The Intellectual Prophet


The first lie recorded in the Bible is found in Genesis 3 when Satan said to Eve though a serpent, “You will not surely die”. In essence he was saying to her, “You can’t trust what God says, trust yourself”.

In 2010, in pulpits and seminary class rooms, all across America there is a chorus of infidels who join with the evil one in his declaration that God’s words cannot be trusted. These sails with no wind have become so educated that they are convinced they can pick and choose which parts of the Bible record to believe and which parts to reject as only ancient myths, fables, and fabrications.

If Jesus Christ is not who the Bible says he is, and if he did not do what the Bible says he did, there is no Christianity, there is only religion. It seems in every church group there are those who cast doubt the reliability of the Holy Scriptures and the result is a message of good works, self improvement, religious ritual, and nice devotionals.

The most zealous legalist  does no more harm to the cause of Christ than those who teach that God will welcome anyone  into heaven whose morals are good, who helps the poor, has participated in certain rituals, and is a faithful church member.

For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:17,18)

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Corinthians 2:12-14)

Apart from divine revelation we have no message from God. These words from Paul, the great apostle to the Gentiles, make it perfectly clear why men would stand in church pulpits and tell the listeners they can’t really trust the Bible, certainly not all of it. God’s truth is “folly to him (them)”, or foolishness, and they are “not able” to understand it.

I once took a New Testament course at a seminary in North Carolina and the professor gave no illusions that he believed the Bible. One day as many of us waited in line to eat in the school cafeteria the unbelieving New Testament professor was near where I was standing. A young Christian Church pastor called out to him, “If you don’t believe the Bible why don’t you quit and get into some other line of work? Even the drunks where I live believe the Bible is the Word of God!”

May our Lord help us to be faithful to the revelation given us and to boldly reject infidelity where ever we find it.

Royce Ogle

Crushing the Myth – “I am a victim…”


“I was just fine until he said that, and I unloaded on him!”

“She made me so angry I couldn’t sleep!”

“What do you mean by that look? You are making me mad!”

“I don’t love you any more, you make me unhappy.”

“That stupid clerk made me curse…”

“When you leave your things on the floor it makes me furious!”

“They made me hate them. It was not my fault. I didn’t do anything wrong.”

Have you ever heard any of these statements? Ever said them? These and tens of thousands more are as common as the morning sun. And, there is no marked difference between people who are not people of faith and those who are regarding this type of excuse. If you question that statement, talk to a minister who counsels couples with marriage difficulties, or a Christian psychologist, you will find that they hear this sort of victim mentality routinely.

One of the earliest tactics children learn is to blame someone or something for their mistakes or wrongful acts. Every person who reads this knows without having to be convinced that this is true. Even the sweetest child will often blame a sibling for spilling cereal on the floor, or writing on the wall with an ink pen. My grandsons often exclaim when I correct one for hitting the other, “He made me do it!” or “It’s not my fault…bla bla bla…”

The preferred methodology of psychologists is to delve into the past of people who behave terribly to try to learn what external stimuli shaped them into such rotten characters. Surely culture, family atmosphere, religious training (or the lack of it), and many other things contribute to making us the people we become as adults. That fact is not in question. However, those things are not the end of the story.

So, almost all counselors, psychiatrists, and psychologists dig into the client’s past with a view of providing information and new stimuli with a view of correcting destructive, disruptive, and sometimes criminal behavior. This is the solution humanism offers even if couched in “Christian” terms or offered by a “Christian” professional.

It might shock you to learn that Jesus had a different view of human failings. This is what He said.

And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:20-23)

Jesus was certainly not alone in his appraisal of the human condition. Consider these passages. They speak the same truth.

And when the LORD smelled the pleasing aroma, the LORD said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.
(Genesis 8:21)

The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;

who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9)

SIN is original equipment.

Today I saw a young woman on TV who had taken a plea deal offered by the D.A.’s office to two counts of 2nd degree murder to avoid the possibility of the death penalty. This calm, innocent appearing young woman killed her two small children intentionally and on purpose. I am positive that when she was a toddler her parents never thought that their baby girl had the potential to be a murderer of their grand babies and be sentenced to two consecutive life sentences. According to Jesus “murder” is one of those sins that resides deep in the innermost depths (heart) of a human being.

