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Archive for Salvation – Page 2

Ministry of the Holy Spirit: Sealing

More Pondering from the Ponderosa.  We are thinking about seven ministries of the Holy Spirit.  We have gone through regeneration, baptism, indwelling, and now we will consider the Holy Spirit’s sealing ministry. Does a Christian truly have eternal life or do we receive probationary life from God, until we commit a serious sin? It should be obvious to the most casual Bible student that if eternal life can be lost, it was never eternal life to begin with.  

 A truly amazing characteristic of God’s Holy Spirit is His sealing ministry. Speaking of Jesus Christ, Paul wrote that inHim (Christ) you trusted after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation (one is to respond to the gospel by faith in Christ), in whom also, having believed (one first hears the gospel and believe in Christ) you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory (Ephesians 1:13-14).

What does it mean to be sealed with the Holy Spirit? One of the most cherished teachings in the Bible is the life of Noah and the great flood. God judged and destroyed the entire civilization of man, sparing only one family. You remember that God placed Noah and his family and all the animals in the ark, and He shut them in (Genesis 7:16).  God alone was the doorman! He saw to it that the door remained securely closed until all were safely deposited in the new world.

When the flood was over, Noah and his people and all the animals exited the ark safely onto a new world. Why? God guarded that door. After the flood, God promised never to destroy this world again—by water. But He did not promise never to destroy this world again (2 Peter 3:3–5).

Scoffers are here today! They are asking, “Where is your God? What about His promise to once again engage this world with His judgment?” Evil is rampant. The Bible’s view of marriage has been compromised. Babies are being slaughtered by the millions. We are immersed in a sexual revolution, and a civil revolution, and now this pandemic.  Many thought that these events would never happen, but they are here.  Once again, people are asking, “Where is your God?” Centuries have passed and still no Christ. Things continue to get worse. The scoffers are once again doing exactly what they did before Noah’s flood.

Just as Noah and his family were spared from God’s wrath by being positioned in the ark, those who will be spared from God’s coming wrath must be positioned in the body of Jesus Christ (baptism of the Holy Spirit) (1 Corinthians 12:13). He is our Ark. Those who are “in Christ” will never perish (John 10:28).  Once in Christ, we can never get out of Him. Just as God shut Noah and his family safely in the ark, He, by the sealing ministry of His Holy Spirit, also shuts us safely in Christ.

With no postal service in the ancient world, important documents were sent by runners. These documents had an official seal pressed upon the folds of the document. If the seal was broken for any reason before the letter was delivered, the carrier was arrested and punished, and the contents of the document rendered of no value. The seal could be broken only by the one to whom the letter was addressed.

Believers in Christ are sealed forever in Him (Ephesians 1:3-4). We are sealed with the Holy Spirit until the day of our redemption. “Until” is a time word. We are sealed until the redemption of the purchased possession. We are sealed until God Himself breaks the seal by taking us to be with Him. He opens the door into His kingdom. Wow! This sealing ministry of the Spirit is said to be a guarantee. This is the Greek word, arroban, a pledge, which can be translated engagement ring. An engagement ring is a symbol that a promise will be kept. God the Holy Spirit’s seal becomes the guarantee that our position in Christ is forever secure. “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 1:21-22).  Stay safe and stay tuned.

 

Ministry of the Holy Spirit: Baptism

I am still pondering from the Ponderosa. I realize that we live in a culture of soundbites, but here comes more strong meat from God’s Word.  There are 774, 646 words in the Bible and every word matters. God’s Word contains wisdom that human eyes have never seen, nor ears heard, nor wisdom that has never entered human minds before (1 Corinthians 2:9-14).  It is wisdom that is taught to us from God’s Word by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit gives us eyes to see and ears to hear. I pondered yesterday the Spirit’s ministry of the new birth and how He births us into God’s Kingdom, which forever changes our destiny. Today I want to ponder the Spirit’s baptizing work which forever changes our identity.  

The moment we hear the gospel and trust Jesus Christ as Savior, the Holy Spirit does many invisible works in our lives that change us forever. He immediately immerses us into the King (no water involved) (1 Corinthians 12:13).  This is the real baptism for which water is just a symbol. Paul wrote that there is one faith, one Lord, and one baptism (Ephesians 4:5). Water baptism is important, but it is just a symbol of this amazing work. What an incredible thought! At the moment of our faith in Christ, the Holy Spirit not only births us into God’s Kingdom, He baptizes us into God’s King. This is what is referred to as “Spirit baptism.”

Every believer instantly becomes a new creation; old things pass away and new things come (2 Corinthians 5:17). We receive a new life, His life, eternal life (1 John 5:11-13). We receive Christ’s relationship to His father, meaning that we become sons of the living God (Galatians 3:26-28). His righteousness is placed on our account (2 Corinthians 5:21; Philippians 3:9). We need a righteousness equal to God’s in order to live with Him forever. Someone has written that God’s righteousness is the righteousness that His righteousness requires Him to require. Whew! 

