Seven Sayings: Today

The second sermon in our series, “Seven Sayings from the Cross” comes from Luke 23:35-43.  Everything Jesus did and said had a purpose.  There were no wasted movements or waster breath with Him.  Including the words, He spoke from the cross.  While I don’t think they were intended to be wordy theological dialogues like the parables, they are indeed practical theology.  The complexity and immensity of what Jesus accomplished on the cross are demonstrated in these statements in a way that every person can understand with ease.

Luke 23:35-43

35 And the people stood beholding. And the rulers also with them derided him, saying, He saved others; let him save himself, if he be Christ, the chosen of God. 36 And the soldiers also mocked him, coming to him, and offering him vinegar, 37 And saying, If thou be the king of the Jews, save thyself. 38 And a superscription also was written over him in letters of Greek, and Latin, and Hebrew, This Is The King Of The Jews39 And one of the malefactors which were hanged railed on him, saying, If thou be Christ, save thyself and us. 40 But the other answering rebuked him, saying, Dost not thou fear God, seeing thou art in the same condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly; for we receive the due reward of our deeds: but this man hath done nothing amiss. 42 And he said unto Jesus, Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom. 43 And Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in paradise.

First, we see this Scripture demonstrating the instant nature of salvation by the grace of God alone received by faith alone.

  • In the very moment, “today,” we receive God’s gracious offer of salvation by faith we are brought into justification and adoption.
    • Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit”
    • Romans 8:14-17, “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.
    • Romans 10:9-13, “That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.  For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
  • Notice, the only thing the penitent thief could do was confess his fallen nature and need of the Father’s grace.  He could do not works, and we can do no works to gain or add to our salvation.
    • Ephesians 2:8-10, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”

This Scripture also demonstrates the reality of heaven and hell.

  • The cross stands as a dividing line between those who receive Christ by faith and those who reject (the two thieves being on each side of Christ).
    • Lazuras and the rich man in Luke 16:9 show the clear teachings of Jesus’ teaching on our eternal destiny.
    • While our culture talks about a lot of grey areas, Jesus did not.  For example, look at Jesus’ “altar call” at the end of the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 7:13-29).  There are two separate gates, two different paths, two different endings to find.  You either bear good fruit or evil fruit.  A person can either build on the teachings of Jesus (rock) or reject them (building on the sand).  There are no grey areas in any of our responses to Christ.  You are either with Him or against Him.

 

Lastly, this Scripture demonstrates the comfort knowing Jesus brings to us.

  • Since salvation is made a reality at the moment we receive Him by faith, we can have confidence before God in the Judgement.  We do not trust in ourselves but in Jesus’ glorious work on the cross and His Word to us.  We find comfort in knowing Jesus, for at the end of our life we will be with our Lord in eternity.
    • 2 Corinthians 5:8, “We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.”

Most Read Posts of 2018

We just wanted to send out a message to thank everyone for another wonderful year on our blog.  The following lists show the ten most-read posts this year.  Looking forward to another year of serving and writing!

10. Christian Baptist Camp Meeting 2018

9. Three reflections on the Old Testament Tabernacle.

8. Don’t Quit!

7. Get out of the cave!

6. A pre-history of Christian Baptists.

5. Apps for small Churches.

4. But, be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

3. Camp Meeting Time! 

2. New Research Publication

1. Reasons for going to youth camp.

The Fellowship of the Church

Relationships between Church members possess great influence when it comes to the overall health of the church.  When a church is known for its loving fellowship, the atmosphere may be characterized as warm, welcoming, non-threatening, and hospitable.  On the other hand, if a church is known for not having a loving fellowship than it may be characterized as cold, non-welcoming, threatening, and uncomfortable.

Without a loving fellowship, a congregation will struggle in everything that it does.  Charles Arn wrote, “One of the most important contributions your church can make to members— and nonmembers— is to teach them how to love” (Arn, 2013, p. 127).  This is the foundational belief of why it is so important to focus on congregational relationships.  This is obedience to Christ’s teaching in John 13:34-35 but it also how we come to know God.  In 1 John 4:7-8 we learn that if we love we know God and if we don’t love then we don’t know God.  What we see is that Christian fellowship not only connects members to each other but also connects them to Christ.

