A Relationship With God

Any time we enter into a relationship, one of the most important things is to understand that person you begin that relationship with, including God. We need to understand the basic character of God in order to have a healthy person relationship with Him. Misunderstanding His character and nature is the reason people don’t have a positive ongoing relationship with Him. That is what happened with Adam and Eve when they were tempted by the serpent and plunged the whole human race into sin. Their lack of understanding God’s nature, was actually a part of their temptation.

Genesis 3:1-5 – Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, “Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” (Verse 2) And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; (Verse 3) “but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, least you die.’ ” (Verse 4) And the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. (Verse 5) “For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

The way the serpent answered Eve, makes it sound like God is not a good God by withholding something from them. Implying, God made a tree that they could not even touch, or He would kill them. In a sense, Satan came against the very nature and character of God.

Satan tells people the same thing today. He wants people to think that if they follow and obey God, they will never enjoy true happiness. He tells them life will be boring and dull. The sad fact is that after people experience drugs, sex outside of marriage, indulgence of self, success, fame, and riches, they are left with an emptiness that cannot be satisfied. By the time most people realize it, they have already destroyed their lives, their relationships with family, and their health.

The truth is, God is a good God, and His will for us is only good. Those who have only a little understanding of the Bible could get the wrong impression because there are instances in the Word where He treated some people in harsh, cruel ways. In the Book of Numbers, for instance, a man picked up sticks on the Sabbath Day and was stoned to death for failing to observe the Sabbath.

The fact is that, people didn’t realize just how sinful they were and are even now,  in their offenses against God. They made the mistake of comparing themselves and measuring themselves by other people. People still do that today, for those who have little knowledge of the Bible and who God is, they think God is out to get them. He is a just God and He is a good God, all the time.

In the Old Testament, if someone committed a sin and wasn’t struck dead, they thought sin must not be so bad which lowered their standards. However, God had set the standards and He had to bring mankind to the proper standing of right and wrong so they would reject the devil and his temptations. Then when He did that, He had to enforce the Law He had given.

God gave the Old Testament commandments to make our sense of right and wrong more acute and to bring us to the realization that we need a Savior.

The problem has been that people thought God was demanding perfection before He could love them, which led to the attitude many have that His love for them is directly proportional to their performance. They feel that until they try to do everything exactly right, they will not be accepted by God, and that is not the message of the Bible.

God’s heart is to reconcile mankind to Himself through Jesus. If it wasn’t He wouldn’t have sent Jesus. His goal is to take our sins away and anything that would separate that personal relationship with Him. He did this through Jesus, and He’s offering anyone that relationship by us accepting what Jesus did on the cross. Our faith in Jesus Christ makes it possible to have a personal relationship with God the Father.

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Righteousness By Grace

Romans 3:21-23 – But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, (Verse 22) even the righteousness of God which is through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; (Verse 23) for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,…

Revealed and manifest is the same, and righteousness was made manifest in and through Jesus Christ. Without Him we have no righteousness before God. None of us have kept the Law or the Commandments perfectly, outwardly or inwardly, so we need a “righteousness” equal to God in order to be accepted before Him.

This righteousness that is offered to all who believe, is through faith in Jesus Christ. This is righteousness without the Law. A righteousness according to Law is doing, earning, and achieving in order to be accepted before God.

The “good news” of the Gospel is that God is offering His very own righteousness and acceptance to all who believe in what Jesus provided – His death on the cross for our sins, imputing to us the righteousness that equals the Law. This is the righteousness apart from the Law, without us doing earning, and achieving, and it comes through faith in Jesus Christ.

We all have sinned and we all have come short of God’s standard’s which is perfection. God offers His righteousness, not through works of the Law but through faith in Jesus Christ, dependence, and reliance upon our Lord Jesus Christ.

So, how then was Abraham saved? The Bible says that, “he believed God” – believed the promise God gave him – and then righteousness was imputed to his account. The fact that Abraham was declared righteous before God through faith was not just for him.

The Bible says that because of the payment Christ made on the cross when He shed His blood for our sin, righteousness will be imputed to any person’s account who believes upon Christ.

