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Archive for July 2020

Satan’s Religious Snare

Jesus’ final word from the cross was “tetelestai” and it should be the final word (Jn.19:30). It is translated into the English “It is finished.” These words ring just as fresh, sweet, and glorious today, as when they were spoken. God’s penalty for sin has been once and forever paid in full. Jesus Christ’s body was buried, and God the Father miraculously raised Him bodily from the dead. Christ stood up and walked out of that tomb – alive, to die no more.  He ascended back to the throne of God and was seated there. He lives today at the Father’s right hand to be a continuous Mediator – our faithful High Priest – mediating for us.  

 

These miraculous facts are all reflected in seed form in Jesus’ words “it is finished.” The final exclamation mark was added. The precious benefit of what the God-Man had achieved on the cross can only be received today by personal faith in Him and personal faith in Him alone (Eph. 2:8-9). Nothing needs to be added or removed; it has been finished.

 

The truth of this gospel of grace was unleashed and was moving through the world at amazing speed. It was being spoken throughout the world and turning the world upside down (Acts 17:6; Rom. 1:8). Satan had to act and act quickly. He had to stir the pot.  He knew of man’s prideful lust for power. Many religious works and traditions were added to the gospel. The perpetrators of these religious acts were not any worse than this writer. I am a sinner. The people involved were sinners, and they became trapped – ensnared by Satan. They could not free themselves. Satan used these people to add human works to the finished work on the cross but in humanly pleasing ways. They began to deify human beings as saints; they painted and displayed eye-appealing, heart-touching pictures of Mary holding little Jesus; they added graphic heart-wrenching images of Jesus hanging from the cross; they created the mystic worship of the Lord’s Supper, teaching that the bread and wine actually become the real body and blood of Christ. They added sacraments – visual signs reflecting that only the church could extend grace and only the priest could read and teach the Bible. And they included the worship of the rosary (prayer beads), supposedly started by St. Dominic when Mary mysteriously appeared him and asked him to pray the “hail Mary’s.”

 

All of these additions became religious traditions that strongly appeal to man’s  lusts: lust of the flesh, lust of eyes, and the pride of life (Jn. 2:16), and all quietly whispered that Christ’s death on the cross was insufficient to pay man’s sin debt.  Did I mention that wealth came pouring in? Satan knows that religious traditions, once instilled become engrained – implacable, almost impossible to lose. This became Satan’s weapon of choice. Add pride-stimulating, eye-appealing, heart-wrenching, power-enhancing works to the finished work of Christ and then make these works strongly traditional, and your snare is in place (Rom. 11:6). The result led to a landslide of religious works being added to grace – stimulating man’s pride, but nullifying grace.

 

Satan’s knowledge of man’s prideful lust for power never ceases to amaze. Stop and think!  How in this world could salvation be truly finished if it is then weighted down by human works any works. This should shout to the readers that any religious system that adds human works to Christ’s finished work – no matter how well intended – does not truly believe that Christ’s death and resurrection was enough. All of the Christian martyrs discovered that it is – it is enough – it is finished.  They protested against any added human work.  They became Protestants. These protests were at first private and quiet. But they could not help but speak. They became public and loud. How did the religious crowd respond? They shut them up! And they had to send a message. They burned and beheaded the them.

 

When the smoke from the burning martyrs settled, the church in England (the Anglican Church) had not fully made the trip. They still reflected a blend of Catholic ceremonies and Reformed teaching. But two strong groups of believers came out of the fires of the martyrs: the Puritans and the Separatists. What I know of each group comes as a result of the writings of the Puritans and studying the history of the Separatists. The Puritans were truly purified by the fires of their burning brethren. They wanted the church to change.  They became believers who – like the Reformers – had a passion to know God only through His Word. They wanted the church to reflect this passion. They were committed to Biblical scholarship, and a knowledge of Greek, Hebrew, and Latin because they believed that a knowledge of these languages could be tools to know the Bible better. Then there were the Separatists who became the first pilgrims to America. They – like the Puritans – had a hot heart to know the word but were a little less enamored with scholarship and more with knowing and doing the word (James 1:22). The Separatists wanted a simpler Christianity where the Word of God was not only revered and read but was also reflected in the life – and they longed for the freedom necessary to truly live a Christian lifestyle. It seems to this writer that they would fit more snugly in the “not wise, not strong, and not noble” category. This would have probably been my group.  Said simply, many in England had come to know God’s grace and the freedom that it brings, and because of this they also saw more clearly the malicious tyranny that can come from religion run amuck. Both groups had experienced the refreshing freedom from the penalty of sin that grace affords, and they had also witnessed with their own eyes the tyranny. Now they wanted freedom – they wanted to be really free.

