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Sunday, February 28, 2021

Supernatural Warfare, Part two

Last week we looked at the supernatural evil that is evident from the evidence all around us. Click on this link

You can watch this message if you click on this link


So now we must turn our attention to the supernatural armor that God has given the Christian to successfully wage war in this supernatural battle.

 

As I said last week, one of the best-known passages of the New Testament dealing with this subject of the supernatural is in the sixth chapter of Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. It is here where the Holy Spirit makes clearest to us what are the defensive gear and offensive weapons God supplies to us. And it is the wisest AND the safest follower of Christ who not only knows about the gear, but who practices with them: 

 

Today we focus only on verses 11-12: Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.


First, we must know this: We are not alone in our battle. Like the undetectable radio and television waves I spoke of last week, do not wonder for a moment if we are surrounded by undetectable supernatural, godly forces. Not only does the Holy Spirit live inside each follower of Christ, but unseen angels never leave our side.

The psalmist tells us: “The angel of the Lord encamps around those who fear Him and rescues them (Psalm 34:7). Hebrews 1:14 assures us God’s angels are “ministering spirits sent out to render service to those who will inherit salvation” And again, Psalm 91:11  For He will give His angels orders concerning you, to protect you in all your ways.”

Angels surround us. If we could see them, we’d see their swords unsheathed, their eyes watchful, their ears attentive, sent by our Father in heaven, creator of all things visible and invisible, to protect us.

Some of you might remember the story of Elisha and his servant in Dothan. The Syrian king was at war with Israel, and Elisha – the protégé of Elijah – was at the top of his list of enemies. When the king learned Elisha was hold up in the city of Dothan, he sent his army to surround the city. We find the story in 2 Kings 6. We pick up the story in verse 15:

“Now when the attendant of the man of God had risen early and gone out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was circling the city. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” And the Lord opened the servant’s eyes and he saw; and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:15ff)

Again, I will say it: You are NOT ever alone. You do not ever, ever, ever walk that so-called lonesome valley all by yourself.

 

The lyrics of that song – many of you have heard it sung for years, even in churches across this country – the lyrics of that song are the most heretical lyrics of any so-called spiritual song I have ever had the displeasure to listen to:

You gotta walk that lonesome valley
And you gotta walk it by yourself
Nobody else can walk it for you
You gotta walk it by yourself.


Let me stop here a moment and proclaim to you that nowhere in all of Scripture does God ever tell His children bought by the blood of Jesus, NOWHERE does God even hint that we’re alone in our struggles and our trials. Never. Not one verse. Not one sentence. Not one word.

 The song continues:

Jesus walked this lonesome valley
And he had to walk it by Himself
Nobody else could walk it for Him
He had to walk, walk it by Himself.


Are you kidding me? Even during that 40-days of wilderness trial, the Holy Spirit was with Him. And just before His capture and subsequent crucifixion, Jesus said to His disciples: Behold, an hour is coming, and has already come, for you to be scattered, each to his own home, and to leave Me alone; and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.” (John 16:31-32)

The lyrics continue to wash over the hurting and frightened child of God like battery acid:


You must go and stand your trials
You have to stand it by yourself
Nobody else can stand it for you
You have to stand it by yourself.


These are surely the most depressive and despicable lyrics I have ever heard sung in a church. Please, despite your circumstances, never forget you are never alone in this spiritual battle. Never.

 

And so, back to the Scripture in Ephesians: St Paul tells us, “Be strong in the LORD.” In other words, do not depend on your own strengths or resources in this fight. We dare not enter this battle thinking ANY of our own abilities and talents can ever prevail in this supernatural battle. Many of you will recognize the lyrics of Martin Luther’s hymn:

 

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing, Were not the right Man on our side, the Man of God’s own choosing: Dost ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is He; Lord Sabaoth, His Name, from age to age the same, And He must win the battle.

 

Christian! Resort only to the gear provided us by the Holy Spirit – the belt, the breastplate, the helmet, the footwear, the shield, the sword – and prayer. And thus we begin our examination of that battle gear by looking first at the belt of our armor. Here is verse 14 of Ephesians six: “Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth.”

