Why should I do anything for you? You never do anything for me?

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Stand Fast in Hope

    A Peanuts cartoon shows Lucy and Linus watching TV. Lucy tells Linus: “Go get me a glass of water.” Linus questions: “Why should I do anything for you? You never do anything for me…”

    Lucy responds: “On your seventy-fifth birthday, I’ll bake you a cake.” Linus goes to the kitchen, saying to himself: “Life is more pleasant when you have something to look forward to…”

    Hope. Paul only uses the word “hope” once in the letter of Galatians, in 5:5: “For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.” I want to pull this verse apart, to expose this verse in the light of the whole letter of Galatians, in order to be encouraged to stand fast in hope, having something to look forward to. Let’s feed on God’s word…

HOPE IS AVAILABLE “THROUGH THE SPIRIT”

    First, Paul points out that hope is available through the Spirit or by the Spirit. This is the Holy Spirit, of course. Paul mentions the Holy Spirit 16 times in this letter.

    Observe what Paul writes about the Spirit in 3:2-5. The Holy Spirit began their lives as they were born of water and the Spirit (John 3:3-5) and the Holy Spirit would perfect their lives as they continued following the message revealed by the Spirit, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    The Holy Spirit, 3:14, is available to all people once they have become “sons of God” (4:6). So, Paul says in Galatians 5:16, 18 that we are to be led by the Spirit and to walk by the Spirit. The fruit of that type of lifestyle, a lifestyle guided by the Holy Spirit, is mentioned in 5:22-23. “Hope” is not mentioned here as a “fruit” of the Spirit but Paul says here in our text (5:5) that hope is a “fruit” made available by the Spirit.

HOPE IS AVAILABLE “BY FAITH”

    Faith is grabbing ahold of something you cannot see (Heb. 11:1). Paul uses “faith” 23 times in this letter! In 1:23, Paul uses “faith” as a synonym for the Gospel message. He preached “the faith.”

    We are saved, not through obedience to the law of Moses (2:16) but through our faith in Jesus Christ. It is not just faith expressed when we first become Christians but we “live” by faith in the Son of God (2:20). In Galatians 6:10, Paul refers to Christians as the “the household of the faith.”

    Out of the 23 times Paul use the word “faith” in Galatians, 15 times are found just in chapter 3. Read the paragraph that has the most dense concentration of the word “faith” in Galatians: 3:22-26.

    So it is with us today. We can’t see the forgiveness of sins. We can’t see the Holy Spirit dwelling in us. We can’t see Jesus being with us even when times are difficult. But, by faith we grasp these facts, and others, based on what we know of God and what we know from His word. Relative to our hope, we can’t see heaven but we grasp the fact that it is there and we live in hope to receive it. This hope is available “by faith.”

HOPE IS “EAGERLY AWAITED”

    Now that’s the question, isn’t it? Do we eagerly await this hope? How badly do you want heaven? How eagerly do you wait for it? 

    Would I rather be with Rachel, or with Jesus? “Heaven can wait.” Would I rather graduate college or be with Jesus? “Heaven can wait.” Would I rather travel the world or be with Jesus? “Heaven can wait.”

    We do not have the power of life and death in our hands; we cannot commit suicide in order to be with Jesus faster. Death occurs in its own time. But, do we live our lives eagerly waiting for the hope that is to come? Does that hope inform our decisions, motivate our lives, empower our days?

HOPE IS “OF RIGHTEOUSNESS”

    I’ve mentioned that this is the only passage in Galatians that uses the word “hope.” Paul uses the word “righteous” or “righteousness” five times in Galatians and all the other verses show that we are made “righteous,” not through the law of Moses but through faith in Jesus Christ.

    “Righteous” means the quality or condition of being right in the eyes of God. It means in some way, you have met God’s expectations, not perfectly, but faithfully and sincerely. Paul writes that (his favorite example of faith), Abraham, believed God and was made right with God based on his faith (3:6, quoting from Genesis 15:6).

    What that tells me is that because Abraham had been walking by faith, believing the promises of God even though he couldn’t see them, then God considered him righteous. He forgave Abraham of his sins and said, in effect, to Abraham: “You are right with me.”

