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Archive for September 2020

Life in the Kingdom

Believers in Christ live in hope. Many of us are already groaning within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the redemption of our bodies. For we were saved, having this hope but hope that is seen is not hope. Why should one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance (Rom. 8:22-25). There is coming a time when the King of this entire universe, the Lord Jesus Christ, will return to this earth and be crowned King over all of His created order. This small planet, so seemingly unimportant, will become the centerpiece of God’s amazing plan for this universe.
Christ’s universal reign will commence when He establishes a kingdom over a redeemed earth and reigns over it for a thousand years (Rev, 20:6–9). The thousand-year segment of this everlasting kingdom will allow God to finally and forever demonstrate to the human race and the angelic realm that the only political system that will ever work for humankind is one in which God alone rules over the hearts of people. It will not be a democracy, nor a republic, nor socialism, nor communism. It will be a kingdom ruled over by our Lord Jesus Christ. Our Lord’s kingdom will place on display the immense value of the second member of the Holy Trinity.
Just imagine a world dominated by what is right and fair. The new world will be ruled by a perfect government bringing true peace on earth and goodwill toward men. All weapons of war will be remade into instruments for growing food. No nation will dare to be aggressive against other nations, and war will be no more. The curse from the fall will be removed, and the environment will be restored to the pre-fall beauty of the Garden of Eden. Wild animals will no longer eat each other in order to survive, and small children will have no fear of any of them. This will be a world ruled by a perfect and glorious Ruler. Imagine a time when there will be no fear of deadly natural disasters or uncontrollable diseases. Think of a time when every court will deliver perfect justice for every case, when truth will be established in every conflict, and when all who deceive will be exposed and judged swiftly.
Picture a world where all children from every race and nationality will be fully educated by the King. Physical deformities and social, political, and religious oppression will be no more. All forms of slavery will be abolished. Imagine a world where the length of life will be restored and where the elderly will not grow feeble, will not lose their hearing or sight, and will not fear Alzheimer’s disease or cancer but will grow old with clarity of mind and a sound body. Imagine a world where what is appropriate and right marks every aspect of life, including relationships between people, businesses, and governments. It will be a world where there is absolute permanent peace and where that peace is enforced, a world filled with joy and good health, so much so that people live for hundreds of years (Isa. 9:6-7).
The King will renew this fallen creation and will rule with supreme wisdom and understanding (Isa. 11:1–9). The King will cause the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, and the dumb to sing. The desert will flow with water and the clouds will be rolled back (Isa. 35:5–6). The King will be known by all and all will have access to Him (Isa. 2:2-3). All sins will be forgiven and remembered no more (Jer. 31:34). All nations will flow to the Lord’s dwelling place to learn of Him and walk in His paths. His law will go forth from Jerusalem. All the scattered and lost sheep will be brought home. The people of Israel will be scattered because of their disobedience, but the Lord will gather a remnant of His flock from all countries back to their own land. They will be fruitful and have every need met. They will no longer be afraid or dismayed or lacking.
The Lord will raise up from David a King to reign and prosper and execute judgment and righteousness. His name will be called “the Lord Our Righteousness” (Jer. 23:5–7). King Jesus will be as a banner to the people so that even Gentiles will seek Him (Isa. 11:10–16). The King will rejoice over His subjects. In that day, Gentiles will realize that Israel is God’s chosen people, and all kings will recognize her glory.
God will give Jerusalem a new name, a crown of glory, and a royal diadem. She will no longer be called forsaken or desolate but shall be called Hephzibah, and her land will be called Beulah (Isa. 62:4). Jerusalem will be the city on the hill. The mountain of the Lord’s house will be established on the top of the mountains, and people shall flow into it. Many nations will come and say, “Come let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths for out of Zion the law shall go forth and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.” Swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. War will be no more, and people will dwell in safety under their own fig trees. The Lord will gather His remnant and reign over them in Mount Zion (Micah 4:1–5:5). The whole earth will be filled with the King’s glory because He will be king over the entire earth (Psa. 72:1–20; Zech. 14:9).
When the King sets up His kingdom, we will see Him in His beauty. Our eyes will see Jerusalem, a tabernacle that will not be taken down. No stakes will be removed, nor cords broken. The Lord will be our lawgiver, our judge, and our King (Isa. 33:17–24). At the end of the reign of the Lord Jesus Christ, He will turn His kingdom over to His Father, who will transform it into a new heaven and a new earth, wherein righteousness will dwell forever (1 Cor. 15:24-28). We will at last be home. Blessings!

