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Opening up my pond

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Every year around April I open up my pond.  The first step is to empty out the leaves and water from rain and snowmelt that has accumulated over the fall, winter and spring. HPIM1924 The ice has to completely melt and I bail out the water and leaf muck with a pail.  The next step HPIM1961is to scrub any algae flakes off the liner.  If any rocks are out of place or leaning too much they must be straigtened up.   Then I use a pressure washer to spray the liner clean.  When the liner and the rocks are all straightened out it’s time to hook up the pump and waterfall plumbing.  The pump that circulates the water in the pond up through the waterfall is a simple utility pump.HPIM1972  It is inexpensive and lasts a long time.  The hoses are simple garden hoses cut to length HPIM1950and hidden by the rocks.  Once the pump has been placed in the pond and the hoses have been hooked up then it is a simple matter to fill the pond with water.  When the pond has been filled then the fish can be placed in it.  This is a happy time for the fish as they have spend the winter months in a tub in the cellar.  They love the freedom of the pond.  Once the fish are in the pond, the waterfHPIM1927all can be started up. And another season of ponding begins.  The pond is still very ‘bare’ with little green growth.  May and June are the months when all the plants start shooting up.HPIM3148

Beware the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees

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Matthew 16:6 “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus demanding a sign from heaven; “feigning a desire to see evidence that he was the Messiah, but with a real desire to see him make the attempt to work a miracle and fail, so that they might betray him and ruin him.” (Barnes’ Notes) Times haven’t changed. Theologians both liberal and conservative attempt to fit Jesus in the box of the world’s approval much to the denigration of the true Gospel.  People who can’t be bothered to read the Bible or just don’t care are all too eager to accept their deceptive teachings. 


The Pharisees condemnation and judging characterize some in the religious right who damn people to hell quite forgetting that they are not qualified to judge anyone.  The Sadducees with their worldly skepticism and head knowledge are like the religious left of today when they deny Biblical Truth and explain away the very things that Jesus tells us.  Both groups are separate sides of the same coin – the self-righteous coin of this world’s religions.

When Jesus and His disciples left the area around the Sea of Galilee, the disciples realized they had forgotten to bring bread. At that point Jesus reminded them about the miracles they had witnessed and warned them about the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees. At first Jesus’ disciples missed his point; “And they reasoned among themselves, saying, It is because we have taken no bread.” (v. 7)  Caught up in the worries and anxieties of  life the disciples failed to remember the miracles that they had experienced walking with Jesus. 

 Jesus had to straighten them out; “How is it that ye do not understand that I spake it not to you concerning bread, that ye should beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees? Then understood they how that he bade them not beware of the leaven of bread, but of the doctrine of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees.” (v. 11,12) The cares and anxieties of the world can be a distraction predisposing us to miss the true message of the Gospel and be taken in by false doctrine;  especially if we are worried about how people perceive us!

Jesus was very concerned about false doctrine, so much so that he warned his own disciples about it. Brian Schwertley writing on this very issue points out; “If the shepherds became corrupted, so would their followers. Therefore, we can understand Jesus’very strong concern with purity of doctrine.” Schwertley shows that the Pharisees read into the Scriptures adding all kinds of man made rules and rituals that took away from God’s message; “They ‘fenced’ the law with all sorts of silly man-made rules and regulations so that sanctification consisted in ritual observances instead of learning and obeying the law itself.” (Ibid)

The Sadducees according to Schwertley took away from the Scriptures; “While the Pharisees added to God’s word, the Sadducees detracted from it. They were the modernists of their day. . . . The Sadducees attempted to sway people to their own position by using clever arguments that made a mockery of the Scriptures.” (Ibid) Times haven’t changed.

Sadly, we can all fall into a Pharisaical mode of judgement and condemnation. This is epitomized by Mark Driscoll’s infamous sermon to the Mars Hill congregation;”‘ ‘Some of you, God hates you,’ he said. ‘Some of you, God is sick of you. God is frustrated with you. God is wearied by you. God has suffered long enough with you. He doesn’t think you’re cute. He doesn’t think it’s funny.’ ” This is just not true. The Bible tells us: “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.” (John 3:16) And; “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) And most telling; “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. And they parted his raiment, and cast lots.” (Luke 23:34) Judgement and condemnation is a kind of yeast that destroys our witness from the inside out.