    That is the “hope” of our Christian lives – to be right with God. Am I okay with God? We enjoy righteousness now, through the blood of Christ, but we continue to fight with Satan and temptations. But one day, our hope is that we will be finally, completely, and irrevocably right with God. That is our hope.

    That is why we worship. That gives us something to look forward to. That is eternal life (6:8).

    Are you eagerly awaiting that righteousness? Are you eagerly awaiting that hope? Do you live like you are? Do you stand fast in hope? Doubts arise but hope remains secure. Fears assail us but hope remains fixed. Worries penetrate our hearts but hope remains steadfast.

    With your hope securely set in Jesus Christ, live your life with eager expectation of righteousness.

–Paul Holland

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Pentecost as the Beginning and the Beginning of the End

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    While Jesus is the center of the Bible, the focus of the Bible, Acts 2 and the establishment of the community of Christ, or the “church” of Christ, is, in the words of James D. Bales, the “hub of the Bible.” 

    Relative to the new covenant we have studied, two important promises were given: the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Those two promises intersect in Acts 2, specifically in immersion in water. “For the forgiveness of sins” is the intended purpose of immersion and the “gift of the Holy Spirit” is promised reward for that act of faithful obedience.

    In Acts 11, Peter reflects on his time, experience, and sermon to Cornelius and his household, the first non-Jews to obey the Gospel and receive forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. In verse 15, Peter calls Pentecost the “beginning.”

    Not only was Pentecost the beginning of the offering of full and complete forgiveness of sins and the giving of the Holy Spirit, but it was also the beginning of declaring Jesus as the Messiah, the Anointed One of God (Acts 2:36). It was the beginning of the apostles and early Christians testifying to others about Jesus’ resurrection. They had been eyewitnesses of the resurrection of Christ; we should not downplay the importance of the appearances Jesus made. But in Acts 2, the disciples begin sharing that testimony with others, that they might believe and be saved. They could not talk about Christ’s Messiahship before the resurrection (Mark 8:29-30; 9:9). But, now they can. 

    The apostle “called out of due time” said this, quoting Psalm 116:10: “But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed, therefore I spoke,” we also believe, therefore we also speak” (2 Corinthians 4:13). That sentiment describes all the apostles: they believed; therefore, they spoke.

    If we are not speaking up for the resurrected Christ, is it because we really don’t believe?

    Because the Messiah had died and risen and forgiveness of sins was made available and offered to mankind, the church could now be established. Acts 2 is the birthday of the church of Christ. Acts 2 is the beginning of the gathering of an assembly, a community, an ekklesia, a “church.” We have an assembly of disciples, and the word God drew from the language of mankind for that assembly is ekklesia, usually translated “church.” The English word “church” actually comes from the German word kirche which means “building.” Obviously, the church is not the building; it’s the people who assembly inside the building.

    But, not only is Pentecost the beginning of the church, it is also the beginning of the end. Time started winding down when Jesus rose from the dead. In other words, we are living in the last days. Peter makes this clear when, in Acts 2:17, prior to quoting Joel 2, he quotes Isaiah 2 (Micah 4:1). These are the “last days,” Peter says. 

    Once the church age is completed, the earth will be destroyed and eternity will begin. The NT writers understand this phrase to refer to the church age and that the church is, therefore, the final community of Christ/God and the community of the “end times.” There will not be another community.

    The church of Christ is God’s community of the last days. We have been brought together by the Holy Spirit by obeying His word and washed through His commands by the blood of Christ. We have received forgiveness of sins and the indwelling of the Spirit so that we have the downpayment of the inheritance God has planned for us. The one thing we need to do now is to persevere and stay faithful.

–Paul Holland

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Will We Dance for Jesus?

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        I am no fan of “Christian” rock music. But sometimes you are introduced to it, or to a specific song and the lyrics can make you think. Such has happened with a group calling themselves “Mercy Me” with a song, “I Can Only Imagine.” Here are the lyrics:

I can only imagine what it will be like

When I walk by your side

I can only imagine what my eyes will see

When your face is before me

I can only imagine

I can only imagine

Surrounded by your glory

What will my heart feel?