Romans 5:17 says, “For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One Jesus Christ.”

A gift only costs the person who gives it, not the one who receives it. God made righteousness available to you and me as a gift, and this gift of righteousness, acquittal, and right standing before God, comes through faith in Jesus Christ!

Salvation By Grace

Many times Jesus would use parables to illustrate spiritual truths. This parable in Luke 18, verses 9-14 is a parable of the Pharisee and the tax collector. He starts in verse 9 which says, Also He spoke this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others.

Jesus was targeting a certain audience: those who trusted that they were righteous and automatically despised and looked down on everyone else. We would call them “self-righteous.”

Verse 10 says, “Two men went up to the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.” A Pharisee was a very religious person. The word actually means “separated one.” Someone who would look at others as if to say, “Don’t get too close to me, you might defile me.” They thought they were better than everyone else.

The other man was a publican. Publicans were tax collectors and were known to be very evil, sinful people who cheated and defrauded. They collected taxes by any means and stuck a lot of what they collected in their own pockets. They were despised by most people.

Verse 11 – “The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not like other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.”

It sounds like he was actually praying to himself, even though he had said “God.” Notice that he said, “I thank You, that I’m not like other men.” In other words, “I’m not a sinful man, I’m not an extortioner, not unjust, not an adulterer, and I’m not like this publican that’s right here. You made me better than he.”

And that’s what some Christians tend to do also. They think because God has cleaned their lives up and they don’t do some of the things that others still do, they think they are better than those still struggling with things.

The story continues in Verse 12 – “I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.”

Years ago, I caught myself praying like that, by listing all the things to God that I was doing right. As if to say, “Look how much I do for You!” Why were things going so wrong, wasn’t I good enough?

Then we come to the tax collector in Verse 13 – “And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner!”

Notice, he stood a way off. He didn’t even go all the way into the temple. He was so ashamed of the things he had been doing that he wouldn’t even look up to heaven. When he smote his breast, it was a sign of repentance, a contrite heart, and a broken spirit.

Verse 14 says, “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” The tax collector went home justified, righteous before God, in right standing with Him, forgiven by God.

The Bible says Jesus didn’t come to save righteous people but sinners, and we have all sinned and come short of the glory of God. The tax collector humbled himself and found forgiveness and a pardon.

Grace is the free, unmerited favor of God toward people who don’t deserve it.

Romans 5:17 says, “They which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.” God offers us a right standing before Him through Jesus Christ. When we humble ourselves under Christ’s authority, all things are possible, and that includes an abundant life!

 

Eternal Life

One of the most familiar passages of Scripture is John 3:16. almost everyone knows this verse from a young age.

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Traditionally, this scripture has been used to teach that Jesus came and died for our sins so that we wouldn’t perish. That is true, but the real purpose of Jesus coming to earth and dying in our place was so that we could have everlasting life. The real message of the Gospel is that God wants to give us everlasting life with Him throughout all eternity.

The night before His crucifixion, Jesus was praying, and He said, “This is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” (John 17:3).

This verse says that everlasting life is knowing the Father, the only true God, and knowing Jesus Christ, whom He sent. That’s what everlasting life is. Every person does live forever and it’s a misconception to think that when a person dies they cease to exist. The spirit and soul go back to God and the body decays in the grave. The truth is, every person who has ever lived on this earth will continue to live in spirit form either with Christ or not. This verse makes it very clear that eternal life with God is not automatically given to everyone.

The word “know” is used throughout Scripture to describe the most intimate, personal relationship that a person could have.

The real purpose of salvation is not living forever in heaven, as wonderful as that will be, but is to have intimacy – a personal relationship with the Lord God. There are multitudes of people who have asked God for forgiveness of their sins but have never had intimacy with God as a goal!

When people, including pastors, don’t explain the true purpose of salvation, they do a disservice to the Gospel. By making salvation something that only deals with our sin, it makes people want to put it off, because they think there is always tomorrow.

The truth is that not only did Jesus come to affect our eternal destinies so that we could live forever in heaven in blessing, instead of punishment and the curse of hell, but Jesus also came to deliver us from this present world. Galatians 1:4 says, “Who gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father.” Jesus wants to give us all a quality of life that is greater than anything we could obtain through any other source. Through an intimate, personal relationship with the Savior, we can discover how deep and how wide His love is for us.

