Tag Archives: grace

RePresent Jesus: Jesus and Grace

0002Jesus came into the world “full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

The Gospels clearly present Jesus as a man of grace; therefore, a graceless Christianity is a misrepresentation of Jesus.

Grace Cuts Both Ways

Grace is the unmerited, unearned, and undeserved favor of God.   It is when God decides to extend goodness and benevolence to people who don’t deserve it–people like you and me.

Our true struggle with grace is to give grace to people we feel aren’t worthy of it. “They don’t deserve it” we think. “They’ve had too many chances before, and now it’s time for them to pay for their sins.”

Grace is scandalous. It is the Lord Jesus dying in our place for sins He never committed in order to save His persecutors and restore humanity by and through His blood, not ours.

If we are going to RePresent Jesus in the world, we must learn to live out grace in its full dualistic nature. We must give just as we receive.

Read John 8:1-11

In this passage an unnamed woman is about to be stoned for committing adultery.

What we see here is that this was not about the woman at all, it was all about catching Jesus.

Deuteronomy 17:7 “The hand of the witness shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.”

Grace uses the same word others used to keep you bound in order to set you free. Grace takes the same book that says “Don’t touch it” to help you recover after you do touch it. The same book that convicts us can also comfort us. The same book that makes us frown is the very book that makes us smile.

What Grace Teaches Us

The woman in the story could be anyone of us today. She represents our failure and often our failure is public knowledge.

The stones we use to hurt her could be tweets or Facebook posts or any number of technological weapons intended to attack and destroy. You’ve seen their power of destruction. Stones are accusatory conversations that kill a person’s reputation or hearsay allegations that result in the fracturing of one’s family.

Compassion Without Condoning

The word compassion refers to a sense of empathy for the plight of others. Jesus, who was sinless, demonstrated compassion for this woman. If it is possible for the One who is sinless to show compassion for those who have fallen, why can’t we?

The religious leaders in our text today were void of compassion. However, Jesus challenges them by saying, “He who is without sin, let him cast the first stone” (John 8:7). He did not say, “He who is without this particular sin, cast the first stone.” Why? Because Jesus wanted the Pharisees to know that sin is sin.

Communicate Without Compromising

Grace is communication without compromise. Our goal is always restoration, not condemnation. Galatians 6:1 ” Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.”

Guess what? Paul is speaking to all of us here today. God is looking for you. You are the one God wants to use in the midst of a dying world. God is relying on your words to say, “Listen, I know you messed up, and I know you are suffering, but God is your great redeemer.

Challenge Without Condemning

In this text Jesus challenges the woman to change her lifestyle. His method is a model for how we are to lovingly confront people in similar situations.

Jesus says to her “Go and from now on sin no more.” That’s all He says. He doesn’t say, “Even though God forgives, you know you were wrong for what you did and you need to repent.”

How Do I Show Grace?

I show compassion without condoning the sin.

I communicate without compromising.

I challenge without condemning.

Summary:

When Jesus dispels the woman’s accusers, forgives her sins, and challenges her to change, He personifies His heavenly mission on earth. Remember where it started?

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Now the next verse is also important for what we have been talking about today.

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be save through him.” John 3:17

The gift of grace, is not earned because of us; it is granted in spite of us. It is a gift of God, not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:9).

Now while we cannot earn this salvation, we must respond to the offering of this salvation. It would have done this woman no good to just believe that Jesus could save her eternally, she had to act upon that fact.

We too must act upon that fact, Jesus saves. And just as He shows us grace, we too must show grace to our fellowman.

Strange Fire To God Leviticus 10:1-20

0001Nedab and Abihu

Read Leviticus 10:1-2

Sacrifices were lit from the coals of the great altar, but they used strange fire.

In the day-to-day business of priests, they didn’t take God seriously.  So the fire that fell to consume the sacrifice now falls to consume them!

Possible reason for the sin of Nadab and Abihu is found in Leviticus 10:9-10.

The point of the text is surely the HOLY FEAR of GOD.  Read Leviticus 10:3

God is to honored; it is a serious and awesome thing to come before Him!

Eleazar and Ithamar

Read Leviticus 10:12-20

Aaron and his family were not to publicly mourn Nadab and Abihu. (10:6)

These men did not follow the instructions either—they burned up the sacrifice.

Moses was livid!  Read again 10:18.

The failure of Eleazar and Ithamar wasn’t rebellion but weakness!

How could they eat after what they saw?

With the smell of that death in their nostrils, how could they even make sacrifice?

They did not rebel against God; they did their best, but they were weak.

Hebrews 10:19-27 READ this verse to get a better understanding.

Holy (true heart) Trusting (full assurance of faith) Rebellion (Sinning deliberately)

We are called to do our best and try our best to do what God would have us to do and live as He calls us to live.  Rebellion against God is not tolerated, but weakness is forgiven.

Summary

Nadab and Abihu’s sins was an act of open rebellion against God’s holiness.

Eleazar and Ithamar’s failure was due to human weakness and frailty.

If God moved heaven and earth to save us at the cross—He wants us to be saved.  He is not going to send us to hell because we are flawed.