 

The belt worn by the Roman soldier did more than simply keep his pants from falling. The belt also held in place his dagger and his breast plate that protected his heart and other vital organs. If his belt was not secured against his body, his weapon and the breastplate would fall away – leaving him defenseless against an aggressor.

 

That’s why Paul’s analogy of ‘girding our loins with truth’ is so instructive for us. Truth is the foundation of our faith. Truth – not philosophical truth, or psychological truth, or cultural truth, or emotional truth – but Biblical truth is the foundation of our faith. If we let truth slip away, if we compromise God’s absolute and authoritative truth, then we lay ourselves open to deadly attack by our enemy.

 

I can’t tell you how many times during our lives together when I was under some sort of spiritual attack that Nancy helped me through the battle by reminding me of some relevant text of Scripture. Likewise, how often I helped her wend her way through her own spiritual battles by reminding her of some passage in God’s infallible and inerrant word.

 

Without the belt of truth that undergirds our faith we are always in danger of the lurking evil. That’s why Paul wrote to the church at Colossae: See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ. For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form . . ..(Colossians 2:8-9)

 

The Greek work Paul used here for captive has the idea of being carried off as a prisoner of war.  And that is what happens to anyone who gets seduced by humanistic explanations of the supernatural – they become a casualty of the war, they become a prisoner of war and lose their ability to stay in the fight.

 

Pilate asked Jesus during that trial, “What is truth?” (John 18:38). And then as soon as he asked the question, he turned and walked away without so much as a moment’s hesitation.

 

If Pilate really wanted to know what is truth, he’d have waited for an answer. But he didn’t, just as so many others through the centuries have not bothered to hang around for God’s answers, likely because they didn’t want to hear His answers. And of those who do hang around, many refuse to humbly and obediently receive what God says.

 

That was one of the problems among many of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day. They heard the word – they heard PLENTY of His words – but they would not receive His word. Jesus touched on the root of their problem here in John 5:44 – No wonder you can’t believe! For you gladly honor each other, but you don’t care about the honor that comes from the one who alone is God. (NLT)

 

So, what is truth about God, and holiness, sin, righteousness, and judgment? The answer is captured throughout the Scriptures from Genesis through Revelation. For example, here is psalm 119:60 – The sum of God’s word is truth.

 

Ultimately, Truth is embodied in the Word of God made flesh – Jesus, who said of Himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by Me.” (John 14:6) And in the Lord’s High Priestly prayer to the Father, Jesus prayed: Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.” (John 17:17)

 

Christian, the equation is so simple a child can grasp it. The better you know AND OBEY the Scriptures, the better you know the truth. Lots of pastors and pew-sitters know the Scriptures. But without obedience to God’s word, their knowledge is worthless for any good. As St. Paul warned Titus, such people profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.” (Titus 1:16)

 

It is God’s truth alone that will set us free – free from fears and doubts and seductions – and yes, free from sin. The maxim has been repeated many times over: The Bible will keep you from sin, or sin will keep you from the Bible.  

 

So, be careful and conscious to hold truth close to yourself – the kind of Truth that leads to action and a godly lifestyle. The psalmist asked, How can a young man [or an old person] keep his way pure?” You’ll find that question in Psalm 119:9. And he immediately answered the question this way: “By keeping it according to Your word. With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandments. Your word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” (Psalm 119:9-11)

 

I’m a little long with this message, so I need to bring it to a close with a reminder of the four things I hope you will take away from what I have said here.

 

First: God is in absolute control of the battle AND the battlefield. From the front cover of the Bible to the back cover, the Holy Spirit assures those with eyes to see and ears to hear and hearts to receive Truth – God’s authority over every created thing – seen and unseen – God’s authority is absolute.

 

Second: We are never, ever alone in this battle. Be assured. Be confident: We do not walk a lonesome valley – regardless of how it seems when life’s storms pummel us. God has not lied to us when He said, “I will never leave you. I will never forsake you.” (Hebrews 13:5)

 

Third: Put on GOD’S armor – and never rely on our own strengths, abilities, talents, education, wealth, or any other things we might fall back on as protection against the enemy. NOTHING natural, nothing of this creation, can even be effective against the supernatural. Put on God’s armor every day when you wake up in the morning.

