Who are you now?


godJesus said something astonishing to Nicodemus, a leader of the Jews. Nicodemus had come to see Jesus and to discuss His amazing miracles. He understood there was something other worldly about Jesus. It was pretty obvious that God was with him. The only sensible explanation for some of the things Jesus had accomplished was that He must have had supernatural help, namely God!

In reply to Nicodemus’ statement about Him, Jesus replied, and then repeated, “You must be born again“. Of course this strange response stumped the learned leader of the Jews, so he questioned further, asking about this strange teaching. Jesus made it clear that the kingdom of heaven is only for those who have had a Spirit birth. Flesh produces flesh and Spirit produces spirit.

Today there are many in our churches who are like this ancient religeous leader Nicodemus asking “How can these things be?” In discussions with my Christian friends both in person and online it is clear that many of them have missed an important truth that if not understood leaves a person confused just like Nicodemus. Have you pondered the message of grace and then the many commands and rules and wondered “How can these things be?” I’m not going to ask you to raise your hand, but does the New Testament seem to you like a series of contradictions and paradoxes? I know it does to many, many people, especially in our churches of Christ.

Every person who has been born of the Spirit (from above) lives every day of their life on earth, since that new birth, in two distinct dimensions. They are alive in the dimension of the “flesh” and the dimension of the “Spirit”. Both realities are equally real and true. In fact, the spiritual, one could argue, is more real becaus it is eternal while the other is temporary. I am a living breathing human man and at the same time I am a spiritual man, one of the household of God by the new birth. And so are you if you have been born again.

The Bible addresses both of these realities in very distinct ways. I could write pages about those differences in Scripture but I want to focus on one point. With regard to our status with God, or salvation, there is also two realities. The first is what I call our position with God. This is our positional standing with God. It is what it is only upon the basis of the person, work, and worth of Jesus Christ. We are only accepted in Him, and never accepted for any other reason.

The second reality again relates to our spiritual selves but is what I call our practical standing. It reflects our response to God’s lavish love and grace shown to us in His Son. It is what we “practice” as believers day by day, hense the term “practicle“. My friend Edward Fudge says it this way and makes it clear, “We work out what God works in“. The Bible says both to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling“, and “It is He who is in you both to will and to do His good pleasure“. So both our positional standing and our practicle standing are addressed and identified.

Finally, I’ll add that these two realities can be viewed from two perspectives. There is first the view from God’s perspective and secondly the view from the street where you live. God sees you as already perfected, safe and secure, clothed with the rightsousness of Jesus and seated in the heavenlies already glorified. That is God’s view and He allows us glimpses of that reality. You and I see ourselves as strugglers, trying to do what is right and often failing even ourselves. We don’t like our sin but it keeps hanging around, most of the time in the shadows but far too often in the light of noon day it explodes on the scene. We are shocked and saddened and quickly repent and receive God’s promised cleansing…and then the cycle continues. We find that we are never right about everything, or everyone, we never perfectly obey what we do know to do, and secretly we admit to ourselves that we are misrable failures in the Life.

The very good news is that our daily living, fail as oft’ we do, does not in any way change or threaten our position with God, or our standingwith Him. You are just as much a child, just as saved, just as secure, on the days you disappoint yourself as the days when you think you’ve done ok. God is constant and consistant in His sovereign love for His own who are actively trusting the Christ of the gospel for eternal life.

Cheap grace you say? Hardly! “Shall we continue to sin that grace may abound? God forbid!”Are you crazy? If you can live in continual sin and experience no tension, no sorrw of soul, you must take care to see if you are really in the faith. Everyone who is truely a believer is safe and sure of heaven and God’s great promises. There is no securityfor imposters. People who are trusting in themselves, church membership, baptism, family heritage, or scores of other things instead of Jesus Christ are only promised the wrath of God and perishing.

I am convinced that once a person knows who He is in Christ he will more liekly live like who he really is. Those who hope to become who they hope to be by what they do are certain to be sadly disappointed.

I hope the next time you read the Bible you will remember your Positional standing and your Practical standing with God. This will set you free to be who God called you to be, free to lovingly obey, rather than be confined to the bondage of legalism, failing over and over and over again. Any person who claims to be justified by what he does is either a liar or lost. He is a liar if he doesn’t admit, at least to himself, it just isn’t working out well, he fails too often too easily. Or he is lost and does not know God spiritually because he has never repented of his wickedness and thrown himself upon Christ’s mercy with his whole heart and mind.

Of course those who are not Christians live in two realities also. They live in the body of human flesh and they live in the dominion of Satan the god of this present world and are spiritually “dead“. They are in the sway of the evil one to do his pleasure. Only the God of heaven can breathe life into the man who is dead spiritually. Put your whole trust in Jesus the best you know how and He will make you to stand whole and holy.