Salvation Depends Upon God’s Grace

I Corinthians 15:58 (Pew Bible Page 1223)

Why is your labor not in vain?  I Cor. 15:50-57

So is your trust in your ability to do everything correctly all the time, or is your trust in Jesus Christ who gives us the victory over death?

Love and respect God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.

 

The True Grace of God I Peter 5:8-12

graceSalvation is the free gift of God through the death of Jesus on a Cross

Grace is Offered to us Through Jesus’ Cross.  God’s grace is free, but it should never ever be viewed as cheap! We have come to see salvation as relationship with a loving/forgiving God. The church can’t be any more perfect than we are perfect as people. We aren’t saved by our perfect theology –we are saved by grace.

If we once saw obedience and missed grace, can the opposite also be true? Can we stress grace to the point that we ignore the demands of discipleship? Can we make grace sound like it makes obedience an optional extra? Can we treat grace as a “get-out-of-jail-free-card”  that excuses rebellion? Can we see grace as God’s permission to do exactly what we want? Can we talk about grace while all the while missing the whole point of grace?

Peter sees his basic message as the  “True Grace of God” Peters theme in the book seems to be persecution and suffering. When Peter gets to the end, he looks over the letter he has written and sums it up with the phrase, “this is the true grace of God.”  Read I Peter 5:10-11 again.

To stand firm and be faithful despite opposition is the “true grace of God.” In suffering, we share solidarity with Christ Himself. They are to follow in the steps of a suffering Savior.  I Peter 2:20-21

Peter reminds us Christ brought us grace through His suffering     I Peter 3:17-18.

This is true grace—that Jesus suffered to bring us back to God. The Cross puts Everything to the Test. Christ suffered for us to bear our sins and to bring us to God. But we must suffer as strangers and pilgrims as we live daily for Him. Read I Peter 1:10-11

Read I Peter 5:8-9

James Thompson, The Church in Exile

“ Whenever Christians have forgotten that walking in the steps of Jesus is costly, 1 Peter has been a forgotten book.  The “true grace of God” hardly seems necessary for communities which are rich in their own resources. Where membership in the family of God is offered at bargain-basement prices, the message of 1 Peter is sure to be irrelevant, for only alien communities will find that this book still speaks a word of encouragement.”

Summary

God has called us into a saving relationship through Jesus  Christ. The cross that saves us calls us to discipleship, service and dying to self.
The true grace of God is free, but not a free ride.  It calls to us to follow Him.

 

A Balanced View of Grace Ephesians 2:1-10

Pendulum principle. The idea is that the further a pendulum swings in one direction, the further it goes in the other direction. In the church we spend a lot of time swinging back and forth between the extremes.  Some people are even insulted for being called a middle of the roader.  I however prefer the road to the ditch on either side.

There is a verse in Amos5:19 that says; “as if a man fled from a lion, and a bear met him.”  The context of Amos means that we cannot escape God. But you can almost see someone running from a lion and being so intent on getting away that we run into something else just as bad, like a bear.

I think that sometimes we run from our lions only to be met by a bear.  I think that we have done this in regard to the concept of Grace.  The problem with extremism is that extremism begets extremism.

It seems that as far as someone goes to the left someone will go to the right.

Today we want to look at three things about grace.

First I want to look at the fact that we are saved by grace.

Secondly I want to look at the 2 extreme views of grace.

Finally we will try to bring this all together and look at a balanced view of Grace. And then look at some things that we need to do to be balanced.

  1. We are saved by grace.

The word grace is found in the NT about 128 times.  Now if I didn’t know anything about Grace and I found a word that was used that many times, then I would want to know something about that word.  Just a side note…how many times does Jesus use the word Grace?  How many times does he say personal relationship?  The answer is zero.

Certainly the Holy Spirit thought this concept was important enough to use it that many times.

Again Ephesians 2:8-9**

Did you notice that grace is a gift?  In fact the word grace is even translated as the word gift.  Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

That’s no mistake.  You can’t really talk about grace without talking about a gift.

Have you ever heard of someone pray, “Dear God, make us worthy of your grace.”?  The very point at which that we would become worthy of grace it would cease to become a gift, it would become something that we had deserved.  Grace by definition is undeserved, unmerited, it is a gift.

That passage in Romans 6:23, notice that there is a difference between wages and a gift.  You see it pays to sin.  Now I don’t care for the wages but it pays to sin.  The wage is death.  But on the other hand, the gift of God is eternal life.

Eternal life is never a wage, it is never deserved, it is never merited, it is always a gift.

Titus 2:11-14 ** This is a very interesting set of verses.  It first tells us where grace comes from. (GOD)  It tells us the purpose of grace. (It brings salvation)  The recipients of grace are named. (All people)

Did you ever think that this was the only way that it would be fair and equitable?  If salvation was on any other basis, if there was something that I had to pay then I might be able to pay or you might not be able t pay.  But since grace is a gift to all people from God then it is fair and equitable.

Don’t let anyone ever tell you that we are saved by anything other than the grace of God.  Don’t feel bad when we sing a song that says that we are saved by grace.  For that is what the Bible teaches us.