Even worse, in my Pharisaical inclined mind is the modern day Sadducee approach where mockery is made of the Scriptures and clever arguments are used to take away from the Bible. Bishop Spong  epitomizes this kind of false witness; “At its very core the story of Easter has nothing to do with angelic announcements or empty tombs.” This is type of yeast destroys the faith of many by corrupting from the outside in. Taking root and causing doubt about God’s Holy Bible.

Modern day Pharisees and Sadducees abound and they all seem to dress in a similar way  preferring the vestments of religion as they accuse each other of being blind.  We must be wary of their yeast.  How? Read the Bible. Study His Word. Live out the Bible’s truth and promises every day. The Bible warns us; “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils” (1 Timothy 4:1) Stick with Jesus. Start with Him. Walk with Him. End with Him.

“I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.” (Revelation 1:8)

Praise the Lord!

The Cross in Our Context by Douglas John Hall – Introduction

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I just received my copy of The Cross in Our Context.  A friend suggested that I read it.  So in a series of posts I will share my impressions of the book.  I invite comments from others as they will help me understand the book and my view of it.  I’ve been told that I have a tendency to being judgemental and ‘Pharisaical’.   That’s true – I struggle with these character flaws daily.  That being said I evaluate any book about theology using Scripture first and last.  I can only admit my approach and make every effort not to judge the writer and only use  discernment to say how close or far the writing is from what is written in the Holy Bible.

Sadly some people think that isn’t enough.  We should not judge and not use Scripture as a standard but rather other academic instruments of assessment like ‘historic/redactic criticism’.  Fortunately we can all stand on Scripture: “Just as people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him.”  (Hebrews 9:27,28)  If you are truly waiting for Jesus you’ll be OK even if I say otherwise about  your opinions or writings – I’m not your judge!

The introduction to The Cross in Our Context causes me concern for two reasons.  One, there is little Scripture mentioned in it other than 2 Timothy 2:15 ; ” . . . But a religious community must always be busy with sifting its essence from historical accidents and extraneous associations – ‘rightly dividing the word of truth.  This is more conspicuously the case today than ever before, for the future well-being of the entire planet is at stake.” (p 3)  Yet on this very topic the Bible tells us the future is assured.  The victory is won; “Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,   in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9,10,11)

Yet, the author claims; “A religious community that believes itself to be in possession of ‘the Truth’ is a community equipped with the most lethal weapon of any warfare; the sense of its own superiority and mandate to mastery. . . . it is the theological triumphalism of Christendom that must be altered if the Christian faith is to exist in the world of today and tomorrow as a force for life and not death.” (p. 5) That is not what the Bible tells me.  And this is the second reason this book concerns me;  who should I believe Professor Hall or Jesus Christ who says; “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6) I’ll read the book but I choose Jesus!

Fulfilling the Law

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Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

     Jesus was speaking to the crowds of people who where following Him around as He began His ministry of preaching and healing.  Barnes’ notes state: “Our Saviour was just entering on his work. It was important for him to state what he came to do. By his setting up to be a teacher in opposition to the scribes and Pharisees, some might charge him with an intention to destroy their law, and to abolish the customs of the nation. He therefore told them that he did not come for that end, but really to fulfill or accomplish what was in the law and the prophets.”

     Jesus continues and reviews the ‘big ticket’ commandments.  I’ll just go over three of them.  Regarding murder, He says; “You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgement.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry<sup class="crossreference" value="(AC)”> with a brother or sister will be subject to judgement. . . . anyone who says to a brother or sister, ‘Raca,’is answerable to the court.<sup class="crossreference" value="(AE)”> And anyone who says, ‘You fool!’ will be in danger of the fire of hell.” (Matthew 5:21,22)  Have you ever been really  angry with someone close to you?  Maybe you still are.  The world says you have a ‘right’ to get angry as long as you express your anger properly.