Baptized into Christ; Born Again into His Kingdom

We are connecting dots. One may ask, “Connecting dots to what?” Paul’s teaching of our being “in Christ” is the very basis for who we are as Christians. Bible teachers through the years have called this “positional truth.” God’s payment for sin is death – spiritual death (Rom. 6:23). This is true for everyone – everyone. Every sinner must die. Because Christians are baptized into the one who bore all our sins in His body on the cross, we die in Him. We pay our sin debt of death in Him! This is what baptism is all about. The baptism that saves has nothing whatsoever to do with H2O. Real baptism is beyond the visible, or audible; it is beyond anything that has ever even entered into the minds of human beings (1 Cor. 2:9; 2 Cor. 4:16-18). At the moment that our faith is placed in Christ, we are immersed into our King. Paul’s words now take on incredible meaning: “I have been crucified (past tense) with Christ, it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me. And the life I now live I live by the power of the Son of God who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). “Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death?” (Rom. 6:1). Our debt for sin was paid in full – in the King. We are positioned in the One where the fires of hell have already burned. Now what about the issue of being born again into Christ’s kingdom?

Here is another of God’s unseen, unheard, and unimagined truths (1 Cor. 2:9; 2 Cor. 4:16-18). All are born physically into this fallen world, the dark kingdom of the first sinner – Lucifer (Col. 1:13). It was his temptation of Eve and the sin and fall of the first man, Adam, that plunged this world into darkness. Our first human father’s death seed continues to spread the gloom and doom of sin worldwide (Rom. 5:12-14). Satan told Christ that power had been given to him to give the kingdoms of this world to whomever he chose (Lk. 4: 6-7). Jesus did not dispute his words. This is why Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again, or he would not enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:3–6). The famous conversation is all about being born into a kingdom – the kingdom of light.

God called the first Adam “a type of Christ” (Rom. 5:14). The Greek word “type” is tupos, meaning imprint. It would be like a hammer striking a wooden board. Though the hammer may not be visible, the imprint is there. The imprint reveals the hammer. The truth is hidden in plain sight! The first Adam is an imprint of the last Adam – Christ?  The two Adam’s produce two different seeds – Adam the first, a corrupt seed; Adam the last, a living seed. Through the seminally corrupt seed of the first man, a sinful people are being birthed – the children of wrath, children of darkness (Eph. 5:8; 1 Thess. 5:5; Eph. 2:1-4).

In like manner, through the living seed of the last Adam, Jesus Christ, a new people are being born, a people of righteousness; children of light. Through the first man judgment comes; through the second man, life comes (Rom. 12:15-19). Peter continues the contrast. “Having been born again (past tense) not of corruptible seed; not of Adam’s corrupt seed, but incorruptible (living seed) through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (1 Pet. 1:23). James said, “Of His own will He birthed us by His word that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His people” (James 1:18). Firstfruits is a synonym for a new heavenly people. Again, why the new birth? Peter wrote, “All flesh is as grass, And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, And its flower falls away” (1 Pet. 1:23-25). All of man’s amazing achievements, including his high tech world, are going to fall away. Life is short! James said the same thing. “Life is like a vapor that appears for a little while and is gone” (James 4:14). Life is short! This is why the ancient words of Jesus to Nicodemus shout louder today than ever.

Peter said that it is through God’s word that the gospel is preached (1 Pet. 1:25). This makes the picture crystal clear. Adam the last, the Lord Jesus Christ, is birthing a new kingdom, a kingdom of light through the gospel. The gospel impregnates fallen minds and, energized by the Spirit, has the power to conceive a new birth, a new life, a spiritual life. Dead human spirits are “made alive” (Eph. 2:1). Human beings born into Satan’s kingdom of darkness are reborn into God’s kingdom of light. The moment that one is born again, God moves that one from Satan’s kingdom of darkness into Christ’s kingdom of light. This is what happens in God’s invisible world when a sinner trusts in Jesus Christ. These amazing events – baptism and the new birth – occur in an instant. And John said that God’s seed – the gospel – remains in us (1 Jn. 3:9). And oh, by the way. This makes it impossible to be saved without the gospel. God is an absolute Genius! Absolutely! Blessings!