Will I dance for you Jesus,

Or in awe of you be still?

Will I stand in your presence,

Or to my knees will I fall?

Will I sing Hallelujah,

Will I be able to speak at all?

I can only imagine

I can only imagine

I can only imagine when that day comes

And I find myself standing in the Son

I can only imagine when all I will do

Is forever, forever worship you

I can only imagine

I can only imagine

LetsSingIt – Your favorite Music Community 

    It was that question, “Will I dance for you Jesus?” that caught my attention. What will be our response when we stand before Jesus and hear those words, “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joys of your Lord” (Matthew 25:21). So, I grabbed my concordance and considered the words “dancing,” but mostly “leaping” and “jumping,” as I knew those were some responses to the miracles of Jesus…

    No passage in the Gospels (or the New Testament for that matter) presents men dancing in the presence of Jesus. But, in Luke’s account of the sermon on the mount (better called the “sermon on the plain,” 6:17), Jesus says, “Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven” (6:23). “I can only imagine when that day comes and I find myself standing in the Son,…” I will “leap for joy.”

    When the man, lame for 40 years, was healed by Peter and John in the temple, Luke writes: “With a leap he stood upright and began to walk; and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God” (Acts 3:8). “Leaping, walking, leaping, and praising God.” You could perhaps call that “dancing” in the broad sense of the term. He wasn’t doing it to any music, apparently, nor to any rhythm. But he was filled with intense joy, nevertheless.

    In Mark 10:50, Jesus heals Bartimaeus of blindness and “throwing aside his cloak, he jumped up and came to Jesus.” But that text doesn’t suggest the repeated movement that the Acts 3 text says. Thus we are left with the statement from Luke 6:23 about “leaping for joy” in the presence of our reward of heaven and the reaction of the lame man to the healing in Acts 3 in the name of Jesus.

    Dancing with the Stars? Decidedly not. Leaping, shouting, and praising God for joy? Perhaps. I can only imagine

–Paul Holland

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Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all things be done with charity

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“And God saw every thing that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day”–Genesis 1:31

 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth and all things contained therein (Gen. 1:1-28). When he finished his creation, he beheld what he had done and pronounced it “very good”. My friends, today we do not live in the same kind of world that God designed and created in Genesis 1. Today we are witnesses to man changing the truths of God into lies. Not only do we see men and women changing the natural use of their bodies into same sex intimate relationships, including same sex marriage, we are witnessing this conduct being accepted and approved by great masses of people, many of whom claim to be God fearing people. And now we are enveloped in all this “transgender” foolishness. In the beginning God created male and female (Gen. 1:27, Matt. 19:3-4), only two genders, not three, four or more. Wishing to be, wanting to be, pretending to be will not, cannot change a man into a woman nor can it change a woman into a man.  Today, we live in a nation, a world filled with unrighteousness, fornication, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness, envy, murder, deceit, backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil, without understanding, covenant breakers, without natural affection, implacable, and unmerciful. This is an age in which men and women all over the world, including America, are refusing to acknowledge, honor and glorify the God of creation, choosing to fill their hearts with all manner of unrighteousness. The sins of man have thrown us into this cesspool of iniquity we now wallow in (Rom. 1:24-32, 2 Tim. 3:1-5. 1 Cor. 6:9-10, Gal. 5:19-21, Rev. 21:8, 27, Rev. 22:15).

In our preaching/teaching, we certainly want to be patient, cheerful and encouraging. However, we must also point out error, we must reproach by pointing out sin and always call sin by its right name even though it may not be popular to do so or even politically correct (2 Tim. 4:1-4). Brethren, we must proclaim from our pulpits, we must teach in our class rooms that it is wrong, it is sinful to engage in any practice that is contrary to God’s word regardless of who is promoting or engaging in it and even if our government is commanding it (Acts 5:29).

Even though evil and wicked desires are harbored in the heart of so many, God has not abandoned us (Heb. 13:7). He still loves us (John 3:16, 2 Peter 3:9, Romans 8:31-39). To God be glory forever and ever!

“Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all things be done with charity”–1 Corinthians 16:13-14

 Charles Hicks

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Declaration Against Interest

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When I was young, my dad presented a basic argument for the inspiration of the Bible that is simple but effective.

Bad men did not write the Bible. For one reason, evil men could not have put together a volume that is so inherently moral and upholds the highest moral standards of any document. As an ancient proverb said, “Out of the wicked comes forth wickedness” (1 Samuel 24:13). Jesus said it this way, “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit” (Matthew 7:17-18). Evil men cannot put together such pure moral teaching.

Secondly, evil men would not have put together a collection of writings that consistently condemned the very actions the evil men delight to practice: murder, adultery, lying. Murder is found 61 times in the ESV; adultery, 42 times; liar, 20 times. All you have to do is look at the religions of men (like Greek and Roman mythology) to see what types of gods men devise – the types of gods that mimic men’s immorality. No, evil men did not put together the Sacred Writings.

On the other hand, good men would not have put together such a volume that purports to be from the hand and mind of God. Even if they could (which they could not, see the second paragraph), they would not have lied about the works being inspired, being from the mind of God, revealed through the work of the Holy Spirit. How could such a man (or group of men) hoist on the world the greatest hoax ever and still write: “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Revelation 21:8). No, good men did not put together the Sacred Writings.

To put it briefly, what we see here is an illustration of a legal principle called declaration against interest. The declaration against interest, according to Wikipedia, occurs when “a person’s statement may be used, where generally the content of the statement is so prejudicial to the person making it that he would not have made the statement unless he believed the statement was true.”

Wikipedia gives an example of the declaration against interest, citing California’s Evidence Code Section 1230. Notice the applicability of this code to the writers of the New Testament:

“Evidence of a statement by a declarant having sufficient knowledge of the subject is not made inadmissible by the hearsay rule if the declarant is unavailable as a witness and the statement, when made, was so far contrary to the declarant’s pecuniary [relating to money, p.h.] or proprietary [relating to ownership, p.h.] interest, or so far subjected him to the risk of civil or criminal liability, or so far tended to render invalid a claim by him against another, or created such a risk of making him an object of hatred, ridicule, or social disgrace in the community, that a reasonable man in his position would not have made the statement unless he believed it to be true.”

Would the New Testament writers have preached and written what they did and faced the hatred, ridicule, and social disgrace they faced if they had not been moved by the Holy Spirit (see 2 Peter 1:20-21).

Declaration against interest, it seems to me, is a valid argument for the inspiration of

–Paul Holland

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The Logic of Paul’s Gospel – Romans 1:1-17

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It is the Gospel that serves as the bridge between Paul’s own missionary activity and our activity today. Our text for encouragement will be Romans 1:1-17.

The “Gospel” is the theme of the letter and the theme of this first paragraph. Notice the word used in verses 1, 9, 15, 16. Verses 15-17 are the theme of the whole letter.

THE GOAL OF THIS MISSIONARY GOSPEL:

Paul’s life was totally dedicated to sharing the Gospel of Christ. He says in verse 1 that he was called, set apart for the Gospel. Once you and I become Christians, that’s the goal or it should be the goal of our lives too, wherever we are – to live the Gospel, exemplify the Gospel, and share the Gospel.

In verse 5, Paul says that he received grace and the apostleship in order to bring about the obedience of faith among the Gentiles for His name’s sake. What that phrase does is show us the purpose of the preaching – to bring about obedience. It shows us the sphere: “among the Gentiles,” that is, all the nations. The phrase also shows us the ultimate focus – “for the sake of the name of Christ.”

This expression “obedience of faith” means something like “faith’s obedience” or “believing obedience.” What Paul has in mind here is the total response of man to God – a life characterized by faith and obedience.

SERVING GOD WHOLE-HEARTEDLY IN THE GOSPEL OF HIS SON:

Observe verse 9 – “For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you.”
The verb “I serve” is used of religious service. “In my spirit” shows that Paul’s heart and life was involved, totally. And “in the preaching of the gospel” shows the realm/sphere of his service.

Paul put his whole heart into preaching the Gospel and sharing it with others. It was the focus of his life and the goal of his service. As he says in 1 Corinthians 1:17 – “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel.”