If you don’t  know the Lord, you need to know Him for that purpose. If you have been born again, we all need to go beyond just getting our sins forgiven and enter into everlasting life with the Father.

 

Whosoever Will – Part 2

Our belief determines where we will spend eternity. Our behavior determines “how” we are going to spend eternity. There will be different levels of responsibility in heaven because while on earth our works are going to be judged.

So yes, our behavior matters, whether lost or saved, but our salvation is by grace alone. Ephesians 2:8, 9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God, (Verse 9) not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

But there are a large number of Scriptures about works: Ecclesiastes 12:4 – “For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret things, whether good or evil.” Revelation 20:13 – The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works.” 1 Peter 1:17 – “And if you call on the Father who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear (in awe, in reverence of God).” Matthew 16:27 – “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.” Revelation 22:12 – “And behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to give to every one according to his work.”

Yes, it matters how we live our lives. And our belief determines where we spend eternity, but our works will determine how we spend eternity, and our belief will determine our behavior! There are people who say, “Oh, I believe in Jesus,” but have never lived for Him.” If you don’t live for Him, then you don’t believe in Him. When you truly believe, God gives you a new heart and with that new heart, you have a desire to turn from sin and turn to God, so you can’t convince me that you believe in something, but yet you don’t follow His commandments.

There will be two judgments; the believers judgment and the unbelievers judgment. This will be the “works” being judged.

The Judgment Seat of Christ

This is the believers judgment. 2 Corinthians 5:10 says, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” We are not being judged for our sins. Those were paid for in full by Jesus Christ and we accepted it. According to Scripture, we will either receive a reward or lose a reward that we could have had.

The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 3:11-14 that, each one’s works will be tested by fire. What was done with the right motives will last, that which was done for self, with the wrong motives behind it, will be burned up. He himself will be saved, but the work is burned up, no reward.

Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:1 to watch our motives of why and how we do our works. Matthew 6:1 says, “Take heed that you do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them. Otherwise you have no reward from your Father in heaven.”

It is not whether someone sees you do a charitable act or not, it’s what was the motive behind the act. Was it done out of a pure heart, expecting nothing in return? Or was it done to get the praise from others? God knows. Matthew 6:2-4 says, “Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that the may have glory from men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward.” (Verse 3) “But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, (Verse 4) that your charitable deed may be in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will Himself reward you openly.”

The Great White Throne Judgment

This judgment is for all unbelievers. Revelation 20:11, 12 says, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat on it, from whose face the earth and heaven fled away. And there was found no place for them. (Verse 12) and I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books.”

There is the Book of Life, and if your name is in it, you won’t be standing here. But then there are books,plural, because it’s more than just names, it contains works. So, are there degrees of punishment in hell? Yes there is!

According to the Bible, the Father is watching us, all the time. He sees every detail of our lives. He has rewards, or not, with Him, according to our works and deeds done while on this earth. There will be two judgments and we determine which one we stand before when that day comes.

Be sure of your salvation! The choice is yours.

Whosoever Will – Part 1

What is the difference between doctrine and dogma? Doctrine, by its literal definition, never changes. Doctrine means “The Master’s Teaching. However, our understanding of the Master’s teaching does change. So actually what really changes is called “dogma,” which is belief.

There are 5 points to Calvinism, which is “dogma.” (1) Total depravity – some believe that we are so depraved with the sin nature that we can’t ever choose Christ for ourselves. God just “zap’s us and we get saved one day. However, what it really means is yes, we have a sin nature, but God gives us an ability to choose Christ. Whatever we believe, has to be consistent with the nature and character of God.

(2) Calvinist believe in unconditional election – this is the belief that God chose some people to go to heaven and some people to go to hell. But according to Scripture, “God wants everyone to come to Him – whosoever will! God is not willing that any should perish, but everyone to come to repentance. (Matthew 24:14; Mark 16:15; John 1:21; John 3:17; 2 Corinthians 5:19, 20.) Everyone of these Scriptures says the sins of the world have been paid for through Christ Jesus and it’s up to us to choose or reject what God has already done.

