Slave to the King

Unworthy rebels, redeemed by the King of Kings and made servants fit for His use.

Category: Blog Articles (page 1 of 3)

Obedience from Love

Recently, my pastor taught from Romans 7, speaking of Paul’s inability to keep the law of his own accord and his realization of his need for a Savior. In the culmination of his teaching on the law, my pastor made a wonderful application about our obedience to God’s law: out of Christ, we cannot obey the law to merit God’s favor due to our sin nature; inside of Christ, we cannot be more loved of God by trying to prove how good we are through our obedience; thus our obedience can have only one motivation, our love for our Savior.

The Purpose of the Law

Scripture teaches us that the law is our guardian, or schoolmaster, leading us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). It is the reflection of the perfect nature of God Himself. God does not give us the law simply because He had the desire to make up a list of dos and donts. In order to be in fellowship with God, we would have to be perfect as He is perfect (Matthew 5:48). Thus the law is God’s standard of perfect righteousness. Anything less than utter moral perfection keeps us from His presence. This is because He cannot look on sin without judging it. To do so would be a grave injustice. In His divine forbearance, he allows us to continue in this earthly existence until the time of deaths. But none will escape His perfect justice on that day.

However, we often try to think of the law as something we can achieve, a means of meriting the favor of God. We see this played out in the gospels as Jesus took the Pharisees to task for adding their traditions to the law. Ceremonial cleansings, Sabbath limitations on what was considered work, tithing and more were subject to extensive writings by the Jewish leaders. They defined every aspect of the law to such an extent that they believed it was actually possible to merit the salvation of God by their very works. Christ repeatedly rebuked them for their traditions as it actually laid further burdens on the Jews, but did nothing to lessen the load. In doing so, the religious leaders barred the way of salvation to those who followed them.

The purpose of the law is not that we can achieve moral perfection before God. Scripture is again clear that, outside of Christ, every person is a slave to sin (Romans 6: 17, 20). We were born with a sin nature, therefore, we cannot help but sin. It has been said that we are not sinners because we sin, but we sin because we are sinners. Christ made this evident when He spoke of the fact that it is not what is outside of ourselves that we take in that makes us unclean. Rather, it is that we are unclean in our hearts which works itself out in what we think, say, and do (Mark 7: 18-23). That is why He taught that it is not only the outward acts of adultery and murder that were sinful but also the very inward lusts and anger that we feel as well (Matthew 5: 21-22, 27-28). Therefore, the law’s purpose is that it exposes our utter inability to be morally perfect like God. For every command we fail to follow, we only expose that the condition of our heart is evil continually.

Thus the point of the law is not to give us the “how to” of making it to Heaven. Instead, it is the means by which we come to know we are utterly incapable of meriting the favor of God and are deserving of His wrath. Unless we have Someone who intervenes on our behalf, the law only illuminates that we have no hope of eternal life. Thus, it is the spotlight which points us to the Cross of Calvary where there is One who took the penalty for our sins.

In Christ Alone…But We Can Still Earn It, Right?

The cross is the place of the great exchange (Romans 5: 12-20). Jesus, the Son of God, fully God and fully Man, willingly laid down His life, taking the full wrath of God for sinners. It is at the cross where justice and mercy meet. Christ had no sin of His own for which He was crucified. He was perfectly sinless, having always obeyed the will of His Father. Yet, Christ allowed sinful men, who were deserving of His condemnation, to whip Him mercilessly and nail Him to a cross to die. This was a penalty for the worst of criminals. It was not only the most painful means of capital punishment but the most humiliating. Why would the Son of God endure such ignominy? Because such is the wages of our sin (Romans 6:23). It is what we deserve for the rebellion we have committed against our Creator.

In His love for us, while we yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8). His perfect love for us was played out in that Jesus took on Himself the full wrath that we deserve for our sins. And after being in the grave for three days, He rose again, defeating sin and death. Those who see the vileness of their sin through the law and repent, putting their full faith in the completed work of Christ, receive forgiveness for their sins. Not through any merit of their own, but because not only took our sin on Himself but because He gives us His righteousness. Now the believer not only has his sins paid in full, but he is made perfect in the eyes of God. It is as if the believer perfectly kept every aspect of the law, down to the smallest detail, because Christ Himself has done so.