EAGER TO PREACH THE GOSPEL IN ROME:

Here, we are looking at verses 14-17. Paul was obligated to Christ and therefore, obligated to both Greeks, barbarians, wise, unwise – to anyone whom Christ wished to bring to salvation. In other words, everyone.

Not only does the Gospel create a Christian life (viewed as a “new birth” – 1 Cor. 4:15) but it is the “sphere” in which all Christian life is lived (Phil. 1:27).

So, the “fruit” Paul wants from the Roman Christians (1:13) is their strengthened faith and their continued obedience.

Thus, Paul says those very important words in 1:16 – “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.”

Paul was not ashamed. Paul’s confidence did not lie in his circumstances. It rested in God who had called Paul to preach and who worked through Paul.

The Gospel calls on us and demands of us a deep commitment to the ongoing, powerful advance of the Gospel and to the person at its core – Jesus Christ.

We need to dedicate our hearts to the advancement of God’s power to save – the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

–Paul Holland

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Sermon outline on Bible examples

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Some examples

 

  • AM examples: Abel, Enoch, Noah, Job, Moses, Joseph, David, Jonathan, and Abraham.
  • Abel was a “model speaker.”
    1. Abel was a “model speaker” in the sense of creating a legacy.
    2. 11:4 says Abel is “dead,” but he “still speaks.”
  • The life of Abel corresponds to what we find in Jas. 5:10.
  • We also read about a man by the name of “Enoch” in Genesis.
  • The Scriptures say Enoch “walked with God” (Gen. 5:24).
  • As we go through life each one of us will “walk” with someone.
    1. Noah is our model worker.
    2. Imagine working on one project for 50 or more years. Day after day.  Board after board.
  • Noah was a man who had true commitment as well as a great love and passion for God.

JOB.

  • Moses is a shining example of faithfulness.
    1. 3:5 says Moses “was faithful in all his house as a servant.”
  1. Moses had numerous obstacles in his life; he did his best to be “faithful” & was commended.
    James tells us to look to these models, learn from them, and follow them.
  • A man by the name of Joseph shows great commitment in the area of religion.
  • According to Mt. 1:19, Joseph was a “righteous” man. This Joseph was a good man.

DAVID READ 1 Chron. 29:10-21

  • Abraham and Jonathan.

PART 2

    1. Samuel is a good example for anyone, especially our young people.
    2. Children often want to identify with someone; they like heroes and characters.

 

  • Elijah; Elisha.
  • Elijah was a reformer – we might say he was a model reformer.
  • Elisha is another individual who stands out, but he shines as a “helper.”
  • 2 Kgs. 3:11 – READ
  • 38.
    1. Ebed-Melech heard Jeremiah was in this cistern (Jer. 38:7).
    2. This man ran to the king and said Jeremiah should be helped – Jer. 38:8-9 – READ
  • John the Baptist.
  • 3:30.
  • Here John said he needed to “decrease” and the Lord needed to “increase.”
  • Peter and Paul.

Algunos ejemplos

1) AM ejemplos: Abel, Enoc, Noé, Job, Moisés, José, David, Jonathan, y Abraham.
2) Abel era un “altavoz modelo”.
i) Abel era un “modelo de altavoz” en el sentido de crear un legado.
ii) He. 11: 4 dice Abel es “muerto”, pero “todavía habla.”
3) La vida de Abel se corresponde con lo que encontramos en Sant. 05:10.
4) También leemos acerca de un hombre con el nombre de “Enoc” en el Génesis.
5) Las Escrituras dicen que Enoc “caminó con Dios” (Génesis 5:24).
6) A medida que avanzamos por la vida de cada uno de nosotros va a “caminar” con alguien.
i) Noah es nuestro modelo de trabajador.
ii) Imagine trabajar en un proyecto para 50 o más años. Día tras día. Tabla tras tabla.
iii) Noé era un hombre que tenía un verdadero compromiso, así como un gran amor y pasión por Dios.

