Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The True Substance of Salvation

2 Peter 1:2 - Grace and peace be multiplied unto you through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,

In this passage, Peter offers a greeting similar to other greetings. Yet in this simple greeting, Peter tells us a lot about what we get on this earth through our salvation, what it’s made up of. We see through this passage, we are given grace and peace and that grace and peace is found in our relationship with Jesus Christ.

Grace – It is grace that God showed us while we were lost. Grace is unearned, unmerited, and undeserved favor from God - where He grants us complete forgiveness. And forgiveness from now and forever.

Romans 3:24 - Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

Ephesians 1:7 - In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;

Titus 3:7 - That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.

Peace – Upon salvation, God grants us his peace, His true peace. It can only with God that we can have peace in all situations. Now I’m not saying we will always use that peace, but with Jesus Christ at our core we can have it because we have nothing to fear when we know the ending. 

Ephesians 2:14-15 - 14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;

Peter wishes his readers not only that grace and peace that they have because of their relationship in Jesus, but he hopes that grace and peace is multiplied upon them. Not because of their relationship with him, but “through the knowledge of God, and of Jesus our Lord,”

Peter is ultimately reminding his readers that this peace and joy can only be found through a relationship with Jesus Christ. It is given only to those who give their whole heart to the gospel. The Greek term used for knowledge here isn’t just information but speaks to a rich full knowledge with and a degree of an intimate understanding.

It would be the difference between how I have knowledge of the Civil War, and I have knowledge about my family. I know about the Civil War, but I KNOW my family. 

KNOWING Jesus is our starting point in Salvation, then the rest of our life is about seeking a greater knowledge and understanding of our creator. As Christians we are to look to the example of Paul who wrote:

Philippians 3:10 - That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;

Do you have grace and peace today? Do you KNOW Jesus?

Monday, January 12, 2015

The True Source of Salvation

2 Peter 1:1 - Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:

Second Peter is a warning against false prophets, yet Peter starts the book out with a look at truth to battle the false teachings. The first area he chooses to cover is our salvation.

Peter knows how important it is for these believers to remember the true source of their salvation. And that source is the Lord Jesus Christ. Sadly enough, this is one truth we are losing even in the church today. I remember the outrage seven or eight years back when Oprah said on national television that there were many ways to get to heaven, yet today we argue the point less and less in the name of tolerance. We hate to ever tell anyone their way is wrong, yet it was Jesus who said:

John 14:6 - Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Peter wants to remind his readers the true source of their salvation, it’s not coming from any other gods, it’s not coming from the good things we do, and it’s not coming from how much of the law we keep. Salvation is found in the person of Jesus Christ. And if salvation is found through Jesus Christ, how do we obtain it? Peter reminds his reader of that as well. They have obtained it, other translations tell us they have received it. Salvation was a gift that was given to them, in the same way it’s given to us today. There is a story that illustrates this gift that I have always loved:

During the Spanish-American War, Clara Barton was overseeing the work of the Red Cross in Cuba.
One day Colonel Theodore Roosevelt came to her, wanted to buy food for his sick and wounded Rough Riders. But she refused to sell him any. Roosevelt was perplexed. His men needed the help and he was prepared to pay out of his own funds. When he asked someone why he could not buy the supplies, he was told, "Colonel, just ask for it!" A smile broke over Roosevelt's face. Now he understood--the provisions were not for sale. All he had to do was simply ask and they would be given freely.

We do not have to pay for our salvation, it is completely a gift, a free given gift, and a gift we can’t give an equal gift back. Paul wrote:

Ephesians 2: 8-9 - 8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:  9 Not of works, lest any man should boast.

There is nothing we can do to earn our salvation, it’s why the idea of purgatory has to be wrong, because after just one sin, it would take us an eternity to pay off the debt we owe.

This truth is as important today as it was in Peter’s time. It’s easy sometimes to fall in the “we are better than they are boat” or the “just look at those filthy sinners boat”. Yet every time we see one of these situations we should remember that we are no better, only better off because of a free gift given to us.

Finally how does salvation work? Peter explains that as well: “through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ”. Christ’s righteousness was imputed onto us, and our sins were imputed onto him. In other words Christ gave us his righteousness, and he took our sins.

2 Corinthians 5:18-19 - 18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;  19 To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.

Or a great passage describing this in the Old Testament:

Isaiah 61:10 - I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels.

Peter wanted us to understand our salvation. Today, do we?


Saturday, December 20, 2014

Elizabeth – Are We Looking to Show Hospitality this Christmas Season

If Mary is the First Lady of Christmas, then Elizabeth would be the second. As we meet Elizabeth, we find in her an opposite of Mary. Instead of single, Elizabeth is married. Instead of young like Mary, Elizabeth is up there in years. We don’t know how old Elizabeth is, but we know she is well past the time of having children. The angel came and told Mary she was going to have a baby, but the angel came to Elizabeth’s husband to give him the news. Yet despite these two women having any number of differences between them, Elizabeth showed Mary Hospitality, in the months leading up to the first Christmas.

Luke 1:39-40 - 39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;

40 And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.

As we read this passage, we find two women who need each other, yet perhaps the most unlikely friends. Elizabeth is 6 months pregnant and much older. She spend the first 5 months of her pregnancy in hiding. Mary just found out she was going to have a baby before marriage, her very life was on the line. There was no calling ahead to and there was no making plans. When Mary showed up, she needed to be shown hospitality, and Elizabeth answered the call.

As you read this, perhaps it is the first time you have heard of hospitality. It’s not something we talk about every day. But in the New Testament, we see it as a command to the church to show hospitality. Peter actually tells his readers that when Christ returns we should be found showing hospitality.