When we receive salvation from Christ, we are receiving the full and perfect love of God Himself. We can never be more loved by God now or in the future because the Father’s love for the Son is perfect. And because we now have the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, we have the perfect love extended to us. This is the beauty of the cross, the great exchange that makes us the beloved of God.

The problem with us as Christians is that, while we have a new nature, we tend to still struggle with our old way of thinking. Where we once may have thought we could merit salvation from God through works, we now think that we can coax God into greater love or blessings by being really, really good. James teaches us that faith without works is dead (James 2: 20). And Paul made it clear the law still has a place in the life of the believer (Romans 3: 19, 6: 1-2). So it is indeed necessary that we seek to live our lives in obedience to the commands of God. Yet, we tend to think that our obedience earns us some kind of approval from God.

We can tend to believe that our times of study, prayer, worship, discipleship, etc. make God happier with us. As a result, we will credit any blessing in our lives to the fact that we have been obedient in these areas. Yet, when we fail to adhere to the spiritual disciplines we attribute any tribulation in our lives to these failures. As a result, we tend to think God blessed us because we were obedient, and gave us a smack down when we’re not. We find ourselves in another form of legalism that leads us to wrongly believe that God can still be bribed into blessing us through our good works.

This is not to say that God does not demand our obedience, or that He will not discipline us in our times of sin. Most certainly God desires to have us be conformed to the image of His son. And He will bring discipline into our lives when we sin against Him (Hebrews 12: 6). However, this is not a matter of quid pro quo. God isn’t nicer to us when we’re good and mad at us when we’re bad. He already loves us perfectly and has given us every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3). Thus, His discipline is to draw us into a close relationship to Himself, purifying us and purging us of the sin that lingers in this flesh. We must disregard the notion that we can buy a greater love from God by our works. Christ already purchased that in full at Calvary, therefore, we are free to enjoy his great love and mercy now and into eternity.

So Why Should We Worry About Obedience?

In his letter to the Romans, Paul called on the church to pursue holiness and forsake unrighteousness. He rightly asked how believers, who had once been slaves to sin, continue in the very transgressions from which Christ freed them (Romans 6: 15-19). Continual repentance and the pursuit of holiness is not a work in which we merit salvation or approval from God. It is the conforming of ourselves to Christ, of whom we are now servants. And our desire to do so is motivated by our deep and abiding love for the One who set us free.

When Christ willingly surrendered His life at the cross, He took the wrath that we godless rebels deserve for our sins; past, present, and future. In other words, the price He paid for our salvation was the full wrath of God against every sin we would commit in our lifetimes. Every single one of them. Therefore, how can we have any desire to commit the thoughts and deeds, or speak the words which cause our Savior to be tortured and crucified? If we have no desire to obey the commands of our God, then we have no concept of what He did to redeem us. In the greatest act of love in all of history, Jesus willingly sacrificed Himself to save those who were yet in their sins. The only proper response to this act should be deep humility and undying gratitude from those who name Christ as Savior. Obedience should then be the result of our unceasing desire to be made like Him who died to purchase us.

When a condemned sinner turns from his lifestyle of sin and commits himself wholly to Christ in faith alone, He promised that the Holy Spirit would enter into that person and make them a new creation (2 Corinthians 5: 17). They are given a new heart, with new desires. The Holy Spirit then goes through the process of sanctifying the new man, conforming him to the image of Christ. The outworking of that sanctification should be that the Christian then pursues, out of love and humility, obedience to the commands of our Lord and Master. Thus, our good works are an extension of our salvation and sanctification, showing that God Himself has indwelt and changed us. Christians should care about obedience to God’s commands because it is that which helps us to see that we are bearing the fruits of the Spirit in our lives (Galatians 5: 22-24).