     Regarding adultery; “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  (Matthew 5:27,28)  Have you ever looked at someone else in that way?   Perhaps you have a ‘wandering’ eye?  The world says it’s ok ‘to look but don’t touch’.

     Regarding divorce; “It has been said, ‘Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, makes her the victim of adultery, and anyone who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:31,32)  I know lots of Christians who are divorced and remarried.   We live in a messy fallen world and no one is clean.  I can’t judge someone to be less of a Christian than I am because they are divorced.

     Jesus says; “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”  But when we look at his standard of righteousness who among us can say with any kind of honesty that we measure up?  There is no way any human being can achieve this kind of righteousness by their own strength and merit.  Unless we are complete hypocrites we have to say we are doomed, doomed, doomed!
 
     The Gospel news for a doomed person like me is; “For God so loved<sup class="crossreference" value="(A)”> the world that he gave<sup class="crossreference" value="(B)”> his one and only Son,<sup class="crossreference" value="(C)”> that whoever believes<sup class="crossreference" value="(D)”> in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”  (John 3:16)  Jesus is our only hope.  Only He can save us from certain failure and doom.  This is why the Pharisees and the world hated Him.  This is why modern day Pharisees and the world hates Him.  The world and its religion  says we can do it on our own. 
 
     Jesus confronted the Pharisees on this many times.  When the Pharisees accused Jesus’ disciples of eating with unclean hands thereby breaking the law Jesus said; “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’  But you say<sup class="crossreference" value="(K)”> that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)—  then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God<sup class="crossreference" value="(L)”> by your tradition<sup class="crossreference" value="(M)”>  that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”  (Mark 7:9-13)
 
     Modern day Pharisees nullify the word of God in two ways depending on whether they are conservative or liberal.  If they are conservative they condemn people to hell because of sin quite forgetting that they are sinners too.  Jesus said; “For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder,  adultery, greed,<sup class="crossreference" value="(Q)”> malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.” (Mark 7:21-23)  They forget the Gospel; “But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ For I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”  (Matthew 9:13)
 
     There are modern day liberal Pharisees too.  They minimise some sins and say that some of the Law has passed away because it belongs to a by gone day of sheep herders and nomads.  This is nullifying the word of God too; “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”  (Isaiah 5:20)  They ignore that God will  only save us if we believe in all what Jesus says.  And Jesus says ‘sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed,<sup class="crossreference" value="(Q)”> malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly’ defile us and block us from the kingdom of heaven.  Jesus is all about love.  Jesus is all about obedience too;  “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:23)
 
     Matthew Henry sums the entire matter up;  “Let none suppose that Christ allows his people to trifle with any commands of God’s holy law. No sinner partakes of Christ’s justifying righteousness, till he repents of his evil deeds. The mercy revealed in the gospel leads the believer to still deeper self-abhorrence. The law is the Christian’s rule of duty, and he delights therein. If a man, pretending to be Christ’s disciple, encourages himself in any allowed disobedience to the holy law of God, or teaches others to do the same, whatever his station or reputation among men may be, he can be no true disciple. Christ’s righteousness, imputed to us by faith alone, is needed by every one that enters the kingdom of grace or of glory; but the new creation of the heart to holiness, produces a thorough change in a man’s temper and conduct.”

     I’ve noticed that when we try to claim our own self-righteousness we either become hypocrites like the conservative Pharisees – claiming that we don’t need Jesus because we do no wrong.  Or we minimise some sins especially those the world approves of and say Jesus is all about love and ignore His full testimony about Himself and become ‘pretenders’ like  the liberal Pharisees.  An honest sinner convicted of his guilt simply cries out like Paul did; “ What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!”  (Romans 7:24,25)

     Thank you Jesus!

     Praise the Lord!

Old ideas

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Matthew 9:16 “No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse.  Neither do people pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved.”

