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Monthly Archives: December 2015

Salvation in the Old Testament: by Works or by Grace?

It is often thought that the Old Testament presents salvation by works, while the New Testament presents the opposite, salvation by grace.

Not true, however – God’s way of salvation is always by grace and it has always been so. Instead, the New Testament only shows how God makes His grace available to all – through Christ’s work on the cross.

The best place to get a good understanding of how salvation came to Old Testament believers is Romans chapter 4. It happened that the sect of the Judaizers were saying that salvation came through faith in Christ and obeying the law, i.e., the command to be circumcised. But Paul shows that Abraham was saved when he believed God, and that happened before he was circumcised. He was not saved, in other words, because he was circumcised, or because he kept the law…

For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”…We say that faith was counted to Abraham as righteousness. How then was it counted to him? Was it before or after he had been circumcised? It was not after, but before he was circumcised. He received the sign of circumcision as a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. The purpose was to make him the father of all who believe without being circumcised, so that righteousness would be counted to them as well, and to make him the father of the circumcised who are not merely circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.  Romans 4:3, 9-13 (ESV)

This wonderful truth comes into focus in an interesting place in Revelation 15, where the saints sing a particular song…

And they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb, saying, “Great and amazing are your deeds, O Lord God the Almighty! Just and true are your ways, O King of the nations! Revelation 15:3 (ESV)

The saints sing a song of deliverance, and it happens to be the song of Moses, and the song of the Lamb.

And this points to another place we find salvation by grace in the Old Testament – God’s deliverance of His people from bondage in Egypt does not happen because they are worthy or because they have served Him faithfully. Apparently, they hadn’t. No, it happens because He is a God of grace. It is only after they are delivered that He gives them His law. In the same way, we believe in Christ and are saved, and then God tells us how to live.

So the song of Moses is the same as the song of the Lamb – it is a high note of praise from a thankful people toward their gracious and good God.

 

For Wednesday, December 23: Revelation 16

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Smoke of Their Torment Forever

And another angel, a third, followed them, saying with a loud voice, “If anyone worships the beast and its image and receives a mark on his forehead or on his hand, he also will drink the wine of God’s wrath, poured full strength into the cup of his anger, and he will be tormented with fire and sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.” Revelation 14:9-11 (ESV)

Hell is a dreadful reality, almost impossible to imagine, and yet the Bible speaks of it in many places, and here in Revelation 14 we see Hell’s eternal nature: “And the smoke of their torment goes up forever and ever, and they have no rest, day or night…”

Through the history of the church, there have been a small minority of people who have argued for the once for all destruction of non-believers, rather than their eternal suffering. I really wish I could believe it, but I can’t find this teaching in the Bible. So, all in all, I think reverential awe is called for when we contemplate the potentiality of this dreadful place.

But isn’t an eternal Hell an unreasonable punishment?

In his book, Let the Nations Be Glad, John Piper says, “Degrees of blameworthiness come not from how long you offend dignity but from how high the dignity is that you offend.” And then Piper quotes the great theologian, Jonathan Edwards…

“The crime of one being despising and casting contempt on another, is proportionably more or less heinous, as he was under greater or less obligations to obey him. And therefore if there be any being that we are under infinite obligation to love, and honor, and obey, the contrary towards him must be infinitely faulty. Our obligation to love, honor and obey any being is in proportion to his loveliness, honorableness, and authority. . . . But God is a being infinitely lovely, because he hath infinite excellency and beauty. . . . So sin against God, being a violation of infinite obligations, must be a crime infinitely heinous, and so deserving infinite punishment. . . . The eternity of the punishment of ungodly men renders it infinite . . . and therefore renders no more than proportionable to the heinousness of what they are guilty of.”

In the end, the doctrine of Hell means that we take very seriously a number of other truths, starting with the infinite holiness of God, and moving on to the importance of evangelism.

We must recognize God in the perfection of His holiness, and we must boldly tell the world about their great need to be reconciled to this Holy and Eternal One.

 

For Tuesday, December 22: Revelation 15

 

 
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Posted by on December 21, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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How to Spot the Antichrist

One of the fascinating aspects of the antichrist or Beast of Revelation 13 is that he seems to die and be resurrected, he receives worship, and all in all he has great authority. Sound familiar? Yeah, it sounds a lot like Jesus. In his message on Revelation 13, John MacArthur (his sermons are helping me as I stumble-blog through this book) points out that the “anti” in antichrist sometimes means not “against” but “in the place of.” So he will be doing a “very subtle, veiled impersonation of Jesus Christ.”

So how will we know when the antichrist comes? After all, he’s not going to come breathing fire and wearing a sweater with a big A on it. No, surely he will be a smooth communicator, a pied piper who rallies the masses with charm and probably great oratory. So if he looks like Jesus, how will we know he’s not the Lord? It appears there is only one way…we must know the truth. We must be ready to recognize false doctrine or blasphemy. We must be ready to discern blasphemy when we hear it. In short, we need to know our Bibles, so we can think biblically.

Therefore one of the greatest things we can do to prepare for these coming days is to “study to show ourselves approved, workers for God who have no reason to be ashamed, rightly handling the Word of truth.” 2 Timothy 2:15.

It will be “little” matters of doctrine that will enable us to discern on that day the man or woman who is on the Lord’s side…and the evil, blasphemous one, who is definitely not.

For Monday, December 21st: Revelation 14

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Beat (box) on the Accuser

Read this with a bit of the hipster going on your head…

The accuser of the brethren

has been getting down on me,

‘cuz he’s always pointing out my sin,

and just won’t let me be,

But I know that he’s a liar,

Jesus came to set me free.