If there can be one takeaway from this article, it should be that you cannot in any way merit God’s redemption or approval by the works you commit through your own effort. However, if you are redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, one evidence of your saving faith is that God has worked in you an abiding desire to grow in your obedience toward Him. You will abhor the sin that condemned you more and more, and you will find yourself desiring to become more holy, just as He who saved you as holy. Christian, pursue good works, not that you may bribe God with some token effort, but that you may be conformed to Him that saved you by His precious shed blood.

Stop Reading Revelation With the Headlines in Hand

Author’s Note: As a premillennial dispensationalist, I’m a bit of an enigma to my biblically conservative brethren. It tends to follow that if you are a believer in the doctrines of grace and in cessationism, you will likely be amillennial in your eschatology. However, there are still many of us who hold to a premillennial view and even believe in (gasp) a literal rapture of the church. The following article is not meant for those who hold to an alternate eschatological view. Nor is it an invitation to start an eschatology debate. There are proper places and forums for those discussions to occur. This is not to say if you disagree with my eschatology that you are not welcome here. You most certainly are. However, it is to say that I want to address an issue specifically that affects my premillennial brethren and do not want to obfuscate the issue with an unnecessary argument. Much thanks for your cooperation in advance.

As I type this article, it is August 21, 2017, and the first full solar eclipse in several decades has come and gone. Much to the dismay of many “end of the world” websites, nothing happened. Seriously, nothing. The eclipse came and went. Many families and schoolchildren got to experience the remarkable precision of God’s handiwork in the heavens. Some places in the United States experienced a darkening of the skies as the moon cast its shadow while passing before the sun. People wore specially made glasses that let them stare at the eclipse without burning their retinas to a cinder. But that was it. Nothing significant happened. The world did not end. World War III did not begin. The Middle East did not invade Israel and the Messiah did not return for His church. Just another celestial event occurred that allowed us to give glory to God for His marvelous handiwork.

Why do I make a point of this? Simply because, for as long as I can remember, there are those within the premillennial camp who seem to look for just about any event that they can point to that says Jesus is coming back. Not soon, or quickly, as in a biblical sense. But as in, tomorrow. No seriously, I mean tomorrow. As though we can pinpoint a day or hour that it is happening. That somehow there is a message in these events that we can discern the exact point of His return. All we need is the right Lucky Charms decoder ring and a little luck, and we can get this thing figured out. Oh, and that admonition that Christ gave us, that no one knows the day or the hour (Matt. 24-36)? That just means we have to figure out the correct Bible code first. Until then, we won’t really know.

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“I’m Offended!” – The Anti-Intellectual Argument

Postmodern philosophy declares that all truth is valid truth. Since every person’s particular definition of truth is considered to be, in fact, true, there can be no competing ideologies. In other words, everyone can hold to their own personal ideology, regardless of whether or not it can be proven true, because it is true in the mind of the beholder. Since it is true to the person holding it, it is not necessary to actually prove or defend said truth, as it does not have to be true in the eyes of any other person. This results in creating a personal echo chamber wherein truth holders surrounds themselves with only that information which affirms their belief and never allows anything in that could challenge their thoughts.

The problem with the postmodern belief system is that it still allows other persons or groups to belief and espouse truths that contradict our own. Despite the fact that multitudes of people attempt to live in their personal echo chambers, opposing belief systems will ultimately crash into each other. To use an extreme example, if a person believed that traffic laws did not apply to them, and that they could drive on any side of the road they chose, a person who believed the opposite would one day have a face to face meeting with them. Likewise, our individual belief systems impact how we think, speak, and act. No matter how much culture says your beliefs can only be your own, and hence, should not impact others, the reality is that we will act out on our beliefs in our interactions with other people. Therefore, our personal echo chambers cannot filter out other belief systems no matter how hard we try to plug our ears.