     A person’s ‘worldview’ is the sum total of all the facts, opinions, attitudes and beliefs that have soaked into that person’s head after a life of schooling, living and working.  One online dictionary defines worldview as; “The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world.”  For all of us, being raised and living in our current society it is important to realize how the worldview we were raised in has affected our thinking and still affects our thoughts.  Our minds are like a wineskin.  What kind of wine do we put in it?  And how do we become reliable containers for the new wine of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The Bible tells us what we must do; “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God,<sup class="crossreference" value="(A)”> and we take captive every thought to make it obedient<sup class="crossreference" value="(B)”> to Christ.”  In order to do this we must continually examine our thinking.

     Postmodernism is the prevailing worldview today; “In essence, postmodernism is based on the position that reality is not mirrored in human understanding of it, but is rather constructed as the mind tries to understand its own personal reality. Postmodernism is therefore sceptical of explanations that claim to be valid for all groups, cultures, traditions, or races, and instead focuses on the relative truths of each person or within each paradigm, therefore having a relativistic view on reality. In the postmodern understanding, interpretation is everything; reality only comes into being through our interpretations of what the world means to us individually. Postmodernism relies on concrete experience over abstract principles, arguing that the outcome of one’s own experience will necessarily be fallible and relative, rather than certain or universal.”  (Wikipedia)

     We are steeped in a postmodern world.  Like cucumbers in a pickling brine we soak up the ideas, attitudes and beliefs of this world.  Every day must be a day of renewal and cleansing where we  examine our thinking and actions in the light of Scripture.  It is a double job to root out the lies that confuse our thinking.  First we must measure our thoughts against God’s Word and then overcome our pride; “Do not deceive yourselves. If any of you think you are wise<sup class="crossreference" value="(Y)”> by the standards of this age,<sup class="crossreference" value="(Z)”> you should become ‘fools’ so that you may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness<sup class="crossreference" value="(AA)”> in God’s sight.” (1 Corinthians 3:18,19)  If we want to become enduring containers for the new wine of Jesus’ Gospel of Salvation we must dump out the old wine of worldly thinking; not once but every day.   The wineskin of our minds must be made new;  “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  (Romans 12:2)

     Many say that they have done it only to be tripped up by all the modern idols of self or humanism that found a foothold again in their minds;  ” ‘Be careful,’ Jesus said to them. ‘Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ ” (Matthew 16:6)  Always working, is the worldly demand that there be no absolutes – no one way to God that is better than any other.  This is exemplified by a picture often posted on FaceBook that quotes the Dalai Lama; “People take different roads seeking fulfilment and happiness.  Just because they’re not on  your road doesn’t mean they are lost”  Jesus tells us there is only one way; “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)  If you’re a Christian, you have to believe that absolute.  No accommodation.  No compromise.   Any contrary thought must be ‘taken captive and made obedient to Christ’.

     If you don’t claim to be a ‘Christian’ and wish to subscribe to the Dalai Lama’s view – that is your right in an open and democratic society.  If you claim to be a ‘Christian’ and subscribe to the ‘many ways to God’ view then you are calling Jesus a liar.  Sadly, many clergy masquerade as Christian when in reality they serve another god.  Dr. Paul Knitter preaching at First Presbyterian Church, New Canaan, CT — June 15, 2008 says; “The Jesus-way can be, and needs to be, deepened through other ways. … Let me give you an example of how this has happened for me. For me, the way of Jesus has opened me up to the way of Gautama the Buddha.” 

     If you take a few moments to look through the website Pluralism Sunday you can get a first hand view of the yeast of the Pharisees, which is the ‘old wine’ contained by the current worldview (what we call postmodernism) at work.   When people try to pour the new wine of the Gospel of Jesus Christ into the old wine skin of their postmodern minds, the container bursts and the power of the Gospel empties out of their life.  Jesus describes this condition, using a different metaphor; “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.”  (Matthew 5:13)

     Are you being deceived?  Are the old ideas of postmodernism held by your thought patterns or preached to you by some fake Christian cleric taking away from the power and life giving glory of the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  Paul urged those in his day to; “Examine yourselves<sup class="crossreference" value="(K)”> to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves.<sup class="crossreference" value="(L)”> Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you<sup class="crossreference" value="(M)”>—unless, of course, you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5)  The Standard and the Truth is no further away from you than your Bible;  “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,” (2 Timothy 3:16)

     “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”  (John 14:6)

     Praise the Lord!