 

Fourth: Don’t let anyone seduce you into thinking we can somehow accurately know truth about sin, righteousness, and judgment apart from God’s word. Therefore, intentionally seek Him in the Scriptures. Learn to love truth about God. And set yourself to LIVE what God says is truth.

 

Next week we will continue our look of the other elements of the Christian’s supernatural armor.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Stroke Infomation

 If you don’t know this, you need to know this. If you know it, you need to review it. The knowledge can save someone’s life.


There are two types of stroke: Ischemic and Hemorrhagic. Each presents differently. Each can be severely debilitating or deadly.

Approximately 90% of all strokes are ischemic. A clot gets lodged in an artery in the brain, cutting off blood supply to the brain tissue.

Most ischemic strokes follow a similar pattern, often described with the acronym FAST. ‘F’ stands for facial droop on one side of the face; ‘A’ stands for arm weakness (ask the person to raise both arms in front of them, palms up. One arm will drift downward with gravity); ‘S’ is for slurred speech. The ‘T’ stands for Time. Call 911. The sooner you get the person to emergency care the less brain tissue will die. Emergency Care means a hospital – not an urgent care clinic.

The second type of stroke, this one accounting for approximately 10% of all strokes, is a hemorrhagic stroke. That occurs when a blood vessel in the brain bursts (an aneurysm). The CLASSIC symptom of a hemorrhagic stroke is the complaint of “The worst headache in my life.”

Don’t miss those words. Take them very seriously. The patient might describe the headache as sharp or aching. My wife described hers as a tremendous pressure inside her head. (She survived quite well, thank God).

Sometimes the pain might subside a little so that it is no longer excruciating. Thus, the person might feel that he or she is getting better.

THEY ARE NOT GETTING BETTER. Call 911 and get the person to the nearest Emergency Department (not an urgent care clinic). As with an ischemic stroke, TIME equals brain tissue.

If the person resists going to the Emergency Department for whatever reason, you must INSIST they go. Remember, the longer the person with the ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke waits before treatment, the worse the outcome will be.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

Supernatural Warfare (Part One)

 You can watch this message here: https://youtu.be/kr9NTGyfE4o 

Today is the first Sunday of Lent, that 40-day period –let’s call it a 40-day journey – during which many Christians make a special effort to know Christ better than they have to this point known Him. And so this first Sunday – the first of seven which culminates on Resurrection Sunday – this is a good time to talk about our own journey toward the Celestial City, and how we can learn to know Jesus better than we have to this point.

 

We cannot journey successfully, effectively, and efficiently toward that Celestial kingdom unless we recognize the supernatural battle all around us AND we utilize the supernatural weapons God has given us for those battles.

 

I preached this series some 18 months ago, during the summer of 2019. I want to now revisit those messages, because I believe serious persecution is coming to the church in America. And I consider it my responsibility to you who consider me your pastor to help us prepare ourselves for whatever may come to us.

 

A few weeks ago, I told you the story of my encounter with a spider’s web. I’d have walked right into it if at the last moment the sunlight had not glistened off its nearly invisible strands.  I then made application to the supernatural web Satan creates to trap each one of us. And because his web is supernatural, we are easily caught in it because so he has deceived many of us to think if we can’t see it or touch it, then we don’t need to worry about it.

 

The analogy I am about to use is not perfect, I admit that. But I use it as an example of how we are surrounded by things we cannot see or feel with our natural senses. But those things nonetheless are real enough that we use them all the time. We only need some kind of instrumentation to make them knowable.

 

Most of us in this room own a cell phone. With it we can call anyone anywhere in the world by simply dialing the correct number. Our phones are unlike the old rotary phones with which we are all familiar. Our home phones were attached to a chord that were connected to wires in the wall. Those wires were themselves connected a pole not far from the house. From there our voice travelled along wires to a central switchboard and from there to another phone across the city, across the country, even (after cables were laid in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans) across the world.

 

But now, without wires, without cables, without physical attachments, I tap the correct numbers onto my phone’s screen and invisible electronic waves transmit those numbers to a cell tower somewhere in the area, which then transmits those invisible electronic waves to a satellite in stationary orbit above the country until, ultimately, those invisible electronic waves cause the phone on the other end to ring.