TRABAJO.
1) Moisés es un brillante ejemplo de fidelidad.
i) He. 3: 5 dice Moisés “fue fiel en toda la casa, como siervo.”
b) Moisés tenía numerosos obstáculos en su vida; hizo todo lo posible para ser “fiel” y fue elogiado.
Santiago nos dice que mirar a estos modelos, aprender de ellos, y les siguen.
1) Un hombre con el nombre de Joseph muestra un gran compromiso en el ámbito de la religión.
2) De acuerdo con el monte 1:19 José era un hombre “justo”. Esta José era un buen hombre.
DAVID LEE 1 Cron. 29: 10-21
1) Abraham y Jonathan.
PARTE 2
1) Samuel.
i) Samuel es un buen ejemplo para nadie, especialmente a nuestros jóvenes.
ii) Los niños a menudo quiere identificarse con alguien; que les gusta héroes y personajes.

2) Elías; Elíseo.
3) Elías era un reformador – podríamos decir que era un reformador modelo.
4) Eliseo es otro individuo que se destaca, pero brilla como un “ayudante”.
5) 2 Rey. 03:11 – LEER
1) Jer. 38.
i) Abdemelec oyó Jeremías estaba en esta cisterna (Jer. 38: 7).
ii) Este hombre corrió hacia el rey y dijo Jeremías debe ser ayudado – Jer. 38: 8-9 – LEA
2) Juan Bautista.
3) Jn. 03:30.
4) A continuación, John dijo que necesitaba “disminuir” y el Señor necesario “aumentar”.
5) Pedro y Pablo.

 

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I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church

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Before the Church Could be Established

Jesus promised to build His church in Matthew 16:18: “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.” In the same context, remember Peter had confessed Jesus as the “Messiah” in verse 16, Jesus goes on to say of the “Messiah:” “He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day” (verse 21).

Before the church could be established, the Messiah had to be crucified and raise from the dead. In fact, recall from Jeremiah 31:31-34 that a key component of the new covenant God would make with mankind consisted of the forgiveness of sins. Jesus’ covenant was established on the fact that His blood would forgive sins (Matthew 26:28).

The prophet Ezekiel (in 36:27) promised that God would send His Holy Spirit over His people, giving them a new heart. Jesus told His disciples in John 7:38-39 that the Holy Spirit would be given, once He was glorified, that is, raised from the dead and ascended into heaven.

What we see, then, is that the Messiah must die for sins and raise from the dead. Then the forgiveness of sins would be made available to His new covenant community, through His shed blood. Once that was made available, the Holy Spirit would come, guiding mankind in worshipping and serving the Creator. This is the historical working out of God’s eternal plan.

But this plan is also re-enacted in the life of the individual Christian. Through baptism, a believer is united together with Christ in the likeness of His death and resurrection (Romans 6:3-4). It is then that the believer is forgiven of his sins (Acts 2:38) and, once he is a child of God, he can receive the Holy Spirit (Galatians 4:6).

Once the Messiah had died, risen, and ascended into heaven, forgiveness of sins was available and the Holy Spirit could be given. Having accomplished all of that, the church of Christ was prepared to be established (Luke 24:47-49; Acts 1:8; Acts 2:1-4).

Again, in the life of the individual Christian, once he/she has been united with the resurrected Christ, received forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38), then she/he is added to the church of Christ (Acts 2:47).

–Paul Holland

 

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Our response to Christ’s sacrifice should be one of humility

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Our Cancelled Debts

Debt – “something that is owed or due or the state of owing money.”  Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “A man in debt is so far a slave.”  Christ’s sacrifice was the ultimate cancellation of debts.  We were once in debt with sin; a slave to sin, but we know Christ paid a ransom for us (Matt. 20:28).  How should one respond to that sacrificial act?  We find a good example in Luke 7:36-50.

In this passage, we see three main characters: Jesus, the sinful woman, and the Pharisee.  In verses 37-40, the woman enters the home with an alabaster flask of ointment and begins to wash Jesus’s feet with her tears, wipe his feet with her hair, and ceaselessly kiss his feet.  The woman’s response is that of humility.  She recognizes that she is unworthy to be in God’s presence. That presence, mixed with her humiliation of her past decisions, moves her to tears.  Then, we see the Pharisee who says to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.”  The Pharisee, who is a religious leader, looks at this woman with judgment and disgust, as if he were completely free from sin himself.