 

On to America! Blessings!  

The Seed Spreads

What is not repeated will soon be forgotten. It is time for a little theological mucilage: repetition. When God gave His eternal word to the human race, each word was guarded and guided by the Holy Spirit as it passed through the minds of sinful men down through their pens and onto the pages of paper (2 Pet. 1:20-21).  These words are being preserved and reserved for those who receive the precious benefits of the gospel accompanied with the gift of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 3:2).  These receivers are taught by the same Spirit the meaning of words (1 Cor. 2:10-13).  God breathed each word into its very spot in the Scripture for this very purpose (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Not one word is missing. Every word has a meaning intended by the Creator to be understood – and taught – every word.  

 

The Bible contains the precious and powerful seed of the gospel of His amazing grace (1 Pet. 1:23-25). The gospel is the priceless worth of Christ’s true identity as the God-Man, His substitutionary death on the cross, and the amazing power of His resurrection. This combined truth is God’s seed (1 Pet. 1:23-25; 1 Jn. 2:8-10). This seed is guided by the Holy Spirit and being planted into the soil of human minds all over the world (Isa. 55:10-11).  This seed is then germinated by faith, and faith alone, in Christ, and in Christ alone (Jn. 3:16; Eph. 2:8-9). This seed can be heard and believed, but without mixing the truth with personal faith in Christ, the seed will never germinate. This seed cannot be added to or taken from, or it will give no life. This seed results in a spiritual birth and baptism in the one in whom it germinates.

 

Upon hearing the gospel, the moment faith is placed in Christ, the seed explodes, bringing a heavenly birth into a new world and an unseen immersion into the person of Christ. Wow! The believer is instantly reborn into God’s Kingdom (Jn. 1:13; James 1:18) and baptized (immersed) into God’s Christ (Rom. 6:3; Gal. 3:27).  Both mysterious events occur at the moment of faith. The believer instantly receives Christ’s life (1 Jn. 5:11-13), Christ’s citizenship (Phil. 3:20-21), Christ’s righteousness (Phi. 3:9; 2 Cor. 5:21), Christ’s relationship (Gal. 3:26-29), and Christ’s home (Jn. 14:1-3).  Said simply, the believer in a moment receives Christ’s destiny and His identity. This is why the phrase “in Christ” became the apostle Paul’s favorite name for Christians. The believer is born into God’s forever family as a babe in Christ. Time and teaching spent in the Bible are necessary to grow to spiritual maturity (1 Pet. 2:2; 1 Cor. 2:12-13).

 

The Holy Spirit alone has the power to teach us the living words on the paper (John 14:26-27; 16:13-14). It was pleasing to God to reserve and unpack the Bible’s truth for a special group – not many wise (human wisdom), not many mighty (strong or powerful), and not many noble (with royal blood) are called to Him.  Said clearly, God called those that the world thinks are fools, weak, worthless, to become His own special trophies. God did this to suppress man’s pride so that His glory only would shine through (1 Cor. 1:25-31).  It was God’s genius to not allow a human being to come to know His Word through human wisdom. In fact, the world though its own wisdom will never know Him. To the contrary, it pleased God through the foolishness of the message preached (the gospel) to save those who believe (1 Cor. 1:21). This is a fact that must be hidden in our hearts as we observe God’s seed moving through history.