For truth,
Royce

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I know Whom I have believed…


handinhand

Ones who are truly born from above (John 3:3, 7) live in two dimensions, physical and spiritual. The unsaved (natural) man only lives physically and is dead spiritually. (Ephesians 2:1, 5; Colossians 2:13) It is from the failure to understand this truth that much misunderstanding and error arises. Consider the following propositions.

  • 1. The spiritual realm (where God lives) is just as real as the physical realm (where humans live).
  • 2. Spiritual reality is in some way even more real because it is eternal and things physical are only temporary.

If we don’t accept these as truth then the pursuit of God is futile because God is Spirit. (John 4:24) The very life of a Christian is spiritual life given by the Holy Spirit who indwells. (Romans 8:9, 11; 1 Corinthians 3:16)

When Jesus said to Nicodemus “You must be born again” He explained that He was not speaking of another physical birth but a spiritual birth. The physical birth only produces more sinners, more corruption, more breaking of God’s law. Only those who are born of the Spirit are able to rise above the limitations of the natural man’s aptitude and abilities. John 1:13 says it this way,

“who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

And Paul wrote about those who had thus been born again, or from above, in this way.

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

“For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.” (Galatians 6:15)

When a sinner is born again by God it is a real birth, admittedly spiritual but no less real than a physical birth. And, as stated before, that which is spiritual in a very real way is even more real than the physical, because the physical is temporary and the spiritual is eternal.

Can a birth be reversed? Physically birth cannot be reversed. You can abort a baby before it is actually born or you can kill the baby after it is born but birth cannon be undone. A child, who dies, dies a son or daughter of its father. I think every sane person will agree that birth is irreversible, it cannot be undone.

Why then would anyone suppose spiritual birth can be reversed? It is clear spiritual birth by God is a real birth and produces a “new creation“. No person who has read the New Testament very much can deny this “new birth” is a reality.

The question raised would be difficult enough to answer if all that was said by Jesus was “You must be born again“. But that is not all he said. He also said these words.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:40)

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” (John 6:44)

I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.” (John 10:28)

Should I believe these words from the mouth of the Son of God? Or should I believe those who imply at least that they are not true?

Jesus said “should not perish“, “eternal life“, “I will raise him up on the last day“, and “they will never perish“. I am not competent in biblical languages but my research says that these declarative statements made by Jesus mean the same in the original languages as they do in English.

Here is my great dilemma. Should I embrace teaching about salvation (new birth) that in effect makes these verses untrue? I can’t bring myself to do it. I know this makes me the odd man out in coC circles. I have struggled with this question earnestly and with an open heart but I cannot accept that not only these promises, but dozens more, are untrue and unreliable if what my dear brothers in Christ teach is true.

Perhaps I have missed something in my 40 plus years of studying the Bible. I am very flawed and far less than perfect in my understanding of God and His Holy Word. But I do want to know His truth and search for it relentlessly. I love everyone who loves Jesus whether or not we agree on every point of doctrine.

“…He has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead”
(Acts 17:31)

“My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

When darkness seems to hide His lovely face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
In every high and stormy gale,
My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, His covenant, His blood,
Support me in the whelming flood.
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.

When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh may I then in Him be found.
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.”

 

Trusting Christ alone,
Royce

The Enemy Is You…


“We have found the enemy, and it is us”, Pogo.

A religion or belief system that does not save me from myself is not worth very much. Each of us came into the world with a built in “ME” complex that is never completely overcome. Some of a baby’s first words are usually “mine” or “me”. We never have to be taught to be selfish, it comes with the package.

The human ego, or the “self” part of each of us, is our greatest obstacle on our journey toward Christian maturity. The reason the gospel is offensive and a scandal to many is because it leaves absolutely no room for the human ego. Those who are dead in their sins and then are made alive have nothing to boast about. (Romans 3:26, 27; Ephesians 2:8-10)

It is clear that as long as I have confidence in my ability to live a life worthy of God’s ideal of sinless perfection, I will not fully embrace God’s provision for sin offered in the gospel. God doesn’t need my help or yours to make us righteous in regard to salvation. The exact opposite is true.(Romans 5:18-20) Only when we come to the end of ourselves and believe God’s record that our best behavior, on our best day, is far short of God’s righteous demands (Romans 3:9-20) are we willing to throw ourselves upon His mercy offered in the gospel of Jesus.

