Castoffs

“One man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”

In my parents’ backyard was a small white frame building my dad called his tool house. It was equipped with a workbench about 8 feet long, with scrap lumber stored underneath. Plenty of shelving held old cans of paint and miscellaneous hardware collected through the years, along with nails, screws, etc. stored in coffee cans.

I recall my dad saying, “I like to take junk and turn it into something useful.”

What Jesus loved to do

During Jesus’ ministry He was denounced for spending time with people the Pharisees had no use for. He earned a reputation as “a friend of tax collectors and sinners” (Luke 7:34). This was meant as a criticism, but aren’t we thankful He is?

Many consider the story of the Prodigal Son His greatest parable. He told it in response to the complaint, “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (Luke 15:2).

On another occasion Jesus explained why He spent so much time with people like this: “It is not those who are well who need a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).

When He went to the home of Zacchaeus the tax collector, again His critics grumbled, “He has gone to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.”

Jesus replied, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).

The Master Carpenter

Jesus delighted in taking castoffs and transforming them into something beautiful, as well as useful.

He did it then.

He’s still doing it.

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Freedom!

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Convicted!

“Warning: Hitchhikers may be escaping inmates.” So said the orange sign we passed on an Oklahoma highway.

Hearing about someone who lived next door to the Huntsville prison, a teenager commented, “I wouldn’t want to live next to a prison.” His dad replied, “Better next to than in.”

Some years ago several of us visited the Gurney Unit near Tennessee Colony, Texas. Overlooking the locked gate, the guard kept watch. At the base of the tall enclosure were long coils of razor wire, making escape next to impossible.

Even if an inmate could somehow slip past the guards and over the top, he must always be looking over his shoulder. Out of prison, he can never truly relax as a free man. Really, he isn’t. Legally, he is still a prisoner.

Acquitted!

While we may or may not have done anything that would land us in jail, we have all done things that condemn us to hell (Romans 3:23; 6:23; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21; Revelation 21:8). It’s true, so we might as well admit it.

The worst prison on earth can’t compare with the horrors of an eternal hell. Let’s do everything required of us to escape the sentence that will surely be ours if we don’t get right with God. He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Though innocent, Jesus was willing to die as a convicted criminal in the most horrible fashion. Because He died in our place, God offers each of us a pardon we surely do not deserve.

It is a pardon that allows us to walk out of our cell on death row, through the gates of sin’s prison, and out into the fresh air and blue skies of freedom! God wipes our record clean.

Nothing we’ve done will ever be held against us. He offers us a fresh start, a new beginning. “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

Released!

Have you taken the steps to obtain the freedom He so much wants to give you? (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:37-38; 22:16).

Why stay locked up when freedom is so available?

Using a similar analogy of the slavery of sin vs. the glorious freedom He offers, Jesus promised, “. . . everyone who commits sin is the slave of sin . . . . So if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:34, 36).

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Salvation Options?

I heard once about a man who was quite intelligent and highly educated, and yet when he tried to add oil to his car engine, he poured it down the narrow dipstick tube. Well, that’s one way of getting the job done!

Multiple approaches

With some tasks, however, there may be several satisfactory methods. If we need to send a communication to someone, we can use email, fax, telephone, texting, or an old-fashioned letter. The message is the same, regardless of how it’s conveyed.

And then there are wedding options. Whether a big church wedding, a private ceremony at home, or being wed by a justice of the peace, you’re just as married in any case. There are advantages and disadvantages to each arrangement, but still, one can choose.

We are conditioned to multiple options in almost every department of life—from menus to makes of cars to brands of detergent.

Wouldn’t our ancestors be astonished if they could see the almost unlimited choices available to us?

Many avenues?

In regard to salvation, are there many roads to heaven? Does the Bible teach that?

Christ “became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation” (Hebrews 5:9). But what if we disobey? See 2 Thessalonians 1:7-9.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

The Bible says there is only one gospel, only one faith, only one Savior, only one way to be saved, and only one road that leads to life (Galatians 1:6-9; Ephesians 4:4-6; John 14:6; Acts 4:12; Matthew 7:13-14).

So what’s our choice? Take it or leave it.

If God offers us one and only one way to be saved, and He does, should any of us have a problem with that?

After all, isn’t that far more than we deserve?

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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The Man Who Amazed Jesus

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A true story with a happy ending

What was there about the Roman army officer that impressed Jesus so much? Here’s what happened:

“. . . a centurion came to Him, imploring Him, and saying, ‘Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, fearfully tormented.’ Jesus said to him, ‘I will come and heal him.’ But the centurion said, ‘Lord, I am not worthy for You to come under my roof, but just say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to this one, “Go!” and he goes, and to another, “Come!” and he comes, and to my slave, “Do this!” and he does it.’

“Now when Jesus heard this, He marveled and said to those who were following, ‘Truly I say to you, I have not found such great faith with anyone in Israel’ . . . . And Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go, it shall be done for you as you have believed.’ And the servant was healed that very moment” (Matthew 8:5-10, 13).