  1. The ditches of Grace.

Let’s look first at the progressive view of grace and then the opposite ditch, the legalistic view of grace.

The liberal view on grace gives grace license.  It goes like this.  We are saved by grace, therefore…  And the therefore is a license to do what we please.

It reminds us of Jude 4 where people “pervert the grace of our God into sensuality.”

Grace was never intended as a license to get away with what we wanted to do.  It was never intended to be a cover all for our sin.  And those who think that it is something for which you can reach in your  pocket conveniently pull out grace and smear it on.   Just smear on the grace and you can do whatever you want to do.

That passage in Titus 2 says this about grace, that it trains “us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.”  (verse 12)

Grace teaches us, trains us, instructs us, and so grace was never intended to be a cover all for sin.

The real problem with this view is that it ignores the very nature of God.  God says, “be holy as I am holy.”  God cannot be consistent in His holiness and ignore sin. That is the dilemma and that is way in Romans 3:23 we read “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” And again we read in 6:23 says “wages of sin is death.”

The liberalist view of grace makes too much of it.  It makes it something that it was never intended to do. It makes it some kind of blemish stick for all of our sinfulness.

Paul guided by the Holy Spirit knew that some people would go there.  That is way in Romans 6:1-2 we read “What shall we say then?  Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound?  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?”

That phrase “By no means!” or “Certainly not” or “God forbid.”  That means no, definitely no, a thousand times no!

But who would think such a way?  Well people who teach grace only.  They would have us believe that grace only is a teaching full of comfort.  These are people who make more of grace than God ever intended.

What about the people who say that we are not under law?  They too teach grace only.  Don’t you hear people say that we are not under the law?  One of the mistakes that we often make is to assume that every time that we see a word in the Bible that it means the same thing in every verse.

It is true that we are not under the Law of Moses, Galatians 2:16.  (ie. rules like traveling to Jerusalem for the feasts, or following the 10 commandments, or following the sacrifices as detailed in the law) The law was temporary, and it was to lead us Christ.  But there is law under Christ; there are things that we are to do.

Galatians 3:15-29 tell us that the Law of Moses was a tutor.  But now we are not under the tutor but under Christ.  Certainly the New Testament talks about following the law, the law of Jesus Christ.

In James 1:25 we learn about the “law of liberty.”

In James 2:8 we read about the “royal law.”

In Romans 8:2 “For the law of the Sprit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”

We read in I Corinthians 9:21 that we are “under law toward Christ, that I might win those who are without law.”

We must never think that just because we are under grace that we are not under law.  There are things that we are to do.  We have responsibility to God and to His teachings.

And so there are those who go over in the ditch and teach grace alone.

But what about that other ditch?  The legalistic view of grace says that grace has little if anything to do with salvation.

Let us first define legalism.  Legalism is not necessarily a law keeper.  A legalist is a law truster. They put their hope in the law. There is a difference.

As a Christian there are things that I must do, but I do not trust the doing of those things to save me.  I trust Jesus to save me.  I ask for His grace and mercy.

The Bible clearly says that we are not saved by anything in and of ourselves.  Like in Ephesians 2:9 where we read “not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

Somebody says then, that there is nothing to do then.  No.  The works under consideration in Ephesians 2:9 have to do with works where we swell up and say “look what I have done!”  “Look at the laws that I have kept, isn’t God obligated?”

Some people think that God is a big cosmic book keeper.  We live our lives with hope against hope that I will somehow have a few more positive marks than I have demerits.  And if I get more merits than demerits then somehow God is obligated to save me.

Listen, you can’t do enough of anything to earn one minute of heaven.  You are not saved by works where in we can boast one bit.

You say, is there anyone who really believes that?  Well let me tell you what happens sometimes during the invitation.  Someone will come up and say “I just haven’t been doing enough.”  “I just don’t feel like I do enough.”

Guess what, they are right.  They are not doing enough because they cannot ever do enough.

If I could do enough to be saved, the most meaningless thing that ever happened is Jesus dying on the cross.

Luke 17:10 “when we done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants.  We have done what was our duty to do.’”

Legalism makes grace out to be unimportant and we have to trust in our ability to do.

How is that working for you?  No man made system works. You look in the mirror and know that you have failed to keep the whole law, you are guilty.  You know that you blew it, and at that point you are hopelessly lost.

We are not saved by works, we are saved to work.

**Ephesians 2:8-10 again.  If you work to be saved you are on a treadmill to nowhere.  “I could have made one more visit, I could have sent one more card, I could have talked to one more person.”

But when you say I am saved by grace through faith I am ready to go.  The have too’s become want too’s, duties become desires and if we would serve God out of a loving heart for this fact, we will be where God wants us to be.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 “For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.”

What is it that keeps you going Paul?  One more check mark?  It’s Paul’s love for the Lord and it’s the Lord’s love for Paul that keeps him going.  That was the driving force.

  • Bringing it all together.

The balanced view of Grace brings together God’s nature and Man’s nature.

A balanced view let’s God be a holy God, and it recognizes that man is sinful and weak.