There is an undeniable sense in scripture that believers are to have a deep spiritual connection displayed through their relationships.  Passages like John 13:35 word as though our relationships are markers for the Christian faith.  By having a common faith brings believers to a common ground but there is also the understanding that believers have the Spirit of God binding us together in the most holy faith (Ephesians 4:3).  It would be hard-pressed to say there is any scriptural ground for a Christian not to engage in deeply committed and authentic relationships with other believers.  In fact, part of the sanctification a person goes through is to turn their thoughts and feelings out of themselves and towards other believers. 

We see Jesus immediately begin to gather his disciples after his baptism and temptation in the wilderness.  Fellowship with others was of paramount to Christ.  We see when Jesus was away from the disciples in pray but we also see him keeping them at least a few yards away during His most intense night of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.  Jesus spent over three years of time with the disciples sharing in everyday life.  Jesus one day would look at the disciples and says, “ I call you not servants; for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth: but I have called you friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made it known unto” (Jn 15:15).  In relationships, there has to be a mutual honesty and transparency.  Jesus called the disciples friends because He could freely share what God had been doing.  Congregational relationships mirror this “friendly” relationship with confession, exhortation, rebuke, and encouragement. 

After the Holy Spirit descended and indwelled in the disciples, after the sermon of the Peter, after the three thousand souls were added all on the same day of Pentecost, we see almost immediately a close fellowship mentality.  The people seemed to throng upon the disciples as, “they continued stedfastly in the apostle’s doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42).  It seems the remainder of the New Testament is about the growth of the fellowship of the church and the growing pains it would have to deal with.  In the context of congregational relationships, we read “by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body” (1 Cor. 12:13) and “Endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3).  The congregations were to be “of one accord, of one mind” (Phil. 2:2), and that we are to “consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works” (Heb. 10:25). 

In Paul’s letter to the Philemon, the master of a runaway slave, Onesimus, he focused on the common ground that believers stand on.  According to Paul, fellow believers all share in some in the same grace from God and therefore live in a common mutuality that makes all equal.  The implications this has for churches has been profound.  Coming from this perspective, it would be perfectly acceptable and even beneficial to all, for pastors to approach others as their equals.  This goes for board members and congregational members.  It would also apply to others as they relate to the pastor.  In this view, it would be normal for pastors to have strong relationships with others in their congregations.   

Leading the fellowship.

Paul wrote in Romans 12:3-8 about a diversity of spiritual gifts in the body of Christ.  This diversity ended up causing issues at some point in several of the churches, including those at Rome and Corinth.  With the church at Rome, the tensions between people’s gifting’s were only bolstered by growing racial tensions between Jews and Gentiles.  Such differences are magnified when they are also used to solidify a person’s position and authority over another person.  But these things shouldn’t be in the Christian community.  Paul’s view on this is that the Christian community is a body in which each individual is joined to every other member of the community”.  

Therefore, it seems that both of the scripture describes an approach for all believers to approach relationships with other believers with a high level of openness.  As for pastors, they need to be aware of the dangers of pride from spiritual gifts or different positions in the church bring.  They also need to be aware of the utility of diversity of gifts and backgrounds.  This demands that pastors approach all other believers with a mutual respect, not of a position of hierarchy.  Each believer is valuable to Christ and to other believers.  This usefulness extends past the profitableness for ministry but also for the benefits that relationship brings with other people.   

The biblical foundation begins to point out the importance of fellowship in the congregation.  Loving fellowships, mutual understanding, and ministry partnership are all important components of a healthy congregation.  Without strong relationships in the congregation, the likelihood of a church accomplishing the great commission will be minimal.  To flourish a congregation must have fellowship and it is up to the leaders to promote and cultivate the leaders.  Peter Scazzero writes in his book, The Emotionally Healthy Church (2010), “As go the Leaders, so goes the Church” (p. 20).  A proverb from my dad says, “a fish always rots from the head down.”  The leadership of the church can point the direction of a church’s fellowship by what it teaches and by what it models.  Mostly by what it models how to fellowship in front of the members of the congregation and community. 

