Sunday, 27 May 2012

Saved Sinner or Saint?

Following on from last week one of the outcomes of worm theology is to think of the Christian as ‘just a sinner saved by grace’.

There may be some truth to that statement but theres an awful lot of truth missing – enough to make it wrong. The scriptures repeatedly state in various ways that we are not what we were, that we are new creations, no longer in Adam but in Christ, in fact the letters are addressed not to ‘sinners saved by grace’ but to those who have become ‘saints by grace’! The problem is that in many of the older versions of the Bible many of the letters were addressed to those who were ‘called to be saints’, but the ‘to be’ was in italics which means that it wasn’t in the original.

Now whoever we are, we all live out of our perceived identity, and if we take this as our cue we will always be Romans 7 Christians, and Romans 8 will always be elusive. The flesh will always be the powerhouse of our lives and not the power of the indwelling Spirit of God. My observation as a pastor/minister was that people who thought like this lived this.

Are you a Christian listening to the lies of the enemy? There is a higher truth than your past truth, and it is God’s truth that in Jesus you are a new creation – ransomed, healed, restored, forgiven; you have a new identity as a child of God, you have the Spirit of God dwelling in you saying ‘Abba, Father.’ You have the power to live a different kind of life.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Predestined, called, justified and glorified?

I was preaching on Sunday on the subject “Salvation belongs to our God – Understanding the Process of Salvation” and I was struck in my preparation by the fact that Paul says we have not only been justified but we have also been glorified (Romans 8:30).

Now it’s strange that the rest of this verse we treat has being in the past or the present active tense – we’ve been predestined to be like Jesus; called; justified - and yet I don’t think I’ve ever heard a preacher say that we’ve been glorified, that’s usually something that’s going to happen when we die, when the ultimate transformation takes place, yet that is not what the text appears to say. Indeed Paul elsewhere talks about us being changed or transformed from one degree of glory to another (2 Cor. 3:18), so for Paul this has a very real and present application.

The reality is that something happened when we were born again, saved, became a Christian. Prior to Christ there was no glory in our lives. We were lost and dead in our tresspasses and sins, dominated by our passions, with the constant downward pull towards defeat and death. Our lives reflected darkness not light; bondage, not liberty etc..

But this gospel, this good news that Paul calls ”the glory of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:4) changes all that! He breaks the power of cancelled sin. He translates us from darkness to light. He snaps the fetters and sets the captives free. He takes the rebel and makes him or her a priest and a king. He transforms the sinner into a saint.

Yes God not only justifies us, he glorifies us. He lifts us up and sets our feet on the eternal Rock of Jesus Christ our Lord, and exhibits us as trophies of his glorious grace. He takes sinners, redeems them and puts his Spirit in their hearts adopting them as his very own sons and daughters, with all the privileges that bestows!

Again Paul says “Such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.” 1Corinthians 6: 11). Such they may well have been, but now they are radically different! The God of glory has met them and they have met him in Jesus Christ, and now they can never be defined by what they were – hallelujah!

It may be that you need to go and draw afresh from the well of salvation (Isaiah 12). To put on your beautiful garments and shake off the dust (Isaiah 52:1, 2) that has gathered on you or that the enemy keeps thowing back at you. To realise afresh that your light has come and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you, therefore you can arise (Isaiah 60:1), lift up your head and walk tall in this world.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Low view of man = high view of God?

Last week I attended a conference at which the speaker used the illustration of a see-saw to illustrate the idea that when we have a high view of man we correspondingly have a low view of God, and when we have a high view of God we correspondingly have a low view of man. I know what he’s trying to get at, but I think the pictures wrong.

If I can put it this way, having a high view of man doesn’t necessitate a low view of God, in fact quite the opposite. In fact I would go so far as to say that having a low view of man belongs to the evolutionary world not the theological one. The Bible seems to tell us that God himself has a ‘high view’ of man – he made him in his image, the pinnacle of his creation, with the ability to know and relate to him, and rule over or steward the earth.

Now some will say the Fall changed all that – my question is, did it? Even after the fall, humanity is not portrayed in some kind of ‘worm’ tone as in the words Isaac Watts wrote in 1885 “Would he devote that sacred head, for such a worm as I?” Rather to paraphrase the Psalmist (8:3, 4) “After I’ve observed your creation of the universe, I mean wow! Then I see man and I’m staggered that you think of him – what is it about man that you think about him and care for him?” Now that to me is quite a ‘high view’ of man.

That doesn’t mean I deny the fallen state and the wrechedness of it (Romans 7:24). I just need to watch my theological categories.

Now the question is does it diminish my view of God? and my answer is no; in fact I magnify God all the more for the way he has created me/humanity. It staggers me even more that this God who made me in such a way, whom I have rebelled against, should take on our flesh, live here, be tempted in all points as we are, and give his life that we might once again be reconciled to him.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Faith & Works 3


Theres quite a bit of interest in this so I thought it would be good to follow on....

This is so important to get right. One of the areas where the devil seeks to cripple the Christian is in the area of faith and works. He'll suggest that not just faith. Its too good to be true. You need to try a bit just to be sure. Now you've blown it!

It can happen anywhere along the journey, even near the end. I've spoken to those who were close to death - yes even those who believed in the free grace of God - who've asked the question have I done enough? Am I good enough?

Once we get on that one it's a downward slope all the way - how much is good enough? How much do I need to do to be in, 0.1%, 2%, 50%?

The fact is we were never good enough, it was never about us being good enough, and we shall never be good enough, but there is One who is! If this is not the case then the gospel is not good news. If in any way some puny effort on my part is included, then there can be no assurance, no real joy or confident hope.

That is why we are exhorted to look away from ourselves to Jesus. It is his faithfulness that counts, not mine or yours. He has done the job and he has done it well.

Wesleys forgotten hymn says it well:

Arise, my soul, arise; shake off thy guilty fears;
The bleeding sacrifice in my behalf appears:
Before the throne my surety stands,
My name is written on His hands.

He ever lives above, for me to intercede;
His all redeeming love, His precious blood, to plead:
His blood atoned for all our race,
And sprinkles now the throne of grace.

Five bleeding wounds He bears; received on Calvary;
They pour effectual prayers; they strongly plead for me:
'Forgive him, O forgive,' they cry,
'Nor let that ransomed sinner die!'

The Father hears Him pray, His dear anointed One;
He cannot turn away, the presence of His Son;
His Spirit answers to the blood,
And tells me I am born of God.

My God is reconciled; His pardoning voice I hear;
He owns me for His child; I can no longer fear:
With confidence I now draw nigh,
And 'Father, Abba, Father,' cry.

Or as Augustus Toplady put it:

From whence this fear and unbelief?
Hath not the Father put to grief
His spotless Son for me?
And will the righteous Judge of men
Condemn me for that debt of sin
Which, Lord, was charged on Thee?

Complete atonement Thou hast made,
And to the utmost farthing paid
Whate’er Thy people owed;
How then can wrath on me take place
If sheltered in Thy righteousness,
And sprinkled with Thy blood?

If Thou hast my discharge procured,
And freely in my room endured
The whole of wrath divine,
Payment God cannot twice demand—
First at my bleeding Surety’s hand,
And then again at mine.

Turn then, my soul, unto thy rest!
The merits of thy great High Priest
Have bought thy liberty;
Trust in His efficacious blood,
Nor fear thy banishment from God,
Since Jesus died for thee!

No condemnation! He justifies the ungodly through faith in Jesus Christ! Hallelujah!