Once we are confronted with truths that contradict our thinking, especially if we hear those truths espoused en masse, we are forced to defend what we believe. This is one of the most difficult aspects of the post modern philosophy to deal with in practicality. We cannot isolate ourselves from the rest of society, so we must live with the reality that ideas have consequences. Our personal truths do not exist in a vacuum. They impact our lives in how we live, how we work, how we vote, and so forth. When people are allowed to pursue whatever truth they wish, they ultimately we live out those truths around us. They will speak to us and act toward us in ways that are inconsistent with our personal truths. We are then forced into a series of options: we can remain consistent with post-modernism, allowing their actions to impact our lives in uncomfortable ways; we can abandon postmodernism, returning to the search for truth by debating which belief is actually true; or we can determine that competing belief systems are intolerant and offensive, thus are not deserving of protection in the postmodern philosophy. It is this last option that has been resoundingly accepted in our current culture.

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Christians and the Culture War – Love Your Enemy

There is little doubt to anyone that our nation is heavily divided along socio-political lines. Some have argued that we may be more divided than we have ever been. While such a claim is one for the historians to determine, I certainly can state that I have never seen such animosity amongst opposing worldviews in my lifetime. It is no longer characteristic of our culture to have well informed debates over cultural topics. In times past we would lay out our case, making specific points to be heard and understood. We would have listened to our opponents, taking in what they said, and making counter points for consideration. Today, it is rare if such give and take occurs. Rather than seeking to win converts to our thinking through sound argumentaion, we seek their utter domination.

We now engage in debates with a winner take all mentality. No longer do we seek to hear the voices of those who disagree with us. In fact, to allow them to speak at all is considered tantamount to treason. After all, if they stand in opposition to what we believe, they cannot possibly have anything meaningful to say. Thus, rather than allow them a platform where their beliefs can be discussed, we seek to shut down any and all avenues where they can be heard. And if we cannot keep them from speaking, we must utterly destroy their character. For, if one is considered to be the most vile form of life, then there is no need to hear what they have to say. In fact, their worldview is to be considered so worthless that we claim to hold to it is to be mentally ill.

There is much that can be lain at the feet of this development in our culture. The philosophy of post-modernism, the idea that all truth is valid truth, certainly has its part to play. If truth is what I determine it to be, then no one can ever have a point that is counter to my own. If I can dismiss your argument by simply claiming it is your truth and not my own, then I never have to be challenged in my thinking.

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Book Review: “Cross Encounters: A Decade of Gospel Conversations” by Tony Miano

tony-bookApproximately two months ago, my friend and mentor, Tony Miano, provided me with a copy of his book, “Cross Encounters: A Decade of Gospel Conversations.” I promised Tony a thorough read and a review for our followers. Unfortunately, I was a bit slow on the read part. Life as a law enforcement officer, a husband and father, a podcast host, and the fact I simply cannot read with noise around me, caused me to take longer than should have been warranted. I wish to extend an apology to Tony and those who awaited my review. I will work to serve all of you better in the future.

For purposes of transparency, I worked with Tony for nearly three years as co-host and chat room manager of Cross Encounters Radio. It was Tony who recruited and mentored me for that program. We went through many adventures during that time, some good, and some bad. But, not one day do I regret serving along side him in that capacity. Thus, some may feel that my positive review of this book is influenced by that relationship. I hope to assure you that simply is not the case. Tony himself will tell you that we did not always agree on matters and I had no qualms discussing those things, privately. Thus, my view on this book is it is worth the time to read because it is an excellent book.

Tony documents in “Cross Encounters” a plethora of one to one gospel conversations he has had on the street in his years of evangelism. His stated goal in this book is to encourage believers to be obedient to the command of Scripture to make disciples of every nation. I believe this book accomplishes that goal.

Rather than being an instructional manual, a “how to” guide on being an evangelist, “Cross Encounters” puts you in the shoes of a Christian desiring to see God glorified and lost souls saved. Each encounter is transcribed from audio or video recordings made by Tony as he witnessed to people. This gives the reader the feeling of being directly in the conversation and seeing the gospel message work in the hearts of unbelievers. More than being just scripts of two people talking, however, Tony includes his motivations and thoughts that occurred during the conversation. Not only do you hear the words spoken, but you see the mind of an evangelist at work. This is an important piece because it allows us to understand where our hearts and minds need to be when we share the gospel ourselves.