The only way for this to happen is for someone to step into the equation and pay the price.

That is why in I Peter 1 we read that we are not “redeemed with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ.”  (verses 18 and 19)

That is why Paul would say in 2 Corinthians 5:19 that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.

You see that Jesus died for me at Calvary, and Jesus died for you at Calvary.  The price was paid and the justice of God was satisfied. God is now able to look at me and see the blood. His holiness is not compromised.  And I am able to come before him to plead “God be merciful to me a sinner.”

I owed a debt that I could not pay.  He paid a debt that He did not owe.  I needed someone to wash my sins away.  And now I sing amazing grace, Christ Jesus paid the debt that I could never pay.

  1. Application

Ok, there are some people making too much of grace and there are others who ignore grace.  And now we understand that a balanced view of grace brings together God’s nature and Man’s nature.

What do I do with this lesson?

  1. Accept God’s grace.  You know that grace is a gift, and gifts can be refused.  Someone could offer to give you something and you have the right to refuse that gift.

Several years ago I offered Linda a ring.  She could have said no, and I would have gone back to my dorm room dejected and sad.  But she said yes.  She accepted the gift and she accepted me.

 

The only way to receive benefits from God is accept His grace.  Paul would say to us “do not set aside the grace of God.”

 

And so if you haven’t yet, receive the grace of Jesus Christ.

We must reuse to any man made law system.

We are not under a system that is based upon law.  Read Galatians, it’s microwave Romans.  You are free from the Law of Moses, and don’t you ever let man put you under a law system.

It doesn’t take long for us to start making up rules so that we do not break the law of Christ.  And we put a hedge around it, and then the next generation comes along and puts a hedge around that hedge.

Just like the Jews who did not want to break the Law added rules and regulations to the Law and bound them on the people.  These extra rulesnot from God.

Think about the human things that have been decided by some of us, and bound on others.  Woe be on the one who adds to the law of Christ.

The plea of Galatians 5 is “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

  1. Be gracious.

As a recipient of grace my responsibility is to give grace.

Matthew 18.  A man owed more money than he could every pay pack.  That man was forgiven of that debt.  Then that man goes out and refuses to forgive another man who owed him a little bit of money.  The master finds out and puts the original man in prison and leaves him there until he can pay the debt.

I want you to know that I was a blessed child.  I never was a wild child.  I missed some of the things that others in my High School were doing.

But I know that I have done enough to break the heart of God.  And that if I have any hope it is Grace through Faith.  It doesn’t have to be a large debt as we could debt; we all have fallen short of the grace of God.  It is something that I can never pay.

And I look around at the people who get on my nerves and I think, “How dare I, the recipient of such grace not extend grace to those around me.”

Grace is one of the great doctrines.  I am lost without out.  And however long I am able to live, I will continue to preach about it and live it.

 

“For my grace you have been saved through faith.  And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10

You too can have Grace.

Christ’s sacrifice is sufficient for Salvation.  Christ will not rescind His offer of Salvation.  There is no possibility of God changing the terms of the deal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What About the Thief on the Cross?

Thief on the Cross 3TEXT:  Matthew 27:38-44 and Luke 23:39-44

Introduction:

If you ever teach people about the gospel of Christ you have probably heard the question, “What about the thief on the cross?”  Maybe you were pointing out that Jesus said both faith and baptism were essential to salvation. (Mark 16:16).  But they said, the thief was never baptized, and he was saved!  Or perhaps you were showing them the first sermon preached by Peter and what he says in Acts 2:38

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

And they said to you: “But what about the thief on the cross?  He wasn’t baptized, and he was saved.”  Or maybe you were in Acts 22:16, Galatians 3:27, or I Peter 3:21—only to hear, “But what about the thief on the cross?”

It is interesting to note that after that great sermon from Peter, where he tells them that they must be baptized that no one said, “Well what about the thief on the cross?”  Rather they were baptized.  In Acts 8 when the treasurer was taught about Christ he did not say, “Well what about the thief”, he said, and “What prevents me from being baptized?”  He then confessed Jesus and was baptized.

Who was this thief?  What did God intend that we should learn form him and his response to the Lord?  There are only two bible references that tell about this individual.

In Matthew’s account, initially both thieves insulted the Lord.  As time went by, Jesus’ demeanor on the cross evidently had a positive effect on one of them.  According to Luke, “one of the criminals who were hanged there” continued to hurl “abuse” at Jesus, saying, “Are you not the Christ?  Save Yourself and us!?  (Luke 23:39).  While there was a change in one man, the other seemed to just hurl more abuse as the pain intensified.

Now, I believe that this story is here for a reason, but I do not believe that this story is here to prove that baptism in not essential.  There are several lessons that we can learn from this man. Since this incident has been misused, we will first clear away misconceptions.

His story does not teach the way of salvation.

Before we focus on the disagreement, let us focus on what we agree upon.  We agree that the thief was saved.  Jesus promised that he would be in Paradise that day.  Paradise is that part of the hadean world where the saved await the Judgment.  I believe that Jesus kept His promise—that, when, the thief died, he was taken by angels to Abraham’s bosom, even as Lazarus had been (Luke 16:22).  Nevertheless, this fact does not prove that the account was given to teach the way of salvation for non-Christians today.