People don’t go to hell because of sin! John 3:36 says, “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe in the Son shall not see life.”

(3) Limited Atonement – Again, I don’t believe this; it means Jesus died only for the elect. There are too many Scriptures that prove Jesus died for the whole world. Hebrews 7:27 says that, “who does not need daily, as the high priests to offer up sacrifices, first for his own sins and then for the people’s, for this He died once for all when He offered up Himself.” All means all!

The thinking with Calvinism is so narrow that people are already chosen, so why should a Christian even witness to the lost? There has to be a driving force in every Christian to win people to Christ! Whosoever will.

(4) Irresistible Grace – What this means in the Calvinism teaching is that, those who are chosen, cannot resist the grace of God. However, I believe you can resist the grace of God. People do it all the time. God gave us a free will. If we didn’t have a will of our own, then God created “robots.” But we do have a will to believe or not and what we believe will determine where we spend eternity.

Matthew 7:24 says, “Therefore, whosoever hears these sayings of Mine, and does them, I will liken to him to a wise man who built his house on the rock.” Matthew 7:26  – ” But everyone who hears these sayings of Mine, and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand.”

(5) Perseverance of the Saints – Calvinist believe that if you are one of the chosen, you will be preserved to the end, no matter what. This takes personal responsibility out of the equation. Look at Psalm 31:23, which says, “Oh, love the Lord, all you His saints! For the Lord preserves the faithful.” The Christian is preserved that is committed and faithful to Him.

There is one requirement – John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

 

 

Respect For God’s Name

Why do you think God would be so adamant about us not using His name in vain? His name is His character and it’s who He is!

For instance: You know the name of people who have a bad reputation, and you might have a not-so-nice nick name for them. It’s not their name, it refers to their behavior and character.

Even the Lord’s prayer starts with Hollowed be they name – holy, separate. His name is separate from every other name.

God’s name in the Old Testament almost 7,000 times is “Yahweh means He who caused existence. “I Am” – I will be, I’m the One that’s always existed.

The reason the Jewish people went into exile, is because they profaned His name. So, Jewish people stopped pronouncing, saying it, out loud around 600 B.C. It wasn’t the way they said His name out loud that profaned it. It was the way they were living. They had the name of God on them, but they were worshiping idols. Others could not tell the difference between the people of God and those who didn’t know Him.

One of the ways you profane the name of God in our society today is, “You call yourself Christ like, Christian, and you don’t live Christ like.

Ezekiel 36:20 – “When they came to the nations, wherever they went, they profaned My holy name when they said of them, ‘These are the people of the Lord,  and yet they have gone out of His land.’ ”

Ezekiel 36:21-23 – “But I had concern for My holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the nations wherever they went. (Verse 22) Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name’s sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. (Verse 23)  And I will sanctify My great name, which has been profaned among the nations which you have profaned in their midst; and the nations shall know that I am the Lord,” says the Lord God, “when I am hallowed in you before their eyes.” (Do you remember why Moses didn’t get to go into the Promise Land? God told it was because he did not Hallow His name in front of the people.)

When the Jewish people went into these other nations, the people had names for their idols. When they worshiped them, they called on the name of that idol. God told them, “My name is not a magical incantation when you pray!” They were not to use God’s name like the pagans used the name of their gods. If we pray selfishly, it’s using His name in a vain way – profane. So how do we pray the right way without profaning His name? We pray for His will for our lives and others. Then we know for sure He hears us and it’s right.

Another way we could use His name in a vain way is prophecy. This is when we say, “Thus says the Lord,” and the Lord has not spoken. Saying that, “The Lord told me…, and He hasn’t said no such thing is just as bad.

The name of God is not to be taken casually or without thought. God says those who profane His name will not be held guiltless.

Have we all done this? Yes. But what did Jesus do for us in our place? He took the punishment we so rightly deserved because we have all broken every commandment that was written. That’s why we need His Grace! So we all need to be very careful how we use God’s name. It is a precious name and above every other name!