 

With these words in mind, go back to the Reformation. The Reformation in England was burning hot. Not with just the burning of the flesh of evangelical martyrs but with the white-hot power of true line-by-line and word-by-word teaching of the Word of God. The true gospel of the grace of God was being preached and believed. This proved to be a lethal combination and began to diminish the darkness of Satan and bring to light the immense value of God’s love. But no doubt confusion still reigned. Satan had not left the building. Many were giving their lives for the value of the truth of Scripture (1 Cor. 2:7-16), while others were taking lives; burning or beheading them. Some were teaching that salvation comes in its fulness through the true identity of Jesus Christ alone, His death as payment for sin alone, and His bodily resurrection from the grave alone (1 Cor. 15:1-8), yet others hated this message along with those who were giving it.

 

The message had the power to destroy the magnificent stained glass buildings, the beautiful rituals and religious services, the gorgeous robes and crowns of the clergy, the heart-stopping sound from the huge pipe organ, the smell of burning candles and incense, and the great financial gain that followed these religious acts. Ah, follow the money! Think hard once again about the powerful words connected to Noah’s prophecy. “Praise be to the LORD God of Shem.” The LORD God of Shem is the Lord Jesus Christ. This is prophet-speak pointing to the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ was going to come through the line of Shem – which He did. Think also about Noah’s prophecy concerning Japheth. Japheth is going to dwell in the tents of Shem (Gen. 9:25-27). This is prophet-speak saying that Japheth is going to help Shem accomplish his task. Japheth helped get Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem and is continuing to help spread the gospel around the world. The gospel launched by the Lord Jesus Christ through what is called “the great commission” began to spread. But it spread upon the backs of the many martyrs who were dying for their faith. In a time of persecution, the fire spreads. The gospel was moving so quickly around the world that Satan counterattacked.  The public proclamation of the gospel was submerged and confused under a sea of truth mixed with paganism. God resurfaced the public proclamation of the gospel in Germany (a land of Japheth) and it burned through England (a land of Japheth) and is headed for the USA. Blessings! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Righteousness of God – Dikaiosune

Where? Germany – the land of Noah’s son, Japheth. Who? Martin Luther, a part of Japheth genealogical heritage. Why? God promised that Japheth would dwell in the tent of Shem (Gen. 9:27). It should be no surprise that the gospel of God’s magnificent grace was publicly and powerfully rediscovered by this struggling Catholic monk, and its light pierced the darkness of Satan’s domain once again. God guides His Word (Isa. 55:10-11). God orchestrated Luther’s spiritual transformation by guiding an edition of Erasmus’ Greek translation of the New Testament into his hands. Let’s connect the dots.

Erasmus finished his translation in 1516. It came into Luther’s hands shortly after. The words that forever changed his life were from the apostle Paul: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘But the righteous man shall live by faith’” (Rom. 1:16-17). Luther’s eyes must have carefully weighed the words that the gospel is the dynamite of God for salvation to everyone who believes. His eyes then followed the reason that the gospel brings salvation. Because “in it” (the gospel), is the righteousness of God revealed. Ah, righteousness! Dikaiosune” (pronounced dik-ai-o-soo-nay)! That rang Luther’s bell. He may have been familiar with the word. It was used both in the Greek and Roman court systems.

“Dikaiosune” eventually came to mean “adjustment to the standard of the law.” When a law was broken, the one convicted of the crime had to be adjusted to the standard imposed by the law. This adjustment was to be made by meeting whatever requirement the law demanded. If the law required a fine, the fine had to be paid. If the law demanded death as the just settlement, then death it was. We would call this “justice.” When the penalty was paid, justice was satisfied. This is precisely what the word means. However, the justice that Paul had in mind had nothing whatsoever to do with man’s legal system. The word used in the Bible means “adjustment to God’s standard.” The gospel made known God’s adjustment to His own righteous standard. God’s righteousness and justice had both been forever satisfied by Jesus Christ on the cross. The single word dikaiosune makes this truth clear.