Much is assumed regarding the thief.  Many assume that he was not one of God’s people already.  Think about this:  “Who crucified him?  The Romans.  Did the Romans crucify Roman citizens?  No.  Whom did they crucify?  Disobedient subjects in a given vicinity.  The subjects in that particular area were Jews.  So it would be safe to assume that this man was a Jew.  Now this man had been disobedient of God’s law in that he stole.  Nevertheless, he was a Jew.  That made him a child of God, because—up to the death of Jesus—the Jews were God’s chosen people (Deuteronomy 7:6).  If the thief’s salvation is to serve as any kind of example today it is an example of how an erring Christian, not a non-Christian, can find forgiveness.

More is assumed about this thief.  It is assumed that the thief had never been baptized.  He died near where John the Baptizer’s ministry had begun.  We read this in Matthew 3:5-6

Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him [6] and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.

Many who lived in that area had been baptized by John.  Later, when Jesus began His ministry in the same general area, He and His disciple baptized even more than John.

John 4:1

Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John

Is it not at least possible that, at some point, the thief had been baptized by either John or Jesus’ disciples?  Whether he was or not is really unimportant, but an argument made from a biblical text should not be based upon assumptions.

Now, why do I say that whether or not the thief was baptized is unimportant?  As previously stated, his salvation was never intended as an example for non-Christians today.  Let me share with you three reasons for making that statement.

His Story does not teach the way of Salvation today.

Why?  Because the thief was saved before the old law was removed.

Using the story of the thief as an example of conversion for non-Christians today violates a principle taught in 2 Tim. 2:15

Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

One way to handle accurately the word of truth is to distinguish between that which relates to the old covenant (Old Testament) and that which relates to the new covenant.

(Are we under the Ten Commandment Law or are we Under Grace?)  The Bible teaches that Jesus’ death is the dividing point between the old covenant and the new.  Paul wrote to the Colossians and said this.

Col. 2:13-14

And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, [14] having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

In case there was a question regarding what regulations the apostle had in mind, he listed several categories in verse 16:

Col. 2:16

So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or Sabbaths,

The phrase “Sabbath Day” proves that Paul included the Law of Moses in his statement; one of the Ten Commandments was Exodus 20:8

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.

The phrase “canceled out” and “taken it out of the way” are strong terms indicating that the Law had been abolished.  When did that occur?  Verse 14 tells us “having nailed it to the cross.”  This is not a reference to a piece of wood on which Christ was impaled, but rather an allusion to the death of Jesus.  Jesus and Jesus only, fulfilled the old covenant, keeping its demands perfectly.  At the end of His life, it became a fulfilled or completed agreement.  The old covenant was “taken out of the way” at Jesus’ death.

At the same time, Grace as we know it begins.  Look now at Hebrews 9:15

And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

He then explained what had to transpire before that new covenant came into effect.  In other words, there had to be a death.

Hebrews 9:16-17

For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. [17] For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives.

This analogy that the writer uses is based on a special agreement that we call “a last will and testament”.  When does this will and testament go into effect?  It goes into effect when the maker of this agreement dies and not before.

Your Bible has two testaments.  When did the new will and testament of Jesus Christ go into effect?  When he died, and at that same time the old will and testament stopped being in effect.

The thief is not an example for the salvation of non-Christians today because he was forgiven before the old law was taken out of the way.   True, he was promised Paradise just a few hours before Jesus died, but the promise was still given “on the Old Testament side” of the cross.

The comparison between the New Testament and the last will and testament can be extended.  A principal purpose of a will is the distribution of the will-makers’ property.  After the will-maker dies people must adhere to the terms of the will to benefit from the provisions of the will.

Let’s notice another example of someone receiving “forgiveness of sins” on the other side of the cross.

Matthew 9:2

Then behold, they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, “Son, be of good cheer; your sins are forgiven you.”

As far as the text is concerned, Christ forgave the man on the basis of the friend’s faith.  Did the paralytic also believe?  We are not told.  If the thief on the cross can be used as proof that baptism is not essential to salvation, this story might be used to prove that personal faith is not essential.  (Do you see how far off we can get?)  In either case, however, was it Jesus’ intention to establish the terms of our salvation today?  Rather, in Matthew 9, at least one reason Christ forgave the man was to establish His spiritual authority.

Matthew 9:4-6

But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, “Why do you think evil in your hearts? [5] For which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Arise and walk’? [6] But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”–then He said to the paralytic, “Arise, take up your bed, and go to your house.”

“that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins” is just another way of saying, “While I am alive, still walking on earth, I have the right to distribute My spiritual assets in any way I choose.”

There are others who were forgiven by Jesus before His death.  The thief of the cross and this paralytic are not the only people who received spiritual assets from Jesus while he was here.  In John 8:3-11, the woman taken in adultery is another example of Jesus forgiving sins.  All are examples of Jesus distributing His spiritual assets before his “last will and testament” came into effect.  It is interesting that no one mentions these when trying to establish the basis on which a non-Christian is saved today.