If the leaders of the church are together in one mind and one accord they will produce an atmosphere of unity in the church.  When they work together through conflicts and problems they will model to the church how they can do the same with their own personal conflicts.  When the leadership of the church partners together to do ministry it encourages and models how others in the congregation can also work together.  On the opposite side if there is division in the leadership, jealousy, and a whole number of other relational pitfalls then the potential for harm in the congregation is great and the possibility of schism looms.   Since the ramifications of unhealthy congregational relationships are serious, it is important that the leadership of the church keep their ears open to what is taking place in the relationships of the people. 

Fellowshipping better.

This means that leaders have to constantly gauge themselves and the relationships of those in the congregation.  The first part is probably a little harder to do since it might mean adjusting the way we relate to people.  Mel Silberman put it in his book, People Smart (2000), “Think of getting interpersonally fit just as you would think of getting physically fit” (p. 9).  He suggested that we have to do some work to make improvements in our areas of strength and our areas of weakness.  

While individuals can work on their relationship skills it is still the responsibility of the church to foster those relationships by creating atmospheres for relationship building.  The joke is that many churches think of fellowship as the two minutes of handshaking during the worship service or involving the green bean casserole after the service.  While those do play in a part in fellowship but only a part.  They only add to a much larger possibility of a loving fellowship atmosphere in the church.

Russell and Russel (2010) wrote that there are several ways to create this type of atmosphere through the work of the church.  The first is the use of the “large atrium” in which “You can hear the buzz of the crowd long before you arrive in the atrium” (p. 212).  It’s been said that you can see how much people enjoy each others company by how long they stay before and after service.  He offers two more suggestions for creating an atmosphere, recreational opportunities, and meaningful activities like service projects and mission trips. 

The methods are many and very personal to each church’s particular culture.  What may work best at one church may not work at another.   Ultimately, each church need to rely on the biblical foundation for having a loving fellowship and the basic need of people to belong.  Having a loving fellowship can be one of the strongest assets a church has in regards to discipleship and evangelism.  It’s too important to not understand and study.  It’s too important to not intentionally promote and protect our Christian fellowship. 

References

McIntosh, Gary L.; Arn, Charles (2013). What Every Pastor Should Know: 101 Indispensable Rules of Thumb for Leading Your Church. Baker Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

Russell, Bob; Russell, Rusty (2010). When God Builds a Church. Howard Books. Kindle Edition.

Scazzero, Peter, (2010). The Emotionally Healthy Church. Zondervan. Grand Rapids, MI.

Siberman, Mel; Hansburg, Freda (2000). People Smart. Berret-Keohler Publishers, Inc. San Francisco, CA.

Get out of the cave.

Last weekend, my wife and I took our children to Carter Caves and toured Cascade Cave.  The guided tour was 75-minutes long and included 225 stair steps.  Our children loved it, and we did too.   At least, the older two that stayed awake.  Our youngest fell asleep towards the end and was carried through pretty much the entire trip.

When we came out of the cave, our signal returned to our phones and messages and voicemails came on them.  We missed a lot of what was going on and valuable communications.  The experience reminded me that we can enter into spiritual caves in our lives.  The cave is not evil itself and is something that somehow provides protection and a place of solace.  However, it is not a place we are meant to stay.  Let’s look at a couple passages of Scripture to learn more.

David.

1 Samuel 22

David therefore departed thence, and escaped to the cave Adullam: and when his brethren and all his father’s house heard it, they went down thither to him. 2And every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented, gathered themselves unto him; and he became a captain over them: and there were with him about four hundred men.

3And David went thence to Mizpeh of Moab: and he said unto the king of Moab, Let my father and my mother, I pray thee, come forth, and be with you, till I know what God will do for me. 4And he brought them before the king of Moab: and they dwelt with him all the while that David was in the hold. 5And the prophet Gad said unto David, Abide not in the hold; depart, and get thee into the land of Judah. Then David departed, and came into the forest of Hareth.