 

What’s my point? You and I live day after day in a natural world surrounded by radio waves and solar rays and even molecular compounds like H2O that we can neither see nor feel unless we have the right equipment – like phones or televisions – to make visible or audible what is otherwise invisible and inaudible.

 

If that is what happens in the natural world around us, then why is it so inconceivable, so fairy tale-ish to believe an unseen and intangible supernatural world surrounds us – ESPECIALLY since evidence of it – especially evidence of supernatural evil – exists all around us.

 

And this is important: Since there is a supernatural evil, then it must logically follow that there is a supernatural evil ONE who orchestrates that evil.

 

The famous Chinese general and strategist, Sung Szu, wrote in his classic, The Art of War: Knowing the enemy enables you to take the offensive. Knowing yourself enables you to stand on the defensive.

 

My purpose today, at the beginning of my series of messages, is to remind us not only WHO is our enemy and what is at stake here – but to also remind us how to meet AND defeat him.

 

So, who is our enemy?

Perhaps one of the best-known passages of the New Testament dealing with supernatural warfare is in the sixth chapter of Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus. He could have just as easily written this letter to the church at our home. We will revisit this text many times over the next several weeks.

 

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints.”  (6:12ff)

Listen! This is important. I forget this principle far too often, and I need this message to remind MYSELF – our enemy is NOT other people, although in this supernatural battle, Satan uses people to do what he cannot do without human help. It is the devil and his supernatural minions that seduce and manipulate humans to murder, to ravage, to destroy, to ruin others. But they are not really the enemy. Satan and his minions are the enemy.

 

Listen to this warning in Revelation 12: “And there was war in heaven, Michael and his angels waging war with the dragon. The dragon and his angels waged war, and they were not strong enough, and there was no longer a place found for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, the serpent of old who is called the devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him . . . . For this reason . . . woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time.”

 

And we can expect such malevolent evil to grow steadily worse as we move toward the second coming of Christ. We should EXPECT the devil to seduce as many souls into the fiery hell as he can before his time runs out.

 

So, what evidence do we have before us in 2021 of the foul supernatural activities of Satan? Although like radio waves unseen by the natural eye, the eye focused on the supernatural can see Satan’s activities nearly everywhere – including in many churches.

 

As an example of his supernatural manipulation of people headed for hell, consider how many gravely serious cultural changes we have witnessed just in our lifetime, changes that always result in the destruction of homes, families, nations, and individual lives.

 

In the 1950s it would have been considered unthinkable by virtually every American that in 2021 we would so nonchalantly kill nearly 3,000 babies every day in American abortion clinics. And not just kill them, but then we permit them by law to sell their torn apart body parts for experimentation and research. 

 

Think of it!  None of us in the 1950s – just a few years from learning of the experiments the Nazis performed on men, women, and children in their concentration camps – none of us would have ever imagined Americans would do the same thing in our lifetime.

 

Since the murderous Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade in 1973 allowing women to kill their children in the womb (and now, in states like New York, even after they are born) America has killed more than 62 million pre-born children. Let that number sink in a moment. 62 million.

 

That’s more than the combined populations of New York State, Georgia, Florida, and South Carolina! In your mind’s eye, wipe those states off the map. They no longer exist. We’ve slaughtered their populations in the womb.

 

Our deviant culture has become so upside down in our lifetime that if you mistreat a dog, you can go to jail. But if you kill a baby in an abortion clinic, you can get invited to a daytime television show to boast about it.

 

What else do we know of the supernatural carnage triggered by the devil in our lifetime? In 1950 would anyone have imagined the US Supreme Court would give same-sex marriages legal status in our country – and that a growing number of lower courts throughout the nation would consider it hate speech to argue against same-sex unions?

 

Of course, sexual sin has been with us even since forever, but in 1950 would anyone have thought that unmarried couples living and sleeping together would be the stuff of television sitcoms and Hollywood movies?

 

Yet the supernatural enemy of the family unit has convinced most Americans that living together outside of marriage is as innocent a thing as strolling through the park on a Saturday afternoon. Who would have thought that possible in 1950?