Since the thief was forgiven on the Old Testament side of the cross, his salvation is no more an example for today than the salvation of Noah and Abraham.  Have you heard anyone say, “Noah was not baptized and so neither will I?”

The thief on the cross is not an example of salvation today because he was saved before the old law was removed.

His Story does not teach the way of Salvation today.

Why?  Because the thief was saved before Christ gave the Great Commission.

During Jesus’ personal ministry, He made reference to requirements for salvation.  For instance, He spoke of a new birth (John 3:3, 5) and the need for conversion (Matthew 18:3).  He emphasized the need for faith (John 8:24), the necessity of repentance (Luke 13:3), and the importance of confession (Matthew 10:32).  Nevertheless, it was not until after His death, burial and resurrection that He gave His Great Commission.  It spells out His terms of salvation: what men must do to appropriate God’s grace.

What Do We Do?  Matthew 28:19-20

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, [20] teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

In order to fulfill what Christ demands, we need to become his disciples and be baptized into Him.

What Do We Do? Mark 16:16

He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned.

In order to fulfill what Christ demands, we need to believe in Jesus and be baptized into Him.  We might also note that baptism without faith is worthless.

What Do We Do?  Luke 24:46-47

Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, [47] and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

In order to fulfill what Christ demands, we need to believe in the resurrection, turn from our sinful ways and submit to baptism.

(Let’s use a modern day example)  A basic legal principle is that a law cannot be retroactive.  This provision is included in the U.S.Constitution, Article I, Section 9.  If our legislative bodies pass a law today, those who did something that would be considered a violation of that new law yesterday would not be tried under that law.

The thief did not have to be baptized, but we do.  Why, because the Great Commission was given after his death, and so the terms of this new law do not apply to those who did or did not do something before the law came into effect.

Example:  Do we have to pay taxes?  Yes.  Well, could you argue that since George Washington and Abraham Lincoln never paid income taxes neither do I?  Yes you could make that argument but if you did not pay your income taxes you would still go to jail.

We cannot point to the thief as an excuse for not being baptized since he was saved before Jesus gave the terms off salvation in the Great Commission.

His Story does not teach the way of Salvation today.

Why? Because the thief was saved before the Gospel was preached in Fact.

According to Paul, the heart of the Gospel is the Death, Burial and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

1 Cor. 15:1-4

Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, [2] by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. [3] For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, [4] and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures,

The sequence of the death, burial and resurrection had been set in motion at the time the thief was promised Paradise, but Jesus had not yet died; His burial and resurrection were still in the future.  The gospel could not be preached or obeyed until after the Lord arose from the dead.

The first time that it was preached was on the Day of Pentecost, by the apostle Peter. (see Acts 2).

Today this wondrous gospel is God’s power to salvation.  (Romans 1:16).  We cannot be saved without it.  In contrast, the thief died before it was ever publicly proclaimed.  He lived and died without ever hearing the full gospel story.  Therefore, his salvation is not an example for non-Christians today, who must hear that gospel and obey it. (I Peter 4:17 and 2 Thessalonians 1:8).

Summary:

Way back in the introduction, I stated that everything in the Bible has a purpose.  All of the incidents surrounding the death of Jesus have been preserved for a reason.  They are all there to enhance the cross, to increase our appreciation of what Jesus did for us.

At this time then, let me urge you to turn your eye from the side cross, where the thief died, and focus on the center cross, where the Savior died for you.

If you really love him you will do what he asked you to do.  You will not invent excuses to postpone obeying Him.  Rather, with a heart love and gratitude, you will surrender to Him with complete trust.

If you need to be baptized today, do not ask, “Well what about that thief?”  But ask the question that the treasurer asked, “What prevents me from being baptized?”  To which Phillip said, “You can if you believe.”

So if you believe with all your heart, you may.  Then you can confess your faith and go down in to the waters of baptism that you might rise and go on your way rejoicing.  If you need to be baptized, now is the time to do it.

Receive the free gift of Grace that Jesus offers to each and every one!  Do it today.

Adapted from a sermon by David Roper

Graceful Living I John 1:1-10

Proposal: The basic concept of grace is God’s goodness.  It matters how we respond to that Grace.

Graceful living and the Christian

The issue of grace is not to be focused on how good God is.  The issue should be our willingness to respond to God’s goodness, (His Grace).

Read I John 1:1-4  John’s reason for writing.

Jesus was a historical person who actually lived; Jesus was not a myth.

John and the apostles were witnesses who heard, saw, and touched Jesus.

Verses 5-10 says “There is a right way to live under Grace and there is a wrong way.”

There are some Christians who because of God’s goodness (grace) receive everything.  They take hold of the benefits available to them.

There are some Christians who receive nothing from God’s goodness (grace). They do not take hold of  the benefits available to them.

Read and see the contrast between verses 6, 8 and 10 and what John said in verses 7 and 9.

Look at the description of someone who does not live gracefully.

Verse 6: This person knows the truth but does not practice the truth.

