Difficult but not impossible

“If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” (1 Peter 4:18, ESV; compare Proverbs 11:31).

Traveling the mountain roads in Nepal has given me a new appreciation for the term “scraping by.” Frequently when two vehicles meet one must back up to a wider spot in order to allow the other to pass. Even in places where two can pass it is often by the narrowest of margins. I have frequently looked out my window and been unable to see any road beside our vehicle – and many times I found myself looking over a drop-off of hundreds or thousands of feet. Traffic can pass, but it is by no means easy. Continue reading “Difficult but not impossible”

Solitude

“The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. And he was with the wild animals, and the angels were ministering to him” (Mark 1:12-13 ESV).

When traveling to distant and sometimes unfamiliar places I miss home, with all of my family, friends, and normal routines. Though I am usually busy and in the presence of many people, I can still feel lonely and isolated because of who I am not with and what I am not doing. Loneliness is a condition most of us experience at times, and it is one that is not generally pleasant. Continue reading “Solitude”

Growth, grace, and the gospel

We have joined the happy horde of dog owners. We adopted a sweet and crafty Mini Aussie named Penny. She is a puppy and she acts like a puppy. She chews on toys and on items that are not toys. She digs along the fence and has escaped into a neighbor’s yard on two occasions. With love, training, and patience, she will grow beyond some of the typical puppy behavior. But right now, we cannot expect her to be something she is not. We need to have reasonable expectations.

We are not so different. Children should not be expected to behave as adults. We expect them to be respectful, but we expect them to be children. We give love, training, and patience as they grow. With God’s grace and parental dedication they will move beyond their childhood, into adolescence, and eventually become mature, godly adults. Continue reading “Growth, grace, and the gospel”

Humility now, exaltation later

Likewise you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you (1 Peter 5:5, 6 ESV).

Pride and selfishness are the besetting sins of mankind. Always lurking nearby, ready with an enticing word that plays to our vanity and to our self-importance. Many have fallen victim to the siren song of self. Few find the strength to resist.

The answer to these sins is pure love exhibited in humility. Augustine is reported to have said, “Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues, hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist, there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance.” Continue reading “Humility now, exaltation later”

We are alive in Jesus

We were dead. What a statement to make about anyone! But before Jesus entered our lives, we were dead. Notice what Paul wrote about this:

“And although you were dead in your offenses and sins, in which you formerly lived according to this world’s present path, according to the ruler of the domain of the air, the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience, among whom all of us also formerly lived out our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest” (Ephesians 2:1-3 NET)

Without Jesus, people are going the wrong way. Without Jesus we can’t end up having eternity with God. We can’t get there if we are going the wrong way. Continue reading “We are alive in Jesus”

Giving and receiving

If you give freely and generously of your time and money, what can you expect to receive in return? Should you expect anything at all?

One of the popular doctrines shared widely on television teaches that if you sow a gift (i.e., give money to a “ministry”) you will reap far more more money in return. Is that our hope?

Jesus does teach that if we give ourselves to him that the basic needs in life will be met (Matthew 6:25-34). But what of comfort and riches? If we give money to God should we expect more in return? The real story of giving and receiving is far richer, far deeper, and far more meaningful.

Continue reading “Giving and receiving”

The problem of sin

Sin. It doesn’t matter who we are or where we are from. All humans struggle with sin. It doesn’t even matter when we are living (although most seem to always think that it is worse now than it has ever been). David wrote about this in Psalm 14 and Paul quoted it in his letter to the Christians in Rome.

“There is no one righteous, not even one, there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, together they have become worthless; there is no one who shows kindness, not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12)

Although we might not like this applied to us, deep down we know that too often we wander after sin and do not seek God. If the truth be told, we often seek sin and ignore God. When it comes to wanting what we desire, most choose sin. As David went on to say, “There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:18). Continue reading “The problem of sin”

Gravity of Grace: concluding suggestions

I remember an occasion when a person quoted, “there should be no division in the body” (1 Corinthians 12:25) as evidence that small groups are unbiblical. We recognize, however, that with these words Paul affirmed the need for spiritual cohesiveness, not geographical unity. Accordingly, we rightfully reject the misappropriation of this verse to condemn the practice of groups meeting in various locations.

This realization should also cause us to recognize a general interpretation principle. It is a principle we need to remember when considering what it means for Christians to be saved by grace, as well as what it means to live under grace. Continue reading “Gravity of Grace: concluding suggestions”

Gravity of grace (5): Overview of Romans 9-11

Previously, Paul had announced he was not ashamed of the gospel because it is God’s power to save all those who believe, whether Jew or Greek. Furthermore, he asserted that this gospel reveals God’s righteousness. Subsequently, Paul proceeded to demonstrate God is righteous whether it be in judging people or how God justifies people “from faith to faith.” Chapter 8 ended with a crescendo emphasizing the security and confidence those in Christ possess.

Ironically, Paul begins to address the ramifications of this gospel that had elevated God’s fairness in making “no distinction” (Rom. 3:22,29; 4:16). If the Law cannot provide life or if ethnic Israel is not coextensive with God’s people, has God’s word failed? It is toward hard questions such as these that Paul now turns. Continue reading “Gravity of grace (5): Overview of Romans 9-11”