 

And if we still need evidence of a supernatural yet unseen enemy, only a few years after WW II when we defeated Nazism – NAZI, as some of you might know, is an acronym for the German phrase: National Socialist German Workers Party – in 1950, just after we defeated Nazism and were about to be embroiled in a decades-long cold war with the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (the USSR) would any of us believed it possible that in our lifetime we would actually VOTE socialists into our White House, congress and state houses?

 

I could go on and on with evidence of the supernatural blindness that has enveloped our great nation, our families – and many of those we interact with day by day – but my point is already made.  We are engaged in a fierce and deadly supernatural Satanic battle for our eternal souls.

 

We might not think we’re engaged in it. We might not want to be engaged in it. We might rather sit back and pretend none of it is happening. But to think that is to already be a casualty of that battle. To think that is to already be lulled to sleep so you can’t rescue anyone from Satan’s claws.

The battle – life itself – is all about the supernatural. The unseen. The intangible. But it is the very, very real foundation of life and death. That is why we will spend time over the next weeks reminding ourselves of the supernatural tools God has given us to be successful in that battle.

 

Please don’t miss these instructions, for – as Paul tells us in his second letter to the church at Corinth: For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses.” (2 Corinthians 10:3-4)

So, what application can we make with what you’ve just read? Well, as a reminder, here are the main points of today’s message:

 

Point number one: Know your enemy. Paul tells us in that sixth chapter of his letter to the Christians at Ephesus, our struggle is NOT against flesh and blood, but against supernatural forces of wickedness. 

 

Number two. Know what is at stake in this ongoing battle – and that is the eternal destiny of our souls, and the souls of our families, and loved ones – an eternity in either a fiery hell, or an eternity in the very presence of our merciful and loving God whom we call Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

 

Next time we will turn our attention to what the Holy Spirit tells us through Paul about how to not only protect ourselves and those we love, but how to also defeat our supernatural enemy.

 

As I said at the beginning of this message, we have entered the season of Lent. Whether it is your intent to observe the season of Lent, or it is not your intent, we all must know this critical point: The time to draw closer to Jesus is upon us. As the Scripture tells us: Today, if you hear His voice, harden not your hearts.


Saturday, February 20, 2021

Good News, Bad News

I read chapter five of John’s gospel this morning and some good news and some bad news caught my attention:

“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life . . . Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment. (John 5:24, 28,29)

Here is the good news: Everyone will live forever. God said it and we should believe it. And that should settle it. Everyone will live forever. That’s the good news.

And here is the bad news: Everyone will live forever. God said it and we should believe it. And that should settle it. Everyone will live forever. That’s the bad news.

What we do with Jesus in this life determines where we will live our forever; either in an eternity with our God and Father, or in an eternity in torment in the lake of fire.

Jesus asked some of His day, “How can you believe in Me when you are more interested in what others think about you than you are concerned about what God thinks of you.”  I think that is a fair paraphrase of chapter 5 and verse 44.

 

And so, what have you done about Jesus? Are you striving to follow Him in obedience to His commandments? Or have you dismissed Him as unimportant to your life and your affairs?

 

Your time is running out. Every day brings you one day closer to the judgement seat of God – where good news, or bad news, awaits you.

 

And it can happen in an instant. Without warning.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Knowing Him Better

Isn’t it true that our words express our thoughts? That they express what’s in our hearts? Take a moment to think through that self-evident logic.

 

As the Lord said, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

 

I thought about those truths when I read again this text from John’s gospel: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . The word became flesh and dwelt among us. (John 1:1, 14)

 

Simply put, Jesus is God‘s word – He is the explicit expression of God’s thoughts, of God’s heart which He made visible and tangible as flesh and blood. Jesus is, as Hebrews tells us, “The radiance of [God’s] glory and the exact representation of His nature.” (Hebrews 1:3)

 

No wonder Jesus said, “If you have seen Me you have seen the Father.”

 

If we want to know the Father’s heart better, then it is simply not enough to read books about Jesus; It is not enough to read commentaries about Him; It is not enough to read what the Church has historically taught about Him – all of which are, yes, very important to our spiritual growth. But if we want to know the Father’s thoughts and His heart better, there is no better means provided by God than to read and reflect on what the written word of God tells us about Him.