In another place, a mother whose daughter committed the same crime could only use as an excuse for her daughters crime “she was distraught”.

The Proverbs passage quoted above says in part “the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth”. Most of my friends do not believe this and they will tell you quickly they don’t. But, it is true without regard for who believes it. Ugly but true!

That our problems are SIN is really good news!

Much of our Christian ministry is humanism wrapped up in “church terms”. What we desperately seek is to permanently modify the behavior of husbands who have fits of anger and slap their wives around, meth heads who will do almost anything to fuel their addiction, and bitter house wives who are miserable with their marriages and life in general. Most of what we do is no more effective than treating cancer with a band aid. Even if the symptoms are negated, the problem still lurks in the darkness and is very likely to rear it’s ugly head in the future. SIN is not cured by humanistic methodology.

SIN is our problem and Jesus came to cure sin. What is needed is to drastically change the condition of the human heart, that part of a man that stores up ungodliness and contempt for the things of God.

The Bible is so wonderfully simplistic on difficult problems that we often overlook life saving truths. Christians need not tolerate SIN.

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. (1 John 1:9)

This is a tremendous promise for the believer. If we will only agree with God about our SINS, see them as He sees them, He will forgive and cleanse. Many will protest, “That is just too simple!” It is not too simple.

Let’s think through this. Jesus died for “all” of our sins. The fact is that when He died the death you and I deserved “all” of our sins were future. “All” of our sins were put on Him, He became sin “for us” so that we could be “made righteous” through Him. So, we who are faith followers of Jesus have been saved from the penalty of sin. It is a done deal!

Now it is God’s intention to sanctify us, that is to set us apart for him by a process of shaping us into people who more closely resemble Jesus in thoughts, intentions, attitudes, and daily living. A way we participate in this theological process called “sanctification” is “walking in the Spirit”. The one who is “walking in the Spirit” quickly repents when he becomes aware of SIN in his life and claims God’s forgiveness. He moves on listening carefully to that still small voice that continually points him towards God’s best for him.

Modify or Mortify?

Husband “A” has a violent temper. Without warning, his wife and children are the objects of his anger. A word, a radio that is too loud, a wife a few minutes late, etc. are triggers for unbridled rage. His dad was very much the same and so was his grandfather.

Humanism says lets learn some ways to “modify” the behavior. After all, isn’t how he acts the problem? If the professional, or the minister, or the caring friend can help Mr. “A” change his actions everything will be OK. Or will it? This method is often labeled, “Anger Management”.

The Bible says lets call SIN SIN and deal with it the Scriptural way. Husband “A” recognizes his simmering anger as SIN. He agrees with God that it is SIN and accepts God’s forgiveness. (Of course he seeks the forgiveness of those he has hurt as well). Not only does God forgive, but also cleanses him from “all unrighteousness”. (1 John 1:9) Now, he might find himself guilty of this sin again and when he does he repeats the process and as he is empowered by the Holy Spirit who lives in him, eventually he will experience mastery over the sin that is in him. By the power of the Holy Spirit we are to rule over sin, not the reverse.

I know some who read this will protest saying “This will not work!” Have you tried it God’s way? Unless the Bible is not true it will absolutely work.

You see SIN is the root of your problems. Your neighbor didn’t “make you angry”. Your ugly neighbor only exposed what was already in you. It is what comes out of you that defiles you. You had SIN in you before the neighbor ever came into view.

Once more, just so we don’t forget.

And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (Mark 7:20-23)

And, Paul wrote,

“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these.”
(Galatians 5:19-21a)

“…but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members (flesh)” (Romans 7:23)

Paul, like Jesus, understood the nature and deceitfulness of sin. The pressing question then is this. Will we be satisfied with temporarily modifying unproductive behavior, which at best is a remedy, or do we want God’s cure? Only in the person and work of Jesus for you is there a cure.

