Two boys asked a baseball coach the same question, “When can I play ball?” Yet each received a different answer. The first boy was told, “You’ll need to sign up and try out.” The second heard, “Just wait. You’ll be called.” Context enables us to understand why the answers differed. One boy was not yet on the team.
Since scripture provides different answers regarding salvation, Zacchaeus’ story reminds us to interpret messages within their context if we seek an author-centered understanding. Such a reminder promotes an accurate handling of two distinct New Testament messages. Simplistically latching on to either message tempts us to disregard the other. Continue reading “Zacchaeus’ story provides insight into salvation”
It is impossible to do the will of God without knowing the will of God. Salvation comes by knowledge of how to be forgiven of sin. “You will make his people know that they will be saved. They will be saved by having their sins forgiven” Luke 1.77 ICB. God’s grace and peace come to us and are multiplied for us “through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord” 2 Peter 1.2.
Salvation does not happen automatically, like the sun rising and setting. So we must put ourselves to the task of learning what salvation is all about. The gospel must be learned, Colossians 1.7. We must “be wise by understanding what the Lord’s will is” Ephesians 5.17.
We ought to ask such questions as these: Continue reading “Salvation comes by knowledge”
Newton’s third law of physics states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. There is no similar spiritual law at work in God’s plan, since we can never equal his actions. But there is a divine principle that applies about action and reaction: Every action of God deserves a positive and receptive reaction on man’s part.
In the plan of salvation, people have sometimes ridiculed the emphasis on God’s part and man’s part. The two are decidedly unequal. God’s part deals with the procuring or accomplishment of salvation. Man’s part is described by receiving or accepting salvation.
For all that God has done for us, then, something must be done on our part. Salvation is not automatic, nor universal. There are conditions to be met. Something must be done by an individual in order to receive it. Continue reading “God’s action and man’s response”
In this world there is little peace for humankind and little hope for it in the future. Jesus offers an eternal peace, of the heart, free from the vicissitudes of life and politics. While Christians pray for governing authorities, they place no hope in them. Confidence, only in Christ. He came from God and returned to God. He knew why he came to earth and fulfilled that purpose. During his time on earth, he loved, and he loved to the end. He was sure of his place before the Father, having received from him all power to bring divine love to its proper conclusion. He exercised this power with wisdom and knowledge.
Jesus calls his people to imitate his example. While his love took turns that were specific to his role in the eternal plan, its serving nature, with no holds barred, must take firm hold in his people. God is not impressed with rituals, done repeatedly for points, in the human mind, or to satisfy some random demand of heaven, as man sees it. He does command some specific actions, and through those he does bring his life and Spirit, but God looks behind the acts to the motivations and yearnings of the heart. He wants to see those and the practice of love — genuine, sincere, honest, profound. Continue reading “May every soul say, ‘My Lord and my God’”
He started out as a practicing Catholic. He made pilgrimages to Aparecida, Brazil’s religious center for the veneration of Mary. He hated “believers,” as fundamental evangelicals are called here. Once, he even threw a pail of water on two Protestants who were doing door-to-door evangelism.
Elijah, as we’ll call him, later converted to Protestantism. He became a Pentecostal pastor. As a dedicated man, he received in return that pail of water from someone who also hated believers. Continue reading “The problem is not in the harvest”
One of my favorite lines in hymns comes from the great Scandinavian anthem “How Great Thou Art.”
“And when I think, that God his son not sparing
Sent him to die, I scarce can take it in,” (Karl Boberg).
I “get” the attraction of the first two verses. Many of us live in urban areas and feel harried and harassed. We long for the times we can gaze at the stars on a clear night, or on a mountainside, the breeze blowing gently and the birds “singing sweetly in the trees.” Continue reading “Taking it for granted”
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is God’s power for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith, just as it is written, ‘The righteous by faith will live’” (Romans 1:16-17 NET).
God’s power for salvation is found in the gospel (literally “good news”) of Jesus and it is for everyone who will believe. That is, indeed, good news! God’s righteousness has been made known in this good news as people obey and are cleansed, made righteous, by being united with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus (see Romans 6 for a detailed discussion of this). Continue reading “God gave them up”
It was actually a good question. We had just sung the great song “Marvelous Grace of Our Loving Lord,” and someone asked a question about the following lines:
“Yonder on Calvary’s mount outpoured,
There where the blood of the lamb was spilt” (Julia H. Johnston).
The phrase “blood of the lamb was spilt” sounds as if Jesus’ blood was spilt accidentally. “Surely that’s not right,” the questioner asked, “Jesus offered his blood on the cross very deliberately, in order to save us from sin.” Continue reading “Spilt blood”
“Alas and did my savior bleed, and did my sovereign die?
Would he devote that sacred head for such a one as I?” (Isaac Watts)
If you are a little older you will notice something about these lines from the familiar song, “At the Cross”: Isaac Watts distinctly did not write “for such a one as I.” You might recall he said, instead, “for such a worm as I.” This seems to be a form of verbal airbrushing.
I don’t know if the PC Police got in on this one. Did some devotee of “I’m OK, You’re OK” (a best seller by Thomas Harris) object that we ought not to be calling ourselves after the icky creatures lacking limbs? Continue reading “For me”
Grace presents us with one great demand.
I know it seems strange to see the words “demand” and “grace” in the same sentence. Usually we view grace as the means by which we gain acceptance by God without carrying out works of the law. After all, as Paul reminds us, by “works of the law no one will be justified” (Galatians 2:16).
Many try to earn their salvation. Continue reading “Grace’s one great demand”