 

If you don’t already have a habit of consistently reading God’s word, then why not start today? You can find a variety of annual Bible reading plans on the internet. Or you can give mine a try: https://thecontemplativecatholicconvert.blogspot.com/2016/09/bible-reading-plan-revised-sept-2016.html


Do you want to know God better? St. Jerome said it well: “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.”

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Ash Wednesday -- A Few Words

On this Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, the season during which many Christians consider how they might grow closer to Jesus – I am glad God is not the same today as He was in earlier days.

Let me tell you why I am glad. I just read this morning this text in Jeremiah: “Behold, you are trusting in deceptive words to no avail. Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery and swear falsely, and offer sacrifices to Baal and walk after other gods that you have not known, then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, ‘We are delivered!’—that you may do all these abominations? (Jeremiah 7:8-10)

And that reminded me of another Old Testament prophet, Habakkuk. For the first two and a half chapters of that short book, God let him know heaven’s wrath was coming because of the nation’s adulteries and fornications and child sacrifices and their religious blasphemies. And so, Habakkuk mourned aloud: “I heard and my inward parts trembled, at the sound my lips quivered. Decay enters my bones, and in my place I tremble. Because I must wait quietly for the day of distress . . . “ (Habakkuk 3:16)

God says the same things through Isaiah. And Ezekiel. And Amos. And Joel. And . . . .

Do you see why I am glad God is not the same today as He was then? For if He is, then America is in desperate danger.

And if He is the same today as He has ALWAYS been, then why do so many Christians in the pews and in the pulpits expect God’s blessings on America when we do as much evil as did ancient Israel? The murders of 62 million unborn babies cry to God louder than the blood of Abel, killed by his brother Cain. Our sexual perversions and immoralities, promoted from the highest courts and political offices of our land, compete with Sodom and Gomorrah for disgrace. Our blasphemies against God and His people are as vocal and as evil as that of the Baal worshipers in Judah and Israel back in the day.

We expect God to hear our national and individual prayers for healing and health and safety when we live and work and vote as so many Christians in the pews and the pulpits do?

Yes, I am glad God is not the same today as He was then.

BUT, if He IS the same today as He was then, we had better change our lives while there is still time to do so. If He IS the same today as He was then, then Ash Wednesday is a good day to not only receive ashes on our forehead as a sign of our fleeting mortality, but it’s a good day to also roll in ashes as a sign of our mourning – and our repentance – for our sins.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

By His Grace through our Faith

Every now and again I will read of someone’s biblically baseless theory (I will not call it a theology) that we can either merit salvation, or maintain our salvation, by doing good works or by keeping God’s commandments.

God is thereby obligated (that might not be the word they use, but it certainly is what they mean) – God is thereby obligated to save the person or give the person ongoing salvation.

 

And then I think of the Lord’s comment in Luke 17:

“Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’? But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’? He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.” (Luke 17:7-10)

 

Certainly, we must obey God’s commandments. But the New Testament Scriptures do not make obedience to the Law the criteria by which God either saves us or keeps us. We obey God because He loves us, and we love Him:

 

“Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me . . .” (John 14:21); “This is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3); “And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands.” (2 John 6)

 

The Holy Spirit tells us time and again we are saved NOT by our works of righteousness, but only by His grace through our faith. God saved us because He loves us. God keeps us because He loves us. That’s it. There is nothing to add to or take away from that ineffable truth.

 

That’s why St. Paul wrote to the Christians at Rome: “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.” (Romans 5:1-2)



And again in Titus: “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:4-7)

 

The word ‘justified’ used by Paul in his letter to the Romans and to Titus means that for all those who believe in Christ’s sacrificial atonement for their sins, God Himself declares them righteous. He pronounces them to be without guilt of sin.

 

Did you get that? God Himself declares the sinner who trusts in Christ’s atonement to be without guilt.


Do we nullify the importance of good works? Of course not. Faith in Christ – if it is saving faith – will ALWAYS manifest itself in doing good deeds (e.g. Ephesians 2:8-10, Titus 3:8, James 2:14-24). But the idea that God is somehow obligated to save us or to keep us because of our good deeds is nothing less than dangerous presumption.

 

As the Lord said in that text from Luke 17: He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.”


God saved us and keeps us because He loves us.