Jesus, frustrated with the reaction of the Pharisee, tells a parable of two debtors.  In verses 41-42, Jesus says, “A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty.  When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?”  At this point, both debtors do not owe anything.  They should both be thankful, but the Pharisee answers like any of us would saying, in verse 43, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”

What happens next is similar to Nathan’s interaction with David in 2 Sam. 12.  Just as Nathan tells a parable and tells David, “You are the man who is in this parable,”  Jesus addresses the Pharisee saying, “You’re the unthankful servant!” He says, in verses 44-47, ““Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.  Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” It should be noted, that the word “for” is synonymous with “therefore.”  In other words, she loved him in response to the forgiveness of sins rather than being forgiven because of her love.  We love because he first loved us (1 John 4:19).

You can see the irritation in Jesus’s words in His response to the Pharisee.  It seems as though this man is one who could easily be judged himself, yet he’s judging this woman who is doing everything she can to receive the favor of her Lord.  Yet, this man was sitting back, high and mighty, but never even offered a hint of humility. A cancelled debt deserves gratitude.  It deserves humility to the one who cancelled the debt, especially a debt that would cost his life.

Our response to Christ’s sacrifice should be one of humility, much like this woman, who knew she was not worthy of His forgiveness, but she served him anyway.  Jesus shows mercy and grace, telling her her sins are forgiven.  James 4:6 says, “But he gives more grace. Therefore, it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” This interaction between Jesus, the sinful woman, and the Pharisee is clear evidence of that teaching.

We learn two lessons from this passage.  First, from the woman, we learn humility, faith, and thanksgiving.  She was unworthy, but she had faith.  The best way to show gratitude to Jesus is to live for Him and we can assume, after having an interaction like this, that the woman spent the rest of her life living for Jesus.  Not only did she have faith, she had an active faith.  James 2:14-26 shows us that faith without works is dead. “For as the body apart from the Spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.”  Second, from Jesus, we learn the act of forgiveness.  He forgave one who showed humility, even though she did not deserve it.  He now does the same for us, cancelling our debt; a debt that he did not owe, and one that we could never pay. These are the lessons we learn from both the forgiven woman and our forgiving Savior.  Let’s reflect their examples.

~ Jared McLeod

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Study to Show Thyself Approved

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    2 Timothy 2:15 reads: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (KJV).

    This command comes from the (likely) last letter the apostle Paul ever penned, to his protege, the young preacher Timothy. Early in chapter 2 of this letter, Paul has commanded Timothy that the same things he has heard in the midst of many witnesses, he is to commit (paratithemi – “to hand over, to entrust”) to faithful men who will be able to teach others. In the early verses, Paul compares Christians to: soldiers, athletes, and farmers.

    Here in this brief paragraph, Paul calls on Christians to be students, students of the word. Now, as you may know, the verb “study” here does not mean to open the Bible and learn from it. Not the word itself. The word itself is the same word used in Ephesians 4:3, where Paul tells the saints in Ephesus: “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

    That word “endeavoring” is the same word translated here as “study.” So, what Paul is telling Timothy is that he should “endeavor” to show himself approved of God. Make every effort to show yourself approved of God. If Paul had left the command at that, we would understand him to be saying that all of our lives are simply to reflect our obedience to God’s will.

    But, Paul further defines what he means by “endeavoring, making every effort to show ourselves approved of God,” by saying, “a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

    That verb “rightly dividing” literally means, “cut a straight line,” and the verse, then, means “guiding along a straight path through the word of truth.” The verb was used in secular Greek to refer to cutting a straight furrow in the garden or paving a straight path for a road.

    What Paul is telling Timothy, and all of us who aspire to be faithful to Jesus Christ, is that we are to approach the Scriptures with holiness, common sense, and honesty.

    I work in the ESV and the NASV. Here is the ESV: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.”

    And the NASV: “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.”

    Be diligent to show yourself approved of God by cutting a straight path through the Scriptures, applying what God requires us to do.

–Paul Holland

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