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James White’s Thoughts on the State of the Culture and the 2016 Election

Recently, Dr. James White of Alpha and Omega Ministries discussed his thoughts on the state of the culture in America in light of the upcoming election on his program, The Dividing Line. I found this discussion to be extremely helpful from a Christian perspective. I ask our readers to view the program and give considerable thought to what Dr. White has expressed in this program. The program is two parts, both of which are contained here.

Modern Day Jonahs

angry-man-1441834773gytJonah Was a Prophet

In the Old Testament, God often spoke to His people through the prophets. These were people specifically chosen by God to speak His messages to His people. They were not to misrepresent God in any fashion. If they spoke falsely, or gave a prophecy that was not 100% accurate, they were to be stoned to death. To be a prophet was serious business, it was never to be treated lightly. Prophets spoke not only the foretelling of future events, but also the commands of God to His people. Often those messages included the command to repent of the sins against God which had brought judgment on them. If the nation of Israel would repent of its collective sin, God would deliver them from the judgment He had poured out.

Jonah was such a prophet chosen by God. Jonah had a unique mission in that he was commissioned by God to preach coming judgment, not to Israel, but to the Gentiles in Nineveh. The Ninevites were a pagan people who had oppressed the Jews. Such a nation was not viewed favorably by Jonah or any other Jew. When God directed Jonah to preach to Nineveh that His judgment was forthcoming, Jonah did not leap at the chance to preach to them. Rather, he booked the first ship to Tarshish he could find (Tarshish is NOT in Nineveh, just in case you were not aware). God sent a storm and a giant fish to forcefully bring Jonah back to the Ninevites.

Three days later, Jonah was spit up on shore and he was once again sent to Nineveh by God. Jonah arrived and preached the message he had been given, forty days and God would judge them. Then he sat back and waited for the judgment to come. But Nineveh understood what this meant. They had sinned greatly against the one, true God of the universe. They understood that his judgement would be righteous and true. They did not fall back on false worship of false gods to deter this judgment. They bowed the knee in utter repentance, seeking the gracious mercy of God. And God, because He has already promised that those in repentance toward Him will be saved, abstained from pouring out His wrath upon them. God mercifully spared them, a picture of the glorious gospel which was later fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

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How Fast Can You Go?

213732-muscle-car-wallpaperHow fast can you go? That seems to be the mantra of the modern age. Everything is a race of one sort or another. “The faster the better,” seems to be the motto of nearly everyone. Get me there fast! Fast cars, fast planes, fast trains, fast internet, fast, fast, fast. You never see anyone advertise, “we have the slowest” anything.

The world speeds by at a neck breaking speed. We want instant access, instant news, and instant messaging, and all under the “give it to me now and as fast as possible” mentality.
I have a question for you. When you die, how fast will you go into eternity? It will be the quickest trip you ever take. In the blink of an eye, you will go from being a breathing citizen on Earth, to either a citizen forever in Hell or Heaven. This fast fact is undeniable, you will die one day.
This should concern you greatly. Some may say, “When I die, I will just rot away in the ground and that’s the end of it.” But, what if that’s wrong? What if you will either spend eternity in Heaven or Hell? Then what? Where will you or anyone else be? Do you know?

The fast fact is this; you can actually know for sure where you will spend eternity. The Bible makes it clear that all who die will either be justly sentenced for their crimes against God in Hell or they will be given the reward of Heaven. The problem is, once you die there will not be a day in court to plead your case. The only time to have your sin crimes pardoned is now. Today is the day of salvation. That can only be accomplished through the work of Jesus Christ. The only way a person can be truly forgiven and escape the wrath to come is by the gift of salvation from Jesus Christ.

Pride is the fast track to destruction. It’s the humble of heart and the repentant person that receives the adoption of Christ. I ask you, are you ready to stand before God and give an account of your life? When you die, you will stand before God and give an account for every word spoken, every secret thought, and every public or private deed. Because God’s very nature is perfect goodness, He is going to judge you according to the perfect, moral standard of His Law. If you’ve ever lied, stolen, or taken His name in vain, He will find you guilty of breaking His Law. Because God is good and Holy, He must punish your sin. And the only punishment for all sin against God is eternity in Hell. But, God is also merciful, loving, and kind. He provided one way to escape that punishment and that was through the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was and is fully-God and fully-Man, without sin. He died on the cross a death He did not deserve, in order to take upon Himself the punishment you and I rightly deserve for our sins against God. He then forever defeated sin and death when He rose from the grave three days later. What God requires of you is that you repent (turn from your sin and turn toward God) and by faith alone, receive Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Throw yourself on His mercy today, and beg He grant you the eternal gift of salvation.

