sinners without Christ guilty.”

Unlike our sometimes faulty legal system which presumes a person innocent until proven guilty, God’s perfect system of justice rightfully declares all sinners without Christ guilty. The unsaved person is already condemned and simply awaiting judgment day and the execution of the sentence. However, in the Day of Judgment, the forgiven are simply confirmed innocent.
It is as if Christ and the sinner trade places. 2 Corinthians 5:21 states, “For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Christ took your sins upon Himself. Then, having taken the judgment for those sins upon Himself, He says to all those that call upon Him: Take my righteousness.

“All you can do is look to the One who paid the price on the cross and fall down before Him and believe in Him and the payment He made on the cross for you.”

You must come to a point where you realize that you are a sinner, that the wrath of God abides on you, and that there is no way for you to stand before a holy God. Furthermore, you must realize that nothing in you can take care of your guilt, and you must have His salvation. You cannot live well enough to justify yourself! You cannot even keep the Ten Commandments! Baptism and church membership are of no help to you. All you can do is look to the One who paid the price on the cross and fall down before Him and believe in Him and the payment He made on the cross for you. Those who believe can now say, “Lord Jesus, I believe You paid the price for my sins, and right now I want to trust in You; I want You to forgive my sins and save my soul.”
These words are not special words or some formula that somehow merits salvation. It is not the words that save you; it is the act of looking to Jesus in faith and trusting in Him alone for salvation.