In order for God to be true to His word, all who have sinned must die – be spiritually separated from God forever. Why? The God of the Bible is the author of righteousness (1 Jn. 1:5). God is also absolutely just (Deut. 32:4). Because God is totally just, He must always adjust that which is not right back to His righteous standard.Why? God must be true to Himself. He cannot compromise who He is. Someone said, “God’s required righteousness is that righteousness which His righteousness requires Him to require.” This is why all sinners must die! God cannot allow one into His presence without the penalty being paid. In order to reveal the riches of His glory and motivated by an indescribable love, God elected to pay man’s sin debt of death. But God is eternal life and could not die (Psa. 90:2). In order to die, God became a man. He bypassed Adam’s sin by coming into this world through a virgin. In all His life, Jesus Christ never sinned. He then died – the just for the unjust; the righteous for the unrighteous. The death of God’s perfect Son paid in full God’s demand for righteousness.

God’s demand of death for sin was adjusted to in Christ. God’s righteousness and His justice came together in perfect harmony in Christ. This is all said clearly with one word: Dikaiosune! It is this “righteousness” that the gospel makes known. This the truth that Luther saw. When we believe in Christ, we are immediately placed into union with Him – that which human eyes never see. The payment for sin is death, but it makes all the difference in the world where we die. We die in Him. Halleluiah!

Paul said that he was crucified with Christ, nevertheless he lived (Gal. 2:20a). God credits us the immeasurable benefits of His death the moment we are placed “into Christ.” God forever adjusts us to His absolute righteousness “in Christ.” “And being found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness (dikaiosune) which comes from God on the basis of faith” (Phil. 3:9). God does not make us right; He declares us to be right “in Christ.”

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness (dikaiosune) of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). We are declared forever right (righteous) before God the moment that we believe in Him. Can God remain just and at the same time be gracious to those who are in His Son? Yes! In Christ we are justified before God. 

This justification comes to all who believe in Him. “Being justified freely (as a gift) by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24). This is why the gospel is the power of God unto salvation. This is what Luther saw! The just (those who have been adjusted to God’s righteousness by faith in Christ) shall live (Rom. 1:17). History says that when this truth hit his mind, God removed his blindness and he stood up. He put his mop away and began to preach the gospel of God’s magnificent grace. This ultimately led to Martin Luther nailing of his famous 95 thesis on the door at Wittenberg which started the Reformation of 1517. This reformation literally changed the world. Why must we believe in Christ? “God has fixed a day in which He will judge the world in righteousness (dikaiosune) through a Man whom He has appointed, having furnished proof to all men by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:31). Where do you stand? Blessings!

 

Germany: Ground Zero

It is time to begin to connect the dots. One of the most magnificent glimpses of grace is found by discovering the importance of three words: where, who, and what. Remember that the public proclamation of the gospel had been floundering in a sea of confusion and covered with a shroud of darkness for over a thousand year. Now enter the importance of “where.”  Where concerns the small town of Whittenberg (pronounced Vittenberg) located in north central Germany.  It became ground zero for the public resurgence, redefining, and redistribution of the gospel. We must first ask ourselves, why Germany?

 

Repetition: Recall with me that Noah’s sons were commanded by God to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth (Gen. 9:1). Add to this Noah’s strange interaction with his younger son, Ham, that led to his prophetic words concerning the future of his sons.  “Blessed be the Lord, The God of Shem, And may Canaan be his servant. May God enlarge Japheth, and may he dwell in the tents of Shem; and may Canaan be his servant” (Gen. 9:26-27). We have been looking closely at the historical meaning of this prophecy and recently the small phrase, “and may he (Japheth) dwell in the tents of Shem.”Remember that this tent dwelling meant that Japheth was going to profit spiritually from his involvement with Shem and vice versa. How this truth played out and is still playing out in history is nothing short of amazing.