Agape’

Royce

Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin


The title of this post is a quote from Romans 4 in the Bible. The impact of this statement is highlighted in the context of the great apostle’s theme of justification by faith.

“What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. For what does the Scripture say?”Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works:
“Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven,
and whose sins are covered;
blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.”

Is this blessing then only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? 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.” (Romans 4:1-12)

This should be very good news! And, it is good news to those who understand what Jesus accomplished for wicked, ungodly sinners when He took upon him their sins and paid the awful price the justice of God demanded. He cried from the cross, “It is finished!” With that cry and his shed blood and final breath, sinful mankind had been reconciled to God. Three days later the certification that God’s plan of salvation was complete was displayed as a risen Jesus. Our three common enemies had all been unquestionably defeated for good, death, hell, and the grave.

This is not good news for everyone…

That God is not counting sins against those with their faith in Jesus is not good news for the self-righteous. They are not unlike their first century counterparts who were the most religious folks of their time, the sect of the Pharisees. Oh yes, we have plenty of them today.

They love the praise of men. “Listen to me”, “see what I have done”, “notice what I avoid”, “honor me because I am such a good person”. These church members never miss a service, they do all the right things so far as can be humanly observed, but inside they are corrupt to the core.

They want part of the credit for their salvation. The message of the grace of God offends them deeply, it makes them angry. It is not unlike the anger the church folks had against Jesus. “Eating with sinners!”, “Doing things we don’t approve on the Sabbath, the nerve…!” He deserves to die!”

Good news for those who trust Christ alone…

This is really not complicated. If you will take a deep breath or two and read carefully through the text quoted above, and, if you really want to know the truth, you can.

The plan that Jesus would die for sinners, in their place, for their sins, was not a remedy quickly and frantically put together because of the sin of Adam. No, before the creation, in eternity before time, God purposed to bring glory to himself by justifying guilty sinners. Peter, in the first major address after Jesus’ resurrection said,

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” (Acts 2:22,23)

Paul joins Peter and confirms this eternal plan of God.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight.” (Ephesians 1:3-8)

All of your sins (past, present, and future) are forgiven, removed, and forgotten.

Answer this question. How many sins had you committed about 2,000 years ago? How many ways had you offended God before the earth was spoken into existence? None! ALL of your sins were in view in eternity past when God’s “definite plan” was conceived and you “were chosen in Him” and He decided to make you “holy and blameless” to the “praise of His glorious grace“.

This is one time in your life when something that sounds to good to be true IS! In the person of Christ, by his work and worth, God has forgiven ALL your sins and declared you “right”. So, your righteousness does not rise from your performance but rather from God’s decree. He “counts” (credits, or puts to the account of..) you righteous based on the perfection both in the living and dying of Jesus Christ.

The Hebrews writer said it another way. In comparing Jesus and his priestly work of offering himself, to the human priests who daily had to make offerings for sins, he made this declaration.

“For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:14)

Those who are being sanctified” is you and me, if we are trusting in Christ alone and not ourselves and our ability to do good. Jesus made one offering for sins, once for all time, once for all people, and once for all sins, and He sat down…

Duty does not determine destiny…

Has it ever occurred to you that God doesn’t have to wait until next month to see what you will do next month? Or next year? God knew before time what you would do today and every tomorrow and loved you anyway to show His glory.

I understand this is new territory for some who might read this. It really does sound too good to be true! And, as I said earlier, many are offend by God’s message of salvation by grace. In fact, Jesus promised it would be so. I can’t change that. I hope you will have an open heart for God’s truth. It is after all, God’s truth, not mine.

I’ll end this post with three propositions for your consideration. God’s plan of salvation is complete but still in progress, we are perfect but not yet, and we are on our way to being just like Jesus in a perfect place, in a perfect body, perfectly righteous and holy.

As to our standing with God…

1. Our “positional” standing. We stand by faith in Christ, have been declared “righteous”, are adopted as sons, promised an inheritance, been given life eternal, promised a bodily resurrection to immortality, have our names in the book of life, are sealed by the Holy Spirit, and are SAFE.