 

Seven Baptisms

Let’s connect some serious dots today. Satan has attacked and confused two of the most important doctrines of Scripture. They both explain exactly how we are Christians and the basis for our unity. Satan always entangles and distorts in the areas of the cruicial, never the trivial. But before we look closer, remember that God has revealed to us His truth, truth which human eyes have never seen, nor human ears heard, and we are not to look on things that are seen but things that are not seen. The visible is temporary; the unseen is eternal (1 Cor. 2:9; 2 Cor. 4:16-18). It is this writer’s opinion that the two doctrines that the evil one has attacked the most are the new birth and baptism. We are born into God’s kingdom, and we are baptized into God’s King. Can I just say that again? We are born into God’s kingdom, and we are baptized into God’s King.

Let’s take baptism first. As surprising as this may sound, there are seven baptisms spoken of in the scripture – seven.  Baptism simply means “immersion for the purpose of identification,” but this immersion does not always involve water. Three baptisms are wet (involving water); four are dry (no water). The three wet baptisms are (1) baptism of Christ – Christ identifying with the people that He will die for (Matt. 3:13-17), (2) baptism into the kingdom – identifying as subjects of God’s kingdom (Matt. 3:11-12), (3) and baptism of the Christian – identifying with Christ’s body (Matt. 28:18-20).

There are four baptisms that are dry. They include (1) baptism into Moses – Jews identifying with Moses to cross the Red Sea (1 Cor. 10:1-2), (2) baptism of fire – identifies God’s judgment by Christ (Matt. 3:11-12; Lk. 12:49), (3) baptism of the cross – Jesus identifying with the believer’s sin (Lk. 12:50), and last but not least, Spirit baptism; identifying with the person of Jesus Christ (Acts 1:5; Acts 2, 1 Cor. 12:13). Six of the seven baptisms are visible baptisms, located in the physical world of men, but the seventh is invisible, not seen with human eyes (Acts 1:4-5, 11:15-19; 1 Cor. 2:6-16; 2 Cor. 4:16-18). Six baptisms are to teach us, one baptism is to save us.

Paul wrote some amazing truth to the Ephesian church to emphasize the tenacious, unbreakable bond of the body of Christ. Though we are made up of many individual believers, we are one body, standing or falling as one. Satan has divided us into splintered groups, weakening our witness to the world. Read carefully Paul’s words:

“I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.”

Notice that Paul mentions just one baptism, not seven. This should shout to us! The reason is because this baptism is located in God’s unseen but real world. It identifies us with the body of Christ; it is this baptism that saves us, unifies us, and equips us for service for our Lord. We are one! Amazing! At the moment of our salvation, the Holy Spirit immerses us into the body of Jesus Christ identifying us with Him. At that instant, we become one with Him.  His life becomes our life. 

“And this is the testimony: that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life. These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God” (1 Jn. 5:11-13).

How can we know that we have eternal life? Because we have been immersed into Christ, we have become one with Him. This is why Paul’s favorite term for Christians is simply “in Christ.”  All believers on the day of Pentecost were both filled and baptized with the Holy Spirit. That day was a special day on God’s calendar and can never be repeated any more than the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

Today, centuries later, the moment we believe in Christ, we experience the same phenomenon. We are supernaturally baptized with the Spirit into the body of Christ. This, along with regeneration, is what makes us Christians. Every Christian has been baptized into Christ (1 Jn. 5:20). This baptism is no longer accompanied with supernatural signs, nor is it marked by emotional outbursts – nor is it wet. Spirit baptism happens regardless of how the believer feels. The ordinance of water baptism is very important today. It gives us a visible, temporal symbol of God’s invisible real world. It shows us what no human eye can see, nor ear hear, nor truth that has ever entered the mind of men. 

