The Exclusive/Inclusive Christ

Christ is inclusive.

His salvation is offered to all without distinction. Christ invites the poor, the oppressed, and people of all nations to receive freely the blessings that are in Him (Mark 16:15-16; Luke 14:21-23).

Jews and Gentiles are saved on exactly the same basis (Acts 10:1-11:18; Ephesians 2:11-22). Slave and master stand as equals in His sight (Galatians 3:28). Though He has assigned men and women their respective roles, He treats them both as fellow heirs of the grace of life (1 Peter 3:7).

“. . . He died for all . . . .” (2 Corinthians 5:15).

Christ is exclusive.

He Himself said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). He made it abundantly clear in His teachings that there are but two alternatives: either Christ or destruction (Matthew 7:24-27; Mark 16:16; John 8:24; 12:48).

Peter said of Him, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Paul describes it this way: “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow . . . and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord . . .” (Philippians 2:10-11).

 

Offensive?

Those who find repugnant His claim to be the only way to God are invited to consider a few points:

  • We all deserve hell because we have all sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23; 6:23).
  • God owes us nothing, but because of His mercy He extends the opportunity to everyone alike to find salvation in His Son. That’s true love!
  • The gospel of Christ is a tremendous offer. But it can be rejected. God does not force His grace on anyone. He respects our freedom of the will.

Yes, there is only one way to God, but there is a way.

What if there were no way?

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

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Four Characteristics of Faith

To say that faith is a major theme of the Bible is an understatement. What better place to begin than the great Faith Chapter of the Bible, Hebrews 11. In this chapter the noun faith is found 24 times and the verb believe once.

People of faith

Hebrews 11 could be called Case Studies in Faith. Here are real people much like us who struggled with major problems and overcame them by faith.

What are the characteristics of faith? First, faith is the assurance that what we do not see is real (v. 1). There are three categories of what we do not see: 1) those things in the past we did not witness (v. 3); 2) present realities that are invisible to our eyes (v. 6); and 3) things yet to come (vv. 7, 10)

Second, faith acts. It does something. “By faith Abel offered unto God….By faith Noah…prepared an ark….By faith Abraham…obeyed….By faith Abraham …offered up Isaac….”

Third, faith enables us to please God (vv. 2, 6, 39). God is pleased when we show we trust Him.

And fourth, faith brings a great reward (v. 6). God richly blesses those who live by faith, not by sight.

Living by faith

Note the words immediately preceding the Faith Chapter: “But My righteous one shall live by faith; and if he shrinks back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who shrink back to destruction, but of those who have faith to the preserving of the soul” (10:38-39).

Believe it!

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

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In Advance

Opposite outcomes

Some troubles are avoidable, some are not. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells of two builders (Matt. 7:24-27). Both build a house. A violent storm slams both houses. One house stands firm. The other falls. The difference? One had been founded on the rock, the other on sand.

Jesus’ point is that those who hear His words and do what He says are like the wise builder. Those who hear His words and don’t obey can expect disaster.

The wise builder had one problem to face: the storm. The foolish builder had two problems: 1) the storm, and 2) the collapse of his house. The storm was unavoidable, but the collapse of his house could have been prevented. Had he done what the wise builder did, there would have been two houses standing instead of one.

Which will we choose?

In this powerful parable Jesus issues both a warning and a promise. The warning is that if you don’t obey Him, you will lose everything. The promise is that if you obey Him, you will be safe and sound when the storm comes.

Preparation. What we do today or fail to do today can greatly affect our tomorrows. Each day we live we are building on the rock, or we are building on the sand. Time will test our efforts.

Those who have not become Christians need to take a hard look at this passage. Those who have fallen away from Christ need to do the same. Faithful Christians would do well to re-read this parable every once in a while to be reminded that it’s definitely worth the effort.

We can’t say we haven’t been warned.

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Guilty/Forgiven/Transformed

Many ways to sin

Several New Testament passages cite a number of sins (Matthew 15:19-20; Romans 1:28-32; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11; Galatians 5:19-21; Ephesians 5:25-31; Colossians 3:5-9; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; Revelation 21:8; etc.). None of these lists is intended to be complete. Notice how many sins are indicted in this passage:

“Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19-21).

How we respond

There are at least three ways we can read this passage: 1) we can think about people we know who are guilty of these sins (Luke 18:9-14), 2) we can be convicted of those sins we are guilty of and truly repent (Acts 2:36-41; 2 Corinthians 7:6-16), or 3) we can read it without giving it much thought one way or another (Ezekiel 33:30-32). Of these three options, which would the Lord want us to take?

Regarding the specific sins listed above, we may not have ever gotten drunk, but have we ever envied? We may have never become involved in the occult (sorcery), but have we ever let anger get the best of us?