Elijah.

1 Kings 19

And he came thither unto a cave, and lodged there; and, behold, the word of the LORD came to him, and he said unto him, What doest thou here, Elijah? 10And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

11And he said, Go forth, and stand upon the mount before the LORD. And, behold, the LORD passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake: 12And after the earthquake a fire; but the LORD was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. 13And it was so, when Elijah heard it, that he wrapped his face in his mantle, and went out, and stood in the entering in of the cave. And, behold, there came a voice unto him, and said, What doest thou here, Elijah? 14And he said, I have been very jealous for the LORD God of hosts: because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.

15And the LORD said unto him, Go, return on thy way to the wilderness of Damascus: and when thou comest, anoint Hazael to be king over Syria: 16And Jehu the son of Nimshi shalt thou anoint to be king over Israel: and Elisha the son of Shaphat of Abelmeholah shalt thou anoint to be prophet in thy room. 17And it shall come to pass, that him that escapeth the sword of Hazael shall Jehu slay: and him that escapeth from the sword of Jehu shall Elisha slay. 18Yet I have left me seven thousand in Israel, all the knees which have not bowed unto Baal, and every mouth which hath not kissed him.

The Rest of Us

John 16:33 reminds us, “These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.”  I am thankful that God has provided grace that is sufficient for all our needs.  Thankfully we can experience His grace during our times of grieving and other overwhelming emotions.  While our feelings can betray us, we must still understand that God has created us with these capabilities.  Emotions are just some of the ways the Lord has given us the power to cope with all the ups and downs of life.

However, as far as the emotions associated with sadness and anger go, we must not stay there too long.  In the passages above, we see that David and Elijah went to the caves in time of despair and depression.  However, both were not there for very long.  It allowed for a moment of profound soul-searching.

We can do this deep searching of the heart during this time because typically we find seclusion.  For Elijah, it was a time where God could speak to Him in a mysterious, yet miraculous way.  Saints of old have called these times the dark night of the soul.  These are times when we feel withdrawn and numb in our emotions.  Communication with God may be foggy at best.  However, it is during these times that we can hold on to God’s Word alone by faith and in the end find out that He still reigns.  This is the peace that Jesus talked about in John 16:33.  We can have trouble and should expect it.  However, we can overcome and have peace because of Jesus’ triumph over sin and death.  That triumph extends to every arena of life.

Don’t Quit

This is the recent preaching outline I used for a sermon called “Don’t Quit.”

Job 14:1, “Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble.

Who do you know right now that you would like to tell them not to quit?  Was there a point in your life, maybe even now, that you wish you had someone to say to you, don’t quit?

Job’s background and Introduction

  • He had great possessions, his family, his health, and his marriage.
  • However, beyond his control, he suffered great loss but remained faithful to the Lord.  God blessed his faithful in the end.
  • We experience these cycles in almost every arena of life.  The cycle move from the promises to problems and many of us never see the prize of being faithful because we quit during the problems.  God help us to not give up.  To not quit.
  • Like Job said, we don’t go very long in life without trouble popping up.

The Promises

  • The first day on the job, honeymoon & marriage, children (Job. 14:1), health, home, education, etc.
  • Each of these

The Problems

  • We tend to settle or surrender.
  • We then quit, give up.
    • Gal. 6:9 and reiterated in 2 Thess. 3:13, And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
  • To not quit, we need to ask ourselves the question, “what wrong things do we need to quit so we don’t quit on the right things?”

The Prize

  • God rewards faithfulness in life.
  • The ultimate reward of faith is eternity with the Lord.