And finally, we receive a new unity with the Body of Christ (Galatians 3:27-28).  Every wall that potentially divides us as human beings is removed. We become one body in Christ. And, oh by the way, this is how we get into our Ark, who will one day jettison us to a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21:1; 22:1-5). And as in Noah’s day, the Holy Spirit seals the door shut, and we cannot be lost (Ephesians 1:13-14). That is a good point to end on. Stay safe and stay tuned.   

Ministries of the Holy Spirit: Regeneration

Let’s ponder some of the deeper truths of God’s Word. The more we know these truths, the more we understand the absolute genius of their Author, and the more we love Him.  To truly know God is to love Him. Every believer needs to recognize at least seven ministries of God’s Holy Spirit.

The first ministry of the Holy Spirit is His regenerating work. Jesus told Nicodemus that he must be born again, or he would not see the kingdom of God (John 3:6). The Holy Spirit births the believer into the Kingdom of God. This birth – as with any birth – cannot happen without seed. The Holy Spirit guides God’s supernatural seed of the gospel into the soil of minds all over the world – generation after generation. His seed never fails to accomplish its purpose (Isaiah 55:10-11). The Spirt then germinates the seed and God’s life comes. God has clearly taught us this spiritual phenomenon through His word and through His creation: no seed, no birth (1 Peter 1:23-25).  One example comes to mind. God opened Lydia’s heart to heed the things spoken by Paul (Acts 16:14).  God caused Lydia to be born again through His word (1 Peter 1:3-5).

God’s amazing seed is birthing a new civilization of people, giving us a passport to a new destiny.  Instantly, after hearing and believing the gospel, we are born into a spiritual kingdom here on this earth now, yet we have become citizens of a heavenly kingdom (Philippians 3:20). We are truly pilgrims and strangers here (Hebrews 11:13).  While on this earth, we are to be good stewards of the gifts that God has given to us (1 Corinthians 4:1-2). Why? We are destined to face the Judgment Seat of Christ (not based on our sin but our stewardship) and His glorious Marriage Supper. At that point, the King will take His throne and reign over all the earth.  This coming earthly Kingdom is what the majority of the Old Testament is all about: Jesus Christ as King will reign on His throne, and life will be restored to its pre-fall condition.  There will be true peace on earth.

The animals will be at peace. The nursing child will play by the cobra’s hole, and the weaned child will put his hand in the viper’s den without being hurt. Why? The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea (Isaiah 11:6-9)

This kingdom will last for 1000 years (Revelation 20:1-7). During this kingdom believers will reign with Christ as His heirs. The value of this heirship is being determined now, as we invest the gifts that we have received from the Holy Spirit. We are to do business until He comes (Luke 19:11-28; Ephesians 4:7-16).  

Following this kingdom, the believer’s destiny will change one last time. This universe and this earth will be destroyed in an instant (2 Peter 3:5-10) and we will be jettisoned in our Ark, the Lord Jesus Christ, to a new heaven and a new earth where righteousness will reign not for a limited time, but forever (Revelation 22:3-5).

This all starts with the amazing seed of the gospel. No seed, no birth! No gospel, no birth. Have you been born again?

 

Cain and Abel: Darkness and Light

Cain and Abel launched the human race into a fallen world created by the sin of Adam. Their characters were symbolized by their offerings. They were the product of the same home, brothers made in God’s image. They both sensed the value of bringing a sacrifice to God. They were, no doubt, taught to do this by their parents, and they had certainly heard the story many times of how their fallen parents covered themselves with fig leaves, but God had clothed them with animal skins. His requirement is a blood sacrifice. They understood the meaning and clearly knew what God required. But the two men were very different.

When the time came, Cain rebelled! It’s that simple. He brought the works of his own hands as an offering to God. He brought “fig leaves.” It was as though he was saying in a quiet way, “I remember that you, God, covered my parents with animal skins. You demanded a blood sacrifice, but I’ll come to you my way. I’ll bring my own offering.” Satan’s venom was pulsating through his veins. His offering was a product of his pride. It’s as though he was saying, “Look what I have grown myself.” 

Abel, on the other hand, was different. By faith, he brought a blood sacrifice to God. He knew that God required death, which was symbolized by the shedding of blood. He had a spiritual nature, a spiritually fertile mind, that Cain did not have. God accepted Abel’s offering and rejected Cain’s (Hebrews 11:4). No surprise!

Cain became furious. God gave him every opportunity to make things right, to bring the right sacrifice. At this point Cain knew precisely what God required. God told Cain that sin was waiting at the door to devour him, but it was not too late to offer the right sacrifice. Cain had no excuse at all. However, he wanted to do things his way. His rebellion ultimately led to murder. Rebellion and murder were already in his heart.

John pulled off Cain’s mask and revealed his true identity. Cain rebelled against God and killed his brother because he was of the evil one (1 John 3:12, NASB). John’s words are clear, powerful, and cannot be misunderstood. John clearly spelled out the major difference between true brothers.  In fact, Jesus called Abel “a prophet.”

