Grace And Law

Obviously Grace and Law are vastly different principles.  In some ways, they contrast starkly.  Though both are found throughout Scripture, Law was the dominant theme in the Old Testament; Grace is the central message of the New Testament.  “The Law was given through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17).  The Law judges sinners guilty, but Grace grants believers forgiveness.  The Law pronounces a curse; Grace declares a blessing.  The Law says,”The wages of sin is death.”  Grace says,”The gift of God is eternal life.” (Rom 6:23)

…The Gospel is not a call for sinners to save themselves.  It is not advice about something the sinner must do to gain salvation.  It is not about the sinner’s own self betterment.  The gospel is a message about God’s work on behalf of the sinner.  It is an account of what God does to save sinners.  It is about how God justifies the ungodly.

…That is why the gospel is good news.  It is a glorious message about liberty from the Law’s curse and condemnation (Rom 8:1).  It sets us “free from the law of sin and death”.  (Rom 8:2).

…But if you imagine that Grace establishes a NEW STANDARD of righteousness that CONTRADICTS the Law, or if you think of the law itself as an evil influence, then you have not listened carefully enough to what Paul and the other apostles taught.  “Is the Law sin ?  Certainly not !  On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the Law” (Rom 7:7).  After all, “sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4) – meaning the Law shows us what sin is.  The Law also defines righteousness for us (Deut 6:25).

…And don’t imagine that the principle of justification by faith renders obedience unnecessary for Christians.  The fact that Christ’s righteousness is imputed to believers does not give them license to live unrighteously;  it motivates them and gives them a constant desire to pursue practical righteousness.

Although our own good works, obedience, and holy living are not in any way the ground of our justification, they are nevertheless inevitable fruits of genuine faith and one of the vital tests by which saving faith can be distinguished from mere pretense.  “Every good tree bears good fruit…Therefore by their fruits you will know them” (Matt 7:17,20)…Believers are saved “for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them”.  (Eph 2:10)

  • The above article is an excerpt from Dr John  MacArthur, “The Gospel According To Paul”.

I Love You, O Lord

(Psalms 18:1-2)

I love You, O Lord, my strength,

My Rock and my fortress, and my Deliverer,

My God in whom I take refuge.

(Last Saturday afternoon, while trying to select a Psalms passage to start the praise and worship for the evening worship service,  I broke out singing Psalms 18 in a new melody instead.  I was so overwhelmed with gratitude for our Lord’s grace and mercy.   Praying I can finish the song adding in a bridge.  Bless the Lord.)

How Wealth Reduces Compassion

Berkeley psychologists Paul Piff and Dacher Keltner ran several studies looking at whether social class (as measured by wealth, occupational prestige, and education) influences how much we care about the feelings of others.

The findings from these studies seem to go against common thinking that the wealthier we are, the more likely we are to act fairly.

In one study, they found that less affluent individuals are more likely to report feeling compassion towards others on a regular basis.

In another study, they found that those with less income and education, were more likely to report feeling compassion while watching the video of the cancer patients.

These studies built upon previous research that showed how upper class individuals are worse at recognizing the emotions of others and less likely to pay attention to people they are interacting with (e.g. by checking their cell phones or doodling).

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-wealth-reduces-compassion/

That can explain why as a country progresses in affluence, the rich and poor divide will get wider causing social upheaval later.

Such scientific research findings actually lend weight to our Lord’s Word that it is difficult for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God.  But of course, nothing is impossible with God.

Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10 proved it is possible for a rich man to give up the hold of possessions to be our Lord’s disciple.  Luke 14:33.  Though the rich majority are likely to end up like the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18-29 who turned away from Jesus sadly.

The church has to command those who are rich in this world not to be proud and not to trust in their money, which is so unreliable and tell them to use their money to do good. They should be rich in good works and generous to those in need, always being ready to share with others. 1 Tim 6:17-19.