Christians are identified in many ways in the Bible. We are called the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:27), the temple of God (1 Cor. 6:19–20), Christians (Acts 11:26), little children (John 13:33), believers (Acts 5:14), the church (Acts 2:47), the elect (Rom. 8:33), sons of God (Gal. 3:26), Abraham’s seed (Gal. 3:29), and the circumcision (Phil. 3:3). Paul’s favorite way of referring to Christians is those who are “in Christ” (1 Cor. 1:2, 30; 2 Cor. 1:2; Eph. 1:1, 3; Phil. 1:1; Col. 1:2; 1 Thess. 2:14).

Because of the extreme importance of Spirit baptism, it is little wonder that this became Paul’s favorite moniker for Christians. Nor should it come as a shock that Satan hates this truth. Blessings!

How to Share Your Faith

I am pondering the value of the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross of Calvary. You may have never been taught how to share the gospel. This is one way to do it. In fact, I started my Christian life by sharing the gospel using what came to be called simply “the hand gesture.” Using my hands, I raise my left hand letting it represent Adam’s entire fallen world – every human being born throughout history, those from every tribe, tongue, and nation. Pulling my wallet from my pocket and placing it on this hand, I let the wallet represent the sin of said race – all sin. I explain that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Sin separates this fallen world from a holy God. We have all broken God’s laws by thought or action. We have lied, stolen, desired things that others have, and blasphemed God with our words. All clearly affirm what the Bible says. There are none good, no not one. There are none righteous, no not one. All have turned away from God (Rom. 3:10-13).
When someone dies with this sin debt remaining (represented by the wallet on the left hand), then that person is separated from God forever in a place called hell. Hell is the only judgment big enough to forever satisfy a holy God’s demand for justice (Matt. 25:41). This is how immensely magnificent God is. The wages for sin are death, and only death – eternal separation from God (Rom. 6:23). Sin cannot be removed by human works of any kind – not by reforming one’s life, joining a church, giving money, helping the poor, keeping the Ten Commands – no human works will ever be enough to remove the stain of sin.
I turn the wallet over and over while repeating all the above steps but never removing it from my left hand. Sin remains no matter what the sinner may do to try to be rid of it (Titus 3:5). Sin becomes a barrier that separates sinners from God. A barrier that we cannot remove. I place the wallet between my two hands to illustrate the barrier.
Then the good part. God Himself, motivated by His great love, determined to pay fallen man’s sin debt of death. But God as God could not die! God is eternal life and eternal life is eternal. I then lift my right hand, saying that this hand represents the Lord Jesus Christ (not done in a flippant way, but reverently). I explain that God Himself became a man in the person of Jesus Christ. He was born a spiritually free man – conceived of a virgin, not attached to Adam’s sin. He lived for 33 years and never sinned (Jn. 8:46). He was born equal with both God and man, fully God and fully man – the God/Man. As man, He could die – and He did. By His death He took the place of sinful people, paying the debt of death that they owed God. As God, He could receive the payment without ceasing to be God. Amazing!
As I say this, the wallet – representing sin – is passed over onto my right hand, showing that Jesus Christ took our sin upon Himself, becoming sin for us on the cross. God in Christ removed the barrier. While making this gesture, I quote 2 Corinthians 5:21: “For He (God the Father) made Him (God the Son) who knew no sin to be sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him.” I explain that Christ rose from the dead, clearly verifying the truth of His words and the eternal nature of His work and becoming the guarantee that others will rise.
I personally believe that the value of Christ’s shed blood is sufficient to pay the sin debt of Adam’s entire race and had it been the will of God to save the entire world, then He would have – but it was not. It pleases God to save only those who trust Christ by faith and by faith alone in Christ, and Christ alone (Jn. 3:16; Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 4:5; 1 Jn. 5:11-13). The value of Christ’s cross work is applied to thosewho trust in Him (John 3:18, 36). Christ’s death and resurrectionhas potential significance – saving no one until trust is placed in Him. If no one had trusted in Christ, His death would have been meaningless. But praise God, His sheep will come to the voice of the Shepherd (Jn. 10:11). It is God’s promise! Not one drop of His precious blood fell from the cross to ground without accomplishing its purpose – not one (Jn. 10:27-30)!
Blessings!