The two gates

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Matthew 7:13,14 “Enter through the narrow gate.<sup class="crossreference" value="(T)”> For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it.  But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”

     A few days ago a young man who is a recovering addict gave his life to Jesus.  I was with him and after we prayed.  The Holy Spirit led me to warn my young brother to expect trouble.   I said;  “It comes with the territory you just entered but one thing for sure – if you ask God to support you through it all, He will be there for you.  Pray all the time!  You need Him!”  And sure enough his troubles came.

     The Forerunner Commentary says; “True Christianity is not an easy way of life. Yet many of this world’s religious groups that call themselves Christian would have us believe that accepting the blood of Jesus Christis the end of all of our problems.”  No it isn’t because Jesus said; “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)  It is at the point of troubles that many back away and wander off the path marked by the narrow gate.

     The young man’s story of his wrecked life was similar to many that I’ve listened to over the years.  His wife had struggled so long on her own that she had no faith in him and his children were going without a father because he wasn’t there.  He was in jail and now he was in a drug and alcohol rehab residence.  We prayed that Jesus would restore his family and his marriage.  My advice to the young man was to stay out of God’s way in the shaping of the miracles to come.   It’s so easy to decide for yourself how to best make God’s promises come true and then cause all kinds of havoc.  Sarai, Abram and Hagar attest to that.  Sarai thought that God wasn’t moving fast enough on His promise to give Abram an heir so she would ‘get it done’ for Him  through Hagar, her maidservant (Genesis 16:1-12).  What a mess that caused.

    If the narrow gate had a sign it would have to say; ‘Trust God’! That’s how you start on the road of His will and that’s how you stay on the narrow road of His will.  Trust, belief and faith are all rolled up into one for a practising Christian.  My young friend who just gave his life to Jesus could start doubting God’s promises or become impatient with God’s timing and decide to leave the program, get a job and provide for his family.  There are so  many ways off the narrow way of trusting God. 

     When addicts who have been off drugs for a few months regain their physical health they start to think they are OK now.  They start trusting in their own ideas and strength and leave recovery because they think they can ‘do it now’. I’ve seen this tried so many times and it tends to end badly.  The insanity of addiction is that at some point when an addict has  regained his physical health and has started to reconnect with his family, he feels he’s OK to return to ‘real’ life.  This is the very point that God’s Holy Spirit would start teaching the person about themselves and start the painful inner cleanup process that is the true preparation for living the ‘real’ life.

     This is also the very point that Satan whispers:  “You’re OK now, you can make sure your wife and kids are OK.  You can provide for them.  You have lots of contacts and can always make money.  You don’t need recovery any more.   You’ll be OK. You’re wife and kids need you.  Trust yourself.”  As always Satan puts in a little truth around all the lies.  The little truth is ‘your wife and kids need you’.  Of course they do but a family needs a ‘clean and sober’ God fearing father not an ex junkie who thinks he knows ‘how to provide’.   

      The lies are all centered on: ‘You’re OK now – you don’t need this ‘God stuff’ anymore’.  My young friend isn’t OK.  The wreckage of his life points to the truth of his condition.  His behaviour patterns, thought patterns and coping mechanisms are all sick and twisted being formed by years of living as an addict.  Only God can make his path straight.  And God will if the fellow stays on the narrow road of working His program of obedience and transformation. “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  (Romans 12:2)

    Jesus’ promise to all,  is to make our lives abundant not only in heaven but here on earth as well;  “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10)  Will we trust Him and walk in His way- the narrow hard way?  Will we wait on God as His plan for us unfolds; ” ‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.’ ” (Jeremiah 29:11)  Or will a person take the ‘easy way’ back to the street where you know ‘the ropes’ and how to ‘make a buck’.  Back to the old and ‘easy’ ways that lead to the gutter and jail.