The Danger of The Christian Social Media Star

spotlightWe Christians can be an interesting lot. As much as we see ourselves as not being a part of this world, far too often we think, look, and act just like it. It wasn’t long ago that I made the strategic error of entering into a Twitter discussion between professing Christians. Wisdom should have taught me better by now, but sometimes I just don’t listen to those klaxon warning sirens going off in my skull. I’ll spare you the details of the discussion, but suffice it to say that I simply attempted to defend a professing Christian who still had an old post on their Twitter page that was, shall we say, less than Christian. The person in question claimed it was from a time when they were not a Christian. I simply defended that, given their statement, I was willing to give benefit of the doubt and not see it as reflective of their current profession.

Now, you’d think a person would appreciate being defended. You would think. However, this person not only did not show gratitude, but accused me of pride because I used the phrase “I am willing,” stating that somehow, in some sort of warped perception, I was taking the place of God in His judgment seat. Given their irrational response, I attempted to heed the warning sirens in my skull and bow out. Sadly, I ended up blocking the person I was trying to defend because they simply showed a lack of wisdom and maturity. Yet, the issue did not end there. Another professing Christian, who apparently was a fan of the less than mature, and now blocked, Twitterite, decided to lecture me and defend his social media darling. Once again, the block button became rather useful.

The point of this trip down memory lane isn’t to regale you with less that logical behavior of immature Christians, far from it. When I walked away from that conversation, I realized that this was not the first I had watched a professing Christian act in less than a charitable manner. Nor was it the first time I had watched an irrational defense of someone simply because the defender could not fathom their “star” as having done anything wrong.

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Doctrinal Disputes and Loving Our Brethren

bible-open-to-psalm-118 (1)It can be safely said that, since the birth of the church on Pentecost, for every opinion expressed there have been divisions in the body of Christ. Professing followers of Jesus always have and always will struggle with temptation and sin until the day we are glorified in Heaven with the Savior. Prior to being redeemed, sin permeated every last aspect of our nature. We were enslaved to it, there was nothing we did or thought that was without its foul taint. Yet, in Christ, we have been set free, no longer slaves to the passions that drove us. From that day until we are called home, we go through the process of sanctification. We are changed day by day, being purged and purified. God brings our sins to the surface so that we might repent and be changed. This takes a lifetime, and it is hardly an easy journey.

With that said, we must understand that divisions in the church come as a result of sinful pride. Were we already perfected in our flesh, we would all rightly understand the Word of God and we never would be in disagreement. However, given our lack of perfect comprehension, we must understand that as we grow in knowledge, so we can also grow in our pride. We are prone to lifting ourselves and our accomplishments up high. So, when we begin to grasp the greater and deeper truths of scripture, there is a great temptation to act as though this knowledge was gained of our own accord. And as doctrine becomes more open to us, we begin to have disdain for the shallowness of understanding in which we once walked.

If you have ever engaged in doctrinal discussions, especially on the internet, you know just how easy a rigorous debate can transform into a vile argument with character assassinations and name calling in abundance. Sadly, much of the public face of Christianity today, especially in the arena of social media, has reflected this. I am not referring to the debates between liberal or false theology and sound doctrine. Those debates will clearly be contentious as though who seek to downplay biblical truth will almost always engage in emotional rhetoric in order to claim victory. Rather, what I am referring to are the heated arguments between Christians who fall within diverse, but orthodox, doctrinal views. Such debates can be necessary to help us grow and understand the nature of God and the Christian faith. However, pride in our doctrinal stances can often result in a lack of grace being shown to our brethren. It doesn’t take long for us to move from debate, to argument, to anathematization of one another when pride gets in the way.

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