People who think they can enter heaven based even partially upon the basis of their good works on earth are either arrogant or ignorant. They are either so arrogant they think they deserve what God says they don’t, or so ignorant they don’t understand the absolute moral bankruptcy of the unsaved. The Apostle Paul said of himself that nothing good was in him, as to his flesh. (Romans 7:18)

Each of us on earth inhabits a body that is God’s natural enemy. That doesn’t cease to be true once we are born again. There is the constant tension within the Christian of the flesh against the Spirit.(Romans 7; Galatians 5) The two are at war for control of our thoughts and intentions and we must cooperate with what the Spirit desires to the defeat of the ego.(Romans 6:12-14)

Every religion, other than Christianity, appeals to the human ego. Each of them has the adherent doing some act, some ritual, some sacrifice to entice god into looking favorably upon him or her. This appeals to the ego in that one can take credit for what he or she has accomplished, and in most cases what has been done is observable by others. Only in Christianity is a believer received wholly upon the merit of another, namely Jesus Christ. Christians understand that while they were in fact God’s enemies He loved them, died for their sins, and rose from the dead to allow them to share in His eternal life. Becoming a Christian is in contrast to what the ego demands because the believer has absolutely nothing of worth to offer God, and even more scandalous, nothing more needs to be done. The penalty of transgressions against God has been paid in full and the believer is fully acquitted of all charges (Colossians 2:14) against him and becomes a child of God.

The loving, faith response to this lavish love is to say no to an unrighteous lifestyle (Titus 2:11, 12) and to do the good works God designed each believer to do (Ephesians 2:10). The idea that a sinner can obtain eternal life, or keep it, based upon putting in a good enough performance flies in the face of the weight of Scripture which teaches the opposite.

In the letter to the Romans Paul made it very, very clear by saying about the righteousness of God which is by faith,

“21But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

 27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. 28For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.” (Romans 3:21-28)

To the struggling Christian, forsake your ego and its desires and trust Christ alone for your security. God’s truth will set you free if you will only believe His record. I hope you will.

For Him,
Royce

Are You a Believer or Make believer?


And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:11,12)

The most important question any person must face rises from the truth given in the above verses from 1 John 5. Do you have the Son of God? If you can answer “Yes” you have eternal life. If your answer is “No” you don’t have eternal life.

  1. “God gave” (v11) It does not say “God rewarded”, or “God honored”, or “God paid what was earned”, but “God gave”. Eternal life (salvation) is a gift from God (“God gave”). Eternal life is an unearned, undeserved gift of grace by a loving God.
  2. “God gave” is something God has already done. “Gave” is in the past tense. At a point in time God gives eternal life. All who have eternal life can rightly say “God gave eternal life to me”. It is a present possession received in the past.
  3. “God gave us eternal life” The life God gave is eternal. It is life that exists outside of time. It has no beginning and no end. Eternal is in opposition to time. What God gave is not an extension of the life we were born with but rather a new spiritual life, a life from above. How long can you expect it to last if you have it? Eternally!
  4. “God gave us eternal life and this life is in His Son” The life God freely gives is “in His Son”. There is no spiritual life apart from Jesus for Jesus himself is “eternal life”. When “God gave us eternal life” what He gave was Jesus.
  5. “Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” The important question is not “Have I been good enough?”, or “Have I been faithful?”, or “Did I join the right church?”, or dozens of other questions. The bottom line is those who have Christ have eternal life and those who do not have Christ do not have eternal life. There is no exception to this truth.
  6. If I can only have eternal life by having God give me His Son how then do I get Him? This is how Jesus explained it to Nicodemus in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” Jesus explained this to this Jewish leader as being “born again“. A better translation is “born from above“. Eternal life comes from God, it is His doing, it is His gift to those who trust Christ.

So what does all this mean? Christ is our life and there is no life outside of Him. When you have Him you have eternal life and you will never die because He can never die. Jesus went further and said to Nicodemus,

For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.  Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. (John 3: 17,18)

This is not difficult to understand. Those who believe in Him (trust, depend on, rely on) have eternal life. Those who refuse to believe on Him do not have eternal life and are condemned. Those who have Him will be resurrected to life and heaven to be forever with Christ and all the saints. Those who do not have Him will be resurrected to death and finally will be seperated from God and His people and thrown into the lake of fire.

How could God make it more clear? Believe on Christ and you shall not come into condemnation. Trust anything other than Christ and you are already condemned right now. This would be a good time to consider Him.

Are you a believer or a make believer? Are you trusting in the fact that in your view you are living a good enough life, being a faithful church member, helping the poor, giving sacrificially,….? In Christ’s love I tell you unless you have Christ all of your good works do not matter one tiny bit.

Please put your whole trust in Jesus who is Himself eternal life.

Royce