 

  • 1 Cor. 9:24-27, Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown; but we an incorruptible.  I therefore so run, not as uncertainly; so fight I, not as one that beateth the air: But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway.
  • Heb. 12:1-2, “Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

 

 

 

F.A.S.T. Church Leadership

What is leadership?  Some understand leadership is Influence – Every person is an influencer.  Good leaders motivate others for the others right.  Bad leaders manipulate others for the leaders good.  Another way of understanding leadership is through the actions of a person during stressful situations.  In either stream, local churches are in need of godly leadership.  Sometimes pastors go into churches, and there are few to no leaders, and they need help to share the ministry with others fast.  Selecting and further development of these leaders are essential where there is lack.  This is a model that I have been implementing.

F.A.S.T Church Leadership

  • This model is about identifying leaders in the congregation.  The four areas are essential qualities of each leaders quality that help you see future growth.
  • This model is about equipping people.  It’s not enough to identify leaders.  They need to grow, and you need to provide them with help for that growth.
  • This model is about shared leadership.  Each quality is more than a personal pursuit.  Leaders work in tandem with other people, not alone.  No one is a leader without anyone willing to follow.
  • This model is about Christian leadership.  FAST reminds us of the spiritual discipline of fasting.  Fasting is about mental fitness, not physical (Mt. 17:21; Mk 9:29).  Ultimately, the unnamed requirement is the person has an obvious relationship with the Lord.  Don’t make the mistake of being desperate enough to just put warm bodies into positions of leadership.  Especially if they have not repented of their sin and professed faith in Christ.

 

Faithful

As implied by the previous section, leaders need to have a personal relationship with God.  This means they are faithful to God (Pro. 3:5; 1 Cor. 4:1-2; Heb. 10:23) and committed to the Church (Acts 2:42, 20:28; Heb. 10:25, 13:17).  It also implies they are available to answer the call to lead in the local church (Is. 6:8; Mk 1:17-18).  

 

Accountable

As stewards of the Gospel and church, leaders need to be held accountable.  They are responsible for honesty (Pro. 11:3; 1 Jn 1:6, 3:18), responsibility (Rom. 12:6-8; Gal. 6:5; 1 Cor. 3:8), accountable to the church (Pro. 17:17; Gal. 6:1-2; James 5:16).  

 

Servanthood

Servant leadership is a great model to follow for further development.  However, in identifying your next leader, there should be some hints of servanthood already.  They should be a servant first, leader second (Mark 10:45; John 13:1-17) They need charisma, but not by the typical definition of an outgoing personality.  Instead, charisma in that they are other-centered (1 Cor. 10:24)  Finally, they need to be content in knowing their identity is found in Christ (Titus 1:1; James 1:1; 2 Pet. 1:1; Jude 1)

 

Teachable

The final quality is that this person has a holy discontent with their current state and want to be taught and developed further.  They learn to listen (Pro. 1:5, 19:20, 25:12; James 1:19).  Learn the learning process of action, reflecting, and changing,  (Pro. 1:7, 9:9; 10:17).  They pursue learning opportunities intentionally (James 5:12; 1 Pet. 2:2).  Leaders are open to not only instruction but also correction (Pro. 18:13; John 8:32, 16:13; 2 Tim. 2:15, 3:16-17).

Four Hindrances to Worshipping in Spirit and in Truth.

When Jesus spoke to the women at Jacobs well in the fourth chapter of the Gospel according to John, He spoke on worship.  Jesus stated that God the Father searches for those that will worship in Spirit and in truth (John 4:23).  The conversation basically boils down to the point that true worship does not depend on the physical location of the person but their spiritual position before God.

So what hinders our worship from being in Spirit and in Truth?  Here are a few issues impacting our personal and gathered worship.

An unrepentant and deceitful heart (Acts 5:4-5 & 8:9-25)

In these two passages, we see the damage caused by unrepentant and dishonest hearts.  Highlighting the necessity of a personal relationship with God through His Son, Jesus Christ, made into a reality by the transforming presence of the Holy Spirit.  God is not pleased by anything that is not done by faith (Heb. 11:6).  The activation of faith begins with repentance of sin and belief in God.  If there is unconfessed sin in our life, we are deceiving ourselves and hindering our worship.  We need to come clean with God and allow Him to do the full work of Grace in our life.