Verse 8: To say that we are sinless is self-deception.

Verse 10: To say that we are not sinning is to make God out to be a liar.

Contrast that with verses 7 and 9, one who lives gracefully.

Verse 7: We make a choice to live our daily lives in God’s light.

Verse 9: We confess our sins that we realize that we commit.

One Christian refuses to acknowledge the problem of evil in his or her life or to deal with that continuing problem.

The second Christian may actually struggle with evil, but he knows the evil is there; he resists it; he repents of the evil; he is constantly learning how to be more godly. That’s graceful living.

As a Christian, in God’s eyes, I am:

Pure because I am forgiven.

Holy because I am forgiven.

Righteous because I am forgiven.

I am not pure, holy and righteous because no evil exists in my life.

Summary of Graceful living

There are really three responses to Grace, and really only one way to live gracefully.

Category One: In my love for God, I want to live a godly life and I am committed to being a godly person.

Category Two: I do not want to go to hell, but I do not want to be godly.  I will do what I must do religiously, but I will live my life as I please.

Category Three: For reasons that have nothing to do with conversion, I ‘became a Christian.’ I have no interest in being godly and will make no attempt to live a godly life.”

Prayer:  This needs to be our prayer.

God help me to be honest, and upfront with my sinfulness.  Please forgive me, cover me in your grace.  Help me to be involved in others lives.  Help me to walk in your goodness (grace).

 

If it is possible to fall from grace, how can a Christian have any assurance?

If it is possible to fall from grace, how can a Christian have any assurance?

This lesson is best read with an open Bible.  Go ahead and get it now, I’ll wait.

We teach that a Christian can fall from grace.  Many others teach that it is impossible for  Christian to fall away.  The statement of faith is usually stated, “We believe…in the Eternal Security of the believer; that it is impossible for one born into the family of God ever to be lost.” 

Because we disagree with many of our religious contemporaries, and they wonder how can we have any assurance?  Can we even be sure that we are saved? 

We may even wonder, “Can God forgive the sins I have committed?”; “Am I doing enough to be saved?”; “If I were to die right now would I go to heaven.”  Sometimes our language may not reflect any real assurance of salvation. 

Believing that apostasy is possible, how can we overcome such feelings?  How can we have assurance today?

  1.  Christians Can Indeed Fall from Grace.

Falling from grace is a possible. Christians are warned against falling from grace.

I Corinthians 10:12 “Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.”   Even Paul said that he could fall, 9:27 “But I discipline my body and keep it under control, let after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”

Falling from grace is a real and grave danger.  Hebrews 6:4-6 “For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harn and holding him up to contempt.”

The Jewish Christians to whom this book (Hebrews) has been written are thinking about going back to Judaism.  And the writer warns them not to leave Christ (fall away) for they would not make it back into a right relationship with Him.  At least many of them would never repent and come back to Christ.

How many have we known who have left never to come back?  Few if any ever return.  There is danger is leaving Christ and His church.

Falling from grace is a fact. Galatians 5:4 “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.”  

This verse reflects not only a possibility, but a reality.  It has happened to some!  Those that have tried to be justified by the Ten Commandment Law, Paul says have fallen from grace.

Falling from grace leads to destruction. James says “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.” James 5:19-20. 

James (Jesus’ younger brother) was writing to Christians.  He said Christians could sin; they could be converted or changed. If that occurred, then one would be saving that sinner who had sinned from death. The sin of leaving Christ and His church is death.  

Christians can sin; they can fall away; they can sin in such a way as to be eternally lost.  Apostasy is a real possibility.  I do not take any pride in this, nor do I wish it to be so.  But it is a Biblically stated fact.

But even though we can fall from grace, we can still have the assurance of salvation.  Here are some reasons why I am saying this.

  1. Christians Can Have Assurance.

First, because we can be sure that we were saved.

The way to salvation in the NT is plain.  We are saved by grace (Eph. 2:8,9) through the blood of Christ (Eph 1:7).  To be saved we must believe that Jesus is the Son of God and our Lord and be willing to confess our faith in Him (Matthew 10:32-33 or Romans 10:9-10).  We must also repent, stop sinning, turn from our sins (Luke 13:3; Acts 17:30).  And then we must be baptized to be saved (Acts 2:38; 22:16; Galations 3:26 and 27). 

Having done that, we can be certain we have been saved.  Baptism, following faith and repentance, results in remission of sins (Acts 2:38)…having sins washed away (Acts 22:16)…being saved (I Peter 3:21)…getting into Christ and putting on Christ (Galatians 3:27). 

When NT writers addressed Christians, they never showed the slightest doubt that the fact that the people to whom they wrote had been saved. 

Read Galatians 3:26, 27.   Read Colossians 1:13, 14.  Also note: (I Peter 1:3, I Peter 1:22, 23 and I John 3:1).

If NT Christians had that kind of assurance that they had been saved, then we should have the same kind of assurance.  If we have obeyed the gospel, we can be sure, without a doubt that we were saved.  WE can say: I have been saved.  I have been born again.  I have become a child of God.  I have become a member of the church and a citizen of God’s kingdom. 