In this sense we are “saved” or “have been saved”. Our destiny is settled. Based wholly upon the worthiness and merit of Jesus we have been justified, redeemed, reconciled, set right, and been made perfect by God. We did not deserve it and can’t claim any credit for the gift we have received. The theological term that represents these truths is Justification.

2. Our “practical” standing. Unfortunately we still fall far short of God’s ideals of worship, devotion, and morality. We still sin. But, God is at work in us to change us so that we are becoming more like Jesus. He uses circumstances, the Bible, other Christians, and most importantly, the transforming work of the Holy Spirit who lives in us, to constantly and consistently make us more what He desires and destines us to be finally.

We are to cooperate by obedience, by saying the same thing about our sin God does (confession, 1 John 1:9), by prayer, giving of thanks, by putting God’s words into our hearts. and by loving God and others the very best we can. What God has begun in you He will complete. Ours is to live like whose we are. The theological term that represents these truths is Sanctification.

3. Our “future” standing… We are promised a home with God, one not made with human hands, a glorified body like the body of Jesus, the absence of worry, fear, doubt, sin, death, and we will experience the joy we share in the glory of God and the Lamb of God who took away our sins. We are promised a shared inheritance with Jesus as adopted sons and daughters to live, rule and reign with him forever. The theological term that represents these truths is “Glorification“.

In the act of “Justification” God sets sinners right with himself and has saved them from the “Penalty of sin“.

In the act of “Sanctification” God’s children are being saved from the “Power of Sin”.

In the act of “Glorification” God will save his own from the very “Presence of Sin“.

Blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sins” If this is not your blessing it can be and should be.

Do a lifestyle U-Turn. You have been doing it your way for a long, long time. How is it working out for you? Changing the direction of your lifestyle from self-rule to God’s-rule is called “repentance”. God commands every person to repent. Change your mind now!

Put your whole trust in Jesus Christ. He promises everlasting life and resurrection of the body to those who will simply depend on Him. Most people I know, church folks and unchurched, believe Jesus existed, and most believe he was raised from the dead after his death on a cross. Most people know John 3:16.

It is one thing to believe some facts and quite another to depend on those facts. Or, to be more exact, it is one thing to believe a person lived and did good things, even miracles, died on a cross, and was raised from the dead. But to rest on those truths, to trust dependently upon Him is much, much more than just agreeing to facts. Take God at his word and trust Him to give you eternal life and a home with Him.

Come out for Jesus! Make it public that you are trusting Christ and that you intend to follow him. Say it and show it. Tell a minister, a Christian friend or relative. Then follow the Lord in a symbolic death, burial, and resurrection in the waters of Christian baptism. By doing so you are identifying yourself as one of God’s people, a follower of Jesus. You are showing that you have died to your old life and are going to life the Christ-life going forward.

Love God and love your neighbor as you live your new life for Jesus sake.

Agape’

Royce

How can we know we are Christians?


Maybe a better question would have been not “how can” we know, but simply “can we know”? Well, there is no doubt this topic is one worth discussing. Some good people, people whose lives are given to serving Christ and others are doubtful and really don’t think you can know if you are safe or not until the final judgement. Others ask themselves and others, have I been good enough?

There are all sorts of subjective conclusions about this subject but the final authority on this question and all questions spiritual must be answered by God’s revelation, the Bible. When we stand on what God has said we stand on solid ground. Now we have another problem! Everyone who has an opinion claims biblical authority for what they believe and or teach. So, knowing full well that I am only one more undeserving, redeemed sinner, I will add my thoughts.

Almost everyone who goes by the name “Christian” agrees on a set of facts. Those are that Jesus was God in flesh, that he was the Christ of God, that he died for our sins, that he rose from the grave three days later, and only though faith in him can we be forgiven of our sins and finally have a home in heaven. For the most part, these things are not the topic of debate. The worrying question is, am I personally saved because of these facts?