Lack of prayer (Mt. 21:13)

When Jesus made his way into the temple at Jerusalem, He was disturbed at the marketing chaos and lack of respect for prayer.  He turned over tables and drove the moneychangers out.  Now, we might say this is a location but let us cross-reference with the Scriptural teaching that our bodies are the temple of God as well (1 Cor. 6:19).  We are to be a people of prayer.  Prayer marks our lives because it is more than a ritual of obedience.  It is intentional dialoguing with God.  If we do not have a habit of speaking with God through prayer, how can we also talk, sing, and serve Him in worship?  Prayer is a part of worshipping and can’t be separated from it.

Limited Biblical knowledge (Hos. 4:6 & Col. 1:9)

Despite those with an attitude of intellectual snobbery, Scripture has much to say about the need for Biblical knowledge.  Knowledge of God’s Word and His Ways in the world have a significant impact on our worship.  Worship is more than emotional outburst and your feelings.  A limited Biblical knowledge leads to shallow worship.  C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity noted a conversation that demonstrates this.  The individual he witnessed to said they did not need the Bible because they thought it restricted what they had already experienced with God through personal observations and feelings.  However, Lewis noted that there is a difference between standing on the beach and going out on a ship into the ocean.  You can only experience so much in the shallows.  But, to go out deeper and experience the totality, you need a map, or you will get lost.  The Bible is our map, and it helps us navigate deeper into our relationship with the Lord.  The more we know of God, the more we can honestly know God.

Toxic attitudes (Phil. 4:8-9 & Eph. 4:32)

Attitudes of ungratefulness, dishonesty, irreverence, pride, jealousy, cynicism, and more also hinder our worship.  We are challenged to think about things that are pleasant and good in the sight of God.  We are challenged to have a spirit of forgiveness and preference of others instead of self.  If we harbor this ill-feelings and negative thoughts, without ever giving them to God, we will find our souls drifting farther and farther from God.

Not willing that any should perish.

Last evening in service we had one of our directors of a foreign mission field.  It was great to hear of the work being done, challenged by devotion despite oppositions, and the significant needs across the world.   The greatest need of all is the salvation that only comes through faith in Jesus Christ.  The Lord is currently providing the opportunity if people would only receive him.  In Scripture, we see that is a free choice of individuals to make.

2 Peter 3:3-10,

“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, And saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water: Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men. But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”

Christ will set all things right (vs. 3-7, 10)

One of the oldest positions of skeptics is that the return of Christ has taken far to long.  Peter was acquainted with this critique and provided his response.  He noted that the flood took place as part of God’s previous judgment.  With the certainty of the flood, Peter assures his audience that God’s next judgment was ready at any moment.  Christ will return but it will not be expected.  It will arrive like a thief in the night.  However, instead of a flood, the judgment would be an intense fire.

The Lord is not willing that any should perish (vs. 8-9)

In the meantime, Peter provides an answer as to why the coming of the Lord has not happened yet.  He first remarked in verse eight that time does not impact God as it does with creation.  Many take this to be a literal understanding of time with God, but the truth is that whether a day or a thousand years takes place, God is not affected.  He is eternal.  Peter paraphrased Psalm 90:4 which stated, “For a thousand years in thy sight are but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.”  Again, the notion is that the Lord is eternal and exists outside of time.

Peter associates the eternal nature of God with incredible patience when it comes to acting in time.  Especially concerning the return of Jesus Christ.  The reason for God’s patience toward us is that He is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”  God desires all to be saved.  However, we also understand that not all are not saved.  To understand this dilemma, two solutions are considered.  First, the Calvinist redefines the words “any” and “all” to only mean the elect.  Or, the second, is to understand that God has given free will and does not force salvation on any or all people.  Instead, he receives any, and all that will freely choose His Son, Jesus Christ.

God is waiting patiently to send His Son to set all things right because He longs for people to repent and receive His salvation.  If you are not saved, the time you have right now is a gift of mercy because the Lord is patiently waiting.  If you are saved, then be busy about the Father’s business, not wanting any to perish, but working to help all come to repentance.