We can remember a certain day in our lives when we were baptized into Christ to have our sins washed away.  Therefore the NT teaching that we are saved when we obey the gospel provides assurance of our salvation.

Second, we can have assurance because we can be sure that we are being saved.

We must admit that, since we believe that a Christian can fall from grace, being absolutely certain that we have been saved sometime in the past does not in itself provide us today with the kind of assurance we need.  After all, we could have been saved sometime in the past, but be lost today.  How can we be sure we are saved right now?  We can have this assurance for two reasons.

Reason #1 

We can have assurance because of what God has done to keep us faithful. 

God does not want us to turn from Him.  Therefore, He provides us with everything we need to stay faithful. He has given His children:

A loving father.     I John 3:1 “See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are.”

An advocate to plead our cause. I John 2:1 “I am writing these thing to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

A Holy Guest.  Galatians 4:6 “God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”

Another Holy guest is the Holy Spirit.  He has been given to us as a earnest, or guarantee of our inheritance, (Ephesians 1:13, 14), to strengthen us (Eph. 3:16) and to bear the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. (Gal 5:22, 23)

An encouraging fellowship.  God has added us to the church (Acts 2:47), a fellowship of believers which exists, at least in part, to help its members remain faithful.  During a recent Wednesday night Bible class, one of our members stated that they were upset with their Christian walk, and their ability to live the Christian life.  The members of the class felt for this person.  They tried to give encouraging words to them.  Many sent notes of love and encouragement.  We were given an encouraging fellowship to help us remain faithful.

A helpful message.  The Bible contains “the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance  among all those who are sanctified.” Acts 20:32.  

Heavenly servants.  Speaking of the angels in Hebrews 1:14 we read, “Are they not all ministering spirits send out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?”

The privilege of prayer.  Listen to Jesus.  “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”  Matthew 7:7. 

Precious promises.  God has given us promises to encourage us to remain faithful.

Reason #2

We can have assurance because, when we fall short of God’s requirements (and we all do), God has made provision for our forgiveness.

Our continuing salvation depends, in a sense, on us.  We have to be doing the best we can to do the will of God. But does that mean that we are on our own as Christians?  No.

The Lord provides for us the kind of help we need to be zealous, to be diligent, to be faithful. 

But not only is our assurance based on the provisions God has made to help us stay faithful, it is also based on the fact that God has made provision for our forgiveness when we fall short of doing His will.

 Specifically, we have the promise that Jesus’ blood washed away our sins: “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.”   (I John 1:7)

We can be sure of our present salvation, not because we are living sinlessly, but because Jesus’ blood is continually cleansing us of our sins!

It is well that we do not have to depend on our sinlessness, on our own obeying God’s law perfectly, on our own righteousness.  If we did, none of us would be saved because none of us live without sin!  We cannot rely on ourselves.  WE must rely on God’s saving grace and Jesus’ blood as we continue to walk in the light.

Reason #3

We can have assurance because we can be sure we will be saved.  Even if we believe that we are saved now, we may be unsure about whether we will be saved eternally.  We may be reluctant to say, “When I die, I will be saved,” or, “I’m going to heaven. No doubt about it!” 

Paul had no doubt of his eternal salvation.  Read 2 Timothy 4:6-8. 

Paul did not say that he alone could have assurance; he said that “all wo have loved his appearing” can have the same assurance of eternal salvation.

But how can we be sure of going to heaven?  Do we have to live sinless lives before we can be assured of eternal life? 

Staying in 2 Timothy, Paul speaks here of a good man, Onesiphorus.  “May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains,…may the Lord grant him to find mercy for the Lord on that Day!”   (2 Timothy 1:16, 18)

As good as Onesiphorus was, he would still need mercy on the day of the Lord.  So will we all.  The good news is that, just as mercy was available to Onesiphorus, it will be available to us on that great day! 

After we have done all that we can for Christ, we are still unworthy servants. We still fall short of the mark, but God’s mercy will make up what we lack!

SUMMARY

We can sing songs like “Blessed Assurance” and actually have assurance, even though we believe that a Christian can fall from grace.  We can be sure that we were saved in the past, we are being saved on a daily basis, and we will be saved in heaven forever!

Illustration:  When I was a child my father represented to me strength.  Now many of you have met him, and he isn’t the tallest, the strongest man you ever met.  But as far as I was concerned he was a tower of strength.  As I got older I still saw him as a person of strength.  This gives me assurance.  Of course, his love and care included discipline.  But I knew that there was forgiveness for all my mistakes.  In this too, there was assurance.  I know that if I would ever stray, dad would have some words for me.  But I know that those words and disciple do not mean that I am no longer his son. 

If having a good father can do that for a son, how much more will having God as our Father give us assurance? We can believe that our God has our good at heart, that He cares for us, that He is powerful enough to take care of any problem and that in all the changing circumstances of life, He is the unchanging One. 

Yes, God is our Father; we are His family!  That is assurance. 

INVITATION

If you are not a Christian, it is an assurance you can have too, if you will become of Child of God through faith and obedience.