 

Remember that when Noah’s sons and their families left the ark, Japheth moved north of the fertile crescent above the Mediterranean Sea and settled in the center of what became known as the Endo-European area. My opinion is based on linguistic evidence and followed by many scholars. His first son, Gomer (father of the Cimmerians), settled in a broad area that included Germany (Gen. 10:1). Gomer’s son Ashkenaz settled in Poland, Russia, Ukraine, France, and a huge amount in the precise area known as Germany. German Jews from this area became known as “Ashkenazi Jews,” or German Jews. I made the statement that it is my opinion Japheth’s first tent pegs were driven into the geographical middle of this European landmass now known as Germany.  As I reasoned the import of this thought, my pulse rate began to rise. I said in my thinking – “God, you are the ultimate genius of all of human history.” Wow! It was not mere chance that the clarity of the gospel would be publicly pulled from the floundering melting pot of religious confusion from this exact place. 

 

Next concerns the “who.” Martin Luther is obviously a well-known person of history. He was born in 1483, just a few short years from Columbus’ famous journey. What is not often recognized is that Martin Luther was a great-great, – several great’s back genealogical grandson of Japheth, Noah’s eldest son. Again, God is the great genius! Martin Luther had always been in God’s plan. Martin received a classical high school education – meaning he was required to speak fluent Latin, the language of the universities and of lawyers. At the age of 21, he had completed his Master of Arts degree. His parents had been peasants in Germany. His father’s dream was that Martin become a lawyer. Martin did not disappoint. As a student he marked himself as a future Master of Jurisprudence. He was a brilliant student. He later applied his law background to his study of Scripture.

 

In July of 1505, an incident happened to Luther that would ultimately retrieve the gospel of grace and, in fact, change the world. Luther was walking home from the university in the middle of the day. A sudden thunderstorm formed surrounding him. A lightning bolt struck the ground near him. Luther interpreted this as a message from God. He was shaken to his bones and cried out for help from St. Anne (the mother of Mary) the minor’s saint. If she would deliver him, he would become a monk. He obviously did not die and true to his vow, he moved to an Augustinian monastery in the city of Erfurt. History says that he chose this monastery because it was the most demanding of all monasteries. 

 

As a monk and as a promising student, he was educated to the hilt with the best of Catholic doctrines. He was soon to be ordained priest. In order to receive his priesthood, he had to perform a mass. It was at this mass that his Catholic life began to fall apart. A crowd was in attendance – including his father who had wanted his son to be a lawyer. In the midst of the mass, Luther’s mind stopped working. He suffered a panic attack that caused him to run away. This mind-altering meltdown was based on the Catholic understanding of justification before God. A part of Catholic doctrine is justification by good works. They refer often to Romans 5:5. This verse says in part that hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Rom. 5:5).  Catholics believe that it is this Spirit’s pouring out of God’s love in us that moves us to more and more goodness and performing more and more good deed that will ultimately lead us to being justified before God. 

 

Luther knew in his heart that he was not good – he was a sinner. His fear was that he could never reach that ultimate panicle. His private thoughts constantly pounded in his brain. He got to a place in the mass where he simply could not finish. His guilt before God had found him out. He became crushed under this load. He walked out to the embarrassment of all who were there. This led Luther to a life of doing the penance of constantly punishing his flesh in the attempt to purge his sin and please God. He saw God – not as a God of love – but a demanding tyrant just waiting for Luther to die.  Luther’s search for how one can be forever just before God leads us to the “what.” Blessings!  

 

 

The Influence of the Word

Following the collision of Christianity and paganism, the true church of Jesus Christ had helped win their freedom only to exchange it for a different slavery. The public proclamation of the gospel of grace steadily changed.  The organized church moved away from salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Jesus Christ alone, through the Bible alone. Human works were added to the finished work of Jesus Christ – works like baptism as payment for sin, confession of sins to a human being for the forgiveness of personal sins, commending the purchase of pardons to get out of a strange holding place before one could get into heaven, and the mystic teaching that the communion bread and wine actually become the Lord’s body and blood. To all of this was added the worship of a human being – Mary, who can forgive sins and answer prayer on a par with her Son. The private study and public preaching of the Bible ceased. The word of God supposedly could only come via sermons through priests.