 

Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. (Matthew 23:34-35)

 

A prophet is one who speaks for God. What did Abel say? Nowhere in Scripture do we find any words ever spoken by Abel. He spoke with his actions. He brought the right sacrifice. Cain was from the source of Satan, the seed of Satan, and Abel was of God. Jesus confirmed the truth that Satan’s seed is alive and well on this planet. He spoke these powerful words to the Pharisees.

 

You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. (John 8:44)

 

As amazing as this must sound, every human being comes into this world under the power of darkness.

 

He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:13-14)

To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. (Luke 1:79)

Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life.”  (John 8:12)

I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness.” (John 12:46)

I will deliver you from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you, to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me. (Acts 26:16-18)

 

Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? (2 Corinthians 6:14)

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light. (Ephesians 5:8)

You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. (1 Thessalonians 5:5)

 

God must remove Satan’s blindness and allow the gospel to penetrate the mind.  Satan’s world is in rebellion against God (Romans 3:10-18). The entire human race is spiritually dead and yet blind to this fact. God is in the process of calling some, like Adam and Eve and Abel, to Himself. If He did not, none would come (1 Corinthians 2:14; John 6:44, 65). Salvation is of God!

Cain’s rebellion led to the murder of his brother and the retributive judgment of God.  Cain went out from God’s presence (Genesis 4:16). This is an ill-omened statement. It becomes the seed truth for life without God, the root of secular humanism. Secular means “not religious,” and humanism is the belief that man has the answers to his own destiny.

This entire scene points clearly to the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross as the only means of forgiveness. Just as Cain clearly knew, so do we. No one can ever receive forgiveness before God except through the offering made by Jesus Christ (John 14:6).

 

 

Gospel Pie

by Danny Forrest

What’s your favorite pie?  Pecan, coconut cream, sweet potato, chocolate, lemon or maybe you would prefer a savory pie like chicken pot pie, or other meat pies. My mother made the best pecan pie that I have ever eaten.  I have her recipe that I follow meticulously, but my pecan pie still doesn’t seem to be as good as Mom’s.  I have learned that recipes are very important.  Every time I have ever veered off a good recipe to try and make it my own creation, it never seems to measure up to the original.

Good cooks oftentimes keep recipes in their head.  They follow that recipe so many times that it becomes entrenched in their memory.  My brother-in-law Joe was like that. He created dishes that I would travel from Texas to Alabama to partake in.   Joe recently passed away of a sudden and unexpected heart attack.  He was a good friend and will be missed by many.  His recipes will also be missed.  As I was preparing to deliver the eulogy at Joe’s “celebration of life” service, I thought of the very first time I met Joe almost 30 years ago.  He was dating my sister Mary, and since I was the first person from Mary’s family that he had met, he wanted to make a good impression on me.   He did what he did best, he cooked.  

The dish I remember most was Joe’s spaghetti and meat sauce.  He was meticulous with the ingredients.  My idea of spaghetti sauce usually comes from a jar but that would have been an insult to Joe.  He combined all the ingredients for the sauce and then he cooked it all day. Needless to say, Joe became my friend very quickly.  Joe and my Mom both taught me something about cooking and about life: put in the right ingredients and the outcome will be good, maybe even great.

I have discovered that God is the master at putting together the right ingredients.  Just look around at the beauty of creation.  God’s character, His eternal power, and His divine nature are seen and understood through what He has made (Romans 1:20).

When God put together the ingredients for the salvation of man, He did not get it from a jar or a can.  It wasn’t a list of impossible tasks for man to accomplish or a book of wrongs to avoid.  God’s ingredient for our salvation was Himself.  A very simple recipe, God became a man.  The only one who could satisfy a righteous, holy God was a righteous, holy God.  

The Apostle Paul called this recipe the “gospel.” Paul said in Romans 1:16, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.”   The gospel is the “power of God” but the only ingredient is God Himself.   In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (15:3-4) he broke down the ingredients of the gospel:  “Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures, and He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”  I reverently call this powerful recipe “gospel pie.”  

Sadly to say, not everyone likes gospel pie.  To those who reject it, the taste is bitter and just not satisfying.  Many try to improve on the recipe by adding their own ingredients.

No matter how hard I tried to improve on Mom’s pecan pie, I could not do it.  Less sugar, more sugar, more pecans, more or less Karo, it didn’t matter. I could not improve on the recipe.  Most of the time I just messed it up.  When we try to add to or take away ingredients of Gospel Pie, we just mess it up to the point that the new Gospel Pie that we create becomes ineffective with no power to save.  

How prideful we are to think that we improve on God’s Gospel by adding our pious religious rituals and traditions.  No matter how good the added ingredients are (church, baptism, service, giving), by adding anyone of them to the God’s Gospel we change the entire structure of the message.  I think many would agree that Blue Bell Butter Pecan ice cream is very good.  But what would it do to Joe’s spaghetti recipe if we dropped in a half gallon while he wasn’t looking?   It would ruin the spaghetti!  

Adding our favorite religious ingredient to God’s Gospel Pie does the same thing.  The Gospel of the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ is powerful and satisfying.  Most important is that God Himself is satisfied with His work.  There are just some things you cannot improve on — Mom’s pecan pie, Joe’s spaghetti, and God’s Gospel Pie to name a few.