To further complicate matters, some people have assurance of their salvation who shouldn’t. There are likely tens of thousands of regular church attenders, givers, teachers, preachers, and people who live what is considered to be a good moral life, who think they are saved but are not. (Matthew 7:21-23) And, there are many, many people who should have assurance but do not. So how do we unravel this puzzle of misconceptions, assumptions, and false assurance, or lack of assurance?

Both Peter and Paul addressed this head on. Peter warned,

“Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:10,11)

Paul, in 2 Corinthians said the same thing this way,

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” (2 Corinthians 13:5)

Why would the Holy Spirit move these men to write these things if you can’t make your calling and election sure, or if you can’t know if you are in the faith? It is absurd to think such a thing.

False Assurance

I am a better person than most of my neighbors. I am honest, kind to dogs, children, and old people. I attend church faithfully, I was confirmed, I was baptized, I give a tithe, I have had a successful ministry, I made a decision for Christ, I prayed the sinners prayer, etc., etc. The problem with this is the word “I”. In this case the I’s do not win.

Biblical Assurance

Jesus is the only ground and hope of my faith. I am depending only on Him and the promises of the gospel that if I lean on Him and allow his rule in my life I can know I am secure. I understand that I don’t deserve God’s grace and forgiveness of sins and that I have no power within myself to change my destiny. For me it is either Jesus or nothing!

What Should We Be Looking For When We “Test Ourselves” and How Do We “Make Our Calling and Election sure”?

Peter said it this way.

“His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness,and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins.” (2 Peter 1:2-9)

Peter says we have all that is necessary to be certain we are in the faith and they all are found in the person of Jesus Christ. It is in Him that we have everything that matters for daily living and godliness, and we have His promises.

First Test, Peter.

Are you and I purposefully working on being who we are in Christ? If not, DANGER ahead! A life that is not showing the qualities Peter lists, in increasing measure is one that is not safe.

Paul answers this way.

“Do what is right…” (2 Corinthians 13:7)

“Aim for restoration, comfort one another, agree with one another, live in peace” (2 Corinthians 13:11)

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.” (Galatians 5:16)

What does this look like in a person’s life?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:22-26)

Paul’s Test

We must ask ourselves honestly, does this look good on me? Is this what a watching world sees at my work, at a ball park, when I talk to my CPA, and when I have to interact with people at church that I really don’t especially like? There are no coasting Christians.

I’ll end this post with one of the most convincing statements on assurance in the Bible. John wrote these words specifically so you and I may know we are in the faith.

“I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.” (1 John 5:13)

It would be a cruel thing for God to say this and not let us in on how we can know for sure. He does clearly tell us.

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God” (1 John:1)

“For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world— our faith.Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.” (1 John 5:4,5)

“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life. Little children, keep yourselves from idols.” (1 John 5:20)

A Spiritual Check up!

First, agree with God that eternal life is not what we do but is Christ himself. We must “know Him” and be “in Him” to be save.

Second, read 1 John understanding that it was written for your assurance that you are really a Christian. Don’t make the common mistake of going backwards and thinking that if you mimic what John writes, that will make you a Christian. We are not saved by what we do but by Jesus alone.

1 John is a spiritual check list so you can know you are in the faith, that you are secure in Christ. Honest answers will either prove up the genuineness of your faith, or show you that you are not in the faith and point you to Jesus who is himself eternal life.

There are NO promises of assurance for pretenders, make believers, and the self-righteous. ALL of the promises are for those who are in Christ by faith. Don’t be misled. (Matthew 7:21-23)

In the professing church on earth there are two groups of people. There are first those who have a sincere faith in Jesus and are trusting Him alone for their salvation. Good works are what they are designed for (Ephesians 2:10). God’s law of love is written on their hearts and they want to love him and their fellow-man because they are now partakers of the divine nature.

The second group in our churches are those who are depending on their superior morality, measuring themselves by themselves. They will point out how “faithful” they are, to their baptism or confirmation and other things about them that lead them to believe they are safe. This group includes pew riders and preachers, elders and bishops, priests and all other pretenders who will give as evidence they are saved only what they have done or are doing.

A careful, soul-searching reading of 1 John, will tell you for sure if you are, or are not, really a Christian.

In Christ,

Royce Ogle