And when I overcome him,

I will live eternal-ly.

Note – this is a little ditty, parts of which ran through my head during college days. Honestly, I think I came up with it (not that it’s going to win any awards soon), but as I was about to claim authorship, a little voice in my head said, “Are you sure you wrote this?” And I’m not – maybe I heard it somewhere – who knows? This next part, however, someone else definitely wrote…

And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world–he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death…” Revelation 12:9-11 (ESV)

For Friday, December 18th: Revelation 13

 
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Posted by on December 17, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Day That Will Solve Everything

Many people believe Revelation 11:15 – 16 describes the moment of the return of Christ…

Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” And the twenty-four elders who sit on their thrones before God fell on their faces and worshiped God,

In recent years I have thought more about this day, the day when Christ returns, and the older I get, the more I long for it. On that day every minor and major problem I face today will be solved. On that day sleepless nights will be over, for all worries like a mist will fade away. Backaches and bruises…and cancer will be gone.

There will be more. Like the day that the rain came on the earth and Noah and his family escaped into the ark, so mockers who ridiculed Christians with “Where is the promise of his coming?” (2 Peter 3:4) will be shut up forever. False teachers will never utter another word.

You won’t look over your shoulder ever again.

Rest. That’s another thing I think about. Blessed, real, total and complete rest. On that day, the Lord Jesus will say to His saints, “It’s okay; I’ve got this.” Of course, He had it all along, but we always doubted. But doubt will be gone on that day, and we won’t ever doubt again, because…faith will be sight.

He will take His great power, the great power which He has held in check…and HE WILL BEGIN TO REIGN (vs 17). And so, the dead will be judged and His servants will be rewarded (vs. 18). That’s me! Like other believers, I’m His servant. So, I’ll get a reward on that day. Of course, every thing I’ve ever “done” has been the result of His grace and power working in my life, but no matter, He’s still going to reward me…and trust me, I’ll just go with it. I’d suggest the same for you.

Though I’ve heard there may be an opportunity for us to throw our various crowns at His feet.

And I’ll just go with that too.

 

For Thursday, December 17th: Revelation 12

 

 
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Posted by on December 16, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Word of God: Sweet and Bitter

So I went to the angel and told him to give me the little scroll. And he said to me, “Take and eat it; it will make your stomach bitter, but in your mouth it will be sweet as honey.” And I took the little scroll from the hand of the angel and ate it. It was sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach was made bitter. And I was told, “You must again prophesy about many peoples and nations and languages and kings.” Revelation 10:9-11 (ESV)

Consider the Word of the Living God: It is glorious. It is wonderful. It is really HIS WORD. Because the Lord of Heaven is speaking to us in every word, we rejoice in it. We delight in it. It is our daily bread.

But it is also bitter. How is this possible?

Well…take an example. Consider this particular word from Revelation 22: “Behold, I am coming soon!” Oh, how sweet that day will be! On that great day, He will wipe away all tears.

Doubt? Gone!……Fear? Gone!…..Sadness? Gone!…..Pain? Gone!  It will surely be the sweetest day we have ever known.

But it will be such a bitter day as well. The Day of the Lord will also be the day that men and women call out for the mountains to fall on them; it will be the day that they long for death but death will not come. So the sweetest Day will be the bitterest also.

John MacArthur speaks of this in his message on Revelation 10: “What does that mean? Warn men, tell them of the bitter, tell them of the sweet. Tell them what’s in the seventh trumpet. Tell them what’s in the seventh bowl and all the ones preceding it. Tell them to taste the honey and avoid the bitter. He’s saying to him … repeat what you’ve heard to peoples and nations in all languages. That’s the call, that’s the commission, that’s the assignment.”

Indeed, that is what we do with this sweet…and yet bitter word: proclaim it to all who will hear, so that on the Day that is surely coming, they will taste the honey of redemption.

 

For Wednesday, December 16th: Revelation 11

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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The Difference Between the Saved and Unsaved

I know a man who has recently been released from prison. Understandably, his life is in a sad state of affairs. However, he does have something going for him – he is being ministered to by a number of Christians. These brothers and sisters are providing for him, driving him places, etc.

But still, he doesn’t want anything to do with Jesus. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that he thinks Christians, the only people who are truly caring for him, are idiots.

He has been a fool in his early days, a fool in middle age.  And unless something changes, he will soon be an elderly fool…and then a fool for all eternity.

Just like these people in Revelation chapter 9…

The rest of mankind, who were not killed by these plagues, did not repent of the works of their hands nor give up worshiping demons and idols of gold and silver and bronze and stone and wood, which cannot see or hear or walk. Revelation 9:20 (ESV)

In the context, the world is blowing up all around them, and their only hope is to turn to the One True God…but like the man above in hopeless circumstances, they refuse. How sad.

And yet, all of us have been there. Paul writes to the Ephesians…

And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. Ephesians 2:1-3 (ESV)

So what happened for us? Why are we different than the fools of Revelation or the foolish man I mentioned? Are we smarter, or more perceptive? What did we do right that these others did wrong?

Many people believe that the ultimate difference between the one man who is saved and the other man who is lost is that one had the insight and wisdom to receive the free gift of salvation, and the other man didn’t.  Rarely do they phrase it this way, but almost always it comes down to this.

However, the teaching of Scripture is that our salvation did not come because of our own wisdom or keen insight to rightly choose the Way of Life. Instead, it was totally and completely a work of God…

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved. Ephesians 2:4 (ESV)

We were dead…but God made us alive. That’s the difference.

So all the glory goes to Him.

For Tuesday, December 15th: Revelation 10

 
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Posted by on December 14, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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