1 Peter 4:9 - Use hospitality one to another without grudging.

Peter is telling us we should all be showing hospitality now, because we don’t know the hour or day Christ will return. But with it being something we so rarely talk about, what exactly is hospitality?

One definition I like is this: Biblical hospitality is when we give ourselves willingly to the needs of others. It is bigger than food and shelter. It is the outpouring of mercy and grace from God to others, without expectation for reciprocation.

We see this type hospitality shown throughout the Scriptures. In Genesis, we see an example of Biblical hospitality as angelic strangers showed up to the door of Abraham’s tent. In Genesis 18:1-8 we see Abraham with the Lord when three strangers show up. Abraham pleads with them to stay. He sends for water that they may wash their feet, he sets them under a comfortable shade tree, he has his wife start baking bread, and he kills a calf and serves the best meat, butter and milk to his guests. Abraham shows these men true biblical hospitality.

In the New Testament, we see more calls to show hospitality. Paul, like James calls us to hospitality.

Hebrews 13:1-3 - Let brotherly love continue.

2 Be not forgetful to entertain strangers: for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.

3 Remember them that are in bonds, as bound with them; and them which suffer adversity, as being yourselves also in the body.

Paul reminds us of the reality that Abraham lived, that we should always show brotherly love because we never know to whom we show that hospitality. He also reminds us to show that brotherly love to those in need. Those who are in bonds and those who suffer adversity - we are to love them as we love ourselves. It may seem like a tall order, but remember it was Jesus who said, whatever you do to the least of these, you do to me.

As we continue in this Christmas Season, let us show that Biblical hospitality that Abraham showed, that Elizabeth showed, and that James, Paul, and Jesus told us to show!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Mary – God’s Plans Need to be Acted On

As we continue our Christmas series, and finish our look at Mary, we see the most important thing about her visit with the angel Gabriel, and that is her response.

Luke 1:38 - And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

I love how this ends, because Mary finishes and says okay, whatever you say Lord, I’ll do it! As a parent and teacher, nothing frustrates me more than when I have to ask and ask to get something done, and then I am met with excuses of every sort along the way.

When God shows us a plan for our life, we need to do it. Why you ask? The first reason is you may end up doing it anyway. Look at Moses, God gave him an assignment, he whined and complained until God told him Aaron could help. But when Moses goes before Pharoah, who does the talking? It’s not Aaron. What did all the complaining get Moses? Nothing but a couple of unflattering verses.

I know in my own life, I have seen this as well. I’ve known I was called to ministry since the 7th grade. Yet along the way I have made so many excuses, and I’ve tried to bargain with God. What did it lead to? Honestly a lot of miserable years, and God having His will done all the same.

There is a second truth we need to remember as well, God doesn’t need us to act to make His plans happen. Instead, he honors us by letting us be a part. And I think once we realize that, we will be way more effective in our own ministries. God doesn’t need me to be a Pastor here, but He wants me to. God doesn’t need you where you’re at, but he wants you to be. God doesn’t need our knowledge, or our skills, or our charming personalities. But he wants to use them. And when he comes a calling and tells us to do something, we should not feel burdened because no one else can, but thrilled that God asked us to! Remember the words of Mordecai when Esther didn’t want to be the one to save her people:

Esther 4:14 - 14 For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Jews from another place; but thou and thy father's house shall be destroyed: and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this?

He said Esther if you don’t do this, God will raise up another to do it, but maybe, just maybe, the whole reason you are here is to do just this. And maybe that is why you are where you are today, because God is going to honor you. Just remember when God gives us something to do, we need to say yes!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Mary – Sometimes God’s plans leave Questions.

Often when we think of Mary in the Christmas story, we think of her perfect obedience, and there may be a little truth there, as she was obedient onto the Lord. However Mary also questioned what the Lord told her that day. You could say that a God sized plan left Mary with a God sized question.

Luke 1:31-3431 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name Jesus. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. 34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?

Here we see Mary asking a question, a big question, and a question any of us may ask in that situation. Mary, out of the blue, is dropped into a supernatural situation. An angel appears to her, telling her not to fear. It tells her she blessed among women, she’d going to have a son, His name will be Jesus, he’s going to be great among men, and he will forever rule over everything. Can you even begin to imagine what must have been going through her mind at that time?

I wonder how much silence passed between them, as Mary processed all that she had been told. How much time elapsed before she finally uttered the question, “But I’ve never known a man?” Perhaps she thought the angel had the wrong girl, or maybe just the wrong time period, but she knew that there was no way she could be pregnant! God had a big plan for Mary, and Mary had big questions.

In this case, the angel answered Mary’s questions that day, Gabriel went on to say:

Luke 1: 35-37 - 35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.

Mary was given the details, but it’s important to remember we don’t always get them. When he told Abraham to go, he didn’t tell him where he was going. When Jesus called Peter to follow me, Jesus never said follow me to what. Sometimes when we have big questions, God wants us to wait on the answers. Sometimes we just need faith in Him. 

Remember, Abraham needed faith as he climbed the mountain to sacrifice his son. Joshua needed faith when God had him marching around the walls of Jericho. Peter and John needed faith, when they stood before the Jewish leaders and said they could not stop proclaiming Christ. In each of these cases, God called ordinary men to a great task. They set aside their own goals to follow his, God was with them, but they probably each had some big questions.

Today we may be doing everything right, but still not understand everything God is doing. We may have questions, but need to trust God and have Faith in Him. I love what Solomon wrote on this.

Proverbs 3:5 - 5 Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.