What we most need

Yes, we need to be personally convicted of our sins so we can repent and be forgiven. But we need something more. We need encouragement that victory over our sin is possible through Jesus Christ. In another passage Paul lists ten specific sins, but then he says, “Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God” (1 Corinthians 6:11).

What an encouraging passage! These former pagans had been convicted, cleansed, and consecrated to God. What they experienced we can experience.

There is hope!

sunrise at sea-tagged

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

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The ABCs of Sin

A—The ATTRACTION of Sin: Pleasure.

There is pleasure in gossip, pornography, fornication, alcohol, drugs, etc. Isn’t that why sin is so tempting? Satan really knows how to bait a hook! He doesn’t want us to know that sin is deceptive (Hebrews 3:13), its pleasures are passing (Hebrews 11:25), and its momentary pleasures are far outweighed by the joy of being within the will of God.

B—The BASIS of sin: Self.

Sin is the rejection of God—both of His goodness toward us and His authority over us. Two qualities can help preserve us from sin. One is gratitude. How can we take God’s good blessings and then rebel against Him? Another is humility. It takes humility to do His will instead of our own.

C—The CONSEQUENCE of sin: Death.

Sin results in alienation from God and eternal death (Romans 6:23a; James 1:13-15; Revelation 21:8). Shouldn’t knowing what a high price tag sin carries make us all the more wary of it?

There is another set of sin’s ABCs:

A—The ANSWER to sin: Christ.

He took the punishment we deserve so we don’t have to pay the eternal penalty in hell. What He offers in its place is life that is life indeed (John 10:10)!

B—The BANISHMENT of sin: Forgiveness.

God promises to remove all our sins, every single one of them, when we respond in faith, repentance, and baptism (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16). What a wonderful God!

C—The CONQUERING of sin: Sanctification.

We need not only to be forgiven, but also to root out the practice of sin of our lives, replacing it with a holy new lifestyle (Colossians 3:5-17). Sanctification means: 1) being separated from sin and the world, and 2) being set apart, devoted to God’s good purposes.

Sin. May we see it for what it is: deceptive, defiling, destructive. It just isn’t worth it. It never is.

Christ. May we see Him for who He is: the best Friend we could possibly ever have. We are powerless by ourselves to remedy our sin problem. Only He can erase it.

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The Book

If you’re like me you have stacks of things lying around you’d like to read, but may never get around to. There just isn’t enough time.

So we are forced to be selective—not just because there is more than we can possibly digest, but also because there is so much not worth reading. Literally anything is available these days—from the uplifting to the ugly.

There are books, and there is THE BOOK. What separates the Bible from all other literature is its divine origin. It is God’s message through human agents inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21).

People who loved truth

A man from Ethiopia was reading the Old Testament as he traveled toward his home. “Do you understand what you are reading?” a stranger asked him. “Well, how could I,” he replied, “unless someone guides me?” Having said this, he invited Philip to join him on his journey. Beginning with Isaiah 53, the passage which had puzzled the traveler, Philip “preached Jesus to him.” As a result he became a Christian before the day was over—and “went on his way rejoicing” (Acts 8:26-39).

A few chapters later Paul preaches in a synagogue in Berea. “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). They neither rejected nor accepted what Paul said without investigating. When they compared Paul’s words with God’s word, they saw the two lined up perfectly. So they believed.

Do we investigate?

Many people never check out the preaching they hear. But while some preach truth, others preach error (2 Timothy 4:1-4). Do we love the truth enough to investigate until we find the answer?

What if all of us were to resolve to spend less time with social media/TV and more time in the Bible? What difference, do you suppose, would that make in our lives?

truth not lies-tagged

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

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Satan

How much do we know about Satan? Second Corinthians has quite a bit to say about him. What does Paul say in this letter about our enemy, the devil?

Knowing how Satan works is essential.

“. . . that no advantage would be taken of us by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes” (2:11).

Just as an army is vulnerable if it doesn’t learn the enemy’s tactics, we too must know Satan’s strategies if we are to defeat him.

Satan tries to keep people from believing.

“. . . the god of this world [Satan] has blinded the minds of the unbelieving so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ . . .” (4:4; cf. Luke 8:12).

How Satan hates the gospel! He knows it is for our salvation. He succeeds whenever he keeps people where he wants them—in the dark, unbelieving, and lost.

Satan is subtle.

“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (11:3).

Satan led Eve to think it was to her advantage to eat the forbidden fruit. Satan tries to fool us in the same way—if we let him.

Satan is a master of disguises.

“. . . even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness . . .” (11:14-15).

Satan uses certain religious leaders to promote his lies. They may pose as spokesmen for God but are actually working for the devil himself. Millions are tragically deceived!

These passages not only alert us to the dangers but can motivate us to learn more about the one who wants us to be with him forever in hell. Equipped with this knowledge and with the help of our God, we can and must defeat him!

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

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