Amazing faith!

From his own military experience this centurion recognized that he and Jesus had something in common: both were under higher authority. The centurion could issue orders to his men because the authority of Rome itself was behind him.

Jesus could issue commands because of the authority of heaven behind Him.

Because Jesus was linked to God, who gave Him the power to heal, Jesus could help the centurion’s servant, and the centurion knew it.

Jesus marveled at this centurion’s ability to see the parallel chains of authority: from Caesar down to the centurion down to the men under him—parallel with God’s authorizing Jesus to heal diseases of all kinds.

In reality, Jesus represented a far greater Power than Rome.

And the centurion knew that too.

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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A Unified Whole

Scripture cross-referencing

It’s fascinating the way one passage in the Bible refers to another. For example, God encouraged Joshua, Moses’ successor, to give attention to what Moses had written (Joshua 1:7-8).

Centuries later, King Josiah listened as Moses’ writings were read (2 Chronicles 34:14ff.). And Daniel consulted the book of Jeremiah (Daniel 9:2).

In response to Satan’s temptations Jesus cited three passages from Deuteronomy (Matthew 4:1-11). In visiting His hometown synagogue Jesus took the scroll and read from Isaiah where His ministry was prophesied by Isaiah some seven centuries before (Luke 4:16-21; see Luke 24:25-27, 44-47).

As an Ethiopian court official was returning home from Jerusalem, he was reading from Isaiah 53. God sent Philip the evangelist to meet up with him, “and beginning from this Scripture he preached Jesus to him” (Acts 8:26-35).

The Gospel of Matthew cites passage after passage from the Old Testament, as do Paul, Peter, and the author of Hebrews.

What’s especially interesting is that we also find references in the New Testament to other parts of the New Testament. Peter refers to the letters of Paul as Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16).

In 1 Timothy 5:18 Paul is apparently quoting from both the Old Testament and a book in the New Testament (Deuteronomy 25:4; Matthew 10:10 or Luke 10:7) and refers to both as Scripture.

So what’s the point?

Why all this cross-referencing? God’s word, written over many centuries, is a mosaic. Each part contributes to the Big Picture. In His sovereign wisdom God was directing the whole process of revealing and preserving His word for us.

The Holy Spirit empowered the forty or so authors of the Bible to write what God intended (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Therefore what we have is a unified whole and is God’s inspired word to us today.

If the Bible is simply a collection of human documents, then how can all this remarkable interconnectedness be explained?

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Two Ways to Understand What It Means to be Saved

In most cases the New Testament uses the words “save” and “salvation” to refer to deliverance from sin (Matthew 1:21; Mark 16:16; Luke 19:10; Ephesians 2:8; 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Peter 3:21).

But we also find a number of uses of the same words in reference to deliverance from physical calamities.

Rescue from danger

Today we speak of someone being saved from a fire, from drowning, etc. Note these biblical uses:

The panicking disciples woke Jesus during the storm they thought was about to sink their boat: “Save us, Lord; we are perishing” (Matthew 8:25).

Luke records that during another storm on another sea, “all hope of our being saved was gradually abandoned” (Acts 27:20; see verse 31). But by God’s mercy, everyone made it safely to shore.

Cure from a bodily affliction

“Whenever He [Jesus] entered villages, or cities, or countryside, they were laying the sick in the market places, and imploring Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were being cured” (Mark 6:56). The word translated “cured” is the same usually translated “saved.”

What this teaches us

These two non-religious uses of “saved“ help us understand that when Christ saves us from our sins, we are being rescued from a danger far worse than the threat of bodily death. We are also healed of a soul sickness that unless treated would result in our spiritual death forever in hell.

“Amazing Grace! How sweet the sound! /That saved a wretch like me! /I once was lost, but now I’m found /Was blind, but now I see” (John Newton).

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Need to Know?

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Where ignorance is necessary

Some things we are not meant to know. The Lord revealed many things about the future to Daniel, who then asked the angel who had spoken to him, “My lord, what will be the outcome of these events?” The angel answered, “Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time” (Daniel 12:8-9; see 1 Peter 1:10-12).

When Jesus revealed the manner in which Peter would one day die, Peter wanted to know about his fellow disciple John: “Lord, and what about this man?”

Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow Me!” (John 21:18-23). In other words, it was none of Peter’s business.

The apostles asked Jesus, “Lord, is it at this time You are restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He answered, “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority . . .” (Acts 1:6-7).

Earlier Jesus had said of His return, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone” (Matthew 24:36). Even so, this doesn’t stop the date-setters!

Where knowledge is sufficient

There are many things we might love to know, but the Bible does not satisfy our curiosity. And yet we can know what we most need to know: how to live in this world and prepare for the next. So let’s go with what we know and be content to be ignorant in those areas where we don’t need to know.

“. . . His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness . . .” (2 Peter 1:3).

And that’s more than enough.

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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