If human nature tends to be less compassionate when getting wealthier,  how amazingly true is the exhortation of Scripture that it is great gain to live in contentment with godliness.  1 Tim 6:6-10.

 

 

What It Really Mean To Take Up One’s Cross And Follow Jesus ?

“What did Jesus mean when He said, “Take up your cross and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24; Mark 8:34; Luke 9:23)?”

Let’s begin with what Jesus didn’t mean. Many people interpret “cross” as some burden they must carry in their lives: a strained relationship, a thankless job, a physical illness. With self-pitying pride, they say, “That’s my cross I have to carry.” Such an interpretation is not what Jesus meant when He said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.”

When Jesus carried His cross up Golgotha to be crucified, no one was thinking of the cross as symbolic of a burden to carry. To a person in the first-century, the cross meant one thing and one thing only: death by the most painful and humiliating means human beings could develop.

Two thousand years later, Christians view the cross as a cherished symbol of atonement, forgiveness, grace, and love. But in Jesus’ day, the cross represented nothing but torturous death. Because the Romans forced convicted criminals to carry their own crosses to the place of crucifixion, bearing a cross meant carrying their own execution device while facing ridicule along the way to death.

Therefore, “Take up your cross and follow Me” means being willing to die in order to follow Jesus. This is called “dying to self.” It’s a call to absolute surrender. After each time Jesus commanded cross bearing, He said, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?” (Luke 9:24-25). Although the call is tough, the reward is matchless.

Wherever Jesus went, He drew crowds. Although these multitudes often followed Him as Messiah, their view of who the Messiah really was—and what He would do—was distorted. They thought the Christ would usher in the restored kingdom. They believed He would free them from the oppressive rule of their Roman occupiers. Even Christ’s own inner circle of disciples thought the kingdom was coming soon (Luke 19:11). When Jesus began teaching that He was going to die at the hands of the Jewish leaders and their Gentile overlords (Luke 9:22), His popularity sank. Many of the shocked followers rejected Him. Truly, they were not able to put to death their own ideas, plans, and desires, and exchange them for His.
Following Jesus is easy when life runs smoothly; our true commitment to Him is revealed during trials. Jesus assured us that trials will come to His followers (John 16:33). Discipleship demands sacrifice, and Jesus never hid that cost.
In Luke 9:57-62, three people seemed willing to follow Jesus. When Jesus questioned them further, their commitment was half-hearted at best. They failed to count the cost of following Him. None was willing to take up his cross and crucify upon it his own interests.

Therefore, Jesus appeared to dissuade them. How different from the typical Gospel presentation! How many people would respond to an altar call that went, “Come follow Jesus, and you may face the loss of friends, family, reputation, career, and possibly even your life”? The number of false converts would likely decrease! Such a call is what Jesus meant when He said, “Take up your cross and follow Me.”

If you wonder if you are ready to take up your cross, consider these questions:
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing some of your closest friends?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means alienation from your family?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means the loss of your reputation?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your job?
• Are you willing to follow Jesus if it means losing your life?

In some places of the world, these consequences are reality. But notice the questions are phrased, “Are you willing?” Following Jesus doesn’t necessarily mean all these things will happen to you, but are you willing to take up your cross? If there comes a point in your life where you are faced with a choice—Jesus or the comforts of this life—which will you choose?

Commitment to Christ means taking up your cross daily, giving up your hopes, dreams, possessions, even your very life if need be for the cause of Christ. Only if you willingly take up your cross may you be called His disciple (Luke 14:27). The reward is worth the price. Jesus followed His call of death to self (“Take up your cross and follow Me”) with the gift of life in Christ: “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it” (Matthew 16:25-26).

  • Excerpt from, G. D. Watson, “Others May, You Cannot”.
  • Also appeared in gotquestions.org article “What did Jesus mean when He said, “Take up your cross and follow Me”?

