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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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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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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Believe!

“Believe” is the main key word of the Gospel of John. From the 12th chapter of John let’s see what we can learn about what it means to believe:

Many believed (vv. 10-11).

A large number who witnessed Lazarus’ resurrection came to believe in Jesus (11:45). This is as it should be, for that was why Jesus raised Lazarus in the first place (11:4, 15, 42).

Some did not believe (vv. 37-40).

In spite of Jesus’ many miracles, some still refused to put their trust in Him. Why? It’s not that they didn’t have ample evidence, but they willfully closed their eyes against the Light. In doing so, they forfeited their only hope. “Having so hardened themselves, they inevitably suffered the penalty of God’s judicial hardening, making them no longer capable of believing” (James Burton Coffman, Commentary on John, Austin, TX: Firm Foundation Publishing Co., 1974, p. 305). Could anything be sadder?

Some believed but would not go public with their faith (vv. 42-43).

They knew if they confessed their faith, they would be put out of the synagogue. So they kept quiet. In doing so they took their stand with those who did not believe. In contrast, those who believed as a result of Lazarus’ resurrection were willing to bear public witness to Christ (v. 17). They weren’t ashamed to say so.

“While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light . . . . I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness” (vv. 36, 46).

Those who do not believe and those who do not confess remain in darkness.

Those who take their stand for Jesus are the ones who become sons of light.

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

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Important!

On the same day we received two pieces of mail from companies wanting our business. On the outside of one envelope it said: “IMPORTANT OFFER FOR PAST CUSTOMERS.”

On the other: “IMPORTANT INFORMATION ENCLOSED.”

Important?

Even though each offer was marked “IMPORTANT,” I discarded both of them.

We are so bombarded daily with sales appeals that it really takes a creative marketer to come up with a pitch that truly grabs our attention.

Yet we know some things are highly important—some far more so than others.

Jesus’ perspective

What do you suppose Jesus would consider of supreme importance? We don’t have to wonder.

By studying His life and teachings we can see clearly what stood out for Him above all other claims.

“My food,” He said, “is to do the will of Him who sent Me and to accomplish His work” (John 4:34).

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things [daily necessities] will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth . . . . But store up for yourselves treasure in heaven . . . for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).

Are His priorities our priorities? Are His values ours?

priority-tagged

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

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“For My Sake”

Three of Jesus’ promises

>>Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven . . . (Matthew 5:11-12 KJV).

>>He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it (Matthew 10:39).

>>There is no one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, but he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life (Mark 10:29-30).

Weighing hardships against His promises

In each case Jesus speaks of suffering for His sake, but in each case He also guarantees abundant compensation. For the reviling, reward. For the losing, finding. For the leaving, receiving.

His faithful promises more than outweigh the pain (Romans 8:18; 2 Corinthians 4:16-18). Doesn’t this make the suffering for His sake well worth it?

By remembering Jesus’ assurance we can endure losses for His sake because we know He will take note and bless.

Of course, it really takes faith to believe this.

But He promised, didn’t He?

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A “Why?” for a “Why?”

How Jesus responded

So often during Jesus’ ministry He had to correct the views of His opponents and even His own disciples. On several occasions when objectors asked, “Why?” Jesus replied with a “Why?” of His own.

When Jesus forgave the paralytic, some thought, “Why does this man speak this way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus replied, “Why are you reasoning about these things in your hearts?” (Mark 2:7-8). Jesus proceeded to heal the man, thus proving He did indeed have the authority to forgive.

Another time the Pharisees and scribes challenged Him: “Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.” Jesus countered, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:2-3). Jesus’ enemies were doubly guilty—not only did they unjustly accuse Jesus’ disciples, but they were blind to their own failures.

When Mary of Bethany anointed Jesus, His disciples objected, “Why this waste? For this perfume might have been sold for a high price and the money given to the poor.” Jesus replied, “Why do you bother the woman? For she has done a good deed to Me” (Matthew 26:8-10).

Learning to see from His perspective

In all three of these cases, those who thought Jesus was wrong turned out to be wrong themselves, whether they were willing to admit it or not. Jesus has the advantage of the divine perspective. His words of truth expose our faulty human reasoning for what it is. His perfect life validates all He taught.

As we get to know Christ better, we so often discover that His heavenly values run counter to our own limited, sin-warped, earth-bound thinking.

Something has to give. Let’s trust our own thinking less, and His more (Proverbs 3:5-6).

After all, shouldn’t He always have the last word?

Why-tagged.

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

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