So great a salvation.

We have been given a great salvation.  However, it can be neglected.  Which means what to the believer?  Let’s search this out.

“Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?” (Hebrews 2:1-4)

First, why is this salvation so great?  We will find the answer in the previous chapter.

Salvation begins not with us but the incomparable majesty of the Son.  The glory of the Son far beyond the Old Testament prophets and high above the angels.  Jesus is the only begotten of God, meaning one of a kind.  He is uncreated and eternal present before the creation of the world.  And, He is the one who sits at the right hand of Heavenly Father.  

It is Jesus that has purged us from our sins.  We see this referenced in chapter one and a deeper dive in the second chapter begins to open this more fully.  They center on the truth that Christ became flesh, dwelt among, died for our sins, and rose victorious.  Christ became as one of us to die and cleanse us thoroughly from our sins.

What does it mean to neglect?

It is a moral and spiritual command that we pay attention to what God has said.  Our response is a matter of ultimate blessing or loss.   As the Hebrew writer will explain, we need to be more careful than those at Mt. Sinai who heard the words of God through the angels and the holy man Moses, for we have the Son of God!  They listened to the word but did not mix it with faith.  That is not our path.

How prone we are to “neglect?”  It is so easy to treat the things of God as if they were unimportant, to become occupied without comforts and the affairs of this life.  We wouldn’t want to offend others who have their own believers. We don’t intend to deny the faith – we are just taking it a bit easy and being a bit reasonable.  The writer warns us that such an attitude leads to eternal loss. We shall not escape.

Give a more earnest thing to the things we have heard.

We must wholly commit to learning the Word of God.  We do this through personal and congregational study.  However, it is more than gaining knowledge.  The believer needs to proceed further into the application of the Word.  The sincerity of faith will move us past intellectually discussions and empty feelings.  We must seek to live after God as he taught us to in the Scripture.

Push-Through

“Push-Through” is a saying that I grew up hearing.  It was immensely valuable and still is today.   To me, it carries encouragement and challenge.  Let me ask you a question.  How do you approach God? If the Old Testament teaches us anything, it is that there is a right way to approach God.  And, the New Testament echoes it.  Clearly, in the OT this would seem to happen by purity laws and sacrifices, but what we know the New Testament does not focus on these works?  Instead, a connecting theme to both testament, and the through behind the idiom to push-through, is faith.  Faith is the thread, from Abraham to Christ today.  

Let’s look at two individuals who had to approach Christ in faith in their most desperate hour.  In Luke chapter, a man comes to Jesus to heal his sick daughter.  Moved by the humility and hope of this man, Jesus follows him.  However, a woman pushed through the crowd that surrounded these men.  She was there for her own healing.  Read the next passage to see what took place:

And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me. And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.  And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.  While he yet spake, there cometh one from the ruler of the synagogue’s house, saying to him, Thy daughter is dead; trouble not the Master.  But when Jesus heard it, he answered him, saying, Fear not: believe only, and she shall be made whole.

Luke 8:46-50

 

Did you notice that both of these people are exhorted to have faith?  Verse 49, “Daughter be of Good comfort, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace.  Verse 50, “Fear not: believe only and she shall be made whole.”  Faith from the Greek word πίστις (pistis), and believe from πιστεύω (pistoue) are connected foundational.

The woman with the issue of blood, who was healed, had to push through a crowd to get to Jesus.  It is a picture of what it is like to have faith.  The man, Jairus, found out that his daughter died while he and Jesus were on their way.  No doubt, the advice to not trouble Jesus seemed sound.  But, the Lord said to him to basically push through the grief, shock, and fear.  To keep believing and as we read on, she really was made whole.

 

 

You need to push through.  Keep your faith in Christ. Romans 10:9-14 talks about salvation and makes the statement, “whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.”  Hebrews 11:1 reminds us, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” Even during the most challenging situations, we need to keep the faith and push through.  Living as though Scripture is true and God is really real.