The Ultimate Unity And Diversity In The Triune God

“God has unity in being one God.  He has diversity in being three persons.  The two go together. This unity and diversity is the ultimate unity and diversity, because it belongs to God Himself rather than merely to creation…God’s capability to plan unity and diversity together has its root in God’s own inner unity and diversity.

The principle of unity and diversity applies to chance events like rain.  We see unity in the pattern of weather and the pattern of the rain over a whole season.  We see diversity in the particular instances when God sends rain…

We see unity in the general motion of a coin as it is thrown into the air.  It goes up in the air and comes down in agreement with the general principle of Newton’s law of gravitation.  It spins at a regular speed.  These are regularities.  They are unities that belong to all the coin flips.  As the same time we have unpredictabilities, which are a kind of diversity.  We see diversity in the results of different coin flips…There are only two possible results for any one flip of the coin, which is itself a regularity.  But each result comes at a particular time.  And the whole sequence of results could be any of a large number of possibilities…There is a further unity of pattern.  If we take the average over a large number of coin flips, we will find that about 50% come up heads.  Though any one flip of the coin is unpredictable, the average is roughly predictable.

God plans and controls both the unpredictable and the predictable aspect…Regularities in the long range patterns of weather and coin flips display God’s faithfulness…The particularities and unpredictabilities in the coming of rain and the result of individual coin flips manifest God’s creativity…”

  • Chance And The Sovereignty Of God,  Vern S Poythress

Likewise, though life has many random and unpredictable events and choices made by men, yet ultimately God is sovereign over every single one, the overall training pattern and eventual conformance.  The biblical view in Scripture is that God is both transcendent and immanent.   Being transcendent, it means God controls everything.  Being immanent, it means God is present everywhere and is intimately involved in the events in this world.  We can take courage that His Spirit indwelling us will help us overcome the world despite the vagaries of life.

Rom 8:29-30

29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

Baptism Of The Holy Spirit

Is the baptism of the Holy Spirit a separate occasion from penitent faith with water baptism to receive the Holy Spirit ?  Or it is the same ?

A Christian life is a life in the Holy Spirit.  The Christian begins his life with the new birth and the Holy Spirit is given to enable him to live the new life.  Ezek 36:25-27.

We cannot build a doctrine based on descriptive passages in Acts with 2 unique accounts in the Samaritan believers (Acts 8:5-17) and the Ephesian believers who were baptized by John the Baptist (Acts 19:1-7) that the Holy Spirit was not given.

On the other hand, other descriptive passages in Acts also seem to say that the Holy Spirit was given the moment they repented and were baptized.  After the sermon by Peter in Acts 2,  3000 believed though there was no mention they had the miraculous gifts like those at Pentecost. Peter concluded his sermon by saying,” Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” in Acts 2:38-39.

The authors of the epistles took it for granted that the Spirit was given to the believers from the new birth. (Rom 5:5; 1 Thess 4:8; 1 John 3:24, 4:13; Rom 8:9; Gal 5:25).

Then why was the Holy Spirit not given in the above 2 unique accounts ?

The believers in Acts 8:5-17 were the first Samaritan believers.  Peter and John were sent when the Jewish believers heard that the Samaritans also received the word of God and believed.  Later we learned that when Philip converted an eunuch, there was no inspection or verification by any apostle.  So why this first time with the Samaritans ?  I believe it was because it was the first time the gospel was preached outside Jerusalem.  It was a bold step for a Jewish believer to share the gospel with Samaritans.  As we know the centuries old enmity between the Jews and the Samaritans, I believe the verification by the apostles avoided the probable schism between Jewish believers and Samaritan believers in future.

Water baptism should be performed in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  Matt 28:19-20.  I believed Paul doubted the faith of the Ephesian believers to be professing faith and so he asked whether they had received the Holy Spirit.  They answered that they had never heard of the Holy Spirit which confirmed that their baptism was not done in the name of the Triune God.  In other words, their understanding of the gospel was spurious.