     The insanity of the broad and easy way is that it always turns out to be the hard empty way in the end. The ‘on ramp sign’ for the narrow way is “Trust God”.  The numerous ‘off ramp signs’ on the narrow way is “You’re OK – trust yourself”.  Yet so many refuse to trust God and instead rely on their own faulty opinions. “There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death.” (Proverbs 14:12)  The book of Judges describes our morally mixed up society perfectly; “In those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”  (Judges 21:25)

      An Old Testament prophet said; “All the nations may walk in the name of their gods; we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.” (Micah 4:5)  Jesus, my King says; “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)  Choose this day, who you will follow.

     Praise the Lord!

Righteousness

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Genesis 15:6  Abram believed the Lord, and He credited it to him as righteousness.

     What is righteousness?  Being good?  Doing good?  Not drinking or drugging?  Giving money to the poor?  Going to church every Sunday?  It’s none of these things.  It’s nothing we can ever achieve by doing or being.  Plain and simple, righteousness is believing in what God says to the point where you live by it.  This belief in action is called faith.

     “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for<sup class="crossreference" value="(A)”> and assurance about what we do not see.<sup class="crossreference" value="(B)”> This is what the ancients were commended for.”  (Hebrews 11:1,2)  Right from the beginning, righteousness required a deep and abiding belief in God’s Word.  For Abraham and Sarah their righteousness was that they believed in an ‘impossible’ promise from God; “ And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age,<sup class="crossreference" value="(V)”> was enabled to bear children<sup class="crossreference" value="(W)”> because she considered him faithful<sup class="crossreference" value="(X)”> who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead,<sup class="crossreference" value="(Y)”> came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.”  (Hebrews 11:11,12)

     In my own life, my righteousness grew out of believing that God would rescue my son from the living death of addiction on the streets of Vancouver.  He did.  Without faith, without belief we cannot please God;  “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him<sup class="crossreference" value="(I)”> must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”  (Hebrews 11:6)  This was bad news for the Pharisees and it is bad news for us when we look to please God by our good deeds.   The desire to look good is bad for our spiritual health; “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.”  (Matthew 23:27)

     This is Gospel good news for a guy like me who has a tendency to fall down and look like a fool.  My vanity, my temper, and my pride all work to make me look really bad.  At my lowest and worst I have the faith to believe that God’s grace is still there for me.  I have faith to repent and allow Jesus to pick me up again (and again and again . . .); ” . . . for though a righteous man falls seven times, he rises again, but the wicked are brought down by calamity.” (Proverbs 24:16) Lots of people have real problems with jerks like me.  I don’t blame them- I have real problems with me.  God’s working on me.  Jesus is my righteousness and He helps me do what is right; “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13)

      Beware, there is wickedness within the church. There is disbelief. Liberal theology epitomised by the likes of Bishop Spong have drawn many away from righteousness. This disbelief and wickedness has done much damage to the church – many have fallen away because of it. Johnson, Hodge and Luidens in their study for the reasons of the decline of mainline churches conclude; “. . . , the single best predictor of church participation turned out to be belief-orthodox Christian belief, and especially the teaching that a person can be saved only through Jesus Christ. Virtually all our baby boomers who believe this are active members of a church.” 

     Many churches have been brought down by the calamity of the false gospels taught by liberal theology.  Be very careful about what you believe about righteousness!  “For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: ‘The righteous will live by faith.’ ”  (Romans 1:17)

     Wicked people have real problems with my claim to righteousness because it is based on God’s Word about Jesus.    I have faith in John 3:16; “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.”   Jack Zavada writes “believers receive righteousness from Christ. This doctrine is called imputation. Christ’s perfect righteousness is applied to imperfect humans.  . . . When Jesus entered the world, things changed. His crucifixion and resurrection satisfied God’s justice. Christ’s shed blood covers our sins. No more sacrifices or works are required.”  When I die and go to heaven maybe I’ll ask for a bright orange sweatshirt  with the words; “Jesus got me in!” stenciled on the back to deal with all the questions.  On second thought, I won’t need this shirt – everyone in heaven knows that Jesus can save – even a jerk like me!

Praise the Lord!

    

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