 

Spiritual darkness fell across the land. The apostle Paul would have been greatly grieved. Satan had apparently won the day, publicly. But behind the scenes, privately and faithfully, God was continuing to guide the light of the His Word to fertile minds. God’s Word cannot be chained (2 Tim. 2:9).  How is this known?  God’s Word never fails to achieve the purpose for which He sends it – not even once.  His Word is like the rain and the snow coming down from heaven. They do not return until giving plants the strength to germinate and grow, giving more seed to plant and bread to eat. Like the water, His word is faithfully sent by Him, and it will always accomplish its purpose. His Word will never return to Him empty; it will always accomplish His pleasure, and it will thrive in the thing for which it was sent (Isa. 55:10).

 

God’s Word is predictable. God guides it like a laser beam. Paul said that “when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. Forbidden to preach the Word?  God the Holy Spirit said No! God did not want His Word to go to Asia at that time. After they had come to Mysia, they tried to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit did not permit them. The Spirit again said, NO! Amazing! So, passing by Mysia, they came down to Troas, and a vision appeared to Paul in the night. A man of Macedonia stood and pleaded with him, saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” Now after he had seen the vision, immediately he sought to go to Macedonia, concluding that the Lord had called him to preach the gospel to them (Acts 16:6-10). God guides His word.

 

The Word of God is also powerful. Hebrews 4:12 says, “For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”

 

Let’s break down that verse. For believers and unbelievers alike, the word of God is living: Living is the Greek word zoe. It is where we get the word “zoology.” The individual words are spiritually alive, having supernatural life within themselves. And powerful: this is the Greek word energes. It is where we get the English word “energy.” God’s Word is always moving; it is never still. It is always commending, convicting, or condemning the listeners. It is faithful to call some unbelievers to faith or condemn others for their failure to listen and believe. God’s Word cannot be chained (2 Timothy 2:9). It can never be stopped – never.  And sharper than any two-edged sword: It cuts two ways – piercing (penetrating) even to the division of soul. It cuts and divides the inner earthy activity of the soul. It exposes the carnal fleshly action of lusts and passions within us. And spirit; It also isolates and identifies the inner spiritual activity from God. It is from this location that the voice of the Holy Spirit speaks.  The Spirit can be grieved (when believers do that which He warns us not to do) or quenched (when believers fail to use His power to do that which His word tells us to do).  And of joints: The joints hold the body together and are close to the surface; easily identified and accessible. Sometimes the secret thoughts of human beings are close to the surface and can be easily identified as carnal or heavenly. This may be our thoughts most of the time And the marrow: In contrast to joints, the bone marrow is located in the deepest parts of the body, deep within the center of the bones, and is not easily accessible. Some inner thoughts – both soulish and spiritual – lie very deep within our minds and are often very complicated, hard to distinguish. The older we get the more implacable (unchangeable) we become. Our minds grow hard and calloused. The Bible alone has the power to search out these thoughts, isolate them, properly identify them – and change them. And is a discerner of the thoughts: the Word of God in our mind becomes our critic, our thought analyzer. It alone can judge correctly and distinguish. Some thoughts may be truly spiritual and heavenly, others not.  The Word of God alone can put these thoughts in their proper categories. And intents of the heart: Motives are the secret reasons we choose to do what we do.  Some motives surface quickly and are easily judged and categorized by the believer, either earthly or heavenly.  Other motives are deep and difficult to judge. Only the Word of God can search them out, expose them, and judge them.

 

The words of God are always actively doing the will of God in every generation of man.  They make a divine impact upon every reader and every hearer – saved or lost. Again, God’s Word convicts some, converts some, and condemns some. It is never neutral. Some readers or hearers are given birth by the Word (John 3:3; 1 Pet. 1:23), others grow in their spiritual life by the Word (2 Pet. 2:2; Acts 20:32), some are sanctified (set apart to God) by the Word (John 17:17), some are cleansed by the Word (Eph. 5:26; John 15:3), and some are protected by the Word (Eph. 6:17). Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my word will never pass away” (Matt. 24:35). The word of God always does the will of God – even through ages of darkness.

 

Blessings!